Friday, December 27, 2013

Little Lambs Lost

It seems like every year around Christmas we end up bottle feeding something. Last year, it was our little doelings, and this year, it's our spring lambs. The thing about lambs though, is they are very fragile when you don't have total control over their birthing (and even sometimes when you do). Last year, we raised two big beefy lambs with much success, and this winter- we're raising a few for the spring and then will start building our own flock. 

Of the few we're raising, we've got one who we call Curly (for his curly wool) in a box in our living room. Poor guy was down yesterday, couldn't stand and after a quick temperature check was registering at a terrifying 97 degrees (lambs should be between 102-104). I brought him into the house for intensive care. There are no large animal vets really left around here, so we end up diagnosing and treating many ailments ourselves. Early in the fall, we had acquired a free piglet with a broken shoulder and spent weeks splinting/dressing it. He's recovered swimmingly. 

Two days before I found Curly downed, we had another lamb- who we called Spotty, that Kim had spent the day on Christmas Eve, treating for bloat. He didn't pull through, as is sometimes the case with little bottle fed lambs. So I am cautious about being optimistic for little Curly. We're treating him with the best we have, a mix of colostrum, electrolytes, formula, mineral drench, a shot of penicillin and a good hot wood stove. We pride ourselves on being sustainable farmers. But that doesn't mean we don't ever pull out the big gun antibiotics, when they are called for. What it does mean is we don't just dose everyone with antibiotics as a preventative. Or, go to antibiotics as a cure all, no matter the ailment. In Curly's case, he has a bit of a rattle in his lungs, and watery eyes- probably a case of pneumonia, and antibiotics are the best option along with the rest of the treatments I mentioned. We are not ever going to let an animal suffer and die rather than give a reasonable treatment of antibiotics at a point when there is absolutely no reason to believe they would still be in his system months from now on butchering day (antibiotics work their way out of the system in a matter of days, think about how your doctor chides you for missing a pill or not finishing your treatment). There's a big difference between dosing him through a childhood illness, and feeding him a lifetime of medicated grain. We feel as though it's much more respectful to care for his life using the best available, then to allow an untimely and uncomfortable death.

Mostly though, Curly's care is about getting his system to a point that it's strong enough to fend off bugs. He's eating voraciously, a good sign, and chatting with us in a tiny voice every time you look in his general direction. We're not out of the woods, but we're better than we were yesterday, with a temp over 100 degrees and a good appetite. It's worth it to us to sleep on a futon next to a crabby little ram lamb to make sure he pulls through, or has a better chance to. 

This is sometimes what livestock farming looks like. Lambs are cute, but they are also fragile, and sometimes require a kind of smelly card board box in your living room, a table full of supplies, and an anal thermometer. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

T'was the Night Before Christmas

Our third annual R'Eisen Shine version!

T'was two nights before Christmas, and all through the farm
The creatures were locked up, to keep all safe from harm
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that the farmers would finish filling them for each other to share

While the livestock rest, warm and fed
The farmers barely have had time to rest their tired heads
With I still in work clothes, and Kim still en route,
We still haven't had time to finish making all of the loot

The doggies are barking and making a bit of a clatter,
And I can hardly figure out what is the matter,
It could be the bear who marches around,
But really it could be ANY other sound

Far from snow- the farm's grounds are covered in mud,
And the pig pen is piled high with viscous...crud
But such is expected in the midst of a thaw,
And the pigs don't mind it as long as there is something to gnaw

Though we are tired and running a bit behind our plan,
If anyone can do it- we certainly can-
We will finish up cooking, crafting and wrapping,
And perhaps we will finish in time for some napping?

The year has been much like our busy Christmas prep,
With each week feeling like we are behind just one step,
But we did it, and feel good about all that was done,
And for that it feels like the season was won

There are big changes ahead for our farm, that's for sure
But our intentions have certainly remained just as pure
We want to grow good food for people we know and will meet-
There's little more satisfying then growing good eats!

We're lucky and grateful for this whole year,
And are ready to begin the next with less fear,
We will continue to work, to try and to grow,
And try to stress less- just go with the flow

We'll take time to be thankful for each day together
And remember to take time to just enjoy the weather
But for now, we must turn in and turn off the lights-
Merry Christmas To All and To All a Good Night!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Give the gift of Meat and Beer!

Are you still hunting for a great Christmas gift just 4 days before the holiday? - Let us make some suggestions for the foodie on your list!

We announced on the blog last week our 2014 CSA Shares, which feature our ethically and sustainably raised products. We are offering a variety of shares, which will begin in May 2014, but why not give the gift of fresh, healthy food this holiday season? Check out our share options on our blog homepage, and feel free to email us with any questions!

There is also still time to get in on the Broken Stove Brewing tasting club before the new year! James Kinnie, the brewer and owner of Broken Stove has put together a share that includes 3-22oz bottles per month of seasonal micro brews from December to May. 6 months of great beer for $80 (with a $20 refundable bottle deposit). If you're interested, the first delivery is tomorrow, December 21st! If you would like to order, you MUST let us know by 3pm today. We will bring your brew to our CSA drop off at the Cheese Traveler on Delaware Ave, Albany. Email us at if you would like to order.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Makin' Bacon with the Fabulous Erika Tebbens

Last night was our collaborative Makin' Bacon class with Erika Tebbens (From Scratch Club, Little Sparrow Farm) at the gorgeous new Honest Weight Food Co-op. The class was free to anyone who purchased a whole or half pig from us in the fall, but open to others with a love of bacon a few hours to spare. Much fun was had by all, and we can't thank HWFC for hosting enough, and are obviously incredibly grateful to Erika for her expertise. Here are some pics of the crew making their bacon!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Announcing the 2014 R'Eisen Shine Farm CSA shares!

This is the time of the year where the farm is in full planning mode, and when we start offering our CSA shares for the following season. Why now? The costs of farming are substantial, and we off-set those costs by getting folks to sign up ahead of the season. This way, the farm doesn't go into excessive debt and can maintain the high standards we always strive for.

As many of you know, we run our farm on leased land and have been working diligently to rehab the property to a status of productivity. We have had some success, but there have also been profound struggles. One of those struggles has been soil health. We are not sure that our farm will always be at our current location, as we need a bit more space and a much longer term place to put up the kind of infrastructure we need.

After two seasons of working a little over 2 acres in vegetables, we've decided that for the next season, we will not be growing vegetables. This is scary for us, as we have always envisioned that our long term goals would remain a year-round diversified CSA. And that may still come to pass, but for right now, we are going to focus on our livestock operations and securing a permanent home for our farm where we can do all of the things we've always dreamed of.  For next season, we are so very looking forward to expanding the number of shares we can sell for our meat offerings, and spending a season with a small home garden to ensure we don't get rusty in our vegetable production skills.

So, what will we have available?

We will be offering 4 share types for the first part of the 2014 season, and will be offering a winter meat share as well. We've created these shares to allow folks to get our delicious, sustainable and ethical meats from the time we wind-up our last year-round share until early fall- when the winter share will then begin. We are pleased, proud, and excited to unveil these shares!

Monthly Meat Share
May-September (5 deliveries)
A once per month delivery of meat, that over the course of the season will include:

3 Chickens
8.5-10lbs of Heritage Pork (a variety of cuts, including bacon, sausage, ham steaks, pork chops)
3lbs Lamb (ground, stew, chops)
5 lbs of Turkey (breast, legs, and thigh cuts)
1 Rabbit

Sample Delivery:
1 whole chicken
1lb ground lamb
1lb pork chops

Cost: $260

Bi-Weekly Meat Share
May-September (10 deliveries)
A twice monthly delivery of meat, that over the course of the season will include:

5 Chickens
18.5-20lbs of Heritage Pork (a variety of cuts, including bacon, sausage, ham steaks, pork chops, roasts)
5lbs of Lamb (ground, stew, chops, small roast)
10lbs of Turkey (breast, legs and thigh cuts)
2 Rabbits

Sample Deliveries:
1st Delivery of the Month:
1 whole chicken
1lb ground lamb
1lb pork chops

2nd Delivery of the Month:
1 whole chicken
1 package bacon
1 fresh ham steak

Cost: $470

But, we didn't forget about those of you who purchased 1/2 pigs, 1/2 lambs, etc! And we will continue to offer those bulk options throughout the year, at a lower price per lb! The next shares are great to go along with those 1/2 and whole orders, or for the poultry enthusiast!

 Poultry Share:
(May-September)(5 deliveries)
10 Cornish Cross Chickens (typically used breed, large breast, great clean flavor)
15lbs Broad Breasted White Turkey (breast, leg and thigh cuts over the course of the deliveries)

Sample Delivery:
2 chickens
5lbs Turkey

Cost: $328

Heritage Poultry Share
(May-September)(5 deliveries)
10 Freedom Ranger Chickens (heritage breed, amazing depth of flavor, more leg/thigh then breast meat, best tasting chicken we've ever grown!)
8lbs Midget White Turkey (breast, leg and thigh cuts over the course of deliveries, slightly more dark meat, tender and sweet)
1 Rabbit (our own custom heritage cross breed, raised on pasture!)

Sample Delivery:
2 Freedom Ranger Chickens
3lbs Midget White Turkey

Cost: $368 

So now that you have seen all of the options, head over to our Meat Share Order Form page, which has all of our delivery locations, payment options, and sign up! And don't forget, if you need a larger size share, you can always buy by the 1/2 animal, or buy multiple shares! Thanks for supporting small sustainable farming! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

R'Eisen Shine Farm Extra Credit Opportunities

Hey folks!

We have some really fun things happening on the farm right now!

Firstly, we are teaming up with friend and fellow farmer Erika Tebbins to co-host a Makin' Bacon Class at the Honest Weight Food Co-Op on December 16th, from 6-8pm. It's a primer on how to cure pork belly at home to make the most delicious custom flavored bacon. It's easy once you have the know-how, you probably won't ever buy bacon again. Plus, you get to chill with some fun farmers and food enthusiasts. The cost is $30, includes a take-home lb of bacon. We only have 4 slots left for this class, and you need to sign up through the HWFC's page here.

Next up, holiday crafting is in full swing here, we no longer have a dining room table, instead we have a slew of gift-making supplies. And among the supplies are balls of our own beautiful wool (mixed w/a friend's alpaca) custom spun yarn. In the spring, we passed along our sheared fleeces to a friend, and she had them sent out with her alpaca fleece to make the most gorgeous yarn. And, it made a good amount of yarn, along with some nice roving for you spinners out there. If you are a yarn enthusiast, and want some of this R'Eisen Shine Farm sheep yarn, send us an email and we'll put you in contact with our friend Suzanne, who holds the goods. It's such nice yarn we're sending some to my grandma for Christmas- and that lady knows yarn after 40+ years of knitting.

Soon we will be announcing all of our share options for the year- and brace yourselves- this little farm is headed for some changes. The only thing that will really stay the same is that we will keep providing delicious and sustainable farm goods, year round.

Monday, December 9, 2013

A real live cost analysis of poultry

Firstly, this post is meant as an example, just to give folks a little idea of how we operate. Folks know that we place the care of our animals and our environment first, and believe that our methods promote sustainability. Aside from that, we'll put our products up for a taste test against a grocery store chicken any day.

We try to be as transparent as possible, and sometimes we forget that not everyone is as familiar with the costs of agriculture as we are. So in an effort to really, really talk about how much it costs to raise any of our livestock, we present you with this post- a boring but honest run down of numbers related to just one of our favorite efforts- chicken.

120 baby chickens at $1.20/chick (we get a discounted price because of our bulk orders)
Shipping on the 120 chicks: $25

6-8 bales of bedding to keep chickens dry and clean for the first 4 weeks of life/brooding: $35-45

Heat lamps, bulbs to keep chicks warm for the first 4 weeks- $10 each (need at least 2, probably 3 or 4)(plus electricity to run them, about $15) $35-75

Small chicken water container (4)- $6/each
Gallon chicken water container (2)- $6/each
5.5 field water container (2)- $30/each

Estimated cost for water containers- $66 (yes, you can re-use them, but for our purposes let's assume we need to replace them at least once yearly, as they do break)

Materials to build a move-able chicken pen- $80-$100 (pvc pipes, chicken wire, hardware cloth, tarp, screws, cement, primer, zip ties)

Estimates for at least 1 repair from predators, weather etc for the 12 week growth period- $15

*note this doesn't include the cost of the tools to build the movable pen.


50lbs of high quality feed- 18-32 dollars, depending on the time of the year, supplier and shipping charges.

Amount of feed by week:
Week 1- 50lbs
Week 2- 50lbs
Week 3- 75lbs
Week 4- 75lbs
Week 5- 100lbs
Week 6- 150lbs
Week 7-12 225lbs or more
Approximate amount of feed needed: 2,000lbs

Total feed cost estimate:  $720-$1280

Processing Fees- These vary based on your equipment availability, but let's use our equipment from last year as an example.
Rental of a chicken plucker- $50
Gas to transport plucker from 45 minutes away- $45
Knives and a good knife sharpener- $140 (let's rate it at $25/each usage)
Propane- $15
Large Pot- $30 (rate it at $5)
Disposal vessels- $75 (rate it at $10)
Stainless tables/work surfaces, sinks- $80 (rate it at $10)
120 freezer seal bags- (27 cents each) - $32.40
120 staples to seal bags (2 cents each)- $6
Shipping on bags/staples- $15
Free chicken to 2 assistants for a full day help- $30
Ice, Bleach, Apple Cider Vinegar- $20
Butchering Costs Estimate- $293.40

Before Labor from farmers- total costs using the LOWEST of the ranges: $1413 or 11.78 per chicken. Chickens at about 3lbs would cost $3.92/lb without any labor, and with no additional mark up for any kind of profit. It's not easy  (as much as we enjoy it) to keep chickens healthy and happy. 

Labor Costs:

2 People, at 20 minutes 2X daily for 120 chicken care- 80 minutes of labor (not including labor for day of butchering) per day.
80 minutes/day for 12 weeks (84 days) = 6720 minutes (112 hours)

112 hours at NYS minimum wage of $7.25 = $812

(we do think we are worth more than this per hour and we still don't really take a pay check yet, but for our purposes, let's pretend)

$812 in labor for basic care plus 10 hours per worker for butchering (20 hours total) $145 = $957

$957 labor + lowest possible costs for materials/etc $1403 = $2360 per 120 birds or $19.66/chicken

Average Weight of each chicken- 3lbs 
Price per lb in 2013- $5
Total cost to consumer: $15

Obviously, we charge less than the labor costs. Essentially, Kim and I are paid 50 cents each, per bird we grow for 12 weeks of labor, to keep costs lower for customers. If we are paid $120 for a batch of chickens, for 132 hours of work is 91 cents per hour for us both. 

That works out to be 45.5 cents an hour. 

This is before we factor in transporting the chickens to customers, and/or the farm insurance fees (substantial) to allow for on site butchering. It also doesn't factor in water usage, cleaning supplies, electrolytes, all the fuel, extra time, tools and some other small things (that do add up).

We love chicken, and we do think they are worth raising, even at a loss. And not all of our animals pay so little, or else the farm would be unsustainable. But we still think it's sobering to share the costs of raising chicken ethically and with real flavor!

So how do big farms and agriculture keep prices so low? Well, there are other scholars and farmers who have covered this much more than we have, but- here is a bright 11 year old giving just a preview of some of the reasons...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Roasted Beet Salad

It's a busy day on the farm today, with Kim handling CSA prep, helping a neighbor with a flock of wandering turkeys and Ejay headed to monger some cheese. With the damp, muddy weather, how about a sweet and savory salad to take the chill out of your bones?

3 large beets
1/2 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, shelled and roasted (pine nuts or sunflower seeds will work too)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup good quality feta
salt, pepper, basil to taste

1. Par-boil your beets until the skins look like they are softened, drain, and pour cold water over and then peel them. Slice them very thin, and then into 'stick' shapes.
2. Carmelize your onions  and garlic (butter, sugar, salt) in a skillet, then throw in a medium bowl to cool. Use the same skillet to add back in your beets with a dash of olive oil and salt, pan roast them until tender.
3. Add your pumpkin seeds, your roasted beets, lemon juice, feta, basil (fresh is always best) and pepper to your medium bowl, and let all the flavors mingle.

We serve this salad slightly warm, as a side to a nice roasted meat. It's seasonal and hearty- but the key is to really balance your sour, sweet, and salty flavors to make it a home run. Adjust all your seasonings as you see fit, and spend the extra to get your favorite kind of feta.