Friday, October 1, 2010

Autumn Underway

Tribute to Peter

Katey’s horse died a couple of weeks ago. He coliced the day we left for Virginia Beach to visit Tom’s parents and then coliced again mid week. An ultrasound revealed a sizeable tumor on his intestine. We made the decision not to operate and to put him down. Katey bought Peter two years ago. He was a seventeen hand, chestnut, off the track thoroughbred. His racing name was Peter L. Thunder. Katey put her heart and soul and countless hours into training him. A racehorse is a challenge to train. Peter had to unlearn how to be a racehorse. I remember the hours she spent teaching him to stand and not move off her leg when she mounted; how she had to teach him to turn right. I remember the first time she took him to horse show and the announcements via the loud speaker triggered “GO” in his brain and he tried to find the race outside the ring. Peter was never crazy like some thoroughbreds. He was sensible, sound and sensitive. He would not eat hay off the stall floor so we had to put the hay in a hay bag hung from the wall. One night he pulled it down and in the morning, I found him tangled in the hay net. Although he was terrified; he stood still while I untangled the net from around his legs. With my head under his massive body and next to his plate like hooves, he could have seriously hurt me. Peter was a natural jumper. One day we set up jumps in the arena and let him free jump – asking him to take the jumps with a prompt of the whip. He soared high over each jump. We let him cavort about the arena. When we turned our backs to chat, to our surprise, on his own, Peter took the jumps just for fun. Peter and Katey progressed from the arena to the trails and to jumps in two years. When a horse is young, the partnership is a little lopsided. Katey became his “babysitter”. He looked to her for direction, reassurance and confidence. During the past few months the relationship between Peter and Katey started to change; Peter was taking care of Katey – making sure that she was safe and sound while she was on his back. We miss Peter – we miss his beauty, strength, gentleness, desire to love and be loved. We miss his quirks, playful antics and his incredible drive to succeed and be the best partner Katey could have in and out of the arena. Someone told me that losing a horse, because they are our partners, prepares us for the big losses in our lives. And that every horse we ride in our lives, the spirits of the horses we have loved and lost are in our hands, our breath and in our hearts. And the last horse we ride on earth is the embodiment of the trust, courage and strength that we gave and got with every horse we loved throughout our life. That is going to be some ride…..

Range Roost or Turkey Jungle Gym

Turkeys normally roost in trees to stay safe from evening predators. Our hillbilly version of a range roost we built last week provides the turkeys shelter from the rain and a primitive but adequate place to roost during the evenings. The roost is moved with the tractor’s fork lift once a week on to new pasture. When raising livestock, we try to imitate their natural setting as closely as possible while keeping them safe from predators such as dogs, skunks, hawks and owls.

The turkeys are broad breasted whites and broad breasted bronzes and are happy and growing plump on pasture grasses and grain. I read an article on Mother Earth News that when poultry are under stress due to overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, they are twice as likely to carry foodborn bacteria such as Campylobacter in their intestines and surrounding meat which causes serious illness in humans when they eat the poultry. “The bacteria’s ability to affect the chicken is enhanced if the bird is in a stressful situation and the bacteria is also more likely to affect the muscle tissues, “ reported a food safety expert at the National Centre for Zoonosis Research in Liverpool, UK.

We are certain that we are raising happy AND safe turkeys for Thanksgiving. During the 20 years we have been raising turkeys for Thanksgiving, I learned that the flip of the calendar to November 1 triggers a flurry of turkey orders. We sold out last year by the first week in November. If you don’t know your plans for Thanksgiving, then order one for Christmas or the New Year! And who says you can’t have turkey for Easter?

We are offering the work for all or part of your turkey program again this year. How much of your turkey you earn depends on your skill level, the number of hours or days you work, how much you complain about the cold, how entertaining you are during turkey slaughter and a host of other criteria.


Pumpkin Parade
he lower field produced a bumper crop of sunflowers and pumpkins. A couple of our bed and breakfast guests spent the morning planting sunflowers in zig zag rows; they will be proud of the results of their farming endeavor. We harvested sugar pumpkins, turban squash, butternut squash and a heritage French pumpkin the day of the frost that killed all the plants. Lucky us. Frosted pumpkins and squash do not keep in the root cellar. While we have been successful in root cellaring potatoes, onions, beets and sunchokes, pumpkins are still a challenge. I have not been able to keep them past Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Pigs

We fenced the pigs in the pumpkin patch to clean up the leftover pumpkins, squash and sunflowers. They are also doing a great job taking down the burdock. They are having an early Thanksgiving.

Early Autumn

The leaves have turned earlier than usual this year. Most of the tourists visit the Catskill for leaf peeping on Columbus Day weekend but I don’t think there will be many leaves left on the trees, especially if we get  big winds and cold snaps in the next two weeks. The geese started heading south a month ago but their flight activity is increasing. The migratory flight path for the Canada geese must be directly over the farm because hundreds of geese bed down in the corn fields and ponds. Their morning departure is louder than takeoff at a major airport.

How Many Tomatoes Can One Woman Can?

As it turns out, a lot. And pasta sauce, salsa, puree. I am going to keep canning until the frost although the canning cupboards are full. I am secretly hoping for an early frost. I dried a lot of tomatoes and canned dried tomatoes, garlic, basil and olive oil. Layers of summer in a jar. I am also drying apples for the granola I make throughout the winter. A neighbor has arbors of ripe grapes so I am going to try drying grapes. How hard can it be to make raisins? Stay tuned.

The rose hips on the rugosa roses were ripening fast. I made rose hip jelly. You can add apples, lemon or oranges to it. But the basic recipe is as follows:
Rose Hip Jelly
• 8 cups of rose hips
• 6 cups of water
• 1 box of certo
• 1/2 cup lemon juice
• 5 cups of sugar
Boil the rose hips for 10 - 15 min. until soft enough to crush. Crush them and squeeze through cloth, to make juice. For every 4 cups of juice add one box of certo and bring to a boil. Add the 1/2 cup of lemon juice and 5 cups of sugar (1/2 tsp. of marg to prevent foam). Bring to a boil and boil hard for 2 min. Remove from heat and pour into sterilized jars and seal with caps and rings. The jelly has a wonderful flavor and is the consistency of liquid honey.

Smoking is Smokin’

We borrowed a friend’s smoker and have been smoking chickens, sausage, duck, eggplants, almost anything. There are tricks to the smoker such as using apple juice instead of water for the pork. Pairing hardwoods with meats. Tom is the smoker master!

To Swap or Not Swap

My gym gals and other friends with flexible work schedules decided to hold a clothing and jewelry swap on Thursday October 7th at the farm. It is a pot luck lunch at 1:00 followed by the swap. If you have anything you want to swap, bring it. If not, come anyway as you may find something for your friends or family.

I went through two closets. I pulled everything off the hangers and separated it into three piles. Definitely swap, maybe swap and keep. I collect vintage clothes and most of them I have not worn since I was 20. It was very hard to part with the Indian skirt that I wore to the first picnic with my husband or the full brim hat I wore to a friend’s wedding or the evening gown I wore to a  friend’s charity ball in Boston. A skirt with beads and embroidery reminded me that while everyone was wearing t shirts and jeans in college, I was wearing skirts. I loved skirts and still do. Into the swap pile went most of my college days and 20s living in NYC. The pile is monstrous – a bright colored, beaded, embroidered, jingle jangle, satiny, strappy, oh so not me anymore mountain of memories. At least I had the good sense to get rid of my maternity clothes years ago.

Bye to Brunch

The last Sunday farm tour and brunch at Fable is October 10th. We are seriously considering doing another farmer’s market on Sunday next year instead of the farm tour and brunch. The tour and brunch is more an act of love than a source of income. While we love sharing our farm and our food with families, we have to be realistic about the cost/time/profit equation. Do we charge more? Charge for the tour and for the brunch? Make the tour shorter? Serve less food? Reduce labor by using dogs to clean the floor from the carpet of muffin crumbs and eggs deposited by the toddlers. Draw straws with guests and the three short straws do the dishes? Pick and cook your own brunch? Ideas are welcome!

October at Fable

October menus celebrate the harvest with apples, pumpkins, leeks, potatoes and grass fed meats.

October 9, 2010
Amuse - acorn squash, apple and sage puffs
Starter - pumpkin and chestnut soup
Main - bistro steak with shallot merlot sauce
After  - crispy greens with apple vinaigrette
Dessert - apple cup pies with crème frâiche

October 16, 2010
Amuse - buttermilk fried chicken livers with merlot gastrique
Starter - apple potato leek soup
Main - roasted chicken with apple wine sauce
sautéed leeks and root vegetables
After -mixed greens with herb vinaigrette
Dessert - autumn gold pumpkin cake with goat milk caramel

Hope to see you soon.