Thursday, February 11, 2010

Winter Work at Stone & Thistle Farm

Farm and Fable Musings – February 6, 2010


Splash of Color at Kortright Creek Creamery
The first freshening of the season occurred this week. Triplets were born, then four sets of twins in 24 hours with only 50 more to go. The herd sire this year is a sungau alpine buck from Linda and Morgan of Sherman Hill. So far, there are splashes of black and brown on a couple of does – the rest are white. The kids are in totes in the mud hall for a couple of days to acclimate to being alive before they are sent to the kid barn. The small barn across from the house was historically used as a pig barn and stored a lot of the harnesses and horse equipment from the carriage barn. Since we have farmed here, the small barn has been a kid nursery, a rabbitry and a farrowing barn. Every trip to the dairy barn yields another kid or two. We only keep the females from the good milkers. The mediocre milkers, first-time fresheners and all the males are sent to the auction barn every Wednesday where they fetch around $10 each. We are often asked why we don’t raise the males for meat. It is simple math. A kid is bottle fed 2 cups of organic goat milk three times a day for 12 weeks. The cost of the organic goat milk is $5.40 (or what we can sell it for) per kid each day. We spend $453.60 in milk to feed a kid from birth to 12 weeks. If we add our labor – the kid would be worth $800. A 12 week male kid sells for about $50. So that is a loss of $750 per kid if we raise the kids for meat.

The Pink Vinyl Bra
We are renovating the center living room and the old dining room. We hoped to be finished before kidding began but the kids came two weeks earlier than expected. The old dining room will be our new office. Tom patched the wood floors, remade wainscoting, and built a closet. In the 1940’s the Haynes family closed off the front porch and expanded the living room area and in the 1950’s added a fireplace and dropped the ceilings 18 inches. We ripped down the dropped ceiling which consisted of sheet rock and fiberglass ceiling tiles. The plaster ceiling of the old porch was painted swimming pool blue.

I did a little research to find out why porch ceilings were painted blue. The most obvious explanation is that blue resembles the sky and the porch sitter had the impression of sitting “en plein air”. Explanations included the color blue prevents flies from landing and wasps from building nests or keeps away evil spirits. The original paint color of the outside of the house was a faint sherbet green. The house, built in 1863, was originally heated with pot belly stoves; a stove pipe ran from the basement to the top floor. One of the upstairs bedrooms (Shane’s room) has a 10 inch hole cut in the floor for the stove pipe. We never patched it – the children loved to hide things down the hole. So when we removed the ceiling under the hole, we were bombarded with balls, Barbie doll shoes, American girl doll accessories, match box toys, keys, coins, Legos and to our surprise, a pink bra. The large pink bra fluttered to the floor. Tom picked it up and said, “Where did this vinyl bra come from? “ When Shane came home from school, we showed him all of the treasures that rained from the ceiling, including the bra. He blushed and explained that during a sleepover, his friend dared him to steal Katey’s bra from her underwear drawer. When they heard someone coming, they stuffed the bra down the hole. When Katey came home from school she identified it as her bra but explained carefully to her aghast father that the fabric is lycra not vinyl. She admonished her brother (I will withheld what she said to him) and threw the bra in the wash. When we removed the fireplace, we hoped to find something interesting like old newspapers or an old coin or two but certainly not a “vinyl” bra.

The liner from the fireplace we ripped out is in good shape and free for the taking. It is next to the road.

In search of another Perfect Intern
Susannah, the farm’s amazing intern and supreme skunk catcher left the day before Thanksgiving and returned home to the Chicago area. Many of you met Susannah at the farmers markets in Callicoon or Oneonta or during turkey slaughter and sales. She is returning this spring for another farm adventure. We are delighted to have her back. Susannah is helping us find another perfect intern. We received over 20 applications and chose six that we will interview next week. I am amazed at the diversity of people who applied for the internship. Applicants included a 30 something mother of toddlers who had not thought through who would watch her toddlers while she was working, a late twenties derivatives trader who listed food allergies, spine injuries and heart problems as “minor” issues for us to work around and the young man who, in his cover letter, described himself as hard working, responsible and innovative. He sounded wonderful until we got to the baggage he was bringing with him – a girlfriend, two German shepherds and three cats. The applicant who wins the “not” prize was the young woman who had been recently diagnosed with agoraphobia and suffers from such intense anxiety attacks that she has work and live without human contact. We are interviewing this week so if you know of anyone we should add to the resume pile, please have them contact us. Susannah is going to help build the cabins for the interns. Tumbleweed Tiny House Company makes great plans for tiny houses on wheels – a sophisticated version of the laying wagon we have for the hens. It will be fun to design and build the cabins.


Hitting Bottom with Bottom Round
How many different ways can you prepare chuck roast or bottom round? We have a lot of bottom round roasts that have been in the freezer for over a year. While they are perfectly good, we cannot sell them to the public. So we have been eating a lot of bottom round and chuck roast this winter. We have about 40 pounds left and I have hit bottom with ideas of how to cook and serve it. Bottom round has to be slow cooked in a Dutch oven or crock pot so my creative cooking juices may be hampered by the limited cooking method. This week I am putting 5 lbs in the crock pot and cooking it until it falls apart, shredding it and smothering it with BBQ sauce and serving with coleslaw and homemade crispy turnip chips. Recipe ideas for bottom round are welcomed.

The next Second Saturday Supper is February 13th. The cost is $28 per person and reservations are required. The menu is:

winter greens salad with blue cheese and poached pear vinaigrette

sirloin loaf
garlic mashed potatoes with mushroom rosemary gravy

winter fruit crisp with spiced calvados cream.

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