Saturday, December 16, 2006

Tis the Season...

Well, it's inevitable when you have a cute little wether that looks like Rudolph. Alexander is just a "natural" for the part.

It was really pretty warm today, and after going for a load of hay for winter feeding this morning, we were all outside playing.

Here, Alexander, oops I mean Rudolph is conferring with his mother about which of the others have been naughty or nice...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Finally...some fleece gets processed

It's about time the bags of wool sitting in the cellar get processed (after all, there's more in the barn!) And a project that sounds just right for me....thrummed mittens. After all, we love mittens, we only need small amounts of fleece, and we don't have to spin...(still learning that, we are)

This is Victoria's lamb fleece, looking a great deal lighter under the flash than it actually did in the bag. Very sheepy smelling. (not that I mind...)

She was sheared last March, mostly by hand shears, as I cut myself with the electric shears soon after starting. (OK, laugh and point - but those babies are sharp!)

Anyway, I picked out a bunch of nice, pretty clean stuff and soaked it in the sink with some Dawn in VERY hot water...

And after a little soaking, some HOT rinses....viola!

Wet it doesn't look like much...but I'd rather try this in small batches...If you want to see the dyeing, then pop over to the business blog.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Lower Lot Projects

Working again on the lower lot, we had a friend over and took down about 8 pretty dead red pines. The plan is to clear it out and plant blueberries there in the Spring. They ought to do very well with the acidic soil, and our older bushes are dropping off in production, so we're trying to insure our berries for the future...

Here's almost this same angle in the Spring...

(My brother-in-law, Carlos, took this shot)

And then there was the clearing and preparing for the hard-neck garlic (hence the poison ivy, see last post) on the hillside. We are trying to take advantage of the excellent drainage on the hill as well as trying to use all available land for cultivation...

And speaking of taking about grazing the sheep on the front lawn?

Free money account $0.47

Monday, November 13, 2006

Poison Ivy-AGAIN

Okay, there has to be some sort of limit to this, I mean how many times a season does one have to get this stuff to win exemption?!!!? I'm dealing with my sixth outbreak (yeah, I said sixth) this season. Utter exasperation...

I'm on the road training (my "other" job to support my farm dream...) so I can't post photos from the farm, but I thought I'd keep everyone up to date...scratch, scratch, ooze, ooze.....

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The (Crazy) Plan - part 1

If you've talked to me at all about the garden and organic vegetables and the like, then you've probably heard at least part of The Plan. It's more of an idea than a real plan, but it's beginnings are grounded in the state of our country these days - obese, unhealthy, and really out of touch with our food. I've read the articles and books, and thought lots about the problem and just spent a lot of time talking with folks and simply observing: how we shop, how we eat, how we live.

So few of us spend any time at all actually involved in the labor of producing food. Sure, I've had gardens for years, but it was always as a hobby, and more to produce supplementary food, rather than subsistence. This summer we produced organic produce for others, for profit, as well as feeding ourselves. It was not easy, it was labor-intensive. It really hammered home the effort involved in producing that flawless leaf of lettuce, that perfectly ripe tomato, that heavy kerneled ear of corn. Sure, chemicals could have made it all easier, but that's not an option any longer. (wait for The (Crazy) Plan - part 2...)

I know the better taste and health of organic farming, but I've been thinking about another aspect of it - how would the labor of producing food affect me? What would it take? What would I learn? Sure, I can cash my paycheck that I earn from sitting on my butt and writing, a pretty sedentary activity, and buy what I eat...but how much do I give up when I knowingly put myself one step further away from the source of my food? So what does real subsistence farming look like? Is it what we think of as sustainable? What does it take to sustain a person?

So, enough chit chat - here's The Plan: See what it would be like to be involved 100% (or damn close) to all the food I eat for 1 year. From July 1, 2007, I eat only what we grow, harvest, raise, barter, or obtain through exceptional means*. And I tell you about it here. Of course, those that only want the family and farm stuff can skip any green posts. That's fair, no?

*Exceptional means: Any meals offered as invitations from family or friends providing I contribute something home grown as a part of the bargain. I mean, that makes it almost like barter, and the whole idea was to explore healthy eating, not alienate myself from folks...

Then there's money I earn from selling what we've grown. I mean beyond the CSA (which is the farm business for the WHOLE family) and applies to only the really extra produce that we won't consume, and I have raised and harvested it specifically for sale. After all, the labor is mine, and that's the point, isn't it? That's the mad cash I'll have to use for stuff I haven't yet figured out how to make or do without. Like olive oil (an essential for cooking) and maybe chocolate (in case of emergency).

Speaking of money, there's the free money I find all over the place - the coins that hapless folks drop, leave, or disregard. If I invest the labor to retrieve it, it counts. Not the change that rattles around the house dryer, that would be taking from the family again. (Besides, it's too easy.) And not prizes or birthday money, that's too easy. That will have to go for some consumer good I can't do without.

OK, enough for the first part. This is a work in progress.

Free money account: $ 0. 27

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Shear Delight?

Well, when you own sheep, you eventually have to get to this part... (unless of course, you eat them!)

Bill Ottoway and his family came out last Saturday and I got a 1:1 walk through on shearing, and actually got to take care of half of my little flock. Like the title says, "It's harder than it looks".

Of course it was compounded by my affection for the sheep, and my intense fear of cutting them (I was the only bleeder of the day - duct tape band-aid on the saluting finger). Madison documented the occasion, and my friend and business partner, Allison, casually looked on.

Bill's son, Thomas, made it look ridiculously easy, but that happens alot when you're 6...

I keep running over the steps and stages in my head, trying to drill it into memory for the Spring. I'm going to shear them again, even though the staple might not be long enough, it will put us back on the right shearing schedule, and it will give me another chance to polish up my skills...

I'm sure the sheep are thrilled...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Rude Interruption

Have you ever been having a conversation, when someone jumps in and rudely takes over, changing the conversation to themselves? Well, please excuse the commenter on our farm blog, who has decided it makes a nice place to advertise....someone at PaidSurveysOnline. It has forced me to change the settings to be able to Moderate Comments, when really I wanted anyone to be able to talk with us about what we're doing....but such is the world today. Folks can be so obsessed with themselves, self-promotion, consumer goods, and being pushy that they just can't stop themselves I makes me sick. And angry. I like the idea of searching for a company or service that I want, not being bombarded with junk mail, telemarketers, spam, and now this....Sorry, I'm ranting, huh? OK, back to the farm...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Morning Graze

I had the luxury of a few hours this morning, so I let everyone out for a morning graze on the lower lot. The sheep scurried for the lushest grass and fallen apples, and the goats stayed with me (on leashes - of course!) and happily muched scrub rose bushes and weeds...

What a peaceful way to start my day...I wish every one could be like this. But it was also obvious how quickly winter is approaching, and even the sheep are eager to grab the last green bites to be had before a heavy frost.

Alexander busied himself around the pond, and almost got an unplanned bath in his haste to chomp the weeds...

It was Hattie who brought me out of my reverie...with a nose-butting right into the camera as if to say, "Aren't you supposed to be somewhere?" (sigh)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Chicken Show, Show Chickens

Well, we've added two more to Madison's flock, but these two are "birds of a different feather" - they're show birds.

Stenson and Buff are Buff Brahma Bantams. These two are what is considered "show quality", and should give her plenty of show quality chicks for competition and sale. I know, I said no more bantams on the farm, since they aren't pulling their weight with eggs, but she's been wanting to get into competitive poultry, and they were beautiful and sooooo gentle...

We got them at the Eastern New York State Poulty show at the Cobleskill Fairgrounds today. What an interesting experience! It was our first "real" poultry show, and we went as spectators, not competitors (next year!) This was a very strange mix of chic and shabby. The sport definitely seems to be dominated by older men, but there's a little bit of everyone...and the ones in the beat up old Ford held together with baling twine spared nothing for their birds who were pristine and pampered, and the guy with the fancy cowboy hat and boots had ratty birds shoved into cages that hadn't been cleaned in weeks - so there was the whole spectrum.

Inside in the judging area, it was dominated (80%) by bantams. A disappointment for me, since I favor the standards, but interesting none the less. Not as wide a variety of breeds as I might have expected. If Blueberry is still around next Fall, he will definitely be an entry - there was only one other Splash Cochin, and he could have beaten him hands down. Now to see if we can find him a girlfriend....there's a tailgate sale next we'll see!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fair Frenzy

Schaghticoke Fair!

Well, you could never tell Madison had been waiting all summer for the Fair from this picture...but I think this was more of a reaction to Dad popping pictures - what a scowl!

Anyway, the 4-H theme was Colonial Times, so we dressed up...

There, that's much better! Here she is posing with her bantam cockerel she raised from an egg - Speedy. She got 6 blue ribbons in all for the chickens, and one red. The green ribbon is for Shooting Sports Laser Shoot (who knew she'd be a natural with the .22? Scary...)

She had lots of veggies in the projects display...and won lots of blue ribbons there, too! The best part was the feedback and tips from the Master Gardeners to help her plan for next year.

Her sunflower seed head was huge - biggest of those submitted!

Much of her produce was some of what she markets to Price Chopper. Our little entrepeneur has surpassed the $50 mark...

Connie, from our club, and Madison are here being judged on poultry showmanship. Madison is working with Speedy, and Connie is working with Summer. Both of them did very well.

Finally, after Set up Day, and almost a week straight of going to the Fair everyday for something or other, we come to the final evening...time to break everything down...

But it wouldn't be the Fair if we didn't come home with baby here are this year's crop: two Easter Eggers, and a Rhode Island Red. That's (l to r) Zippee, Spring, and Design.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Lambs meet Rooster

Angel says, "What's this? Secret, you have something on your butt..."

"What?! Is it a spider? Eeek! Get it off!"

"No, it's not a spider...kind of tiny for a chicken, though..."

"Let me just look under here...I'm sure I can figure this thing out...Yep, it's a rooster..."

"DO YOU MIND??? Honestly...where were you raised? In a barn??!? (sheeesh)"

"What does a rooster have to do for a little green time?" Secret says, "Stay out of our pasture, that's what..."

Monday, August 07, 2006

Pheasants Goodbye...

Well, today was the day to say "goodbye" to the pheasants...we had raised them since chicks as part of a 4-H program. Funny, as ready as they seemed, when it came right down to it, Bill had to literally "shoo" them out of the enclosure.

They finally got the idea, and scattered to the surrounding field, taking off in flight in such a fashion that it seemed they were as amazed with their first attempt at flight, as we were watching them...

Not everyone got it figured out immediately, a few "hangers on" wandered about on goat barn and fence, even strolling across the yard, and hanging out amongst the blueberry bushes.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Pheasant Update...

At 9 weeks, the pheasants are starting to get their adult feathers, so we can begin to guess who's who. It looks like we have 4 males, and 9 females. (For anyone who has been keeping track, that's 2 less than what we started with) There's been a few "escapes"...keeping these guys penned in a large enough are for them is harder than it looks. Once, we didn't replace the flap where we feed and water them. Four got out, and we caught three. The last one flew (yes, flew) away over our heads and was never seen again. Then they found a way to bounce themselves up and through a gap in the chicken wire roof. Four escaped, three were re-captured. The fourth escapee still hangs around though, and can usually be found every morning running up and down just outside the fence with its herd-mates. Catching it is another issue. It usually manages to squeeze into the goats pen and run away to the higher brush before anyone can get their hands on her. The goats, of course, are no help; they just watch with a droll smirk on their faces as the hen runs through their pen to safety. Not a thought about walking over and checking out the situation which might frighten the hen into staying put or squeezing back through the hole so we can catch her...I'm sure the goats have already figured out there's nothing in it for why bother? All that's left is the entertainment of watching the humans chase the little hen around in frustration...(sigh)

Monday, July 24, 2006


CSA-Community Supported Agriculture is a growing trend in small farming in America. It's an idea that started several decades ago in Japan, and the idea is to bring the consumer closer to the source of their food and connect them with the farm and farmer that produce it. We operate a very small CSA here at Petersburgh Manor and this is one of our baskets being put together for delivery tomorrow...

It is the goal of our garden to keep our family and our customers (obviously) in supply with what the garden offers in its own seasonal order. And the learning curve is around not only how to grow this stuff organically with the most pleasing result, but also to learn what amount of each herb and vegetable is right for what we need...

Each Monday we harvest the week's order and put it together for delivery on Tuesday morning. Here we're picking green beans from the first of the plants to fruit. We've got successive plantings of beans (hopefully!) to keep us going for a few weeks. And what we can't eat, we freeze for the winter. Seeing just how much we can produce, what lasts, and what can be preserved is all a part of figuring out just what would it take to support oneself by your own labor. Could it be done for a year? What would that look like? (And taste like?)

Madison is also about to get ready for her vegetable enterprise - delivery to the local produce market (her tomatoes are turning, and the pickling cukes are ready)

Here she is amongst her cherry tomato plants, searching for the first red ones of the season...

And who's that weeding? Seems he's confused...he seems to be weeding OUTSIDE the vegetable garden! Hmmm.....

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Yarn to Dye For...

Or at least that's what we're shooting's dyeing day again on the farm. We've got an order to fill, and a website to prepare (Allison is discovering the meaning of the mantra: It's harder than it looks...)

Hand-dyeing/painting custom sock yarns was an idea born in a hurry one winter weekend afternoon, and we're trying to make a go of it. I have found another kindred spirit who does not want to spend the rest of her life working in an office for someone else...

Dye-namics Yarn features individually dyed 100% merino washable sock yarn in two weights. So far the feedback has been very positive, so we're dyeing as fast as we can find the time, and coming up with new colorways all the time.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Northeast Shetland Sheepbreeders Get Together

Shetland Sheep breeders of the Northeastern United States got together on Saturday for an annual meeting/pot luck/sheep day in Vermont at Maple Ridge Farm. We met under the trees (no, that's not us in the picture...) for the meeting and sharing, then retired to a great pot luck.

Here was the roundup of ewes and lambs we managed from the back pasture in our afternoon lesson/session for markings and colors. We also looking at horn growth, tails, and fleece. Linda's flock has an amazing array of colors and markings.

Everyone helped get the ewes out, so we could examine the lambs and start the weaning process...

Here are the ewes, half-heartedly trudging back to the pasture without their little ones...

Alas, no parting gifts for the "participants"; we all had favorite lambs we could have hidden in our vehicles!