Thursday, April 30, 2009

Potatoes are in the Ground

The Potatoes arrive early April and we let them sprout a bit while they are in their bags. They have names like Satina, French Fingerling, Keuka Gold, Austrian Crescent, & Red Cloud. Not sure who creates all these names, but the potatoes are all a bit different. Some are waxy...Great for potato salad, some are mealy ...those are the best for Baked Potatoes and French Fries, and some are all purpose, we love to roast those in the oven!!

Size determines whether a potato is cut in two, or left whole. We like them to be in the 2 oz range.

They are put into bins with their label and out to the fields they go.....into the hopper of the potato planter we borrowed from a farm down the road.

There they scooped up and dropped into the furrow approximately 6-10 inched apart.

Keeping an eye on the straight row...and the potatoes...and we will see in a few weeks how they look!

As the potato is popped into the furrow, the two discs in the back of the machine throw soil back over the potato, and voila, the potatoes are planted and hilled in one pass.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fresh Green Grass

The cows were beyond thrilled to get on some green grass...usually we walk them out of the barn and up the hill to our pasture on route 217. We had to do things a little differently this year as we are putting some hay land into vegetable production which forces us to be a little tighter with our hay making. We plan on cutting the 217 pasture for hay and for that reason do not want it grazed this spring. So instead of walking them through their normal rotation, we decided to trailer them up to their hillside pasture below our brother and sister in laws house.
Lets just say it went....OK. The trailer pretty much means only one thing to our herd...goodbye, not see ya later, but a permanent good bye, as in the freezer. They instantly get animated and noisy when it comes around. The move by trailer was a little more stressful for them than the walk though the fields...lots of mooing as they were momentarily separated from each other. A few jumped out the opening in the barn where the waterer definitely was not a boring job we really hate boring around here!!!. As you can see, they are happy now...and so are we.

Friday, April 24, 2009

New Ducklings

Our neighbor's daughter Tracey moved back home this week and she brought with her five ducklings. Mom said no and there you have it, a few more feathered friends move in at Miller's Crossing. Our lone duck is thrilled, or at least he will be when they grow up and look more like him.
AnneMae and Connelly had a fun morning trying to catch them. If we sat still they would waddle right up to us, but one move and away they ran. They are so cute, somehow they seem less frantic than chickens.

Connelly perfected the catch method. He sat with his legs open and when they came in close to him he quick brought his feet together around them creating a little fence and picked up whichever was the closest. He never ceases to amaze his sister Lael with his brazen animals moves. She is much more timid, as afraid of hurting the animal as she is that the animal might hurt her.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Earth Day on the Farm

Earth Day back on the Farm involved a whole lot less people than in New York City, while Chris was busy getting the last of the spring cover crops in (Oats and peas) the kids and I went out to do our part, we hit the road above the upper pasture on Route 217...plenty of garbage to pick up, the kids loved it.
The whole experience is almost like finding buried treasure, "look over there a plastic bag, quick who's going to get it?" "Me, me, me", and they all race to the spot. We got a big black garbage bag between us and went home to check in on the calves before the afternoon was over.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Earth Day in NYC

What a party!!!!
The Farm at Miller's Crossing went to the big apple for Earth Day and it was fun!!!!
Greene Harvest CSA is just about full thanks to all of the hard work of the team down there...and the Habana Outpost was clearly a hub of activism, local food and environmental stewardship, inspiring and energizing...though we came home exhausted.
Lael, Connelly,AnneMae and Christopher John all enjoyed our first family trip to NYC. Grandma Cashen and Aunt Katy drove down to lend a hand and see the sites.
It is hard to leave the Farm...there is
so much going on here right now, Greenhouses full, cows having calves and plants going in the ground. All of it needs constant monitoring and management to be sure that everything goes well. Whether it is a cow with mastitis, a hot day and plants needing water, or 50 mile an hour gusts of wind ripping up plastic and floating row covers, when we leave, there is no one here to watch out for all that could go wrong. On the surface it seems so quiet and calm, and certainly feels different than the bustle and crowds of the city, but Mother Earth is keeping us busy and always on our toes!!!

Friday, April 17, 2009

First Plantings

Black plastic warms up the soil a few degrees and that small amount of warming is enough to bring crops in a good two weeks before those planted on soil the same day. This year we are very excited to be trialing biodegradable plastic for our earliest crops. For more information, check out the article on our Links list.

The plastic is laid with a drip tape underneath it. This brings water to the plants (rain can not get through the plastic), providing optimal temperature and moisture for plant growth. The next step is planting....the beets are going in the ground. Normally we direct seed beets, but in an attempt to get sweet bunched beets and their delicious greens to members and customers early in June, we transplant them.
In this picture you can see our water wheel transplanter being used. The yellow tank holds water and the wheels (they are hard to see in this picture), poke holes in the plastic, deliver a shot of water to the hole, and in the small bunch of 3-5 beets goes. This afternoon Jose, Carmello and Chris transplanted 5760 beet transplants. Yikes!!!!! We always over plant and we especially did this year as we had significant deer damage in last years transplanted beets...we will of course keep you updated.
Here is a great view of the transplanters in action. Lots of holes, lots of plants...they are planted 6 inches apart on rows about 2 feet apart on 600' beds. Tomorrow the kales...laCinatas, Green Curly and Redbor to be specific, and Collards as well will be planted.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Calf Whispering

This is the first season that we have had the calves born right here at the barn. Usually we get them out on fresh green grass before they start calving. We bred them just a little earlier last summer. It has been a real treat for this Mama and her kiddies to get to spend so much time with the herd and especially their new calves. Every sunny morning we have been out there after breakfast petting and talking to them. Connelly has become quite adept at quietly creeping up and itching them...they turn around..."THAT IS NOT MY MAMA" and usually run away. He has gotten a few to relax and become his friends.
They will be going up to graze on our neighbors pastures next week, so we are getting in all the time we can while they are right here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

They Made It

This spring we lost our "pet" cow Tractor. So, we decided to befriend another special cow, and here she is with her first calf, Attaboy. A cow in our herd who becomes a pet is entitled to special privileges, and occasional treats. Once she knows you are always keeping something special on the side for her, she'll seek you out every time you enter in with the herd.

Before this cow was our pet, she was MC07, a two year old heifer bred to our bull Puglsey in 2008, and due to calf in the spring of '09.

When her day to calve finally came, she was still having contractions as the daylight faded on a rainy and cold afternoon. An hour after dark she calved, but to the large size of the calf, her uterus prolapsed, aka came out with the calf. Need less to say, it was not a pretty sight, and luckily we do not have any pictures to show you. After corralling her into the barn, and hoisting up a very large and very slimy calf into the barn as well, the vet arrived.

With every ounce of her energy this petite vet forced the uterus back into the cows insides, and back into the right place. She then placed a suture around the cows vagina to prevent another prolapse, and she was on her way! Two hours after we thought both cow and calf could be lost, both were quietly nuzzling in our barn.

Five days later we removed the suture and Mama (as she is now known) and Attaboy are out and about with the rest of the herd. It is always impressive how resilient and hardy these animals really are.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Baby Beets

Here they are baby beets....really really baby...just a few weeks old. They look so good. Though I have to admit at this point in the year, I have eaten alot of beets, it is the greens I am after. If I could eat these greens right off the tray I would...except for the fact that eating my fill would probably decimate the entire first planting of beets. That would be bad!
These babies are destined for the fields. They will be planted in clusters of 3-6 (that is the number of seedlings in each cell of the seed flat) about 6" apart in two rows about 24" apart per bed. They will grow to golf ball size and then we will harvest, wash and send them out to the hungry masses.
Of course most people focus on the beets, but the greens are really amazing. They are far more tender than spinach, especially when harvested young. There is a generation of folks who remember going to the market to buy beet greens, they could care less about the root. But these days most customers ask if we can take the tops off...after we offer a few simple ideas of what they could do with the greens...sauteed w/garlic and olive oil, steamed w/ splash of vinegar...many try them, but we often bring plenty back for the chickens, or pigs, or us!


The first delicacies...after maple syrup that be harvested in the spring are the ramps.

They grow in small clusters down by the stream bed. The ramps on our farm tend to grow between all kinds of tree roots, making them difficult to harvest. It is for this reason that we have never really sold a lot of them. But this time of year phone calls start trickling in requesting these seasonal treats. This week we will be sending some ramps down to Northeast Kingdom in NYC. Check out their blog link if you want to know more about them.

We will be harvesting 10-14 pounds for may be worth searching the banks for a sandy spot...they really are hard to dig out where these pictures are taken!!!

According to The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink," the word ramp comes from "rams," or "ramson," an Elizabethan dialect rendering of the wild garlic. The word is first mentioned in English print in 1530, but was used earlier by English immigrants of the southern Appalachian Mountains.

Ramps of course are just the beginning...lots of other goodies out there to eat, a friend was raving about the wild dandelions she harvested the other day. I, however am really looking forward to the baby bokchoy and arugula that we seeded last week. Chris came in today and reported that the peas were all up.....they will be so refreshing after all the potatoes and carrots we have been eating of late.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Good Bye Old Friend

Tractor has been with us since we moved here...she was inherited from the previous farm and they had gotten her from Camphill Copake long age. We figure her approximate age to be 29...pretty old for a cow. She gave birth to Surprise the first year we moved to the farm.. Her calf was...a surprise. And thus started our endeavors with beef cows. We soon took on additional animals with our neighbor, eventually bought her out of the beef business, and here we are manging our small 20-30 animal herd of grass fed organically managed cows.

Tractor was named by my nephew Nicholas...only a young boy could name a cow tractor!!!! She grazed the best views in Columbia County, she let our children sit on her and has always been the friendliest cow in the long as you were human. Dogs beware!!! Though it is hard to remember her as ever being aggressive, she chased our dog Snowy many a time riling up the entire herd into stampede formations through the fields. As he would run straight for Chris with all the cows following, Snowy was banned from the cow's pastures in summer.

Though she did not have another calf after Surprise, we decided that she would grow old and die here on the farm. She had a long retirement, eventually she had no teeth and stopped chasing dogs.

We told the kids that Tractor went to heaven, where she can chase Snowy again. She had a good life.

Rugrats on the farm

Christopher John sitting up high on the cart
Searching for newborn calves after dinner on rainy night this week

The Little Helpers

Sneaking in under the door!!!!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Things we get excited about!!!!!

This is the inside of our new/used 30'x100' Harnois Ovaltech greenhouse. After construction, we dug 24" down around the inside walls, and placed 2" foam insulation to keep the cold outside ground from penetrating inside. and the heat from the flooring from escaping.

We installed a radiant heat floor, with tubing spaced every two inches running the length of the house. Delivering the heat to the root zone of the plants is more efficient than just heating the air, and we hope it proves to lower fuel costs as well.

The side walls of this Harnois greenhouse roll up for easy ventilation when the sun really shines
The system is made up of thousands of feet of flexible tubing that 175 degree water runs through. The water runs through the system realeasing the heat right at the root zone. Since heat rises...the plants get the heat first as it slowly rises into the peak of the house.

We have a on demand propane hot water heater heating the water to 185 degrees. After it goes through the system it returns and gets reheated. We plan to replace this heater with a larger, more efficient oil boiler when time and money are more available.

We ended up using just about 15,000' of tubing to cover the floor. You can see how much tubing was laid in just 1/4 of the house. We installed two zones one on each side of the greenhouse and turned them on as they were needed.

After the tubing was laid and turned on and double checked, we laid down a second layer of weed barrier cloth to protect the tubes and give the plants a solid layer to rest upon. You would never know anything was under there!!!

This is a picture of the outgoing and return systems coming off the header pipes. After the sytem was completed, we built a simple wooden box over top of the manifolds to protect against foot traffic.
After two and a half weeks of seeding and planting, the greenhouse is full.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Wheat is Planted

This is our third year seeding wheat. Our brother -in-law Chris Stearn was an avid baker. He got really excited about growing wheat for the Hawthorne Valley Bakery where he worked, and someday for his own bread baking venture. We found a very well taken care of Allis Chalmers All-Crop harvester pull behind combine which runs off the PTO of our tractor...and the rest is history.
Chris passed away in December of 2007. We miss him terribly, but are thanful for the wheat seeds that he planted here. 2008 was our first successful crop, so we saved our wheat, and planted a little over 5 acres this spring.

The grain drill was set to seed just over 100 lbs to the acre. The grain drill holds about 300 lbs of seed, and seeds the rows are 7" apart,

This field grew our fall carrots, peppers, celery, celeriac, and sweet potatoes in 2008. We seeded in late March this year, thanks to some early warm and dry days. After our wheat crop is harvested we will follow with oats or buckwheat, depending on when the harvest date actually occurs. Last year it was early August.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

King of the Mountain

Antonio born on April 1st to Daisy, is doing great. He is enjoying being the only calf in the herd, running around and kicking up his heels. This morning Chris found him nestled in the middle of a round bale sleeping quietly....cozy and warm.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Greenhouse is Filling up

Here is Lael age 6 transplanting herbs in the warm and sunny greenhouse

The greenhouses are filling up...we started planting and seeding the last week in February

Leo enjoying the sunny day planting up the hanging baskets

Our new second greenhouse is almost full. Hard to imagine what we did without it. Leo and Efrain have been busy. Lots of new lettuces this year as well as the standard varieties of greens. Next week we will begin the process of transplanting tomatoes, peppers and eggplants to their retail containers...then we will be packed to the gills!!