Sunday, December 21, 2014

Solstice

Oversleeping a bit, we chugged a cup of coffee and threw on our winter coveralls to head up to the barn. It's less often now that Kim has time to help with livestock chores, and it's always nice when she does on the weekends. I miss her, and though it's not a heavy work load at the moment, it's still lighter with 4 hands- but it's more her company that I crave.

The rabbit water bottles were frozen, so she threw them in a crate to take them down to house to thaw while I hauled feed out to the pigs and dumped the goats old water out. On my walk back across the barn I stopped to feed the laying hens, tossed them more oyster shell and noted the three small eggs for collecting. The long nights make eggs more of a treat then a staple, but I'm pleased that the chicken coop at the new farm keeps the girls so warm they don't need a heat lamp.

The rabbit cages are finally neatly hung in the rear corner of the new barn, threaded with steel pipe to keep them sturdy and hanging from eye hooks in the rafters. It's a nice set up, but we're looking forward to finally building our dream rabbitry come spring, outdoors, with plenty of grazing and hopping space. I spent the week outside trying to sort through the materials, tools, supplies,and junk. The barn will take at least 2 years to get it set up just so, (one full season to make mistakes) but at least now there's space to move around and things are making more sense. Our two goat does (hopefully bred) and the buck clamored for breakfast from the pole barn while June, the only sheep we kept from our old flock, had weaseled her way out of the barn.  She was standing directly outside of the big red door and digging through the snow for frozen grass. Apparently, her breakfast had just not come quickly enough.

Today is the solstice. The darkness is here, for many more months, and we're grateful for a few more long nights before the season starts again. But the turning point is something unique- it's simultaneously the start of the winter and the climb towards spring. We're having company today, warming the farm house on both ends with two kitchens filling with friends and baked goods. We're welcoming in the winter with sweets. It's a strange thought, to know that we're on the cusp of the seasonal turn- a literal turning of the strange globe we live on. But what is more comforting then a warm house, good folks and the smell of chocolate?

Seasons are important our rhythm here, we watch the weather and the light. We take the time to notice the shifts, it affects our work and schedule. As the light goes, so do the eggs, and we take our cue from the hens to slow down. The light always comes back, along with the work.

In our celebration today, we've prepared a traditional winter wassail, a mulled cider drink (with wine). There's more than one way to warm a house and your guests. It's currently brewing in the crock pot, a cauldron of cider and spice. Combined with the smell of wood smoke, and two (finally) settling in dogs, the twinkle of Christmas lights, the farm is everything one could hope for to journey through the longest night.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Gifts

I am a notorious Christmas Grinch. I have been, for many years. The story of why is long and not really fully explainable in one, or many blog posts. Now that I'm grown, I do my best to go along with the spirit and not bring down friends or family. I look on the bright side- I hate shopping but I do love to make gifts. I love cold weather, snow, and the wood stove. I love winter. I don't mind the dark, it means earlier nights and lots of cooking. I love to cook and serving large meals to people I care about.

We haven't written much about the move, because frankly- it was an unholy nightmare that ended in us spending all of Thanksgiving Day moving our entire house, alone, in the snow. It's a long story of poor truck rental companies, bad timing, and a heck of winter storm and I promise to revisit it- when it's more funny and less raw. We had the most glorious relief when friends helped us unload Thanksgiving night, in the dark- if it hadn't been for that bright spot I think we would both block the entirety out from our memories...it was that bad. Thanksgiving is my holiday- it's my absolute favorite. I can think of nothing more fitting for a farm then to celebrate the end of the growing season with a beautiful meal, prepared with care, much or all of it grown right there. I love the fall weather, the end of the poultry season, the last of the pumpkins... so it was a blow when we finally ate a (though delicious and so generously provided) plate of left overs from friends sitting among our boxes upstairs in the new house. We were so tired and sore enough we didn't even bother heating those left overs. Though we were relieved to have made it through- we were also threadbare in ways we couldn't have imagined.

So I'm trying out this Christmas thing, it's kind of like our holiday rebound. But I'd like to bring a little of Thanksgiving into Christmas. I want the gratitude that comes simply with being present (no pun intended) with one another. We'll be cooking food grown on farm (of course), but it's more than that. I feel like at Thanksgiving, there is more room to pause and show kindness- not in giving- but in acknowledging each other. Even handmade, meticulously created gifts are often still things. I'm not trying to replay the well worn message of Christmas not being about material items- but striving to get the the kernel about intent. I'm trying to get at the sense that a day, spent with family and friends, over a meal alone- is enough to celebrate. We have become this fast-food culture, and meal times rarely exist unless there is media playing, if at all. But on thanksgiving we can mutually agree that we will "ooo and ahh" over food, we will place all of our attention on each other's words. And we will eat, together. There is no background noise of reindeer, gifts, stockings, or flashing lights. Those sparkling things are all well and good, but what I want is the appreciation that someone took the time to cook a meal, that someone planned a place that was welcoming, and warm- and that we have all chosen to be in each other's presence. That's the Christmas spirit I can get down with.

I don't really care at all about the religious 'reason for the season', the reason for my season is to bring warmth. To break up the cold, and the snow, and the drudgery of routine. To think, thoroughly, about how we can show great kindness and consideration without spending a dime. Hold doors, make phone calls, send a card. Because I think what we all want in this holiday season is just to know we're important to someone in a tangible way. If I never got another wrapped gift that'd be fine, and I mean that. But I would hate to live in a world where I didn't feel as though I mattered to those who matter to me.

I think that's one thing that this move has really brought forth for me, the ways in which our choices have changed the intentions of our life. Our home is a space of two households, run independently. But, it's also a place where I can open a door to a room where either household can enter, and with reasonable assurance, be joined by a joyful two year old and a favorite friend. If I need a cup of milk and they have it- we have it. And if the two-year old needs watching, I'm there. Not because we all can't do it alone- but because we're choosing not to. I can't express the comfort that goes with knowing that more friends are minutes away, and will show up to move pigs, and feel confident enough in my abilities and trustworthiness to have me come take a look at their sow on the same day. It's not a trivial thing to be needed, and to need others. It's a gift. And really, if it's the only one we get this year, I'd say we got more than our fair share.

What I hope for anyone reading this is that someone shows that they need you--that you are a gift this year. It's doesn't need to be romantic, or from someone you have known for years. It's just an expression from someone that you matter- that the time you share is valuable. That the time isn't compulsory, it's freely enjoyed and given. So often the holidays become this string of events we must attend. And it's fine to do things to make others happy, if you can. But let's also make space for creating time where you couldn't imagine a better place to be, with better people. Because I'm pretty certain that's how you cure even a many year Grinch. Not with always with 'tradition', or the best sale-price sweater, or a favorite movie, or the best cookie-- but with time and a sense of belonging somewhere.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Announcing the 2015 Meat Shares!

R'Eisen Shine Farm is a small farm, recently relocated to Washington County after operating in Columbia County on  leased land. We're transitioning to our new space, and expanding our products each season! We pride ourselves on raising livestock in an ethical manner, including doing our processing on-site. We use a freshly milled, non-gmo feed and a rotational grazing system. This means our livestock are out on pasture, and given plenty of space to roam and graze. The flavor on our meat is hard to beat, and if you have any questions, email us at any time!

Ok, so a brief primer for anyone who isn't in the know about what a 'share' is. We operate on a Community Supported Agriculture model, which means you purchase into the growing season ahead of time, and then get a monthly or bi-weekly delivery of farm grown products, based on availability and the growing season. This model allows you to get the best pricing on all of our meats, and allows us to better offset the costs associated with a small farm. It also lets you try a wider variety of what we grow!

We're starting deliveries early this year, with the first round coming in March and running all the way through September. That's two more months of meaty goodness. We're also offering a slightly different version of our shares this year, made to hopefully suit a variety of customer's needs.

Without further ado.... here are the 2015 Meat Shares from R'Eisen Shine Farm!


Small Monthly Meat Share
(March-September) 7 deliveries

What it contains:
6 chickens (may include chicken cuts- ie: legs/thighs, wings, breasts etc)
8.65-10lbs pork
5lbs of mixed turkey cuts
3lbs of lamb

Price:
SALE until 1/1/2015 $310 
After 1/1/2015 $320

Sample Delivery:
whole chicken
1lb sweet italian sausage
1 package of turkey cuts (wings, thighs, or drumsticks)

Large Monthly Meat Share

What it contains:
17-20lbs pork
10 chickens
8lbs turkey cuts
3lbs lamb
1 rabbit or duck (farmers choice)

SALE until 1/1/2015 $540 
After 1/1/2015 $560

Sample Delivery:
whole chicken
1lb sweet italian sausage
1-1.5lb ham steak
2 packages turkey cuts (wings, thighs or drumsticks)

Small Poultry Share

What it contains:
7 Chickens (may contain chicken cuts ie: wings, breasts, leg/thigh)
5lbs turkey cuts

Sample Delivery:
whole chicken
1 package turkey cuts (wings, thighs or drumsticks)

SALE until 1/1/2015 $180 
After 1/1/2015 $190

Large Poultry Share
8lbs turkey cuts
14 Chickens (may contain chicken cuts ie: wings, breasts, leg/thigh)

Sample Delivery:
2 whole chickens
1 package turkey cuts (wings, thighs or drumsticks)

SALE until 1/1/2015 $350 
After 1/1/2015 $370

Culinary Quest Add-On Package 
(The following included in two installments during the course of the regular delivery season, scheduled dates TBD by February 15th)
2 Ducks
2 Rabbits
5lbs Goat
2lbs Liver (pork and/or chicken)

SALE until 1/1/2015 $200 
After 1/1/2015 $210

Delivery Information:

We are still confirming our delivery locations, largely because we are in the process of applying for farmer's markets for the season, which will impact our drop offs. We plan to have the following drop-off locations:

Albany 
Kinderhook
Schaghticoke (our new farm!) 
Copake 

Remember, pick-up is only once a month, so it's not a huge commitment of time to make a pick up, regardless of where we end up! 

If you want us to consider adding an additional delivery, please let us know. We're open to adding locations for a minimum of 10 shares to be picked up. It's only once a month- so consider hosting us at your business, church, or gym! 


If you're ready to place your order, head over to our ordering page! Don't forget, you order is not complete without payment. For those who need it, financial assistance is available, more info when you place your order!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Turkeys gone out to pasture

Each year, we take on the monumental task of processing our flock of non-gmo, pastured, beautiful turkeys for your holiday meals. Each year, this is one of the hardest and most fulfilling days of the season. You are taking these proud animals and turning them into someone's center piece. It is cautious work, and work we couldn't do without help. We know not everyone can participate, but we can't express our gratitude for those who do. And for those who buy those turkeys, and help us keep our farm going. This year, we had the great pleasure of Rebecca Busselle joining us, she's putting together a short docu-film on our turkey process. She sent over these photos for us to share with you, we know they aren't all savory, but they are all honest and beautiful for what they represent. We take the utmost precautions in our preparations, and make sure everything is done with care and safety. In 13-14 hours we completed our task, with frozen fingers and sore muscles. Hours later we delivered nearly all of them, and then they were lovingly prepared by our customers. The work is so intense, but the reward of a job well done is also unmatched. Some of the photos are a bit graphic, so if you can't bare witness, check back another day.

Most importantly, thanks again to Rebecca for providing them, and to each and every volunteer with sacrificed their time, body heat and a full day to help us get this done. From frozen hoses, to a stubborn tractor, to a cold, cold wind, to scalder issues- we only it made it through because of your help. Thank you.
Sunrise on turkey processing day, deceptively cold. 
Turkeys after a tractor ride
Turkeys in the wagon, parked a bit away from the action to keep them calmer. 

Peter, from Ten Barn Farm, cleaning feathers

Peter intensely focused

Kim warms her hands while refilling water
Ejay cleaning each bird methodically

Mary, reading orders and preparing each label

James, carrying a turkey to the processing station

Teamwork. 

Peter and Erika cleaning birds


Kate packs a finished turkey at Quality Control
Kate examines her fine work

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fall Photos

A few snap shots of life, right now. The beauty here can't readily be captured by a photo, but they will have to suffice. I hope that even in our move, we never forget the views we've had the pleasure of enjoying here. Things on the farm are immensely hectic, but we are excited for the next phase! 

The field behind the house, on a walk with the pooches. 

Meet Kermit- our rent-a-stud. He's here to make more goats. Shown with Noelle. Fiona was busy snacking, you can see just part of her head behind the big boy. 

After the heavy rains, we put out some snacking and lounging hay. The piglets approve. 

Full bellies, warm sun. If only the paparazzi would get out of here! 

Autumnal glory

Little barn, you've served us well. 

Pumpkins we grew in the garden, about to turn into lanterns! Kim is ready! 


Never too old to carve a pumpkin! 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Breakfast

This morning after chores I came inside to make breakfast, pretty ravenous. Last night as part of dinner I had shredded beets including greens, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, onions and garlic, and sauteed them together in left over bacon grease and seasonings to make a hash-like side dish. The left overs were on my mind as I filled water buckets. I tossed a bunch into a skillet to re-heat and then cooked two farm-fresh over easy eggs to go on top. A little hot sauce and another cup of coffee- and damn- What Luxury! The richness, the sweet, the savory and a bit of heat and my belly is full and utterly satisfied. I'm ready for the day.

Folks often ask how/why I got into farming and food- and there are a lot of reasons, some of which I have written at length about. But, one I don't always discuss is the food insecurity I've experienced at a variety of ages in my life. I'm not a stranger to laying in bed, staring at the ceiling after chugging a glass of water to feel full. Or, drinking another cup of coffee mid-day so that what's left in the cupboard can last just a little longer. I know what it's like for the meal to have to stretch too far, but contain little to no nutrition. I often joke now that when I don't get a meal or snack, I get 'hangry'- but it's not just low blood sugar. It's like this minor tantrum my brain has- I'm recalling a place I really don't want to go to. It's visceral, and though irrational at this point, still very real.

When I grow food, it soothes this dark place hidden away, the person who wondered where the next meal may come from. The times that this food insecurity happened to me, I was doing everything I could to survive, even at an age where that could hardly be expected. I hope never be in that place again. It could happen, but farming makes it much less likely for us. And the solace there runs right to my core.

We've started this fund, to defer the costs of our products. We've spoken at great length about how we believe the way in which we farm shows the greatest respect for the land and the animals. But, we also want our farm to be respectful of the communities we want to provide for. Each year, we donate between $300-$500 worth of products to charity events, benefits, church dinners (though we're not religious) etc. But we can't really start to tackle making our food accessible in the way we want to. This is our effort to start to bridge that gap- and it's a modest one. We're selling t-shirts, so that we can cut the cost of our goods for folks that are economically disadvantaged. If we reach our goal, we will be able to provide 250 servings (about 85-100 lbs) of meat totally free. Or, at least double that at a reduced cost.

We know, not everyone can always fit the foods they would like to be eating into their budget. But more than that, there are folks who really need a little support. Help us bridge the gap, because if you or someone you know has never experienced food insecurity- now you can say you know someone who has.

We only have today to reach our goal- and we are SO close! Fund closes tonight at mid-night, and if we don't hit 50 t-shirts, the fund fails and we get nothing.  You can get your t-shirt and support our fund here.


And, not for nothing, but the t-shirt is pretty cool too.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Driving a Tractor in the Rain

The rain is falling increasingly quickly, and my clothes are already heavy, since my rain gear needs to be replaced I'm soaked through in an instant. Even my socks are soggy, need new boots too after a season of work. I go through even the toughest pairs of boots at least twice a year--maybe it's because farm work is as rough in a summer as a life time guarantee--maybe it's because I'm just rough on things.  The tractor has no cab, and I'm sitting on top of it pleased it's running, yesterday was spent troubleshooting. God bless the internet, and friends with mechanical skills- and YouTube. In this modern era you have all of the info at the click of a mouse, which is good because there is no one around to show me what they know about the Farmall A, and no one to fix it but me. She's running fine now, though you never expect it to last, I'll be back covered in grease and frustration in no time.

In the trailer behind the tractor are buckets of feed and water, a luxury! The last several days while I fussed with the sputtering engine were spent making 4 or 5 long walks, with full 5 gallon buckets in each hand, twice daily, to edge of the acreage to get all the livestock their rations. Not impossible, or terrible- but slow and especially annoying with the sun glint of the tools resting on the engine block winking at my struggles.

I'm drenched now, but the animals are unconcerned with my momentary discomfort and hardly seem to notice the rain themselves when there is breakfast to attend to. I open up coop doors and pour feed into trays, hoping too much doesn't get washed away but knowing the clean up crew won't let much go to waste. Back in the barn 12 piglets are resting comfortably out of the weather, with round bellies and contempt that I didn't let them out yet. They're new to our electric fence, and the weather can make the fence unreliable. I don't trust them outside, and they have plenty of space indoors for today. It's one thing to be wet during chores, it's quite another to slide around in busted boots chasing muddy, obstinate piglets. I recognize the silliness of filling watering containers in this weather, but do it anyway. The turkeys get a boost of electrolytes, the warm and cool moods of October doesn't suit their delicate sensibilities, and keeping them flush with minerals seems to do them good. Or, it at least soothes my worried farmer mind even if it doesn't help them at all.

The rain is warm for October, and I'm grateful for that-- I'm not shaking with cold with a dripping nose. I'm just wet, and only temporarily. There is a modern miracle of a clothes dryer inside, hot coffee, and the promise of breakfast. Breakfast will be a bed of last night's roasted sweet potatoes, topped with two runny eggs and drowned in a healthy dose of hot sauce and house-made summer tomato ketchup.

In all our lives, we deal with some level of discomfort. I'm not talking about those with chronic pain, or in severe emotional distress, or the myriad of other sufferings that exist in our world.  Boredom, being over tired, being unsatisfied- these are considered to be human conditions. But we've also strayed away from even momentary feelings of physical discomfort- slightly cold, a little wet, too hot, a bit sore... it's considered beneath us to inhabit your physical body unhappily for even a second. Those millions who work jobs that keep them on their feet are considered by many to have 'failed' in some way. But, I will tell you a secret... for me... the physical discomfort is glorious. My mind can not handle sitting still, even for a few hours, I crave motion and action as much as my coffee. I model myself after the chickens I care for- flinging themselves into the weather in the pursuit of a good meal. I know my limits better now, having pushed through the immediate modern western human reactions of horror at being drenched in sweat, and of course- calluses help.

The hot cup of coffee tastes more perfect. The bowl of breakfast is more satisfying. The sound of the dyer is musical. Silly? Romanticized? Sure. But also completely and totally honest. Discomfort brings me appreciation. Which is good, because shortly I'll be experiencing plenty more of it with the day's tasks. So, I say- let it rain. I'll sit on top of the tractor, keeping rain from my eyes the best I can, feeding the masses. I'll ring out my socks. There's plenty more coffee to be had.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

R'Eisen Shine Farm Community Fund

Hey folks! We've started selling t-shirts, of which half of the proceeds will go towards reducing the cost of our meat shares (or providing them free) to lower income families or individuals. We want to put our money (and ham) where our mouth is. So- help us out and get a cool shirt!

Check out the campaign here! 

Monday, October 6, 2014

October Work

October is here and I could not be more thrilled. This time of the year makes me miss having horses more than any other, and I find myself day dreaming of the time when we are settled on the new farm and can explore bringing a team in. I'm not done with the weight of lines or the sound of hooves clacking along the worn farm paths.

The farm is quieter now that usual, we are winding down quickly this year, in preparation for the move. Plus, Kim is working off-farm so my days are spent mostly in solitary labor, chipping away at the mammoth to-do list. Preparing to move is overwhelming and we're trying to take it on in small increments. Plus, we are still in production mode, caring for holiday turkeys and finishing out the poultry season. The last of the CSA deliveries are in sight, and we're kind of in a holding pattern until we can assess what is possible in the turmoil of transition. Pork is stocked in customer's freezers, and we're taking orders for the next round. We'll be starting piglets here, and the moving them where we will finish them on the new acreage. The wheels of the farm can slow, but not stop completely. I can't wait until we can raise piglets born in our own barn, from our own sow. Even more so for lambs. We've decided to add a fall run of ducks, which is a little bit of a gamble, but the freezer isn't quite as stocked as we'd like, and duck would be nice to have available for the winter markets.

We had the great pleasure of heading over to the illustrious Hawthorne Valley Farm this Saturday, to speak to their Farm Beginnings Course on the importance to holistic planning, and our journey to where we are now. It was good fun to talk about our adventures, and also forced us to reflect on just how we got here. Life happens, but how often do you have to put in a power point in a way that will make sense to others?

The leaves are changing, and so is the wind. Mary, Aunt Pam, Olive and I stacked two cords at the new farm last week, and Mary and I will finish up a third on Wednesday. There is still the chimney to have installed, and some other repairs that need to happen. Winter will be challenging, but I feel better with two dry cords stacked in the wood shed, it's better than money in the bank. We're pushing starting the wood stove here as far as possible, instead putting on another pair of socks and a sweat shirt. Our focus is on preparing to settle elsewhere, and I kind of feel like a ghost in our current home. Here, but not. But not so far gone that I can't appreciate the beauty of the leaves changing on the mountain, I'll miss that view.

I guess feeling half-in-half-out is well suited for this changing season. It seems kind of poetic. But I can't dwell too long on that thought, there is work to be done. Time to get to it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Autumn

She's arrived, maybe not in as a full time resident, but in passing glances. 

She's my first love. I can smell her on the wind and it makes my heart flutter, the deepest crush I have for anyone other than my wife. I can hear the winds return, the winds here are her biting edge, but still welcome. Soon the cool breath will rustle her golden, burgundy, red and brown mane. It will tussle her, coyly blowing her wisps across the farm as I go about my morning routine enthralled by her beauty. Her voice, a melody of turkeys chirps, late crickets, and the first crackle of the wood stove.

My love's garb is dotted with ripened fruits stemming from long vines. The orange and white globes trailing off at her trim like only Cinderella scene I've ever loved. The vision of my love is dotted with darkness, glowing sunsets and her jewelry is shaped like apples and peaches, depending on her mood.

She's the sweetest and cruelest love I've ever known, staying only briefly but providing soothing glory with everyone she meets. She's hospitable with just a touch of warning, never letting you get too close lest you forget her frosty glare. At a moment she peaks, and everyone travels to marvel at her, huddling close. She belongs to no one, and everyone- I'm only one of many despite my undying devotion. I revel in all of her affections, drenched in her cinnamon perfume.

Then, I can sense her leaving. I can see she has grown tired of us here, unworthy of her beauty and wisdom for long. She turns away with the sun, and those quick frosty glares grow longer and more intense-- a sure sign of death in any relationship.

My hands will grow dusty and dark, gathering the fall crops to keep me warm through winter when she's long departed, leaving me longing for her return for another year. I know she will go and to prepare I must store away all of her treasures so I can conjure her memory in months to come.

I will long for her, wishing for her maple kiss while the snow roars outside. Her cast offs, the last of the storage apples in a sugar soaked pie, will be only a substitute for that first tart bite pulled directly from her long elegant arms.

But she always comes back. And I'm always here waiting, and eager- no matter how many times she leaves cold and frozen- I will always wait for her brilliant return. I'm forever at her mercy, a willing servant in in peasant's flannel.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

BIG NEWS- We're MOVING!

Yes, you read the title of this blog post right- R'Eisen Shine Farm is pleased, proud, and terrified to announce- we're moving!

As most of you may know, we run our little operation on leased land in Columbia County, and have had a wonderful relationship and opportunity with our landlord. When our eyes first set upon this old house and land, we had a feeling it would be the place that we started our business, and built a life. And it was. This place has wrapped itself around our hearts, from the first days of renovation, to our first home-grown Thanksgiving, to one nigh this week sitting at our picnic table while our friends' two year old sat upon our old FarmAll pretending to drive.

We've met the neighbors (what amazing neighbors!), we've sat on town committees, spoken at the high school and library- we've OPENED A GENERAL STORE! We've broken blisters, broken ground, and broken our own hearts with our first draft horse team. We've spent long days with our youngest farm helpers, going over homework and chasing the hens. We've heard that wind howl, we've seen the swarms of fire flies, we've trudged through snow and cold. We've grown closer with our family here, which has been more of a blessing then we could possibly express. It has been miraculous, hard, and beyond anything we've ever dreamed. And now, it's time to move on.

We've been working with an amazing organization, Dirt Capital Partners, for just about 7 months. We first heard about them when they were looking for farmers for a 137 acre piece of property near Livingston, NY. This organization is the real deal- their mission is to get farmers on farmland, on a long term basis, and help them establish the ability to buy it down the line. Sometimes, they help existing businesses acquire more land near by, but in our case, it was getting land security, with more infrastructure and the option, after a lease term, to own our farm. For our part, we had to be completely transparent about our business, the opportunities for it to grow and the challenges it has. We had to provide all of the information one may expect, including revisiting, revising and finalizing business plans, projections etc. It's been hours of work and conversations- which we have really appreciated. It has clarified our purpose, our goals, and the weaknesses we need to continue to address. We can't possibly have expected that we would have the opportunity to work with such a thoughtful and thorough organization.

While we were in conversations with Dirt Capital, we heard from a friend that fellow farmers were retiring, and thinking of selling their beautiful property and home. This farm is the farm you imagine in your green acre dreams. And, not only that, but I had a personal connection with the place that's the kind of coincidence you don't think can exist until it happens to you.

Years ago, I had spent a spring break with a college friend whom still remains one of my dearest, and this was her grandparent's farm. This farm had been in Mary's family for 300 years. I walked the fields with her close to 10 years ago, and now, here it was- up for sale. When I had last been there, I hadn't even thought farming was a real possibility but I had loved the visit. Mary had always spoken of the farm as a magical place- I believed her. The farmers who had tended it since her family sold it did so with great care, and made the very personal decision to change their course after 3 seasons there. Not because the farm wasn't working, but because farming wasn't the long term life they felt was best for them. If you want to know more about their story, please read their touching blog post about their decision.

It was just an idea then. An idea that we could work with Dirt Capital Partners to move our little operation to this beloved space, and maybe, team up with Mary and her husband Josh to grow the business and stabilize our land tenure. The next time Mary came to visit, we had our hands in soil, prepping seedlings, and we casually mentioned we were thinking of going to look at her family's old farm. Her eyes, as big as saucers and swallowing hard, she turned to us and squeaked out, "REALLY?" It was that moment for me at least, when I thought it was worth it for us to try and make it happen. We began conversations about whether or not she and her family may be interested in joining us on our quest. Mary and I had spent long days in college, stretched out over books exploring what it may look like if we could someday collaborate on something like this. Our friendship had always been easy, and despite going for years not speaking, we'd always fall back into a comfortable rhythm. Now, with both our lives enriched with the addition of marriage and life experience, our two worlds had found themselves intertwined with farm visits every few months for the last year or so. The friendship between us had grown to the four of us, and I think we're all better for it. We'd revisited that agrarian dream on many occasions, and now, here it was- a long shot- but worth the chance.

And so, nearly 10 years after my brief spring break excursion, my wife and I packed up and headed to go tour the farm. We met Mary and Josh (and little Olive, their daughter!) there to travel the paths Mary had grown up on. We all were tense, and cautious, trying hard not to let our excitement override our decision making process. We'd had agreed that even if we decided it wasn't this place, that it would be good for the four of us to consider a partnership- somewhere. Mary and Josh's life is full, with work, and Olive -- they're weren't prepared to start a farm despite desiring to live and learn on one. We had the farm business- but wanted to stabilize it and share it with folks who wanted to learn and serve as back up on those long days. It was clear we all needed more help, wanted to build something more collaborative and were willing to try. It won't be easy, but we think it will be worth it.

For the current farm owners, we think it was a difficult moment. We were not the only interested parties, in fact- the appeal of this farm is no secret- it had an incredible draw for many. And, we were complicated buyers- we needed Dirt Capital to help us or else it wouldn't be possible. The purchase was dependent on R'Eisen Shine's ability to support a farm of this size, and Kim and I felt more comfortable with the transition and expansion if we were going to have Mary and Josh on board. Mary and Josh had to decide this was the right path for them, for their daughter, and feel comfortable enough with our business operations to join us. It's a dance, a collaboration of moving pieces, and all parties trying to make the most responsible and sustainable decisions. In the end though, we made an offer and held our collective breath.

Our offer, one among many- was accepted. I almost feel like we won the lottery, though it's no doubt a lottery of work. This is an usual story, and this is the prologue really.

The new farm has essentially two family spaces, two kitchens, plenty of bedrooms and 1.5 (soon to be 2) bathrooms. Our families will have enough space to live with privacy, but will be able to rely on each other as well. The farm will have 48.5 acres to grow our delicious sustainable meat, 2 wells, a pond and the river to provide ample water. We will have an enormous barn to use, and several outbuildings. It's a wonderful set up, and will allow us to establish our fencing and other infrastructure to save our backs and grow with the demand for our products. And, not for nothing, it's also stunning there. I wasn't sure we could find a place that could rival the views we have here- but this is equally as breathtaking. It's also situated 6 miles from dear fellow farmers and friends (Fryer House Farm), the feed mill we use, and 30 minutes from the butcher we use for the lambs/pigs. It's close to many people we love unnamed here.We'll be writing a lot more about it in the coming months.

Moving our farm will no doubt we an incredibly stressful process, but we know it's the right decision. It's with some true sadness we leave our family here, we love waving as they drive by to play golf or swing by for dinner. It's no small sacrifice to let that go, and no doubt it will force us to put work into maintaining those relationships. We'll be at our current place until after the turkeys for Thanksgiving are processed, but will start moving in early November. We can't imagine our good fortune that has brought this next step. And, we can't imagine more wonderful partners then Dirt Capital, or Mary and Josh. We're so grateful that Cara and Luke (the current owners) accepted our offer, and we wish them the best as they move forward. We hope they'll stop by in years to come so we can continue to share the magic of that place- and this moment.

Look out, Easton- here we come!

renovations to the farm circa 2011

Farmers circa 2011 renovation

Current Farm, Painting by Pamela Sackett 2013, Frame by Bob Sackett 2013


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Right to Eat

I opened up the computer this morning, intending to order more packaging shrink bags for our poultry operation, and fell down the Facebook hole. We've all done it. This morning, it was because I found out that Michigan essentially re-wrote their right to farm law to prevent backyard flocks and small livestock.

I'm always confused by the idea that preventing small livestock is a step in protecting public health. Well, less confused and more enraged. I get it, we need to make sure that animal waste isn't getting into the water supply, and not everyone wants to hear the sweet sound of roosters at 4am. But, there has got to be a way to balance the right to produce your own food and maintain a sense of suburban decorum.

There are very few things we all must do every day. But eating is one of them. In much of the world, food access isn't plentiful and there are many people who are forced to go hungry every day, in the US and abroad. So why on earth would we prevent citizens from taking control of one of their most basic needs? Why would we say that they must remove themselves further from the food system? We have kids in schools who can't identify where butter comes from, which veggies are which, and believe that all chicken comes pre-packaged. I can't think of anything more complacent then compulsively throwing food-shaped pieces of corn down your throat without any regard for how it got there.

I have had a few CSA customers over the years who have stopped purchasing from our farm because they moved to a more rural community and started their own home gardens, flocks or small livestock. As a farmer, you'd think I would be bummed out at the lost revenue. But that couldn't be further from the truth. I've sold people starter flocks, answered lengthy emails on chicken nutrition, replied to emails on the best seed sources. I want what we do to inspire or empower people to take control of their food, get really up close and personal with it- and then do it themselves. If I can help with that, great. There are always going to be people who can't provide enough food for themselves by growing it, or don't want to, or do not have the life they feel allows for it. Farming isn't going to suddenly become irrelevant. But a society full of people who have no idea how food is produced- that makes farming- especially on a small scale and using sustainable methods- a hell of a lot harder.

When we as a culture make a decision that everyone isn't eligible to produce their own food, that's a profound method of control. We're forcing them to participate in the existing food system, which privileges mass produced packaged foods- with basically no nutritional value. How could that possibly be better for the public health?

In my fantasy world (oh, the imagination of a farmer!), we would instead be educating our communities on how to safely handle poultry, how to prevent any perceived risk or draw back to a home coop or rabbitry. You don't need a rooster to get eggs. A community that has access to good, clean food is inevitably a healthier, more empowered one. And if more people understood where food came from, they could make more informed decisions about the products that they do need to purchase. I wouldn't have to start from scratch (oh, the humor of a farmer!) explaining that eggs really shouldn't be washed thoroughly and put in the fridge, and that chicken in the meat isle is soaked in bleach.

It's not an organic hippie theory that food matters in health. Nutrition is one of the most standard, accepted preventative measures one can take to prevent disease. But here we are, saying essentially that the minor discomfort of hearing a crowing rooster, or the passing whiff of a chicken coop is more of a problem for good living then convenience stores serving as the only food option.  We're endorsing a population with less regard for what they put in their mouths then what program is starting on the television.

Most people will look at what happened in Michigan and think, "oh well". Maybe they already live in a community that doesn't allow 3-4 hens, or a breeding pair of meat rabbits. But i can't. I just can't. I want to hop in the van and starting passing out chicks, I want to build pallet coops and bring them to schools... and while none of this is possible right now- I really believe it should be.

It's more than "grow food, not lawns" (though it's that too!). It's- Open Your Eyes Before You Open Your Mouth. It's- Feed Your Neighbor. It's- Kids Going Hungry while the Corn (syrup) Grows Higher.

I know, I know- soap box. But think about it.... what decisions do we make every day that support the idea that growing food is best left away from the populations who eat it?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Dreaming Big

Last night was, well, a lesson in humility.

We pride ourselves on our ability to look at our livestock and see a bit about their world view, and act accordingly. I know that the pigs want a place to roll in mud, but also a dry place to sleep. I know that the turkeys can't have square brooding pens. The list goes on... but there is ALWAYS something you miss, or overlook.

Yesterday, I was feeling a bit under the weather, and we needed to move the chickens to a new pasture. It usually gets done in the morning, but we decided to wait until mid-day. This was the first mistake. Herding chickens is really only effective if you can lure them with chicken feed. And, they need all day to re-set their internal GPS to know where their coop is. Chickens have like a homing sense- they orient themselves to their coop, and always return to it. But it's really about location, rather than a coop. The coop is in a specific place, and they know that place (not the structure) means home for the night.

By the time we moved them, not only were they full, as we had already fed them once and they had been foraging all day, but, it was also warm enough where laying underneath the shade of some brush was vastly more appealing then following us to the new section. We tried everything, those damn chickens just wouldn't move. So we left the new fencing open, so they could wander in, left grain in the pen, and assumed they would make their way over before nightfall. SECOND mistake- they did, in fact, eat the feed, but because they weren't forced to stay there, they still didn't re-set the chicken GPS, and instead returned to the old section of pasture.

By the time we went back out there, they were motivated to move for feed, but they were also dedicated to settling down for the night (close to dusk). So they merrily followed me back into the pen, ate their before bed rations, and then promptly and remarkably determined, began forcing their way through the electric fencing back to where they still believed the coop was (despite it being open and closer next to the feed). They would rather get zapped then even think about looking at where the coop had moved to. This was completely our fault. We know how chickens work, but we were so determined to get them to new pasture before the week that we did things out of order. So our punishment was, we had to wait for them all to go to sleep (on an empty plot where the coop used to be) and then carry them over to where the coop was now, which will reset their chicken GPS overnight. Sigh. I'm not sure the punishment fit the crime, but it rarely does, I suppose.

This is just evidence of some bigger plans we have for the farm. We need to have multiple sections of pasture for chickens already fenced in, with really, really good fencing- so you can always move them in the morning, rather then breaking down/setting up the electronet when the birds need to move. If we had the whole pasture fenced, we could have just opened up a new section in the morning no matter how lousy I felt. There is something to be said about the flexibility of equipment we use, but it's time, at this scale- to have a more permanent set up to cut down on the labor headaches.

I'm grateful for these moments though, in a way. I can now visualize clearly exactly the set up we want to have to expand, and make things manageable. It's really good to learn these lessons. Or, at least that's what I tell myself when I'm hauling birds in the dark.

In fall, when we are getting closer to the end of the season, it seems like every year I have a stroke of what else we want to do and how we can get there. Imagine you're looking around seeing this kind of a mess you've made, this glorious haphazard project- and you still see all of the way you have to go. Sometimes it's almost crushingly overwhelming, the vision vs. the reality- but it's also profoundly hopeful. And every time someone comes up to the farmer's market talking about how our chicken really is "the best chicken ever", I keep that close. I have to keep it close, I believe in how we do things, and someday, we'll have it set in a way that I think that vision in my head, with the nice fencing and the tidy pastures will reach its full reality.

There's more too. Sometimes, I think about how we could expand, how we would add more experiences to the farm, invite more people to participate in fun ways. I imagine horse drawn wagons to pumpkin patches, rows of hops...quail dinners. I keep those dreams a little closer, because there is so much still to do to get there. But that's what keeps the passion going. In reality, if my mind didn't wander into those "we could" territories the "we have to" would be too much.

I guess what it comes down to is that every chicken carried is a lesson learned. And every lesson learned is fodder for that ideal vision we keep striving for. There are worse ways to live.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I Grew Up To Be A Farmer

There is an article in the NYT that has gone fairly viral, especially if you travel in circles where this type of thing is a major topic of conversation. It's about one farmer's fiscal reality, and the challenges of trying to keep oneself afloat with agriculture as the primary source of income. It's a great read, and you should definitely take a minute to read through it. 

The article contains things we have discussed out loud in our home, after a weekend at a Farmer's Market, or when a customer has again failed to pay an invoice or share on time, (or at all). We're both incredibly grateful for our respective college experiences, but we've also thought longingly about a life without a big circle of student debt attached to it. A student debt we don't feel we understood completely when we signed our names to it without a fully formed frontal lobe.

And, we're fairly fortunate in that our business has grown quickly, and has proven to be more often than not-- solvent. We have the privilege of having the education to write a business plan, being white, young, able-bodied and that Kim's career has allowed us to get the business up and running. We had the opportunity to lease land, I was able to do an apprenticeship. We have sought counsel, we have done online courses, we have read for days. These things have given us even the option of pursuing agriculture. Not everyone even can look at agriculture as an option, even if it's their dream.

Still, those moments, those deeply dark moments, where you know there is no way to deal with the budget shortfall other than just wait until the next opportunity to sell more product, be it an online promotion, or a market, or a CSA season. That's when you look at whether anything at all can be cut, if it's time to get another job (on top of the 60 hour min. you're doing on farm) or if you need to liquidate an asset like an unused set of tires or something. And the reality sets in that you don't know if you'll ever own land to run the business, and to live on. You don't know if you can make it through one more explanation of how your prices are fair, that the cost of food isn't so simple, and that you aren't just out to 'make money'.

And I also whole heartedly agree with friend and fellow farmer, Jenna, when she talks about the absolute, soul lifting, rewarding experience that farming is in her latest blog post in response to that same article.

In fifth grade, we all sat in a circle and our teacher went around and asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. When it got to me, I proudly announced "Farmer" and was a shade of magenta when the circle erupted into laughter and some "ewwws". I was honestly, shocked. I still can feel the eyes staring at me, I can feel my hands looking for something to do- pulling at my sleeves. I, in my socially awkward mind, hadn't realized that this was something to be ashamed of. And my aspirations remained shameful through high school, in pursuit of college, and, even in some of my romantic relationships.

I can't tell you how many people have shamed my agriculture passions, or assumed some kind of intellectual default in my chosen profession. I thankfully no longer shrink. I'm no longer a shy 5th grader. I'm intensely proud of the work we do, and perfectly capable of telling anyone that if they think farming is something to turn up one's nose at- perhaps they should quit eating.

And as aware of the benefits of farming as I am, my own schedule, the smell of fresh air- the freedom of my own destiny- I don't think that's enough. And I don't think it's solely my responsibility to take on all of the risk of farming, because that's what I 'chose' to do for a living. We all must hold responsibility for what we value in our food choices. If you are buying from our farm, you're our partner. We will work tirelessly for you, we will forgo years of vacations, we will be up late, we will get totally soaked and frozen. We will shovel shit. Actual Shit. But your end of the bargain is- you make sure we can pay the bills, you say that our kind of small farming is valuable and worth support. 

I don't want to live in a country where it's farmers vs. consumers locked up in a battle over prices. I don't want to live in a country where only the biggest farmers get to live comfortably. I don't really want to participate in a financial economy that says that we deserve to suffer because we grow food. I do want to feel all of the beautiful, wonderful things that Jenna describes in her post, and I do feel those things. That's not where the story stops for me but it is often solace, and a job perk unmatched by many. I do want, desperately, for children to grow up to farmers. I want little 5th graders dreaming of mud and chickens to be supported in their quest.

I grew up to a be a farmer, perhaps significantly because I can't imagine anything else to be and feel whole. And I'm willing to sacrifice for that end. But, I guess I'm asking, why should farming in an ethical, small scale way have to be synonymous with sacrifice? What would it take for a conversation so broad and changing to happen in this country that we would lift up our small farmers, nurture them and ensure our own food security? When we will as a country decide that real food matters, for everyone? Not just for the wealthy, not just for the savvy, but for each person. That we all should push our plates away from us and sigh, bodies nourished and taste buds elated.

I'm not sure what it will take to change the perception of agriculture, and to really shift minds about food access for all. But I hope we'll be here when it does change, we'll still standing at the farmer's market, waiting to sell you a meal. And that somehow, we're helping create that change we want to see.



Monday, August 11, 2014

Complicated truths of a 3rd season farm

In our third season of this farm business, there are a few things we know to be true, almost all of the time. Farming never allows for absolutes, so we won't say these things are ALWAYS the case, but it's a safe bet.

For example, if you are trying to rush through chores, it will be at least 90 degrees and a sweat lodge, or you will need to fix a fence and chase pigs, or you will need to refill every water trough.

If the barn is dirty, someone will want to tour your operation. If you need the tractor for all of the days tasks, it will not start properly in the morning. If you are down to the wire on finances, you will run out of feed on the same day because someone broke out and ate a bag, or you accidentally spilled a bucket of water into the feed bin, or you just misjudged supply. If you are counting on a good crop, something will go wrong. It can be produce, or livestock, something will go wrong and your crop with be half. Maybe.

It doesn't sound fun, really, does it?

It guess, it's really not. But it is a lesson. We control absolutely nothing, really. Our roll is to just mitigate risk, to plan for most eventualities, and to exhibit self control when it all hits the fan. It's a lesson in being resourceful, problem solving and anger management.

Farming has forced more emotional growth out of me then anything else. I don't allow myself to get riled up, I just try to figure out what the plan is. Sometimes, the plan kinda sucks. Sometimes, it means we don't get a rest, or we are scrambling to figure out where the extra cash is going to come from. And it can wear a person out.

This isn't to say I ever don't want to go to work in the morning. Even when I'm standing, shaking my head as 100 chickens break free through a hole in the fence while 2 goats scream at me from behind and I'm bleeding from my shin because I slid in a patch of mud, I am satisfied with my work. I know my place in the world, I'm grounded. It's honest work. It's work we all need. Food never goes out of style, we're all going to need to keep eating. I know what I'm meant to be doing, and this is it. We can't always do things in the ideal way, but we don't compromise on the care with which we do things, and I think that matters most.

We've built this business from nothing. We have had help and breaks on the way, but it's mostly been our backs, no big loans, no heavy equipment, just hands and sheer determination. (Though the tractor has certainly save our backs, it's also tested our patience) We are so grateful for the helping hands we have had. But it is a labor of love, and it continues to be a scrappier version of what we envisioned. It's sunsets and quail hatching, it's selling out of farmer's markets. It's delicious dinners. It's sweat, and sore muscles, and running constantly behind. It's tight finances. It's blood, and death, and gore. It's the smell of decay. It's birth. It's making mistakes.

In our third season, we have found ourselves on the cusp of where we are, and where we want to be. The farm is growing, it's stretching tight against our limits, and we're just digging our heels in until we break through the other side. We've hit the point where we really need to streamline our operation, without sacrificing the quality of our products. It's a terrifying, lose sleep point, and also profoundly exciting and inspiring. I don't know if this is how it is for all small, first generation farmers. Maybe it is. But I know that we are getting there. It's not always how we planned, and it's never easy.

One of our New Year's resolutions this year was to become Resource Full over resourceful. And that has meant making some big decisions, most of which we will be talking about soon enough. One of those decisions involves doubling down on the farm work load for me, while Kim goes back to work off farm for a really great organization so we can fill the coffers high enough to make some big investments, rather than exploring taking out loans for those things. It feels more self sufficient to pay outright, rather than relying on some outside funds, and long term- it's more inline with what we want. It's a hard transition for us, a wonderful opportunity, but an adjustment from our routine of solid companionship and team work. But now, more than ever, it's the time to look at the farm as it is now, and envisioning it in the future. And it's also about changing our quality of life too, practicing self care (even farmers like the idea of a vacation maybe once a year, in the dead of winter), and making sure we feel secure. We rolled the dice to start this farm, and are coming out ahead, now it's time to double up.

The messiest truth is that that vision for the farm will continue to change, and so will we. But I think that's amazing--that you can transform so completely, even when the routines stay mostly the same. All the animals need to eat, have water, get cleaned up. The daily list is fairly regular, but each day it molds me into something different. Somehow simultaneously stronger and more flexible. Physically, and mentally. There is something so transformative about the mundane.

So yes, being a third season, first generation farm is not always what you want, but is more often than not- it is exactly what you need to become a fourth season farm-- and that's enough.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thanksgiving Turkey Orders

SOLD OUT OF PRE-ORDER TURKEYS
After pre-orders are filled, we will have a limited number of turkeys available at the Millerton Farmer's Market and the Kinderhook Farmer's market on 11/22. First Come, First Serve. Email us to be added to the waiting list. 

Yes, it's that time already- we're taking orders for Thanksgiving turkeys! For those who have been eating the delicious summer birds, don't forget to pre-order your holiday feast! For those who haven't, but need a holiday bird- same to you! We will likely sell out, and getting your reservation in early helps us plan a delivery schedule and what size birds will be most popular. Our turkey is DELICIOUS. It's pastured and fed with our custom non-gmo feed, and we've been known to let the feathered friends get into some additional treats like watermelon and tomatoes. They live a wonderful life, and then they make a perfect holiday meal. 

The price per lb of our premium, sustainably raised turkey will range between $5.70 and $6.20. The final price will be available about three weeks before delivery, which is determined by the variable cost of feed. We will be doing our best to keep the cost on the lower end of the range. Turkeys will be delivered in the Capital District the week of Thanksgiving, or picked up on farm that same week. If you want us to consider an additional delivery location, contact us for our site minimums! Pick-Up Time/Dates will announced once we receive confirmation from our butchering partners of our scheduled processing.

Though we created this meme for our meat share- we still think it's pretty perfect for this time of the year too. 


To order a turkey, check out our online order form. 


Monday, July 28, 2014

Easy Come, Easy Go and Other Farm Updates

A few weeks ago, we had a windfall of good luck when a neighbor offered up his old shed if we would move it. We were glad to do it, as we had been sourcing a new shelter for our summer flock of turkeys and planning ahead for our Thanksgiving batch. We decided to use the Farmall A, our flatbed trailer and a whole lot of gumption to get it back down to the farm. The shed was relatively light, and our neighbors helped us get it loaded and we literally screwed it down to the wooden flat bed. Then, we slowly puttered down the road to get it back here. It all went smoothly, remarkable so.

We were pretty happy to upgrade our temporary turkey shelter (built from a cattle panel) to a nicer model, and it made locking up the birds at a night a bit easier. We positioned the open side away from the direction we most often get winds, and for added measure secured it to the ground. Then, last Wednesday we headed out for our latest addition of the East Greenbush Farmer's Market and our regular Albany delivery. We both got drenched that night, and made it home at dusk, still damp. I was getting the heat lamps positioned for the new turkeys still brooding when I glanced out the back window of the barn and saw the big flock of summer birds standing, drenched, shivering, in the rain. But the shed was nowhere to be found. Literally, the 300ish lb shed was just gone.

We had branches down in the yard, and some storm damage, but the pallet coops and other infrastructure seemed fine. Finally, in the low light of a setting sun, I spotted the shed, at least an acre up the hill, totally crushed like a soda can.

Nature always wins. We'll get something figured out to house the turkeys for the fall season, and in the meantime the rest of the summer flock have take residence in the run-in shed, where they are quite comfortable. 

In less dramatic news, we have finally hatched our first little ducklings. Well, we didn't do much to make it happen, the call ducks did all the work. We have three little ducklings marching about, causing a ruckus, and they are as adorable as you'd imagine, though they spend much of the day in the barn splashing in their water dish and creating the worst kind of mud indoors you'll ever find. Their mama is constantly teaching them new duck things, so it won't be long until they can spend more time outdoors and in the streams/marsh. 



The pasture is at it's fullest now too. We don't mow, which sometimes gives the farm more of a meadow look then the organized madness we're going for. But it's really a growing strategy. We only have a limited amount of pasture, and we need it all to keep our animals fed and healthy. We let it get a little long for added shade, and as much feed as we can get from it for the amount of livestock we run. We've gone through about half of it, and have plenty of meat left to grow on the second half through the fall. By the end of the year the animals will have cleared all the acreage, and it will be well fertilized for the winter.  The sea of green, brown, and red smells fresh and sweet- and will do a better job of feeding the animals then the milled grains we use alone. Plus, it helps keep the water log down, especially with the amount of thunderstorms we've had. 



It's definitely summer. The humidity, the storms, the work load. Each day is packed with chores, and we are hustling to keep up with all of the tasks. We've gotten a bit behind with some of the things we like to have done (mowing the lawn, for example)- but are happy with the quality of life for the livestock. In between storms today I hauled a full bale of shavings out to the field, for feathered and porcine bedding. Keeping everyone dry is a challenge, but the pigs don't seem to mind the mud, as long as their beds stay dry. The mud keeps the sun off pale skin, and apparently is also good for snacking. We'll just take their word for it though, as the garden is prolific and we eat to match the work load!







Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fool proof Chicken Wings

Ahh summer, when you can eat so well, so easily... there is abundance everywhere you turn! So many farms have so much to offer right now, and one of our favorite treats is to turn every seasonal veg into some kind of tasty pizza. And what goes better with pizza than chicken wings? Here is how we make our not-fried chicken wings, including sauce and we've never had a complaint! We thought we'd share, so you too can sit on your porch with a good brew and the classic pizza/wings pairing- but far more delicious because it's FARM style!


1 Dozen Wings, split
1/2 stick of butter
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1/8 cup ketchup
1/8 cup brown sugar
liberal amounts of salt, chilli powder, pepper, garlic powder and smoked paprika
olive oil

Par-boil your wings (probably for about 5-10 minutes) while you are preheating your oven to 425.

On the stove-top, mix all of your sauce ingredients and let it cook down at a simmer for at least 15 minutes. Don't be afraid to add spices, take some away or just generally change the entire sauce recipe. Though the butter is key to make a smooth sauce.

Spread your wings out on a cookie sheet, and toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast them until golden brown, crispy and cooked thoroughly.

Pour your sauce over your wings once they are ready to serve. Eat them immediately, and provide ample napkins!!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Meat for Sale!

We are having a great summer, and have some really wonderful offerings for anyone looking to grill some locally grown, non-gmo, ethically raised meats. If you would like to order anything, let us know! We can arrange a convenient time on farm or we'll be in Albany this Wednesday, and can bring it you then. For those who would prefer to pay ahead, we now accept credit cards and can send you an invoice through square.

What's available:

Boneless Skinless Turkey Cutlets (12.50/lb, packages are usually about $7 each based on their weights. Approx 2 good size cutlets per package)

Turkey Drumsticks (7.50/lb) roughly 1lb packages (2 drumsticks)

Turkey Thighs (7.50/lb) roughtly 1.2lb packages (2 thighs)

Turkey Wings (7.00/lb) roughtly 1.5lb packages (2 wings)

RABBIT!! Whole, $30/each approximately 3.2lbs each

We still have 2 sides of pork available for our fall delivery date, for details on ordering a side of pork, check out this link. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Tough Choices

Well, as we mentioned in a previous post, we've been without a horse team for quite some time. While we are focusing on our meat operations (and loving that) we do miss the equine spirit around here. But, with the knowledge that our resources are better spent elsewhere, we've made the gut wrenching decision to sell off our equipment, hopefully to someone who wants it for active use! You can find the full listing on craigslist here.

Pick up only, we can't ship or trailer anything.

It's one of those choices you have to make as a small business with limited resources. We make them all of the time, and mostly, it's not public. But if you are going to succeed, you have to remember what's important. Plus, it really is a bummer to see such nice equipment not in use.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Fireflies

I get home, after a meeting and then ice cream with a friend, rushing at this late hour dusk to do the last of the livestock tending. Each evening, we walk the farm, securing hatches to all of the chicken coops, the turkey pen, the barn, ushering in our critters who plead like children for just one more drink of water, one more snack, one more romp around the field.

I slide off my sandals, and into my boots, weather worn leather that slouch in all the right places and start down the quickly darkening path. And though Kim is off farm for the night, I'm certainly not alone. The sky is erupting from every angle with the quick flashes of light. It's astounding, unlike any other place I've ever lived. We must be a central point where all fireflies come to meet, zooming in from all directions to discuss the days events and light the way for weary farmers. Everywhere I step the night is alive, and the quite glow of the emerging stars even pales in comparison to the light show of these tiny bugs. Isn't in incredible that a swarm of insects can surpass the beauty of the entire universe of stars.

As I'm walking, one laser technician dips low near my nose, and suddenly I'm 6- holding a country crock container with holes popped in the top. I'm racing across my parents back yard, in mud smeared clothes and flip flops hopped up on sugar water. I'm sun burnt and giddy with the late hour. I'm breathless chasing fireflies. When my container is finally full, I open it back up and watch as the relieved flies zoom away from me, resting only moments before starting again.

Then suddenly, I'm 16 and parked in my first car, with a teenage love, whispering secrets and watching the fireflies dance across a lake. I'm nervous, and shy, and putting on a bravado to cover my shaking hands. I grip the steering wheel and stare outside in the gaps of conversation. I can feel my jittery laughter bubbling to the surface of the quiet. The fireflies seem to be teasing and soothing all at once, winking at my insecurities without judgement.

And even as I walk on through the pasture, hands moving through the routine now I'm 20. I'm 20 and sitting on my Alma Mater's dock of Cayuga lake. There are only the hint of the start of fire fly season, but they're there. It's too cold to swim, but we're hot with youth, and booze, and brazenness and swim naked under the late spring moon. I've never felt this sure, this wonderful, surrounded by passion and brilliance and folly.

And then I'm myself now, and all of those things at once. I'm a tired farmer, amazed at his life, and weary of the day. I'm still stressed about the season, aware of the struggles. But the 6, and the 16, and the 20, and the 29 versions of myself beg me just to watch for a minute. The sheep and goats stand surprisingly still, and quiet, perhaps in their own reverence of the show.

There is truly very little more brilliant then the glow of a firefly.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Falling back in love with the garden

This is our home garden, and needless to say- it's a land of miracles. A combination of planting in the past two years of manure, tender care, and unfettered access to water- and we have quite the jungle out there. We keep it fairly weeded, and it's an absolute pleasure to step outside and grab the ingredients for dinner. It's kind of like the universe congratulating us on listening to the capabilities of the land.


3 varieties of beans, including those for drying

peas!!

delicious, delicious scapes

The Winter Squash Jungle, and upcycled PVC pipe trellis

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Community

It all started with a phone call. It was just before Thanksgiving, we were still in high gear. We had turkeys on pasture, harvesting to do- the last thing I felt like doing was answering the phone. But, it was a neighbor, fellow Agland Protection Committee member, and, someone I liked- Jeanne Mettler.

Jeanne is just one of those people who gets things done. She's that rare type- she has great ideas and the kind of dedication it takes to see those great ideas actually follow through. She was calling to see if we thought farmers in the area would have any interest in saving our local general store.

Our local general store isn't just a convenience store- it is a lifeline to many in the community. The current owners needed to close it, and it would certainly leave Copake with a void. We have seniors and other community members who do not have access to cars (and there is no mass transportation). There are other places semi-near by to get groceries, but for many- it would be near impossible to get the basics. For others, it was just needed a place to get local goods close to home, rather than commuting 15-20 minutes just for those pantry items everyone runs out of. The need was clear. But where did we fit in as farmers?

We're constantly struggling to find ways to make our products more accessible. In our rural community, you can set up a farm stand but unless someone drives by- they may not see it. And with our switch to meat products, it's even harder to make sure that you are reaching folks you can hardly leave fresh chicken out all day. Folks barely see what you have regularly- even when they live less than a mile away! We've always imagined there to be a way to get the local farmers together and create a space where our community could get those farm fresh goods on more than one day a week. In the first two years of business, it was impossible for us to even find the time to get to a Saturday market- so when Jeanne called us- it was like she read our minds.

We were in. We wanted to bridge the gap between the general store needs of our community and an amazing array of farmers who could practically cover the food groups. Of course, a great idea is only the beginning.

I could tell you all about the hours of meetings, the setbacks, the renovations. I could tell you about mishaps with electricians, negotiating regulations... but really- what I want to tell you is about the feeling of the first day we were open.

We were there all week, frantically getting the last of the must haves together to get open on Memorial Day weekend. Kim and I even put most of the non-essential farm work on hold, and instead spent the entire week running errands, setting up a register system, meeting with local vendors to go over their product lists... and then finally our big grocery order came in.

This store isn't just run by someone with a good idea and the money to execute it. The funds were raised through the community, and the business LLC is managed by a board (of which Kim is a member), subject to elections. The store has staff, who are wonderful, and care for day to day operations. The board is still highly involved, working together to really make the place run.

So the night that our big grocery order finally came in, we had been waiting for hours on the delivery truck. We had struggled to find a vendor who would even consider delivering to our little town, with enough products to ensure our community would be served well, at good prices. And so we unloaded them, all hands on deck, all 680+ boxes. We got them on the shelves. We got them into our inventory and register system. Volunteers came. We all skipped meals. We all were exhausted. But the doors opened. And this is really, just the beginning of the story.

It may just seem like something small- a little store where you can pick up your coffee, milk, bread... but it's so much more. Along with grocery items we have 10 local farmers bringing in their goods weekly. We have local meat, cheese, granola, bread, produce, canned goods, cookies... the farmers and food producers jumped at the chance to sell directly to their community. This is how we see change for our community. By blending a grocery store model with a daily farmers market we can offer so much more to our community. We can help to reconnect local people with local food. We can provide for those folks who can't drive to get their groceries. And it came together because our community wanted it, worked for it, and funded it.

The doors opened on Sunday. It had hiccups, we have much to do- still. We have kinks, technology issues, stocking problems- all of the things a small business expects. But we also have joy. Or, at least I do. I have such joy at seeing folks come in, grab a basket and grab a chicken I grew- and then chat with them about it. I have joy that you can get salad greens from a small farm run by some of the nicest folks you'll ever meet. I have joy that spices are 99 cents and a local elder told me that we had done a "mighty fine job with the pricing". I have relief, that the doors are open, that I could run down and grab coffee beans this morning when we ran out. I have hope, that this is just the beginning, we're just getting started.

To many in our little town, it's just "nice" to have an open store, and I'm glad for that. But for me, and I think for many others involved in this project- it's nothing short of extraordinary.



ps- if you want to know more about this project, or help us continue to do the work of managing all of the local products, check our our link here! Thanks!