Monday, September 14, 2015

Farm Photo Update- More to Come!

Hi folks!

We know the key to a great blog is consistency, but occasionally- life happens and we do less than a perfect job of keeping this up. We are both working off-farm as well as on right now, to keep the wheels moving in the right direction. But please, enjoy these gorgeous photos taken by our friend Marissa (who runs the Fresh Dish stand) at the Cambridge Market with her significant other, Larry and their 5 combined and really charming kids. They stopped by the farm to get a new adorable pet bunny (named Cookie Dough now) and she took this beauties we just had to share. Stay tuned!






Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Chicken Sale!

Wow, it's been awhile since we wrote a blog post!

It's also been awhile since we had the 10 minutes it takes to write a blog post - because we've been super busy growing delicious food. Want proof?

We're having a HUGE CHICKEN SALE!

For $110 - you get 5 whole roster chickens weighing between 4 and 5 pounds each. That's a great price for chicken that's raised on non-gmo grain, fresh pasture and sunshine!

Take advantage of this deal my emailing reisenshinefarm@gmail.com - we'll send you an online invoice and coordinate your delivery.

We've got a lot more work to do before the season ends in November - and we want to stock up your freezers before we sell out of poultry for the year. We will sell out of chicken - so get yours now so you can enjoy the great grilling of summer and the soups and stews of winter.



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Farm Photo Update!

I thought it was about time we did a little showing around the place, we are behind (always) in what needs to be done- but it's still shaping up, albeit slowly.

Here sits the tractor. It's needed a repair for weeks. But, it's very possibly something we will have to pay to have done, and it just hasn't made the list yet. 
The rabbits are quiet and mostly very good. We had kind of a slow breeding season, but the ones we have had all are doing well. 

In any free hour, I will be found running fencing. It's one of the largest expenses we have, but we bought our cedar posts in bulk so I can at least drive those and make improvements as we can.

The doelings we are keeping for breeding are growing quite well. Here is little Blanche, munching on unmowed pasture. We let the pastures grow so that when we graze them, they last longer. Also, it's better for the bees. 

Fiona (the big girl), Raja, Blance's butt in the background, a door they broke off of their shade hut, Margo (almost directly in front of Fi) and little no name buckling (meat production guy)

The summer turkeys are grazing on pasture 


Raja. If you don't fall in love, you're probably heartless. 

The escapee piglets are still in the barn, though I'm thinking they will go out this week. We're hoping electric netting will do the trick, but all fencing is a gamble with piglets. They are clearly not wanting for much, though. 

Swanson, always watching, always a joy. 

Just a little left to fence (sigh)

A little farm geek photo- this is how green the pasture is after grazing. Responsible farming is GOOD for the grass! 

So. Many. Goats. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Why Vegetarianism Didn't Work For Me

Ok. So- Disclaimer: We get asked this ALL the time, as former vegetarians turned ethical meat producers. We also know that this subject gets A LOT of heat, especially on the internet. So, if you're looking for a debate, this isn't the place. This is just a full length description of my food journey, in case it's helpful for those investigating their own choices, or interested in what makes our growing practices different. Please refrain from sending us, or commenting here with anything from militant veganism sites or references, these things are combative and highly alarmist. But anyone thinking and talking about food is alright by us, so feel free to share our post.


I was 16, going on 17 when I stopped eating meat. I was getting sick all of the time- the kind of sick no one wants to read about. Anytime I had a meal, I would be ill for hours afterwards. My home life was complicated, and the food we had available was mostly quick and cheap. I had stress related health issues that affected my digestion, so it wasn't clear why I was getting sick despite medication. During a particularly rough time period of sickness, I decided to stop eating meat because I was kind-of sure it was part of the problem, and I had started learning about factory farming which was upsetting to say the least. I had adult mentors who were vegetarian, and it seemed like I should at least give it a try. The last thing I ate was a chicken nugget from a fast food restaurant on a school field trip. I bit into it, and came back with a mouth full of gristly chicken by-product and that was that.

I've always been relatively interested in the kitchen and cooking. I started making my own food instead of buying school lunch, using wages from my part time job to buy my substitute meat products. I did feel better. I still had issues, but they were less frequent, and I also felt like I was on a good path environmentally, and ethically. I still ate a lot of taco bell, though. I've always danced around restrictive eating, I was really grouchy at this point in my life. I was not a pleasant teenager most of the time, which was in part due to my food issues.

Then came college. Our dining hall was notoriously bad (seriously, it made the "worst of" lists)- and I lived basically on french fries w/ranch dressing and/or tomato soup. I came home after my freshman year and was diagnosed with minor malnutrition. That's how bad my eating habits were (and the options at school). I was wrapped up in a world walking a dangerously fine line between an eating disorder and vegetarian activism.

Over that summer, I started cooking in earnest. I made all of my meals, and ate regularly. I worked in a factory, so I was able to make better choices and my physical work demanded I be more careful. I started to become a better cook- paid more attention to my Grandmother's lessons. Grandma modified her recipes for me, taking time to make marinara instead of Sunday gravy, and making these super tasty eggplant meatballs (as well as all the manacotti I could eat). I fell in love with food. A love affair I have often described and referenced at length on this blog and to anyone who will listen.

Back at school, I did better at minding what I ate. My health was better.

And then my world view exploded.

I went to Imokalee Florida, to work with migrant farm workers who were advocating for better working conditions and a one cent pay raise. This was at the time of the national taco-bell boycott, and the Coalition won their pay increase just a week before we got there. This was a pivotal trip for me. The realities of agribusiness, fast food, and subsidized cash crops hit me with a deadly force. I spoke with humans who had risked life and limb in an attempt to make a better future, and now were living in overcrowded trailers, exposed to deadly chemicals, working 16 hours a day for not enough money to live. It was astounding. I couldn't un-see anything from that point on. Industrial farming treated those workers like commodities, and not very valuable ones. I met so many incredible people during this time, and I was forced to look at the way in which our food system allows us to leave these workers invisible. The privilege of ignoring the source of the food on your plate.

It was also in Imokalee that the reality of the difference my upbringing to the other students hit me. We participated in this exercise which made you step forward and back based on markers of privilege, and at the end, you were supposed to realize how different your lived experience was to other students. It's hard to talk about this. In my group of students from our small, liberal arts, private college, I was dead last in line. I'm white, and afforded white privilege. But the realities of my upbringing became painfully, startlingly apparent in comparison to my fellow students' experiences. The politics of class warfare became very, very personal. It was hard to confront these things in the presence of other students, but it was critical for me to realize that no matter what I ended up doing- my background would play a factor- I would work to be an advocate for change. And that my experiences in childhood were colored by many of the same oppression politics that rendered farm workers invisible.

I began reading about food, farming, agricultural practices- and feeling more steadfast in my decision to be a vegetarian. Modern meat production is horrifying. The abuses of animals and people, farm workers who I now could picture, solidified my decision to avoid meat. I became a great vegetarian cook, but I did use a fair amount of meat-replacement products. And tofu. And tempeh. I left school, joined (and then worked at) a co-op, and made a million Quorn roasts for holidays and the best damn nutritional yeast gravy off of a recipe from my friend, Cathryn.

I started a garden. Gardening brought me closer to my food in a new way. The feel of my own hands in dirt reconnected me to a body that had often been sick. I hate talking about this point in my life, and I'm hesitant to share it now. There is so much judgement in our culture about chronic illness or even people who just get colds more often than usual. I was mostly fine, and functional. But gardening was a way for me to feel more at home and able after struggling with weight and health issues. Really, the control over my food in this very tangible way was important to me. Also, it was delicious.

I started weeding out things that traveled for long miles on trucks. I bought local milk where I could see the cows. I met a lot of local food producers while working at the co-op. They would come in with deliveries, still in the farm boots and with their kids carrying boxes of produce to the back. I'd chat with them, and I admired how... sturdy they all were. Not in appearance, but in presence. Even when they were in a terrible mood, they all looked strong, like they were fully inhabiting their bodies rather than just hauling them around everywhere.

As I've mentioned, I've had a few serious health crises in my life, and I came upon one of the worst during this time period. Let's just say I was really, really, sick. And then I got sicker. It took me ages to recover, almost a full year. And then it would be several more years before I was actually healthy on a regular basis (and I had several other unrelated but necessary medical treatments during this time). I wasn't desperate for some kind of holistic cure, or wrapped up in the notion that food was the only solution. I was just looking for ways to feel better, in every corner possible.

I've always bee active, and I've always been engaged. I was eating almost exclusively local, and reading a ton about how soy, corn and wheat were essentially robbing the soil, killing small farms, and consuming vast amounts of fossil fuel. There are hundreds of articles, films, and resources on this topic. If you don't know how farm subsidies work, or how corn and soy are in EVERYTHING- start reading. It's the lynch pin in understanding how/why our food system works the way it does. I also started steering away from processed foods, after a long time of struggling, I learned that I had a sensitivity to food additives. Don't get me wrong- I friggin love an Oreo. I really do. But whole, unprocessed foods helped me lose weight, have energy, and kept the hangry at bay. I still eat crap, but less often, as an indulgence (and with gusto). My girlfriend of the time was working on improving her health, so the whole household was shifting to eating more complete foods.

I had drawn the conclusion, that for me, it was important to eat as much local as possible to ensure I knew about the labor practices, environmental practices and fossil fuel consumption involved in my food. I also felt like food tastes better when it was that fresh, and felt healthier. Science backs this up. But, the elimination of many of the foods I'd counted on to maintain my vegetarian diet for being environmentally unsound and overly processed really did limit my options. What to do?

After nearly a decade, I started literally dreaming about chicken. Mouthwatering dreams. I could smell it, and I'm not kidding. I increased my protein, cut back my carbs, and still- vivid chicken dreams. I tried an iron supplement, I ate more at meal times. I was lethargic. I was... hungry. I added back in some of the processed vegetarian proteins, Quorn brand specifically. But, it was coming from Europe, and made of a million ingredients. And it did kind of taste like cardboard.

I started digging deep, really thinking about how I had decided that killing animals for food was wrong. I took up some hobbies that put me back outside. I started thinking of humans as animals within ecosystem. I met more farmers. It's hard to say *when* exactly, my thinking shifted, but it did. First, with fish. This is kind of typical for someone moving out of vegetarianism. I had more energy eating ethically farmed fish, but I felt weird about eating something caught by someone I never met.

And finally, I bought and raised some chickens. The deal was, if I could start to finish raise chickens, I would eat them- but only if I was mindful about where it came from. Friends helped me build my first little coop and fencing. The chickens were pampered (overly so). They were funny. I liked them. I respected them. But I realized the work had to have a pay off. They were not pets. We had no deep emotional connection. My relationship with chickens is not the same as my relationship with dogs. Our species understand each other differently. And then, we ate them.

Raising and then processing that first batch set me on my farming course. The first chicken processing was... not smooth. We were scared, basically. It was hard. It was dirty. I'm not ashamed to say my hands shook. Life became a harvest. The first chicken processing left me with an unparalleled understanding of myself, and what I believe in. I believe we should be lifting up farmers in our communities. I believe in small farming. I believe in ending dependence on monolithic crops. Food products are not to be understood in the same way as whole foods are. Not that they don't have their place- but not in the volume we eat them now.

It does not work for me to buy a synthetic, food-like substance instead of the products from a carefully tended field. It does not makes sense to me to ship tomatoes from across the country, from a drought ridden state, rather than freezing my garden extras or going without. I'm not saying that I know how to solve the problems of food deserts and world wide hunger. But the earth is not meant to grow strictly one variety of anything. Biodiversity, reducing fossil fuels, protecting bees from pesticides- these things are tantamount to protecting the planet.

Eating meat, for me, is the most ethical choice I can make. We grow 90% of what we eat, and I have seen (as have others) how you can rehabilitate pastures with responsible grazing. We don't mow all of our pastures, to leave room for the birds and bees. We let flowers happen. We run poultry after grazers when we can. We serve the community.

That's the other piece of the puzzle for me- farming is a dying art in our country. As pointed out again recently by This American Life, only 1% of our population live and work on farms. And, most farmers are over the age of 60. If we continue to rely on current farming practices, we are going to forget as a country how to grow actual food- but instead only grow crops that we can synthesize down into ingredients we glue back together and ship across the country. As much as there as been a resurgence of farming, small farms fail daily. It's dire. Every purchasing decision we make goes into the pockets of a small farmer (who, almost exclusively puts it back into their local economy) or, goes into the pot keeping things as they are- environmentally unstable, nutritionally incomplete, and with little consideration for the rights of farm workers.

I'm not sick any more, and I'm not tortured by my own food politics. I'm strong. We're healthy. Kim can carry a feed bag nearly the same weight as her with minimal struggle. We can work 16 hours and get up the next day. I do think Americans need to eat less cheap meat. Cheap meat is the opposite of the work we do. It doesn't not protect the environment, it does not care for its consumers or producers. And we have a long way to go to get more of our animals off of soy and corn. But whole foods, including meat like ours, are not the enemy. Ethical and sustainable meat, sourced locally, is one cornerstone to revitalizing food economy and restoring health. I believe that, and I'm living proof. Also, it tastes better. And eating is not supposed to be just something you do to survive, why the hell would we have such extensive taste buds if not to enjoy it?

My meals used to consist of now-debunked ideas of heart conscious products, synthesized into familiar meat shapes. Now, I eat actual bacon, with lower cholesterol and a sturdy immune system. I'm not saying meat healed me- a lot of things have contributed. But vegetarianism did not work for me, either in my world view or in my dietary needs. So I grow and eat meat. I eat joyfully, and respectfully.  Sometimes with that nutritional yeast gravy, which is still damn good.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

July 3rd Chicken BBQ at the Old Station Inn!

Once again we are teaming up with the Old Station Inn for a Farmer Night! 

Join us on July 3rd for a R'Eisen Shine Farm Chicken BBQ dinner with two seasonal homemade sides, cooked by us!


We had such a great time at Wing Night, we wanted to come right back- but this time with a full meal!

Pre-sale tickets are strongly recommended! We have individual dinners ($15) and dinner for 2 ($25) available. For those of you who haven't hit the Old Station Inn yet- you're in for a relaxed atmosphere, great service and drinks to suite everyone's tastes.

Chicken BBQ is a great way to kick off the holiday weekend, support local businesses and local farms! Oh, and eat delicious food in a great place! See you there!

To order your tickets online, please go to our online storeDon't forget in the "notes to seller" section to tell us your name, and a time preference to join us. We'll be serving from 5-8pm, so you can give us an estimated arrival time of 5,6 or 7. You don't have to arrive exactly at that time, we're just trying to get solid estimates to keep the flow. 


Tickets are also available at our stand at the Waterford Harbor Farmer's Market, Cambridge Farmers Market and the Old Station Inn! 



Tuesday, June 9, 2015

When Farming Feels like Failure

Last week we had an incredible week. Wing Night was one of our greatest successes to date- 100 orders sold within 2 hours, and great reviews. We had so much fun cooking the food we grow, and we can't wait to launch the next event. July 3rd will be a chicken bbq- details coming after we meet with the wonderful Danielle from the Old Station on Friday. The farmers markets were solid, a little slow, but still we came home feeling accomplished. We worked with a friend to acquire her used pick up, a payment plan and some trade for meat to cover the cost. The truck came none to soon, the van blew a tire on the dirt road, needs a new windshield and has a door tied shut with bailing twine. Typical farm tin can.

We pushed ourselves ragged last week, and it showed. We made progress. But a bad farm day here is sometimes, a really, really bad day. It makes it feel like everything you accomplished is completely undone.

Yesterday afternoon I was totally flattened. I'm sitting in the gator with my head buried in my forearm over the steering wheel. Drenched in sweat, so mad my frame is shaking. I straightened up, tilted my head to the sky and just stared. The dog jumped back in the seat next to me gave a genuine glance of concern, with reason.

I must have stayed there, statue like for 10 minutes. I counted down from a 100, took deep breaths, I just couldn't move. I was inches away from turning off the atv, going in the house to drown my sorrows in a beer and a mid-day shower. But giving up is never an option on a farm. You are the flywheel. If you're not spinning, nothing is moving.

During morning chores, Kim and I had come upon a gruesome site. The worst predator attack in our farm's history lay out before in the last meat bird pen. Nearly full grown chickens were scattered everywhere, missing crucial pieces and still warm. It was horrific. We think it was at least 30 of our beautiful, carefully tended stock. That's at least what we could count. Weeks of work, and lives we valued. Money lost. The cause- a problem with our electric fencing.

Not just that- but the animals must have sensed the electricity in the air with impending bad weather. Two rabbits had escaped the indoor and outdoor growing pens, and I could see that across the road, the goat herd and duck flock were both not even remotely in their appropriate locations. It took time, a patience, but after dealing with the gruesome predator attack, I did manage to get everyone straightened out, caught up (Swanson helped a little). The goat fence would need to be moved to fresh pasture and re-set to be effective.

That'd be enough for a day. But it was just morning chores. After coffee, I set out to go get the repair supplies for the chickens, and to buy feed. In my distraction, I forgot to throw a tarp in the truck, and so naturally, hit a downpour with 800 lbs of feed in the back of the pick up. I made a quick detour to buy one while I was headed to TSC for the electric fence supplies- and managed to get the feed covered before it was totally ruined. By the time I got back, the rain had stopped, which was good because we were expecting a delivery of 15 piglets, (4 for our friend Jenna). I got a business call from Kim about something that had to be dealt with immediately on the road back, so I had to drop everything and head into the farmhouse. An hour later, my business owner duties fulfilled, I looked at the time and rolled my eyes. I was two hours behind, and the piglets would have to go in the old pig pasture, instead of the new one- there was no time to set up in the far field. I grabbed spare cattle panels and set to creating a small pen within the pasture- we've found piglets get worked up with too much space during the first 24 hours on farm, we create a smaller 'safe space' and then let them out into the wider area after that.

As I was unloading feed, Jenna pulled up in her pick up, two border collies in tow. While Gibson and Swanson got reacquainted, I got to hold Friday- an 8 week old ball of gorgeous border collie baby. At one point, all three were running in a line, from oldest to youngest and it was painfully adorable. Soon enough, Bobby pulled up in his box truck with a load of piglets, slick with manure. Yep. Sounds about right. We caught up Jenna's 4 and then she graciously assisted me in putting mine into the small paddock. I hadn't even had a chance to lay bedding for them yet, in my rush. But there was plenty to explore, so I didn't think twice about leaving them while I said goodbyes.

Bobby was paid, Jenna was off, and I went down to the farmhouse for a cup of water, realizing lunch was out of the question. While I was eating a handful of potato chips, a car pulled up. I threw my boots back on and poked my head out the door. The neighbor stopped by to say he had just seen a large herd of piglets cross the road. Fuck. Shit. Damn. Whistling for the dog, I raced up to the barn, jumped back in the gator. Those of you who read this blog know this isn't the first time we've had rogue piglets. It won't be the last. Seems like every time we get a new batch, they act totally different then we expect and best laid plans are never good enough. This morning had scattered my best plans though, so the back up plan was not surprisingly a failure.

I raced around the fields, between the fence line, the dog, and jumping out of a barely stopped atv, I managed to get 8 of the 11 loaded into a dog crate I use to move poultry. The crate was then close to 200lbs though, so too heavy to lift. I ran into the barn, trying to figure out what to do next. We had a chicken grow out pen not occupied, and previously goat-kid tested, so that was the best option. I grabbed a shovel, and mucked it out, right into the center of the barn, I could clean that out later. Shoveling with the rage of a farmer chasing pigs, I grabbed a fresh bale of shavings- and it was pig ready. I individually carried 4 piglets to the pen, to lighten the crate. I restarted the gator, and moved it closer to the now half full crate. I could see the last 3 piglets still roaming freely. With a mighty lift, I picked up the crate and headed for the tailgate. Simultaneously, Swanson caught sight of the last 3 piglets, and made a mighty leap OUT of the ATV, knocking it into gear and sending it rolling backwards into a large hole I dug while repairing buried water lines.

So to recap- we have lost 30 chickens. There are piglets running free- 4 in a crate, 3 being run down by a border collie failing to heed "stay" or "no" or "no chasing" or "come", and 4 in a cleaned out chicken pen. The gator is in a hole. The goats still haven't gotten their fence mended, nor the chicken pen with the predator attack, chores are not done. The goat kids on bottles are now screaming as only goats can, because I'm late with lunch. And, I've had nothing but a handful of potato chips since breakfast at 7:30 am (it's close to 2:30 at this point). 

This is where the staring at the sky moment happened. I sat in the gator, where it is in the photo.This is when farming felt like failure. Basically, my whole day was chasing livestock, a symptom of the first season on a new farm, running the place day to day alone, and just bad luck. The farm isn't as clean as I like it at the moment, which makes me anxious. There was still feed to unload. My body was tired and I should have eaten a snack, since I'm notoriously hangry. This was a moment when I couldn't see it was worth it. It didn't feel worth it. It felt like absolute madness and total failure. 

I went and grabbed the keys to the pick up, and towed the gator out. I finally loaded the crate, got the 4 piglets safe and then spent 40 minutes catching the last 3. Somehow, in the midst of this, I also found out we had a tornado watch, and texted Josh to come out and help. He wasn't home, but as soon as he was he came out to join me, as I was driving the gator with a screaming piglet in one hand, the last one to be caught. 

We set to work on getting the animals fed, and fixing the chicken fence. I bought a new electric fencing box, not trusting just one to run both the dairy herd and the chicken pastures. Better safe then another massacre. The last task was to move the goat herd in the lower pasture to new grass. They would continue to act like jerks until we moved them to fresh grass, and are still using the rotational grazing netting- as we haven't even begun permanent fencing down there. It was starting to mist, but moving the fencing takes less than 15 minutes, usually. 

Swanson, after a day of rough commands, a less than stellar leader, and being overexcited at new pigs- was unprepared to do a task he does with ease every other day of the week. We moved the goat shelter, it slides on skids, we set up the fence in fresh grass. And then we tried to round up the herd of goats and flock of lambs. With a mighty failure, Swanson chased just the sheep up the hill from the far side of the pasture- right into the road. Blatantly ignoring my commands. Perfect. Flying at full speed in the gator, I raced to get the sheep out of the road, and back down the field. Dog back into the seat beside me, and moving the sheep using machine instead of fur- the sheep moved back down the 10 acres past the duck pond. Always enthusiastic, Swanson decided my methods were insufficient, and jumped out of the gator and herded the sheep back up to the road. Roaring, I basically grabbed him up off the ground and set him into the atv with the mightiest "STAY" I could carry and drove back up, again, to rescue my now really, really confused sheep with a shamed collie in the passenger seat. In the glove box was a goat lead, which once the sheep were safe from the road I spun it in the air, kind of like a lasso. This made me look and sound bigger, which finally moved the flock back to the goats, and into the pen. At this point, the rain picked up and Josh and I finally rode back to the farm, animals contained, and drenched. Swanson had already headed for the dry shed. Jerk. 

There was no predator in the trap I set out last night this morning by the last chicken pen. But there were no more missing chickens either, and the fence is testing hot. We may not know for a few days what the predator is, the rains keeps everyone in shelter. The piglets are enjoying the barn, where they will stay until I get their set up in the proper pasture finished. No compromising. 

There's a lot at play as to why yesterday was a bad day, not the least of which is the fact that Swanson and I have quite a bit of work to do. We're learning, and awkward, and sometimes training looks a whole lot like making a mess. At the end of the day, the farm is still not picked up, but the animals are safe and fed. And there is beer. I'm still keyed up from the antics though, and cautiously looking at how to make sure less of these days happen. But one thing is certain, these days have happened on every farm I've ever worked. Farming sometimes is failure. And when it's failure- it's mighty failure, the kind that really shakes you, making you question your sanity. 

Actually, scratch that. We've got to be crazy to farm. There is little to no other explanation. But we do grow damn good food. And someday, the fencing will be more reliable. In the meantime, I'm going to do a better job of at least making sure I eat lunch. I'm going to work the dog with better training. I'm going to keep going. It's only failure if it's the last act. 


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What makes a chicken wing?

So by now you've probably heard that we are having a Wing Night at the Old Station Inn in Greenwich, NY. We are pretty excited about this partnership, the venue give you all the right feels in all the right ways. It's funky and local, charming, with history and run by Danielle who is enigmatic and kind. It's going to be a blast, and you should join us on June 3rd (next Wednesday) between 6-9. Let me cook for you, it would be my absolute pleasure. I'm making everything from scratch, Kim and I will be at your service. Please come, eat and see what we're about.

But this post is about what makes a chicken wing. No, not a recipe, no not a cooking secret. It's about what we do, here, and why. We grow chickens. A lot of them, and better than many other folks. I'm not trying to be arrogant, we didn't start off as fantastic poultry producers. We made mistakes, we had losses, we screwed up. It sucked.

That all still happens. But what we grow here IS unique. The chicks are from hens that are non-gmo fed, and we use a non-gmo, locally milled grain for the entirety of their lives. We chose this grain because it doesn't come compressed, it's just milled into smaller pieces to make it easier for the birds to eat. It's non-gmo, which we feel is better environmentally for the grain farmers, and everyone. We have an insulated, temperature controlled brooder, which we clean out every two weeks, and disinfect to keep pathogens low. We have several 'transition' pens, which allow us to help the birds acclomate to life without heat lamps, slowly to cause no stress.We have huge pasture space, and birds spend their fully feathered days running freely about, never having a care in the world. We try to be gentle, and kind, and attentive to the birds lives. We think they are funny, and they sometimes out smart us.

We handle the processing, we don't feel comfortable with anyone else handling the harvest transition for our poultry. My hands are the ones that unpack the mail boxes of chicks. My hands are the ones that shepherd the life of a chicken into the harvest of a meal.

Our chicken is made of time, and sacrifice and obsession. It takes weeks of careful care, long days, rain gear, sweat, scratches, to get what we grow. I never thought that chicken would be our primary enterprise here, but it is. And I'm proud of that. A chicken wing isn't a throw away bar food for us. But we love a wing night where we can eat and be merry among many! We want you to come, share a pint and see where we live. This vibrant community, with it's cast of characters. We want to cook you a treat, our years of trail and error grow chicken that will make you realize that chicken HAS a flavor. Also, not for nothing- but my italian grandma passed along a mighty skill for the kitchen and I'm eager to share it. And, if you hate it, there will still be a drink to have. (you won't hate it).

I don't think there is anything more primal then sharing a meal with someone. And sharing a meal with the farm that grew it is it's own special experience.

Farm to Fork? How about we do the whole damn thing!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Patience vs. Laziness and a farmer's meatloaf

There is phrase on the farm that we toss about pretty regularly. It comes up when we are working collaboratively on a project, when talking about issues of social progress, when we planning the next big move, etc. One of us will state, casually "We are not patient though" as a reason for why we feel so frustrated with stagnancy.

We're wrong. We are incredibly patient. We have been building a business and a life for years, we have spent our entire relationship training and working towards owning our farm. We have never taken a vacation together, never even a non-working overnight (we travel sometimes for presentations). We do not expect the livestock to grow any faster then they do, and don't really get upset when that doesn't happen. I think what we should be saying is, "We are not lazy". I'm not talking about the necessity of relaxation, or the occasional Sunday afternoon. I'm talking about the condition of laziness. The state of allowing one's life to plod along for no other reason then the sun rises.

I know, this is somewhat confrontational. I think I'm okay with that. Patience is slowly crawling towards a very challenging goal, with success only in your mind, and dealing with all of the hardships on that path. Laziness is waiting for success to happen, and believing you are owed the existence you crave.

Patience is understanding that set backs are natural, and that being uncomfortable is not always undesirable. There are lessons in the state of uncomfortable. Laziness is believing that comfort is more important than effort. I'm certainly not saying that if you work hard, you will inevitably succeed at whatever is at hand. I don't believe that, and we don't live in a world where everyone is offered the same opportunity. I actually think that the mindset that anyone can pull themselves up by their boot straps is a form of laziness, a refusal to comprehend the privileges some have in our culture that allows automatic success or advantage. I believe that our modern culture is set up to force this compulsory life narrative on almost everyone, that many follow, unflinching because it's the most obvious one.

And I'm not just talking about money, either. I'm talking about fulfillment, in whatever your passion is- or in just finding your passion. Patience is in putting yourself in a million different situations, knowing that most will not be what you expected, or wanted, but keeping the eye out for what is. Laziness is accepting that your current moment, however boring or unpleasant, is a permanent condition. I don't want to sound like a motivational speaker. I'm just trying to work through what so many people struggle with. I can remember a time when I got up, went to work, came home, puttered about and basically accepted that this was forever. It was fine, but it wasn't challenging, it didn't make me a better human, and I didn't sleep very well. My life now is very different. And in most ways, a lot harder. But my life now is not just happening to me, either- I'm the object in motion.

Our farm is not going to change the world. But it is going to drastically alter my world, and has provided me with a focus. It also happens that my work is my passion, and that is something not many can say. But everyone should be able to have something that keeps them in motion. Something that is their project- making the best damn cup of coffee for your morning breakfast, or having a high score on some game, or... I don't know- mastering the art of flower arrangement. Laziness is believing that if you're in a current state of mind, that it is fixed, and that nothing can change. Laziness is believing that your interests and passions cease to exist, or won't change. Patience is knowing you won't get everything you want, maybe you wont' even get anything you want- but keeping yourself moving towards change to let the whole story play out as an active character. Put yourself in motion. Life will just happen if you let it. You will (hopefully) get older. Relationships will change, end, begin. Do something, Right Now. Anything. Seriously, do Anything that disrupts your usual schedule and is within your power to reclaim a little bit of your own existence. You're the only one who can. I've had enough laziness. I need more patience.

And to head towards your new goal, please, take our meatloaf recipe and enjoy it thoroughly. We rarely buy meat, but occasionally I'll pick up some ground beef when we are out of venison or pork. Nothing is exact, so edit and make changes as you see fit! It's a great way to use organ meat from your sides of pork.

(makes 2 loaves, one for dinner, one for weekday lunches)

1lb ground grassfed beef
1lb pork liver
1 pork heart
1/2 cup masa harina
1 can tomato paste
1 red pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 small onion
salt, pepper, smoked paprika and italian herbs to taste
ketchup
2 farm fresh eggs

1. Preheat Oven to 375 and lightly oil two pans
2. Use a food processor to blend pretty thoroughly your eggs, paste, garlic, pepper, onion, salt and spices.
3. Pour mix into a largeish bowl.
4. Pulse your liver and heart until it's a chopped/ground consistency.
5. Knead or mix your ground beef and organ meat together into your eggs/spices/etc mix. Make sure it's integrated fully, then add masa harina until it's a little bound together (don't over do it, it will ruin the flavor if you do).
6. Split the mix in half, put each half spread into a bread pan (casserole dishes, whatever you have two of the right size of).
7. Drizzle with ketchup, and bake until done (45ish minutes? Keep your eye on it, but none to closely)
8. Make a big batch of mashed potatoes and veggies, too.

Affordable, delicious and super nutrient dense. Win!

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Sunday

Yesterday was the last Sunday before the Cambridge Farmers Market starts up. We had a very, very long Saturday, and were slow moving in the morning. We started chores about 20 minutes later than usual, but according to the livestock that was basically a criminal act.

I set to milking the goats first thing, a task that's become significantly easier in the past few weeks. Fiona has finally decided that the milking stand is not her enemy, that it means grain, and that if she stops tap dancing I will be right quick about it. Her bucklings are enormous, solid and feisty. Noelle is ever the gentle girl, we don't need the headlock to milk her, she stands and munches happily as I go about my business. Her daughter, Blanche is a little timid, but that'll change as she realizes food comes from us, and not just from mama. Last week I picked up 4 new goat kids (we've got to be nuts) from our friends down at Edgwick Farm. We're closing our goat herd- that means all babies will be born and bred here, no stock brought in- and we needed a few more does to make that happen, plus an extra buckling for meat production due to the loss earlier this month. Edgwick had graciously tended the new babies for a week while I planned the road trip down (3 hours each way) and they are settling in nicely. When the milk pail was full, I went up to the barn with it directly. We still had milk in our fridge for coffee, and we've been feeding what we milk to the new babies, it's not enough for the day, but it's enough for one feeding and they best on the fresh raw source. It doesn't take long to bottle feed 4 hungry kids, (pics to come soon) but in the time I had milked and fed, Kim had taken care of all 3 chicken brooders with shavings/feed, and tended the rabbitry.

We set out on taking care of the field stock together- chickens (most of which are ready for butchering), turkeys, pigs, ducks... but we left moving the fence for the grazing goats/lambs until later in the day.

Back up in the farmhouse, we had pancakes and coffee and chatted for a bit, lulled by the smell of lilacs. After breakfast, we set to getting the yard cleaned up, our last chance to tackle it on a weekend together. While Kim mowed, I weed whacked and it looks pretty darn picturesque at the moment. As much as a working livestock farm can, at least. Then we planted and watered a bunch of edibles in the vegetable garden. It's a tiny garden this year, about 1/3 of what I usually do, but it's unreasonable to want to do much more this year. I'm hoping once we get the rest of the fencing up, the facility done, and some reliable staff sorted I will have more time to garden. This year it's just essentials- tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, chard, green beans, potatoes, broccoli, kale, zukes, cukes... probably some herbs. I traded a chicken for some veg starts at the market on Saturday, we have a lot less variety this year without a greenhouse or the time to start seedlings. But still, it'll grow and help keep the winter stores flush, so I'm happy it's well started. There's time to add on as we can.

By this time it was nearly lunch, so we came in to eat and cool off. I set to setting up a hammock we acquired with the a view of the garden and the fields across from the farm. Nothing will set a tired soul at ease then a gentle swing in the breeze after a good mornings work.

Since it was Sunday, we took a nap out on the screened in porch, me draped over the wicker couch and Kim curled on a blanket in the sun, Swanson beside her. It was indulgent and luxurious. Soon though, it was time for chores again, with plenty to do.

I wrangled Junie, our pet sheep down to the lower field to join her friends after being isolated for a few weeks while I did a health check on her after a long winter. She was thrilled to be reunited with her grass-eating friends, who had managed to disconnect their electric fence at some point during the day and were roaming free. We moved the fencing to fresh grass, repaired the disconnect and provided fresh water. We checked on the ducks, who are anxiously awaiting my finishing the fence so they can enjoy the pond, which hopefully I can complete this week. Then it was back up to the barn and field to go through the whole usual routine again. It was near 4 by the time we finished, and after a quick trip to make sure we had enough milk for the kids in the morning- I got the grill ready for dinner.

This is how the days go this time of year, work- eat, work-eat, work-eat, work-sleep. It's satisfying and yesterday was, believe it or not, a pleasantly paced day. The weather was spectacular, we were here together and since it was Sunday no email pressure or business management to really attend to. We're suited for it, this steady pace- I can't imagine wanting to lay about for more than a mid-day nap.

We ate a dinner fit for kings- a spatchcock grilled chicken, seasoned lightly, potatoes and grilled asparagus picked moments before. It was flavorful and satisfying, a perfect late spring feast. Then it was once again time to feed the baby goats, shut down the barn doors, make sure the pigs had water. We go to bed tired, full, and content. Farm life is a rotation of tasks and preparing for tasks this time of year. But the sun is warm, the food is good, and the lilacs smell divine. I'll take it.

Friday, May 15, 2015

There is no road map

I had planned today, on just posting pictures of the daily tasks here, but something more pressing has been weighing on me, and though I'm way behind in much of the work scheduled for today- it seemed important to take a minute and write it out.

So many folks have told us that this farm wouldn't be possible. That our inexperience (at the start, a million years ago before our various internships etc), our lack of capitol, our commitment to uncompromising ethics would cause us to fail. That is still a likely scenario. We are entirely capable of failure. Our budget is tight, the hours are long and sometimes impossible. We make mistakes, we have mechanical failures and oversights. I have sleepless nights, and stomach aches thinking of those variables. I don't know what will happen with this farm. But in 4 years I know how far we have come, and it astounds me everyday.

I also know something else- we are going to try. We are going to work continously, and unflinchingly to keep this farm afloat and reach it's potential- just like we have for the last 4 years. We have had a lot more 'wins' then some, but we have also had some crushing defeats, not all of which we share. But so does everyone. The difference is- we know we could fail and we are still out there trying.

We've long said that if we can't farm the way our ethics dictate, we don't want to do it. If we can't farm using the best feed, and the best care, we don't think we should farm. That means our labor and feed and time costs are high but the quality of what we grow is incomparable. Folks will tell you, if you are a young start up business that there is some kine of clear way to make your business succeed. While there is certainly some good advice- the truth is a lot of good businesses fail for a variety of reason. People loose passion, make bad decisions, have health issues... anything could happen. There isn't a clear trouble sign of what makes small businesses, or small farms fail- it's a lot of things that add up. I kind of think the difference is a combination of drive, and of luck.

But the difference between living an intentional life and playing it safe is that if we fail, it won't be because we didn't throw everything we had into it. It won't be because we didn't want it bad enough, or we left stones unturned. We grow great food, but that is only a small product of a huge big picture.

There is no one way to find your calling. But I know, from the depths of my being, that farming is where I belong. Now, if I can make that knowledge truly work may take a few more years to figure out. But I'm ok with that. There is no road map. There are some helpful signs along the way- but in the end if you don't take the big risks, you spend your life wondering. I'd so rather fall flat and really, really, screw up then wonder.

I'm just as terrified of failure, of change, of the unknown as everyone else, including those people stuck in the same rut job of the last 30 years. But those are conquerable fears. They are fears I am much more comfortable with then the reality of stagnancy. It's like a body of water, (stay with me)- the water, flowing in and out with a place to go  like a stream or a river stays healthy, supports life. If it sits, it basically rots, becoming a pool of deadly bacteria. This farm is my pond. We will keep it moving, and hopefully it will flourish. We all should be so lucky.

I want to go to bed afraid, go to bed worried, go to bed ALIVE. We're taking a chance. If we fail, so what? It still makes a really good story. And when we succeed- then that opens up a whole new world of opportunities to fail at.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Jack of All Trades

Want to know a little about everything? Become a farmer!

You will have crash courses in veterinary sciences, livestock care, breeding/birth, dairy, business management, carpentry, mechanics, customer service, multi-tasking, plumbing, electrician services, butchering, food safety and preparation, plant identification.... and so much more! 

And, maybe, you could do it here! We have an internship opportunity- it's tailored for a student who could earn credit for their work here. It is NOT an apprenticeship, yet. The right person could be offered a paid position based on their summer work. Check it out! 

R’Eisen Shine Farm Internship Description and Application

Mission of R’Eisen Shine Farm:
The mission of R’Eisen Shine Farm is to provide healthy and sustainable meat to local community members and to educate and promote the wellbeing of people and the planet. All of our livestock is pasture raised, using non-gmo feed and the highest standards of care.

R’Eisen Shine Farm is located on 48.5 acres, within a short drive of both Saratoga and the Capital Region. We have Hudson River access, so there are plenty of opportunities to swim/boat in the off time.

Internship description:

Internship positions at R’Eisen Shine Farm provide the opportunity to participate in the operations of small, sustainable farm. You get to observe, ask questions, and participate in all of the general activities that keep the farm alive and growing. But this is not an internship for everyone. It requires dedication to hard work 4 days a week. The goal of our internship program is to empower individuals to start producing their own food by providing basic skills and hands-on learning. Ideal candidates are dedicated, self starters who take direction well and have a strong interest in small scale agriculture. Ideal candidates also have confidence working with animals. A willingness to assist with the harvesting of livestock (butchering) is required. At the end of your internship, we hope you will have confidence in basic livestock care, farmer’s market preparation, processing poultry, and an introduction to small business management.

Dates of Internship: Mid-May through late-August (dates somewhat flexible). Possibility of employment post-internship.

Schedule: Thursday-Sunday (4 days a week) 6:00am-4:00pm with 1 hour lunch. Lunch is provided for interns.

Duties/Responsibilities:
Daily Schedule will vary but expect the following:
Livestock rounds (feed/watering), processing poultry, preparing CSA shares, working various Farmers Markets, building/repairing fences, barn cleaning and other farm duties as required.

Requirements:

A valid driver's license is required.

You must provide your own personal transportation to and from the farm.

There is no smoking in the farmhouse.

Ability to work on weekends and evenings.

Ability to lift/carry a minimum of 60lbs.

Please submit the following information, along with a resume and 3 character references via email to R’Eisen Shine Farm at reisenshinefarm@gmail.com.

Date:

Name:
Birthday:
Address:
Phone:
Email:
Are you available for the full internship from Mid-May through late-August?

Questions:

  1. Why are you interested in R’Eisen Shine Farm and this internship opportunity?

  1. What previous experience are you bringing to this position and what practical skills do you hope to acquire?

  1. What are your personal goals related to food and agriculture?

  1. We raise animals for meat on the farm. What is your perspective on the role animals play on a small farm?

  1. Do you have any allergies, food restrictions, or other limitations that might affect the ways in which you live in a rural setting and do farm work?

  1. Please tell us something interesting about yourself (hobbies, pastimes, travels, etc.)

  1. What is your favorite vegetable?

  1. Why are you interested in learning how to process small livestock for meat consumption?

  1. How would you describe your learning style, auditory, visual, tactile (show me) or some combination?

  1. What does the word ‘resourceful’ mean to you?

Thank you for sharing this information with us. We will be in touch with you regarding a telephone interview if we think you would be a good match!







Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Big Long Run-Down of What We Have Available!

We have posted a bunch of offerings over the last few days and wanted to consolidate that list for easy readability! We have so many  new products, and are still offering so many shares that we hope this makes it easy for you to see what we have, and sign up for something!


We have 1 side of pork left for the end of May! This will easily make  your summer grilling the most epic yet, and you can order and see all of the details using the link on the right hand side.

Sides of Goat!
This is our first year offering sides of goat, and it's something we are really excited to offer. We have a limited number, so email us if you want to place your $100 deposit and we can give you the full run down and the order form.

Pastured Duck!
You can reserve your duck through this link. We brought back duck this year after it's popularity and requests from last season. Whatever isn't reserved will be available at the farmer's markets until we sell out.

Veggie-Partner CSA Shares!
We work with two veggie CSA farms to offer a meat-share add-on to their regular shares. You can click on the links to the right for either farm, which opens up a whole bunch more delivery spaces to get our stuff.
Lineage Farm: White Plains, Brooklyn (Greenpoint), Poughkeepsie
Ten Barn Farm: Hudson, Ghent, Millerton

Culinary Quest Shares!
We are still selling these specialty items shares, which give you the opportunity to explore our unique offerings and get hooked on creative cooking. At $200, they are a steal and include duck, rabbit, liver and goat. You can find the sign up for those through our regular meat-share link/order form.

Farmers Markets!

We are pleased to announce that we will be attending the following Farmers Markets this year:

Kinderhook Farmers Market
Saturdays, 9-1
5/9

Cambridge Farmers Market
Sundays, 10-2 
opening day- 5/24

Waterford Farmers Market
Sundays 9-1
opening day- 6/7

Clifton Park Farmers Market
Thursdays 2-5pm
opening day- July TBD

It probably goes without saying that our little farm growing means we need our fantastic customers now, more than ever. So thank you so much to those who have been customers over the last 3 years, and welcome to everyone trying us for the first time!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Three Years Ago

Three years ago, we were headed into our first season on a new farm.

Three years ago, we had our first batch of chickens processed, and many more on pasture.

Three years ago, I got to start a business with my best friend and love.

Three years ago, we were living in a house we had tenderly fixed with our own hands.

Today, we are headed into our first season on a new farm.

Today, I still get to run and work alongside my best friend and love.

Today, we have our first batches of chickens processed and SO many more on pasture.

Today, we are living in a house we have tenderly fixed (and continue to fix) with our own hands.

So much remains the same, but everything has changed.

Today, we celebrate our wedding anniversary and I can't wait to see what the next 3 years will bring!

(also, let this serve as evidence that we are not, in fact, always covered in mud.)


Thanks to Michelle Kaye Photography

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Goat

The past few days on farm have been a stark dose of reality. We found that one of our goat kids (not the ones born here, but some we bought in for meat production) had developed a condition he's likely had since birth, but it was now progressing rapidly. While we were moving the kids to pasture, I noticed he was in worse shape then at last check though in good in spirits, significantly smaller then his brethern and not using one hind quarter. I decided not to put him out into the pasture with Kermit (a large full grown buck) and the rest of grazers so as to get a better sense of his overall health. Upon a full physical examination, and a day of research- the results were grim. He had a condition causing cysts to form across his small body, cysts that eventually would rupture and then could be contagious to the rest of the herd. For the hundredth time, I cursed buying in livestock, even from reputable sources. This goat would have to be harvested at his current size if my diagnosis was correct. We couldn't risk the rest of the herd, or have that type of bacteria exist permanently on our pasture soil. While the condition isn't often fatal, it can ruin meat if left untreated, isn't curable with antibiotics, or any othe vet treatment and slows growth significantly. It can cause pain, or deformity. I returned the little fellow to an indoor winter pen, and scheduled a time to harvest him early for our own home use only. I spent a day confirming what I knew already, and resolving myself to the decision. We would make the best of the situation and honor the life of the livestock as always.

I hate these moments. These, sad, unavoidable farm moments where the life you want to give an animal just isn't possible. Sometimes, you can't protect livestock from a predator breaking a fence. Sometimes, the weather causes flooding or freezing or other discomfort. Animals fall ill, they acquire injuries and you can not seek to control all of the variances that occur and change the outcome you had planned. Still, for me, it's agony. I feel somehow I've failed, though I couldn't have prevented this onset, and the best I could do is protect everyone else (thus far, not symptomatic, keeping everything crossed). 

I wish that the steps that we take to protect our livestock were always enough. But when working with nature, nature always wins. And Nature has a dark side, to keep the balance. You can do everything right and still fail, it's a cruel part of agriculture. 

Many of the days tasks are a meditation for me, I work steadily and more often then not, alone, minus the puppy. I build housing, fences, haul feed, shovel, fix tractors and train the dog. I listen to stories on the technological wonder I carry in my pocket, fix meals, answer emails- it's busy and constant. I find peace in the routine things and challenges in the monotony. But I'm not operating in a vortex, the work I do will serve a whole community of people. There are moments I get to share with my wife, working side by side in a peace I know we are fortunate to have. We've always worked together as a couple, though I know it's rare, I wish more people could forge that bond that comes when you sweat and struggle in tandem. These types of tragic developments are like a sun burn, sore and uncomfortable- present in each small movement you make.]- interrupting each usual scene.

The joy of farming isn't in the success of our business, though of course that is crucial. It's not in the satisfaction of a hard days work- though I'd never deny that pleasure. For me, the joy can be found in tiny moments after hard decisions when you realize you are both powerless and powerful in your relationship with the living organism that is a farm. I stand, and watch, as Swanson, (near 5 months of border collie now) maintains a friendship with George, Fiona's buckling. They take turns playing tag across the farm, each skidding to a stop at my feet, begging for a scratch- one around the ears, one around the horns. I can't stop the gut wrenching decisions on a farm, but I can live for the moments where what we do goes right . I can be cautious in my chocies. I can do my best to mitigate suffering, I can provide the safest environment possible for the animals in our care. I can accept that there will be sadness. Farms, no matter how bucolic are not a perfect place void of misfortune. They are a constant shifting of life and death. Of failure, of human error, of natural trajedy. But there is also no place of greater magic in my opinion. 

When you live this close to animals, you become so attune to the fragility of our natural world. I can tell you how 10 degrees in weather shift will affect my chickens, how the water content in a pasture to play off of my sheep's hooves. I'm reminded that we're animals too, and just as easily thrown into the wind by something unexpected. It may seem too dramatic to some to consider all of this over the early harvest of one goat, and mabe not dramatic enough to others. As a prudent and practical farmer, we did what was right for the animal, and for the health of the whole herd. And it's never a decision we take lightly or without weighing each and every option. On our farm we value each life, from chicken to dog- and seek to help each animal fufill their purpose as part of our ecosystem. This goat was a reminder, and its purpose goes beyond harvest (which of course we are still grateful for). Its life gave me the opportunity to tell a story of what it's really like here- the choices we make and why we make them. Thank you, Goat, for everything. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

CSA SUPER SALE!

We have our CSA shares that get picked up on farm or at The Cheese Traveler (Delaware Ave, Albany) seriously dicounted until 4/25 for the April-September pick ups. Support small farming, get great meat, save $$!

Email us to sign up! 

Sale Prices:
Small Poultry Share: $175 

Large Poultry Share: $340
Small Mixed Meat Share: $280
Large Mixed Meat Share: $540


You can check out the link to the right to see the full details of what is contained in each share- but rest assured- it's delicious. 

Rainy Tuesday

After the gorgeous weather last week, the rain gods have come to turn the dry pasture soft, and bring spring's green paint. I mind a little, as I'll likely be soggy for the entireity, spring stops for no one. The farm role call is lengthy now, and Kim gets up early for chores in the morning to help me keep the pace at a steady crawl towards success. While she works in the barn feeding the noisy residents, I get our two goats milked and reunited with their kids on my finish.

At a dairy operation, the farmers usually separate out the kids at birth- but here we leave them on during the day but pen them in overnight. The mothers are then ready for milking in the morning, and the kids are still well fed. I've  never seen such vibrant little goat kids- they are solid and happy. And our fridge is stocked with milk. It's a perfect set up for us, for home use dairy. Milking has been an adjustment, it's certainly an added chore- but it's manageable at only once a day and half of the two is pleasaant enough. Noelle, being an alpine fully and generally a sweet girl, takes no time at all and hops up on the stand with little fan fare. Fiona, (always the brute) is like wrestling with a hog, still. She's obstinent and quickly showing us that she may not be cut out for this dairy life. We'll give her a few more days, but Noelle is producing well and we should still have plenty of milk with just her. Fiona will definitely be replaced for the home dairy  at least next season, and we'll use either Noelle's little doeling- called Blanche, or another kid we bought earlier this season we call Fancy. Fiona gets a pass from the butcher though too, she had sturdy twins and can stay on as a meat production mama. Plus, she provides comic relief.

Speaking of goats, the steady warm drizzle after last night's thunderstorm won't stop today's task! The kids from the winter are finally ready for the pasture! The electric netting came in yesterday's mail, so after the second cup of coffee I'll be headed out to get it set up, tested, grounded and ready. Then, I'll build a sturdy weather shelter using pallets and plywood (the most invaluable things you can have on a farm). The shelter will get a coat of paint when it dries out. Usually I'd get everyone moved down to the pasture and then build the shelter so I can monitor their fence minding and keep them calm- but goats HATE rain. If I don't have a shelter up, it'll be goat kids everywhere. Along with the kids, Kermit the buck and June the ewe will be out to the pasture too. The bucklings will all be castrated, and the one doeling (Fancy) will be pulled from that particular grazing paddock before breeding age. In the meantime, everyone can enjoy the company and spring greens, finally out of the winter barns and paddocks. Then it will be time to clean and finally set up that barn with proper stalls and turkey grow-out pens, rather than the 'we're moving into a new farm and it's winter' nonsense. The whole project may take more than just today, depending on the rain and what supplies we're out of when I get to it- but before Wednesdays done we'll have them eating fresh grass.

If all goes well, next week will be the first processing of fresh poultry on the farm for the year! The new facility is no where near done (bit of a hang up getting started, contractor is busy due to the late spring) so I'll be setting up our current equipment so we don't get behind in production. It's not ideal, but you've got to roll with the punches and keep the farm moving. We'll be doing a test batch of a small group of the heritage birds, I want to make sure my eye isn't fuzzy from winter and they are of proper size before we take the majority. Sometimes a winter off can make judging size tricky, so I'd rather take a few and see where we are. The chickens, with the new pasture paddocks are absolutely thriving! The new permanent fencing makes life significantly easier, once it's up. We are pushing so hard to get the farm into a position where it's easier to work, but we have a few seasons left of real expense and struggle. This is just the reality of moving, and of finally establishing our permanent base. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

I can now see the bottom of the coffee cup, so it's just about time to get back to it!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sizing Up

Things around here are moving fast, we're in full swing production mode already! We've got meat goat kids, chickens, turkeys (arriving by post tomorrow), hogs, and, in a few weeks- weaned lambs. We've built an insulated brooder, a mid-size chicken pen, a new field pen for grass-eaters. We had our first CSA delivery (yes if you still want in, you can) and just got back 5 pigs from the butcher. And, this week we had our two does give birth to new kids! Fiona (resident cuddler and trouble-maker) had twin bucklings, and Noelle (resident chatter box) had a sweet doeling last night at around 11pm. I didn't hit the hay until close to midnight, and was back at it around chore-time this morning and just sat down a moment ago.

There is fencing to run, pasture to plant, a processing facility to build, and a duck pen to construct. Sizing up is simultaneously the most exciting thing I've ever done and the most terrifying and exhausting. This is kind of a make or break year, we've got our opportunity and we need to keep pushing, keep working, keep growing to make sure that we are successful. We are going to have A LOT of product, so please, please come visit us at the farmer's markets! We do still have shares available, and we also are taking a few more orders for sides of pork for the end of May. 

Unfortunately, I haven't had as much time to update, but you can follow us on twitter or facebook for regular updates. We'll write as often as we can! 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Phew! What a winter!

Well, it's daylight savings time, which signals to us that it's time to kick the season into high gear. Unfortunately, the piles of snow and continuing cold have other ideas about when we should start the bulk of the work. Still there is a notable change in the weather, and we're seeing the promise of relief from winter soon.

Our first cold season on the farm has been challenging. The house needed some major overalls and routine maintenance, every time we turned around something else was broken. From blown thermostats, to pipes, to the oil burner, to wall leaks from water lines, to a busted wax seal on a toilet- it was a whirlwind. You kind of expect those things in your first year of an old home, a barrage of repairs- especially with the cold we have had.

The livestock have fared as well as can be expected, we spent long hours trying to keep bedding dry and feeding extra to soothe their weariness of the weather. Now that we've seen some sun they are noticeably perking up, and we're mindful of the fact that there will be much work on fencing to do as soon as possible so they can enjoy more of the pasture- finally!

Our new chicken brooder, which is insulated and has a thermostat has already proven to be invaluable! We had several snaps below zero, and the chicks came through just fine. We still have some improvements we'd like to make (like an automatic watering system), but it's light years away from what we have had before!

We can't thank those of you who contributed and promoted our Kiva loan enough, last week the plumber installed our well pump, freeing up the secondary well for livestock chores and saving all of our household fixtures from the mineral deposits (we were in danger of some major damage if we used the sulfur well long term). We are still working out the details of the processing facility with our contractor, but are hopeful that as soon as the ground thaws, we can begin that much needed work. We are looking forward to the increased production that the facility will allow, and to paying back all of the generous folks to helped make these improvements possible!

This Sunday, March 15th- we're partnering with The Flammerie- a fantastic bistro in Kinderhook to put on a prix-fixe menu featuring some of our products! It will be a 4 course dinner allow folks to taste our turkey, rabbit and liver- cooked by one of the best local chefs. It's not something to be missed! We'll be there and hope you will too!


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Gobble

We mentioned previously that we were fortunate enough to have Rebecca Busselle filming our Thanksgiving turkey processing this year. Rebecca and I met over the summer, at the farmers market in Millerton. When she proposed the idea of making this short film, we agreed without reservation because we trusted Rebecca to show the honest and visceral nature of our work, in a way we could share. She has certainly gone far beyond our expectations.

We are excited to share the film Rebecca made (The Gobble) but it's also a little nerve wracking. We know that as a livestock farm, people know we grow meat. But our culture is radically removed from the harvest of livestock for food. So to open up that process for our farm through visual media leaves us vulnerable in a new way. We are honest about farm life on the blog, but this is a visual honesty beyond that. We are sharing it because we believe in the work, and because we want people to be closer to their food- to understand the breadth of the tasks. 

The film is not overly graphic but it does portray the processing of turkeys, each step. So please be aware of that before you watch it. But if you eat meat, do consider watching it. The way we do things here is drastically different then a commercial slaughterhouse. And it is work we stand behind. 

It's also timely, we are only $1700 shy of fully funding our Kiva loan- which will allow us to take our ethical practices to the next level with a more efficient facility. You will see in the video how much that will impact us! (You can check out and share our Kiva loan at http://zip.kiva.org/loans/11016/i/wkg)

Thank you Rebecca, for this. We are honored to share it.

Now, without further ado...