Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Bye 2016 - Welcome 2017



Happy New Year
Our heartfelt thanks go out to our family and friends and customers who helped make 2016 a forward looking and prosperous year.  Forward looking because we look forward to leaving behind loads of challenges, broken promises, tons of frustration and a little heartache.  Forward looking because with hard work and perseverance and extra helping hands, we enjoyed new success, solutions to pesky challenges and refilled our heart tanks.  So with open hearts and hands, renewed faith and energy, we welcome 2017.
 

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
 
Winter
We lost family, friends and canine partners this year.  My mother died in February and I did not grieve.  Even when a few days after her death, I received a letter from her and a poem she wanted me to read at her funeral, I did not grieve.  Months later, while looking through a box of her books, I found a dog-eared cookbook with her notes scribbled in the margins.  My mother was a terrible cook.  Mom often tried to tackle difficult recipes. Recipes to my mom were more like suggestions or guidelines and she substituted ingredients if she did not have them on hand. The results were unpalatable.  While reading her notes,  I laughed and cried.  I cried big, nose dripping, wracking sobs. I remembered her famous bunny cake that looked like roadkill, her buttermilk cucumber soup that had neither buttermilk or cucumbers in it.  I see my mother everyday in the corners of my life now. She is with me more in death than she was in life. Because I invite her in, she steps out of the shadows and stands by me.
 

King Luke







Mario in his last days on the farm
We said goodbye to our canine farmhands and pets Marly, Luke and Mario.









Marly joins the NBA
 


Lost Laugh We recently lost a good friend and neighbor - Grace Marie.  When Grace laughed, a throaty, open mouthed, teeth flashing laugh, my heart grew three sizes.  I loved to make Grace laugh.  I opened her trunk the other day hoping somehow she had stowed a vestige of her laugh there.  I pawed through the clothes and books - no laugh.  I have no doubt that Grace Marie and her laugh will grace our lives in someway, someday.





We welcomed Tyrion to our home this summer. Tryion is a Rhodesian Ridgeback. The breed was developed in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.  The Ridgeback is also known as the African lion hound because of its ability to keep a lion at bay while waiting for its master’s arrival to make the kill. The breed is also known for its great physical endurance.  Tyrion excels in endurance eating and sleeping.  







To Market to Market ...
We participated in three additional farmers markets this year in Westchester and Brooklyn.  We enjoyed increased sales in Pakatakan and were disappointed by mediocre sales in Oneonta.  More markets meant more products and the Fable Kitchen, when we were not doing Fable Saturday dinners and private dinners, was churning out pot pies, soups, stews, pates and sauces.  The big seller this year was old fashioned chicken pot pies.  Without a sheet roller or pie press, 24 pies took 48 hours as each pie is individually made.  I can make a pot pie blindfolded…

If we don’t bring products to the market, we can’t sell them, thus the farm store was often lightly stocked on the weekends.  After a few misunderstandings or thefts (you choose) we made the store much smaller and limited the number of products for sale.  So now customers can’t make the mistake of paying $3.21 for a 3.21 lb leg of lamb with a price tag of $35.  But even after cordoning off the back of the store, people were still raiding the off-limit freezers and leaving pennies for their purchases.    Since we can’t “man” the store all the time, in 2017, the store will be open only to those who call ahead. If you can think of a better solution, we would love to consider your suggestions.

Eggsactly what we needed and Exactly what we didn’t
Broiler Shack
Skunks, rats, weasels, minks, fishers, dogs, hawks, eagles and coyotes are some of the most tenacious predators on the farm. The Maremmas do a superior job of keeping our livestock safe but even with their vigilance, predators sneak by.   The most “in-demand” item at our farmers markets are eggs.  We bought 200 new egg layer poults.  After a couple of months, a weasel killed most of them.  We erected barriers, barricades and finally set traps.  The weasel won. We moved the remaining hens from the weasel’s territory.  The poultry (both egg layers and broilers) graze during the day and at sunset are herded into cabins to keep them safe from night predators. Made from scrap wood, the cabins or shacks are efficient but don't win architectural beauty awards.





Chicken Kiva
Riley has been raising chickens for eggs and meat since he was 9 years old.  A Kiva loan enabled him to expand his poultry operation. We doubled the number of pastured broiler chickens we grew and processed. Thank you to everyone who loaned him money and helped make his business a success.

 Sheep and Guinea Fowl
A local shepherdess sold us her flock of sheep. She wanted them to be raised on pasture and to lamb in the spring.  We added a new bad boy to the flock - a texel/dorset ram.  We are looking forward to seeing his offspring in spring.  We raised guinea fowl for the first time this summer. The meat is dark and tastes like a cross between turkey and pheasant. Guinea fowl can fly fast and far. We raised them in portable pasture pens but when the lid was left open - about 30 escaped.  They are now free ranging.  They taunt us with their high pitched, insistent call knowing we will never catch them.



Farm Stay and Fable
The highlights of the season were the families we hosted in the farmhouse suite and farmhand cabin.    We had so much fun with the Guest Chef and Theme Dinners and look forward to more farm and food adventures in 2017.  We’re thinking Medieval Feast in autumn.  Spit roasted meats. Fireside dinner. No utensils. Bones thrown to the hounds. Ale and mead.  


Highland Cow skull
Enjoy the winter.  We will spend the time conjuring up more Farm and Fable adventures to share with you in 2017.
Hidden Pictures - find the hens, gazing ball, tractor and border collie
Turkey Strut

Ram Bust



Tuesday, March 10, 2015

March Melt: Shorn Sheep

Sheep Shearing
Q: How many sheep can a sheep shearer shear when a sheep shearer shears sheep?   A: About 10 sheep per hour solo. 

The sheep were scheduled to be shorn in February but the below zero temps, snow, ice and wind made us put off the task until March.  The sheep are due to lamb in mid March and it's important to have them shorn or at least crutched, so the lambs can find the ewes' udders quickly. With heavy fleece, the lambs suck on wool tags and can die trying to find a nipple.  When the temperatures are moderate in March, especially when the sun is warm, the ewes are warmer without their coats. Their thick wool coats are heavy with dampness and if they are in the barn for a couple of weeks while they are bonding with their lambs, the moisture in their fleece creates an unhealthy environment in the barn.  So off with their wool.  We worked straight through the morning gathering, sorting and shearing sheep and then paused for a shearer's lunch of curried sweet potato soup, fresh bread, salad and mince meat pie.  Ty, the three year old border collie, did a yeoman's job of working the sheep in and out of pens.  The wool was sorted, bagged and stored for wool pool on Labor Day weekend.
Before Shearing     photo Gerry Gomez Pearlberg

Shearer photo by Gerry Gomez Pearlberg






Tom  photo by Gerry Gomez Pearlbery


Shorn Sheep
The sheep are sporting their new look in the barn yard.  The livestock guardian dogs are keeping an eye on them.
Fat Shorn Sheep
Shorn Sheep with LGDs


For Rent: Rustic Bird House


Wanted Avian Tenant for Rustic Bird House.  Location: Antique maple tree on footpath of farmhouse in East Meredith,New York. Excellent views of dairy barns and pasture. Must like farm animals, dogs and people.  Free to the right tenant.  Single mothers preferred.

We're not Kidding. We ARE Kidding
First ten dairy goats kidded during the coldest weeks of the year in mid-February. If we hadn't whisked them away at birth to dry them and warm them up, they would have perished in 12 below zero temperatures.  The good news is that they all survived; the bad news is that their moms wouldn't take them back so we have bottle fed kid goats in the house. 

What's for Dinner?
All winter we've been attending the Down to Earth Markets' Mamaroneck Farmers Market. In a couple of weeks, we resume the Park Slope and McGolrick Park Farmers Markets in Brooklyn.  As spring tiptoes in, we will offer, in addition to our retail cuts of meats, pates, meat pies, leaf lard, bone broth, soup stock.   Local farmers markets open in May. In the meantime, our farm store is always open.

607 CSA Collaboration
Another great way to buy local food. We are collaborating with Star Route Farm, Berry Brook Farm, Painted Goat Farm and other local farms to bring you fresh, farm food. Through the CSA, we are offering a pastured chicken share,  beef share, meat pie share and lots of a la carte products.  For more information about the 607 CSA   http://www.the607csa.com/
Grass Fed Ground Beef    photo by Gerry Gomez Pearlberg

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Geese, Guests and Goodness Gracious

FARM

Duck Duck Goose
June in Driveway Puddle
Mallory the Mallard
Did you know that a group of ducks is called a badelynge, bunch, brace, flock, paddling, raft or team? It is also called a dover of ducks.   I like the last best.  We have a dover of Muscovy ducks taking over the farm.   A brood hatched last year and it looks like there will be more if we don’t curtail their population explosion.  I found a clutch of eggs last week.  The sensible thing to do is to destroy the nest.  The softie in me can’t do it.  So in a few days, if my calculations are right, we will once again be overtaken with ducks.    The farm has one mallard duck named Mallory who has been hanging out with the goose June. June’s mate was hit by a snowplow last winter and it's been difficult finding a male goose.  Last week we bought a male goose.  June ignored him and he ran away.  She preferred the mallard to the male goose.  June has been fickle lately, preferring our livestock guardian dog Smith as company, so I bought another duck for the mallard. The duck Emmaline (who looks like an Indian Runner but smaller) won’t have anything to do with the mallard so she lives in the pasture with the Pekin ducks and the broiler chickens.  The Pekins are scheduled for slaughter this week which will leave Emma without duck pals.  Perhaps we should keep one Pekin as her companion?  I am spending too much time meddling in poultry partnerships.


June and Smith
Muscovy sitting on eggs
Clutch of Duck Eggs in Tree Hollow














Good Guests; Ghastly Guests
Our schedule is so hectic that we seldom get a chance to get off the farm and see the world.  We are fortunate because the bed and breakfast, farm stay and Fable bring the world to us.  We’ve had the pleasure of meeting people from varied backgrounds, cultures, religions. Most guests have been interesting, fun and a joy to host.  And then there is the occasional “guest from hell.” Sometimes a guest is irritable, demanding and unpleasant and even when we bend over backwards to please them, nothing makes them happy. Recently we had a new kind of guest from hell.  They didn’t want to have anything to do with the farm, left breakfast untouched and drove away without saying goodbye. In a follow up conversation, I was lambasted with complaints about the farm, room and food, in particular, they wanted bacon for breakfast and I served them sausage because we were out of bacon until the next pig is slaughtered.  He advised that I should have bought bacon from the supermarket in anticipation that a guest would want bacon and put it in the freezer.  When I explained that the food we serve is grown and raised on the farm and I was not going to serve factory animal crap to my guests, his response was that we should serve what the guests want not what we want.  I didn’t say, but I wanted to say, “You are the wrong type of guests for us.”  I am so used to guests and customers who really care about the food they eat and where it comes from that I forget that there is a huge population that doesn’t give a hoot about what they eat.  And as crazy as it seems, they don’t associate bacon with a pig.   So the guest from hell was a learning lesson for us.   We attract guests who are interested in the farm, care about their food and how it is raised and care about their health. How do we vet and discourage the guest who eats Ding Dongs and thinks bacon comes from Price Chopper?


Sometimes guests leave behind socks, sweaters or books but this is the best leave behind: a message written on the Farmhand Cabin chalkboard. 

Frank, Silvia and Max's Good Guest Message



 

Newcomer
This handsome boy will service the ewes this fall.  The breed we use for a ram is different every year.  We look for a ram that will produce good meat quality lambs and he fits all the criteria.  Looking forward to his offspring next year.

Roy the Ram





Tom wrote an article about farmers markets in The New Franklin Register this month. The subject is that farmers markets are good for the customers but not necessarily for farmers. 


Page 6 T he New Franklin Register Summer 2014
By Tom and Denise Warren
We have been selling
our grass-fed meats
and eggs for twenty years
at three regional farmers’
markets. During that time,
especially over the past
three years, there has been
an explosion of interest in
buying local foods, mostly
due to a new awareness of
the importance of knowing
how our food is raised, harvested
and sold.
Ten years ago, there
were three farmers’ markets
in our region: Cooperstown,
Pakatakan and
Oneonta. These centralized
markets attracted customers
from several surrounding
counties and provided
strong, consistent revenue
for the participating farmers.
Today, every town
and hamlet is determined
to host a farmers’ market.
In Delaware and Otsego
counties, there are currently
twenty-one. In fact,
the number of farmers’
markets in New York has
increased from 235 in 2000
to 521 as of August 2012,
according to the New York
State Department of Agriculture
and Markets.
The good news is that
there is growing interest in
local foods, and it is handy
for the customer to have
“round the bend” access to
farm fresh food.
But maybe not such
good news for the farmers.
The number of customers
in our region who seek
farm-fresh food at farmers’
markets is growing, but
slowly, and the number of
markets is outpacing the
customer base. The relatively
small number of dedicated
customers is now
divided between a larger
and growing number of
farmers’ markets.
New York City is home
to 148 farmers’ markets.
That’s about 56,000 people
for every market. In Delaware
and Otsego counties,
there are 5,200 people for
every farmers’ market.
While there is no direct
data to support this theory,
we believe that a greater
percentage of people in
New York City shop year
round at farmers’ markets
than do locally.
A great benefit of small
town farmers’ markets is
that a market creates a
community, a space for
people to gather and socialize.
It creates an opportunity
for added income
for small-scale or part-time
farmers. But can this scattering
of farmers’ markets
support the full time farmer,
and will these markets
survive as more participating
farmers realize that he/
she is not getting a reasonable
return on his/her investment
of time and money?
Small farmers’ markets
tend to host only a handful
of farmer-vendors, while
larger, centralized markets
can support twenty to thirty
vendors.
There is also an environmental
cost. If a farmer
travels twenty or thirty
miles to a market to sell just
$200 to $300 of product, it


becomes a carbon intensive
endeavor.
An informal survey
conducted at the farmers’
markets in which we participate
indicates that vendors
have to sell at twice
as many markets as they
did five years ago, just to
maintain the same level of
revenue. And vendors’ expenses
are high, including
transportation, labor, market
fees, market materials
and signage. All the while,
the farmers’ incomes are
shrinking.
So, while the growing
number of farmers’ markets
may be good for communities
and customers, it may
not be best for farmers.

 
FABLE
Fable has been full with Saturday night dinners, Sunday brunches and private dinners and breakfasts.  Thank you so much for filling our kitchen with your praise, laughter and good companionship. We are having fun seeing familiar faces and meeting new people.  


Strawberries

It's strawberry season and we can't get enough. We are making strawberry margarita jam, strawberry balsamic jam, strawberry scones, strawberry short cake.... At Fable's dinner last week, we made Sorrel Strawberry Sorbet. Amazing.
 
Sorrel-Strawberry Sorbet

Makes 1 quart.
For super-smooth sorbet, churn this recipe in an ice cream maker. For a treat just as refreshing but studded with icy crystals, simply stick the mixture in your freezer. Freeze this sorbet in ice pop forms instead for children.

Ingredients:
1 quart fresh (or frozen) strawberries, hulled
2/3 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped sorrel

Instructions: 
In a mixing bowl, stir together the strawberries and sugar. Cover and set aside for an hour. Purée strawberries with their juices and the sorrel in a blender, then press the mixture through a sieve to remove seeds and large pieces of sorrel. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for an hour. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Or pop the mixture into a shallow, freezer-safe pan and freeze it. Scrape with a fork to break up ice crystals every half-hour to an hour until it is fully frozen, about 4 to 6 hours


Looking forward to seeing you at the farmers markets, farm store, at Fable for dinner or brunch or enjoying your summer out and about the countryside.
Tom, Denise, Shane


The White Cedar Bee Tree




Tuesday, May 13, 2014

May Oh My



Busy as Bees


Kortright Creek
May is the busiest month of the year. In preparation for the arrival of interns, farm stay guests, Fable guests and the start of farmers markets and the “season”, we are in a, cleaning, repairing, dismantling, planning, organizing and building frenzy. 

The bees emerged from the white cedar tree on the first warm day. After a long, harsh winter we were happy to witness their mad forays from the hive to seek out the sparse pollen offerings of daffodils and dandelions.  Spring is two weeks off schedule. The bees are hungry and the livestock are anxious to be out on pasture with grass. And we want to stop buying and feeding hay. The first sign of spring: the serviceberry tree is blooming. 
Spring in Action

The farm crew has been busy with hammer and nails. The little things: the rotting bird house is rebuilt and remounted on the big maple, the herb garden is now sporting a fence to keep the dogs from peeing on my herbs, the horse barn is festooned with pigeon and owl nets.  The big things:  a greenhouse and mega roost for the new laying hens, brooder boxes for the broiler chicks, portable wooden poultry feeders and watering racks. This year we are doubling egg and chicken production so we needed more cost and time efficient methods for raising them.   Major progress has been made on the Creamery including electricity and insulation installation.
Hen greenhouse with watering stand, roost and electric fence

The roost



Brooder Box

Brooder Boxes in Horse Barn
Tom has also been busy with the chainsaw, axe and wood splitter. We ran out of firewood this year so he decided to get a jump on winter in spring.  When I commented that our neighbor had a huge pile of firewood cut too, he cuttingly remarked that his cord wood pile was much bigger. Hmmm.  Firewood rivalry?
Pile of Wood






Split
New arrivals this month.  The dairy goats are done kidding but the ewes are still popping out lambs, lambs, lambs, including a bottle lamb, Prince, a lovely Merino/Shetland.

New to the dairy herd is a gang of Nubians. I swore off Nubians years ago because they are exceptionally vocal.  These regal ladies are not noisy; the Guinea hens make much more of a racket.
Ears to You!
Grass at Last!

Double Ducks
Broiler chicken chicks and Pekin ducks arrive via the postal service every week.  At 7:50 a.m. the East Meredith postmistress calls to announce the chicks' arrival.  Imagine the sound of 500 chicks chirping in a 12 by 12 foot space.  We do our best to get to the post office before the community arrives to pick up their mail and engage in neighborhood gossip.
Chicks in Hand

Just Foraged Ramps
The heralds of spring are ramps and stinging nettles.  We spend Thursdays and Fridays in the woods digging ramps for the farmers' markets. A thick carpet of ramps grows in the woods near our pastures. Although there are ramps as far as the eye can see, we dig judiciously as to ensure a crop next year. The unsold ramps are transformed into ramp pesto, ramp butter and pickled ramps for sale at the farmers' markets. Pickled ramps make great garnishes for martinis.  The stinging nettles have taken up residence creekside and along the stone walls.   We will be carefully plucking them with tongs and sending them to the markets next week end. Stinging nettles lose their sting when they are ground into pesto or steamed.  We eat nettles like spinach or as a sauce over pasta or in lasagna.
Stinging Nettles
 



Ramp pesto
10 fresh ramps washed and roots clipped
1/2 cup olive oil
½ cup parmesan cheese
½ cup walnuts
dash of fresh lemon
salt and pepper










Fable=farm+table opens for the season on Saturday May 24th.  This season we are serving dinner every Saturday night through October and brunch every Sunday until Columbus Day. New this year is Simple Fare – three-course dinners for $35 on select Saturdays and event dinners such as May 24: The Picnic; June 24: The Summer Solstice: July 5: The American BBQ; August 30th: The Family Farm. Come at 5:30 and pitch in with farm chores. Family Style Dinner; October 11: The Discovery. Taste Local with a Global Twist. 

We look forward to seeing you at the farm or at the farmers markets.  Next month: Interns and Farmers Markets.
Spring Bouquet