Monday, August 26, 2013

Learn to Make Your Own Bacon with Little Sparrow Farm and R'Eisen Shine Farm!

Our first batch of farm raised, pastured, happy pork heads to the butcher in a little over a week (phew!) and we're hosting a Make Your Own Bacon Class to celebrate! The class is free to everyone who purchased a side of pork, but we have some room to let others in too!

Making your own bacon is awesome and totally do-able for anyone with even a little time spent in the kitchen. We're convinced that once you try it, you'll never want to go back to store-bought again.

Class will be held on September 16th, at the illustrious All Good Bakers (on Delaware Ave in Albany) from 5:30-8pm. Cost of the class (including a pound of bacon to take home) is $30. If you want in, send us an email and we'll hook you up with a paypal invoice to join us. Light refreshments will be provided! You Don't want to miss out!!

We'll be teaming up with our wonderful dear friend, Erika Tebbens from Little Sparrow Farm. Erika is a bacon guru- teaching classes all over the capital region while still finding time to run her own micro and full size greens operation, tending her bee-hives and hanging with her super cool family. Oh! and blogging for the From Scratch Club too! Check Little Sparrow Farm FB! 

We hope to see you there, and space is limited, so get in while the getting is good! Bacon!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday on the Farm!

Fridays on the farm are always pretty hectic. We use each Friday to prepare for the Saturday share deliveries both on farm and in Albany.

While picking tomatoes this morning, we found my least favorite garden pest (from a gross out perspective) - the tomato hornworm. Have you ever seen one of these things? They are horrific. The stuff of nightmares.
They give me the creepy crawlies. Even sitting here typing I'm wigged out. SO GROSS!

After harvesting our veggies and packing shares, we stopped to check in on the newest farm babies, two litters of rabbits born about 2 weeks ago. 

I love when the rabbits are around 2-3 weeks old. Most things on the farm have a level of cute to them if you're into animals, but the rabbits as babies are cute by any standard. If I put one in a teacup I could upload it to Amazing. 

After snuggles(it's a perk of the job), we went to run the irrigation for the vegetables. It hasn't rained here in about a week, maybe more, and it doesn't look promising for any showers in the near future so we're running our irrigation sprinklers this weekend to hydrate the crops and make sure that the fall crops get to growing. We've planted a whole lot of root veggies for the winter share: turnips, carrots, beets and more!

Ejay running the sprinklers!

By that point it was time to do evening chores(because eating twice a day is a thing for our animals). For posterity, here are some photos of the pigs just after supper.

It's a rough life.

That's been our Friday! It's only about 4pm, so we're headed back out to the vegetable field to weed and do some more pest control. Hope you're enjoying your Friday! 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Rabbit for sale- paypal special!

Hi folks!

It's that time again, we're going to have a very limited number of rabbits for sale for folks outside of our CSA membership.

Whole rabbits are $30, half rabbits are $15. All of our rabbits raised on great feed, and out in pastured pens.

This sale is limited to paypal only, so you email us at, and then we send you a paypal invoice. Once you pay, your order is reserved. Rabbits will be delivered the first weekend in September to Albany during our regular pick up at All Good Bakers from 9-12. Local customers can arrange on-farm pick up during that same week.

If you've ever thought of trying rabbit- dive in! Farmer's market prices are much higher then our special and we feel pretty strongly that our growing practices make for wonderful flavor. Recipes and cooking tips are available!

Also, we've got some small batch tanned hides available for retail. For details on these gorgeous furs, send us an email.

BBQ braised rabbit, with fresh peas, smashed potatoes and beer bread!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Todd "Fuzzy Feet Fancy Pants" Rooster

This morning, before letting out the hens I headed over to the the moveable rabbit pens and noticed a few black and white checked feathers strewn about. Enough to make us pause and follow a few more scattered in the road.

We opened up the hen house and two plump little bard rock hens, with checked feathers came marching out among the rest. I was filling up the watering jugs while Kim set down their feed. After a quick glance around- she paused and said with wide eyes "Where's Todd?!" And the rooster was nowhere to be found.

Todd has been a farm staple since our first little batch of hens that we kept over at Kim's parents house, before we even moved into the farm or started the CSA. We acquired him from a friend whose children raised him as a 4-H project. Calm, handsome, and good natured- he was always a star among the visitors.

Despite a search, we've been unable to find the fellow, and think he may have been taken by a fox sometime between when we came in for dinner, and when we headed up to lock up the hens a little after dusk. Perhaps he was protecting the brood- it's very mysterious. We're hopeful that our young rooster, Legs will step up to the task of monitoring the girls- but it's sure we'll miss Todd. Thanks for a good several years, our big iconic buddy.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Definition of Insanity

The past couple weeks on the farm have been...challenging and... eye opening and.... ellipses of the mind creating.

The veg field has been another puzzle this year. We've had more rain (and better irrigation), but we've been waging a pest war, dealing with soil that's only been tended to for the second time this year after years of sitting fallow, overcoming weird weather (super hot, then chilly, then wet, then hot, then dry and now fall-like)- and to be frank- it's been much less fun then we'd like it to be. Work is always hard, but when it puts you in a slump to even think of stepping out there- it's time to change course. So, it's always good to look ahead to hope for the best, and while we've done what we can to coax along our summer crops, we've also turned our attention to fall planting. The potatoes are coming swimmingly, the early varieties have proven to be Just Wonderful and we're up to our eyeballs in gorgeous blue spuds.

We're really unhappy with the soil in our plot, and with leased land- running on less then ideal options to improve it (it's hard to spend a ton of cash doing reparations when your lease is only for 3 more years and the business is still fledgling. That money can be allocated elsewhere to something more transportable). But what we do have is a ton of... shit. Literally. We have a large, now two year old pile of barn droppings, which have aged to become nice compost and killed off almost all of the weeds. Last night, we took advantage of this heaping pile and ran a small tiller, turning under the ripe stuff into the soil below. We ran a quick fence and planted a good size test plot of turnips, radishes, and carrots- who all took a beating in our earlier plantings. Now is the time to get these root crops established, for a nice big harvest as the weather turns. If this works, we'll be using almost the entire space we've been collecting manure on to plant next spring. The far veg field has it's merits in size, and has always turned a really nice potato, tomato, lettuce, and garlic crop. We figure that next year, we need to change strategies a bit with planting and cut down on the farm melt downs. The weather is going to keep being unpredictable, and we can't invest totally in repairing the soil (or trucking in hundreds of yards of new stuff)- but we can make use of delish black earth where we've been hauling manure out by the hand cart load for 2 years. We're hopeful, and happy to change course a bit. Einstein once said "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"- two years of bugs, crazed weather and rough soil are enough to make us switch gears. We've got some beautiful veggies, but the struggle has brought some seriously long hours, and back breaking labor, for results we would like to see be much better. Working hard and working smart are too good goals, but you should always place the smart first, and work hard in the right way for the best benefit.

We've also been giving a good look at our livestock operation. We grow delicious poultry. And the lambs we sent to the butcher ended up being pretty perfect. We're excited about the pork, feel confident about rabbit. We're livestock naturals, strange, for former vegetarians (or maybe not, maybe it's that compassionate care that puts us ahead). So we have been toying with adding more sheep next year, and maybe some quail. Quail are smaller, and easier for us to hatch on site- which means we could potentially have a much more sustainable poultry operation. They produce eggs in 6 weeks! Chickens take 16-17 weeks to start laying, if you're lucky. We'll always have chickens, they're just something we do- but we'd like to find ways to make the farm less reliant on ordering in feed, chicks etc- and quail could be a good route. Plus, it could help us set our farm apart a bit, and diversify our funding stream.

This post is about the gritty reality of a start up farm- we've got to hone our skills where we struggle while capitalizing on our natural strengths. We always want to put the best quality forward, and this summer has been another long lesson in the lack of control we have over nature. It's so humbling, to be so at the mercy of the earth. We're so grateful for the things we've grown that have turned out beautifully, and really looking forward to getting better at what just hasn't worked.

The summer is about thinking on the fly, pushing until you can't any further, and stopping to marvel- both at your success and your failure. It's never easy to look at what you're doing and think about what's not working, it's a lesson in humility. But to survive as a small business, we've got to take stock continuously - savoring the success like a delicious summer tomato (which are growing beautifully, btw) and learning from the endeavors that were not so successful (I'm looking at you, squash bugs!). We are grateful and humbled by the work we do, and at the end of the day we can't ask for more.