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? 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Valley Malt

Spent the morning with Andrea of Valley Malt in Hadley, Massachusetts. With her 2 year old daughter Sara on her hip she showed us around their malting facility and fields planted with malt barley and we learned a lot.

Hadley is a different place from where we live where there is a constant battle between farmland and suburban sprawl. In Hadley everyone lives along the road and the land behind the houses all remains in agriculture and is referred to locally as “the old meadow.” Located in an oxbow of the Connecticut River this land is very fertile and has been farmed since the Native Americans lived there. The soil is a type known as Haldey Loam and is one of the better sandy loam soils in the country.

Andrea and her husband grow malt barley on about 40 acres of land in Hadley. Behind their malt house they have another five acres which they rent from a neighbor. This is where they do field trials. In addition to malting barley they raise themselves organically they buy barley from other organic farmers. In their malting facility barley kernels are steeped in water, then germinated, releasing the sugars. The barley is then “kilned” which essentially means dried. The Malt House, which started production in 2010, sells the locally grown barley to craft brewers through the Northeast

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pillar/Chimney Rock No More

You know you are old when events of geological significance begin to occur during your lifetime. As long as most alive can remember there has been a column of rock rising up at the base of the Helderberg Escarpment known by many as Pillar or Chimney Rock. It was actually once part of escarpment. Over who knows how many years, a crevice eroded away between the giant tower of rock and the cliff it was once attached to and eventually it stood on its own as a towering column as high as the cliff itself. A couple of days ago it fell down.

News traveled fast in our neighborhood, which lies along the base of the mountain. Many of us who live here have grown up here and spent a lifetime studying the cliffs in all seasons. We don’t know yet of anyone who heard it fall but one neighbor, Dwight Anderson, who lives on the flats right below the section of the escarpment where Pillar Rock had stood, came home one day and thought something seemed strange. He studied his environs and soon determined that Pillar Rock, which was visible from his back door, was gone. He called another neighbor, Tim Albright with the news. Yesterday Tim called my husband, and that’s how I found out. This morning my husband went down the road to take a look and it is true—Pillar Rock is no more.

Pillar Rock stood near the base of Yellow Rock Falls, an area which is in Thacher Park but is not accessible to the public. As teenagers however we frequently set out from our own backyards and climbed up to the base of the escarpment. The huge, limestone blocks of staggering size that litter the slope beneath the cliffs had fallen once, as Pillar Rock would eventually do. We spent hours scrabbling amongst these enormous boulders as big as cars and along the Upper and Lower Bear Paths that run the length of the escarpment.  It was possible to walk along a narrow path in between Pillar Rock and the cliff and of course we did.

If you want to learn more about Thacher Park, check out the book of antique photographs I helped Tim Albright put together, John Boyd Thacher Park and the Indian Ladder Region

Also, this Saturday local people will have a chance to talk to state officials about what we think the future should hold for Thacher Park. The state folks will be at the Emma Treadwell Nature Center on Saturday, April 28 from 9 to 5 to hear comments.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Confident Warblers, Barracudas, Flat Tires and Dutch Cheese

One of the best things about Bonaire is the abundance of Belgian and Dutch beer and excellent cheeses which make a good lunch or happy hour snack. There is a giant Dutch grocery store here called Van Der Tweel which has an incredible selection of cheese.

We have been combing the west coast of the island, snorkeling at various spots along the way. A trip to an abandoned fishing village introduced us to the island’s Yellow Warbler, described in the island bird book as “Very Confident”. Our truck was swarmed by these little birds who were intent on fighting their reflections in the side mirrors.

Snorkeling this morning, Dieter and Wolfie saw a very big barracuda, Dieter actually swam with it for awhile. Happily I did not see it. I was lucky enough to be the only one to see a ray. The other day, thanks to Wolfie’s sharp eyes, we all saw a turtle.

We went to Washington Slaagbaai Park today, careening around back roads in our trusty pick up. Dieter was able to make a video that you all should find interesting of a Caracara bird eating a dead goat. We found a great isolated beach. It even had a cave Wolfie and I were able to use as a changing room. The water over the coral was so shallow though we felt like we were swimming in a fish tank and had to got out. That is when Dieter almost stepped on a poor little striped eel. We got back up to the top of the cliff to find the trusty truck had a flat tire. Fortunately Dieter was able to change the tire without too much trouble.

Oh, one more exciting thing, Wolfie is now drinking espresso!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


As often happens when you travel you set off to see one thing and end up seeing quite another. Today we set off for the town of Rincon, located in the hills and the center of the island. It is a very old town, settled by the Spanish in the 1500s. Our plan was to go to the town, walk around and see what there was to see, then get something to eat at the one restaurant there. It turned out to be a very quiet place aside from the preschool where several  women wrestled a dozen or so toddlers on a fenced in porch. The restaurant, despite the sign announcing it was closed on Wednesday, was closed today—a Tuesday. So we set off in search of the Blow Hole, a section of rocky shoreline on the east coast where the surf spouts up in the air. We were side tracked by a sign for “Indian Inscriptions” which took us down a long dirt road through a cactus forest to a coastline strewn with enormous boulders and lined with craggy limestone caves. The ceilings of several of the caves were decorated with red ink drawings. A sign posted at one site told us the Arawak and Carib Indians had astrologers that came to these sites to document the movements of the stars, whereby they predicted weather patterns and other natural phenomena. On a more modern note there was also a row of a dozen or so giant wind turbines.

We moved on along the coast in search of the Blow Hole but never found it. Instead we ended up following another long dirt road through a cactus forest, this with the occasional house surrounded by junk cars. One even had a tipped over cement truck in the yard. Eventually there wee no more houses. We encountered several enormous dump trucks coming from the opposite direction filled with coral rock boulders. Oddly we passed a tiny, brightly painted piece of green wood about 8 inches long laying on the ground on the side of the road that said “Golf.” We kept going. Eventually we came out on a desolate plain with a slight dirt track which we followed. We eventually came to the coast, which was lined with mountainous piles of enormous pieces of broken coral which a big piece of heavy equipment was pushing around. Continuing on the track, scattering herds of goats, we came upon what else but a golf course, just as the sign had said. There were no people there, no grass either really. Just thinly scattered goats and a few donkeys, tattered yellow flags with numbers on them flapping in the breeze and pieces of coral painted red saying “Par 7” and the like.

We headed back. We stopped at what we thought might be a goat farm to ask directions. It turned out to be a chicken farm. Fortunately we did not get out of the car as three vicious dogs came running out from under the fence snarling and barking. Never having found the Blow Hole we headed back to town for lunch.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Donkey Bonaire

This week we are on Bonaire, an island in the Netherlands Antilles. Many things are different from home. It is hot. We go snorkeling. There are parrots at breakfast and happy hour. But one thing is still the same. I am still being woken up by the braying of a donkey.

At home when I am woken by the braying of a donkey it is morning and I know it is Simon waiting to be fed. Here it is in the middle of the night. We are staying at a place called Caribbean Club/Bonaire. It is a compound of bungalows interconnected by paths at the edge of the sea. At night feral donkeys invade the compound and rampage through the compound. Each night so far at least one has stopped under my window and let loose a loud series of hee haws. Last night when Dieter heard them he leapt from bed and opened the door onto our second floor deck. Out there in the night there were at least 10 donkeys running around. He grabbed his camera to take a picture but of course had trouble with the flash. He eventually brought the camera with him when he got into bed and proceeded to fool with it, flashing repeatedly, until he fixed the problem. Needless to say it was hard to sleep.  But tonight he is ready!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Chore Time

Last Sunday Dieter and Wolfie took care of some chores. First Wolfie and Dieter drove
up to Zimmer Rd. in Schoharie to buy chicken feed from a farm family up there that
mixes and grinds feed. When they returned they trimmed the goats’ hooves, gave them
tetanus shots and wormed them. Wolfie would chase the goats into the stall where I
would attempt to grab one, eventually succeeding. (Fortunately there are only four).
Wolfie held each goat while Dieter performed the procedure. Then it was time to unload
the grain, six 100 pound bags, each of which had to be brought through our ridiculously

tiny barn door. Don’t forget—Eggs for Sale!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Dr Wendy Makes a House Call

Dr. Wendy, of Helderberg Vet Service, stopped by last weekend to tend to our dogs, Ringo and Moby. Dr. Wendy, aka Wendy Kimmel, is a veterinarian who makes house calls that we were referred to by a friend who has semi feral pet cats. It's not that we can't bring our animals to the vet, it's just that there is so many of them. 

On her last visit to do Moby's puppy shots whe had warned me that the incidence of heartworm in our area is on the rise and the large number of mosquitoes we are expecting due to the mild winter and the flooding from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee was going to make it even worse. We’ve always been lax about heartworm but no more. 

Dr. Wendy brought her daughter along to help restrain the dogs when she drew blood for the heartworm tests, and  her son who distracted the dogs with treats. The family makes quite a team. At first Moby absolutely refused to be restrained and there was quite a rodeo on the living room rug. Once he was subdued he took the needle like a trooper. Ringo, on the other hand, literally screamed when the needle went in. Bloodcurdling!

Ringo was also vaccinated for rabies and Lyme disease (with the onslaught of ticks the Lyme vaccine has also become non-negotiable).  He didn't like that either.

It's great to have a vet who makes house calls. Dr. Wendy travels with her vaccines in a little pink cooler and has a bathroom scale in a tote bag. To figure out a dog’s weight Dr. Wendy, who is petite, simply picks up the dog, stands on the scale, then subtracts her own weight. This was one thing with Moby who weighed 27 pounds and another with Ringo, who weighed in at 56. 

Next month--Ringo’s second lyme vaccine and rabies shots for the barn cats. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ticks, Dinner with Obama, and the End of Days

OK, I am starting to get seriously worried about global warming and climate change. I’ve always been “aware” and “concerned” but now I’m starting to “freak out.” These are the reasons:

It is mid-March and it is hot.

The apple orchard I live on is budding. If it gets below freezing between now and “real spring” (which occurs 2 months from now) the crop will be lost…again (this happened in 2010)

We never put our little tick-removing device away.
We have a lot of mosquitoes in our living room.

We went canoeing on Sunday on the Mohawk and the Erie Canal in the vicinity of Vischer Ferry and the Northway. Everything was brown and gray. There were no ice floes. Though there was not a speck of green to be seen anywhere, (even the water was brown with this funky bumpy algae floating in it) it was hot. The shoreline was choked with garbage and debris from last year’s flooding during Tropical Storms Irene & Lee. We had a great time but it was weird. If it weren’t for the roar of traffic from the Northway, signifying for better or for worse an abundance of human life,
 I would have thought we were paddling in some kind of post-apocalyptic world


I recently got an e mail from Barack Obama. (This is not unusual. Michelle e mails me too.) He was telling me that for a donation of $2 or more I could be entered into a drawing to have dinner with him. I got to thinking about it. If I did have dinner with Barack Obama what would I tell him? After this weekend I think I know. We’ve got to stop climate change. The U.S. has to lead the way because no one else will or can. I understand he has to play his cards right to get re-elected because the alternative would be very bad. But after that---we need to get to work.

A book everyone who lives in the Capital Region should read:
"World Made by Hand"
James Howard Kuntsler (lives in Saratoga County)
It’s a novel that shows what it would be like to live in this region in the future if we don’t do something now. I highly recommend it.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Egg Season

We are right in the middle of egg season. The hens are laying like crazy. Stimulated by the light, hens lay more eggs as the days grow longer. After a dark winter of getting less than 1 dozen eggs a day we are now getting between about 5 dozen eggs a day. Thankfully we have a new customer, Jake Moon Restaurant and Café in Clarksville. Yesterday, when Wolfie got home from school I drove him up there to deliver 15 dozen for weekend breakfasts. Wolfie takes care of the chickens (with help from Dad on school mornings), and washes and packs the eggs and pockets the egg money in lieu of an allowance.

Not only are they more plentiful, the eggs taste better than ever. We had taken the fence down for the winter since the hens don’t range far from the coop that time of year and it isn’t back up yet. With the mild weather we’ve been having the hens are working an enormous range that takes them way out into the fields where they dig up lots of bugs and tasty things that make their eggs delicious and nutritious!

Another consequence of not having a fence around the chickens is that resident dogs, Ringo and Moby, have an all you can eat banquet of chicken feed and chicken poop available to them which they take advantage of as often as possible. This can create some very odiferous evenings as many of the folks who are known to stop by for a drink after hours can tell you. Hopefully this weekend the fence will go up and this dog gluttony will end.

If you want to buy eggs from us (PLEASE!) they cost $4 a dozen. They are in the barn at the end of our driveway. You can park in the clearing right before the barn. Go in the little door on the end of the barn. The eggs are in a small black refrigerator to the left of the door. Take what you need. Put your money in the blue Buddha lunchbox on the table next to the refrigerator. All proceeds go to Wolfie Gehring’s savings to buy a car.

Monday, March 12, 2012

50th Anniversary at the CIA

We traveled to Hyde Park to lunch at the Culinary Institute of America, in late February. It was my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary. Affectionately known as the CIA, it is the world’s premier college for chefs. The CIA has several restaurants staffed from the front to the back of the house by culinary students supervised by their teachers. We ate at the Ristorante Caterina de' Medici, which is Jean and Charly’s favorite. We actually go there every year to celebrate their anniversary but this year was even more special.

We kicked off the meal with glasses of prosecco made a lovely pink with raspberry liquer, with fresh raspberries bobbing in it. In the Italian fashion the menu offered several courses: antipasti (appetizers); primi piatti (first course, traditionally pasta); secondi piatti (main course). I am the only one at the table that actually ate all three courses, although to my credit I did not have dessert.

Our server was a female student—a sophomore. She was lovely. There was a bit of a dust up with the wine. She had been equipped with a diabolical instrument called a double-hinged waiter’s corkscrew and she struggled mightily to get the cork out of our bottle of red wine. At one point both Charly and Dieter were holding the wine bottle, shouting out instructions as she manipulated the instrument. Behind them a severe looking woman stood taking notes. I hope our server was graded mercifully.

I won’t go into all the details of what we ate other than to say the Gnocchi alla Fonduta di Gorgonzola e Noci, (Potato Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Fondue and Toasted Walnuts) which I had for my primi piatti was magnifico!