Sunday, June 5, 2011

Jewels of June

Herding Hens
One of our border collies, Marly, is 12 years old and spends more time in the grass lazing around than working with the sheep or goats.  He was herding the hens for awhile and then flopped down to rest and keep an eye on them.

Gender Hopping
You would think an experienced rabbit raiser would know better. Last year I tried to breed a rabbit for four months. I understand that there is no such thing as a rabbit that cannot be bred but I was convinced that I had the only unbreedable rabbit on the planet. Perhaps she didn’t like guys? Perhaps she was already bred? After the four months of every day “put her in with the buck stint”, we slaughtered her – and lo and behold she was a boy with testicles the size of quarters. So last fall I made extra sure that the boys were boys and the girls were girls. We slaughtered the boys and kept the girls for spring breeding. By April 1st all of the does were bred for May 1 kindling. Except one. Every day for thirty days I put her in with the buck. Nothing. Not that the buck was not interested. He just kept trying and trying and the deed was never done. So I checked her sex. Yup. A female. I found three dead kits in her cage. Could she have been bred when my back was turned? The doe in the adjacent cage was due so I was not sure if the kits were from the doe next door that crawled into the unbred doe cage and died. So for the next thirty days I put her in with the buck. Nothing. I did a little research to see if there was such a thing as a hermaphrodite rabbit. The rabbit expert explained how to palpate for underdeveloped male rabbit anatomy. Bet you don’t read this stuff everyday! So I checked to see if there was an anatomical problem according to the expert instructions. Sure was. She is a boy. Where the penis has been hiding for the past six months who knows. It’s not a normal looking penis but it’s there and explains the unbreedable rabbit. I concluded that my unbreedable doe has an incompletely closed penile shaft characteristic of a condition called pseudohermaphroditism. Something new to learn every day. So she is not a hermaphrodite – she is a he with deformity. Will he taste differently?

Just Because I Bragged
Never brag. About anything. The times I remember shamelessly bragging came back to bite me in the ass. Hard. I was bragging to a group of people at a conference last week that although farm chores are endless, at least I did not have horses to take care of anymore… Since my daughter left last spring for an internship at Welywn Stables in Rhinebeck and took her two thoroughbreds with her, the days of mucking stalls, scraping together enough cash for hay, grain and shavings, putting blankets on, taking blankets off, farrier bills, fencing issues and then finding the time to ride, were over. The VERY next day my daughter called me to tell me that she volunteered me to take care of her older thoroughbred that she had been leasing and that Montecello “Monty” was coming home for a few months. And because he was fully clipped for the winter show season, he could not be thrown out in the pasture. He needed blankets on and off, sheets on and off, groomed regularly and hooves picked. And, “Oh by the way”, she added before she hung up, “he needs a pony to keep him company.” The horse barn hasn’t had a horse in it for a while and the stalls are now occupied by kid goats, yearling goats and piglets. We rushed to move all the kid goats into another barn, remove all the nails, clips and pointy edges from the stall, pack in new bedding with shavings and salvage the rubber horse buckets from the dairy. We set up the round pen because Tom didn’t want the pasture pugged up or the grass would not grow. We worked endlessly for three days to get ready for his arrival. I even put up his old brass name plaque next to his stall door, made him a Welcome Home sign. That was in April. Now the pastures are lush with grass and Monty is out on the fields. He has a stream, trees and cows. As long as he thinks he is a cow there is no need for pony. Thank goodness.

Monty bossing the cows

Monty with the cattle
Nicole arrives in time to Slaughter Chickens
Our new intern Nicole arrived two weeks ago. Since her cabin has not been built, she is living in the trailer. The first week was very hot and she worked very hard. We were worried that the combination of heat, our crazy family and slaughtering chickens the third day on the job would do her in. She survived it all and has been a great addition to our family and farm. Her main job is taking care of the broiler hens.  What a blessing to have someone ask, “What can I help you with?” Music to my ears. We are looking forward to a fun summer with Nicole.

One day old chicks in brooder
Nicole with ready to slaughter broiler chickens
The Garden
I built the pea fence but did not get the peas into the ground until June 1. “It’s too hot, they won’t grow,” my family chorused. I built the fence therefore they will grow. There are peas breaking through the ground. After all it was 90 degrees three days ago and yesterday we had a frost. They will grow.

Memorial Day – Summer in Full Swing
What a way to start the summer. Memorial Day weekend was packed with three farmers markets, Fable on Saturday night and Fable for brunch on Sunday and Bed & Breakfast guests. Busy is great; but why does it all happen at once?

We enjoyed our Fable guests this weekend. Lots of new people were visiting the area for the holiday. We love meeting new people and discovering their connection to the Catskills and to food and our farm. Guests share their favorite recipes, wines and adventures. The Memorial Day Fable dinner was a mix of wild spring food like dandelions caper butter and Japanese Knotweed and Rhubarb compote. Did you know that nasturtium buds taste like capers too? For dandelion capers – pick the flower bud when it is small and tight. Put in a jar with olive oil and kosher salt. Voila – capers! We are continuing our celebration of spring for the June 11 Fable dinner with the best of spring including smoked trout, spinach and rhubarb.
Amuse:  smoked trout with honeyed horseradish
Starter:  printemps soup
Main:  spring chicken roasted with lemon balm and sage and peas in pods with lemon verbena sauce
After: baby spinach greens with spicy rhubarb dressing
Dessert:  strawberry sundae with rhubarb compote

Here’s the recipe for Printemps soup
Printemps Soup
Servings: 10
1/4 cup butter
1 pound leeks, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 quarts water or chicken stock
3 large potatoes, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
4 teaspoons salt
1/2 pound fresh spinach
1 cup heavy cream

1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the leeks and onion, and cook until tender.

2. Pour water into the pot. Mix in potatoes, carrots and asparagus. Season with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

3. Stir spinach and heavy cream into the soup mixture, and continue cooking about 5 minutes before serving.

Hope to see you at the farm or Fable soon.  In the meantime, enjoy the photo tour of Stone & Thistle Farm. 

View of Farm from Mountain
Irises in hen wagon field
Green Green Pastures

Scottish Highland Crosses