Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sausage Fest 2013

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Dowds are tough

A lot of people ask us “How do you every go away when you have all these farm animals?”

The truth is we are very lucky. We live on an apple orchard that employs seasonal workers from places
like Jamaica and Mexico who over the years we have become very good friends with. We also have a
good friend who lives nearby who has helped so much on the farm in the past and now pretty much
specializes in the dogs in exchange for occasional cat sitting.

The orchard’s seasonal workers live on the farm spring through late fall and are pretty much always
around. They don’t mind coming down to our place and do chores while we are away in exchange for
some cash. But in the winter, when those folks have gone back home, it is not so easy.

When we made our annual pilgrimage to New Hampshire with the dogs for New Year’s we weren’t sure
what to do. Figuring they were fairly naïve, we asked our friends the Dowds, (a family of four, Mom:
Tricia; Dad: Chris; Young Daughters: Gabrielle & Sadie). Parents--Enthusiastic about gardening, eating
healthy and local foods. Daughters—Fanatical about animals. Of course they agreed.

The day before our departure arrived. We had just received over a foot of snow. Winds were gusting up
to 45 mph. Windchill sub zero. I’m not kidding. They attempted to reach the house (we have a ¼ mile
long driveway) for their training session. Could not make it through the drifts. Had to walk down. Were
very cold. We watched their faces carefully during training to see if they could hack it. They were cold
but not discouraged.

We and the dogs left our little farm for two nights. The Dowds are tough. They did it! And here are the
pictures to prove it—Thanks Dowds!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bovina Boogie

A couple of weeks ago we and a bunch of our friends made a mass pilgrimage from our little town of Voorheesville to the even littler town of Bovina Center, where two brothers we are friends with grew up. These two brothers, Matt and Andy Pelletier, plus a native Voorheesvillan by the name of Josh Herzog, have a band called The College Farm . After approximately a decade of not-so- hard labor this band has produced a CD called Northeast of Nowhere and it is fantastic. A CD release party was held in their hometown of Bovina.

Bovina Center is a tiny, idyllic village veined with bubbling brooks and sheltered by emerald green hills. Even the dirt is a pretty reddish pink. The other thing about Bovina Center is that so many people born, raised and still living there are musicians and artists. The party was held at Matt and Andy’s friend Chico’s barn, in which he holds various musical events including the famous Livestock Music Festival    It was a great show and fun was had by all, ages 5 to 65.

Come One Come All—

The College Farm will be playing at Art on Lark, on Saturday, June 9 at 4 pm on the WEXT.97FM stage on Madison Ave. at Lark.

Full line-up and map at link.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Fun With Broilers

We raise our own chickens for meat. About a month ago we received 100 chicks in the mail and put them into a heated brooder box my husband constructed. The brooder consists of  a heater in a  rabbit hutch, vacated by Bunny who passed away in late winter at the age of 12, that stands outside against the back of the barn.

Like much of our farm equipment the brooder box does not function particularly well. The brooder box is fronted by glass windows that open by swinging down (like the door to a mailbox). When they are young the chicks have to kept at approximately 95 degrees.  Keeping the temperature steady has proven very difficult, especially with the 40 degree-plus temperature swings we have been having. On a cold night the temperature in the brooder box can drop to 75 degrees causing the chicks huddle together for warmth. In the morning, when the sun hits the brooder box, the temperature can shoot up to well over 100 degrees making them pant.

It was on one of these sunny days that my husband, using an old twisted wire he apparently found on the ground and a couple of screws, devised a means of leaving the brooder door hanging open about six inches at the top, so the heat could escape. Good thinking and it worked well--until the wind came up.

One recent weekend afternoon it began to get a bit breezy. Dieter was out and I was wondering where our corgi puppy Moby had gotten to. I called and called and he didn’t come. I walked out toward the barn looking for him. I came across a small, wet bird lying dead in the grass and couldn’t imagine why it was there.  I continued walking. I saw Moby come around the corner of the barn in full play mode—bright eyes, tongue hanging out. I also saw that the long grass at the end of the barn was alive with birds—broiler chicks to be precise. At my feet I saw another wet bird, alive but bloody. Moby picked up a chick from the grass in his mouth and threw it up into the air. The chick landed on the ground, sprang to its feet and toddled off.

Needless to say, when the breeze had come up the old and twisted wire holding the brooder door failed. When I rounded the corner of the barn I saw the brooder door hanging open and the brooder nearly empty. Most of the chicks had apparently simply jumped out. I found another wet, dead chick on the ground beneath the brooder. I ran to put Moby in the house and to get my 15-year-old son, who told me he’d be along in a few minutes because he was trying to download something onto his iPod until I shrieked at him and he came out stuffing his iPod into his pocket.. It took us quite awhile to catch all those chicks and put them back in the brooder. My son spent a long time laying flat on the ground in the brooder trying to chase chicks out from underneath with a section of hose while I grabbed them as they emerged.

When we finally got all the chicks back inside it was still hot out. I closed the brooder door, holding it open a crack so the heat could escape using the same twisted wire. But I twisted the wire tighter!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Barn Cats

We went quite a few years without cats. There was a time when we had about six cats, but a mother and son team of Australian cattle dogs did away with a couple (that’s another story) and we gave the rest away. Since we found out the hard way that Australian cattle dogs can’t abide cats, and we always had at least one Australian cattle dog around, at times as many as three, we’ve steered away from cats. However, despite the rather hazardous situation, about a year ago a feral calico cat with enormous yellow eyes decided our barn was a good place to have kittens.

A true cat person, Dieter tamed the kittens and as they grew into adulthood they continued to live in the barn. Our remaining Australian cattle dog, Ringo isn’t pleased about the situation but we seem to have come to some sort of a truce. Of these three there was a gray and white male-Stig, an orange male, Orange Cat, and an all gray female, Sister Cat. Orange Cat managed to break his leg and we had had to bring him to the vet and have him put to sleep, to the tune of $375 (yet another story). Now two cats remain—Stig and Sister Cat. Cats being cats two weeks ago Sister Cat had kittens. Stig, who was clearly the father, has since been neutered ($200).

There are five kittens in the litter--one gray, three gray and white, and one mysterious solid brown one, the color of a milk chocolate Easter rabbit. Wolfie is in charge of taming the kittens. If he succeeds he will be allowed to keep the brown kitten. We hope to find homes for the others. Sister Cat will be spayed once the kittens are weaned. 

You might be thinking that all of this is getting rather expensive. It is. Fortunately we have a benefactor--Dieter’s mother Jean. Also cat people, she and Dieter’s father Charly possess two neurotic yellow tiger cats Jean rescued as tiny kittens from a junkyard in the pouring rain. Wonder if the brown kitten is a male or female?