Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Summer turned into September

Dirty Hands are De Rigueur

I was handing over change to the check-out clerk at the supermarket the other day. She grabbed my outstretched hand and said admiringly, “You must be a farmer”. She then proceeded to tell me how her grandparents had a farm and how she wanted to buy a farm someday.

I was brought up to keep my nails and hands clean; dirty hands meant that you were god forbid, a laborer. Remember how Rhett Butler figured out that the green velvet curtain clad Scarlet O’Hara was lying about her life at Tara? He spotted her dirt creased hands and knew that the soft cheeked belle was actually working with her hands, a sure sign that she needed a cad to rescue her. While it is nice to be admired as a farmer, I could use a good rescuing now and then or perhaps another pair of dirty hands to share the load.

The Flood and What it means to the Unflooded

Areas along the Delaware and Susquehanna rivers suffered serious damage from Hurricane Irene and Lee. National news focused on the devastation in Margarettville, Prattsville, Binghamton and Wilksbarre. Federal and state relief efforts have been slow to assist towns and families struggling to rebuild so private flood relief efforts are emerging locally in the forms of  benefit concerts, events, private parties and auctions. The recent Raise the Roof Flood Relief effort organized by the Hamden Inn, Morgan George of Sherman Farmstead and the Watershed Agricultural Council was a great success raising more than $6,000 for flood stricken farmers. And it was a good reason to see friends and fellow farmers and share food, beer, music and stories, especially after a long, hard summer. The New York Times covered the event. Enough is enough at least for now. The flood relief publicity is killing our businesses. Farmers markets revenue have been down over 40% from last year. Local restaurants are serving only a handful of customers on the weekends and hotels and bed and breakfasts in the region are still unbooked for the upcoming holiday weekend. Why? Tourists and weekend home owners, after seeing news footage of some of our Catskill towns, are assuming that roads are closed, businesses have floated away and the landscape is littered with debris and mud. Most of our region was seriously unaffected by the floods. We lost power for five days and had to dry off our milking goat herd because hand milking was impossible without power. We lost a slew of turkey chicks because they did not survive the first night without heat lamps. But after a week, life returned to normal. Except our businesses.  Farmers are helping farmers by lending a skilled hand for farm work or offering to bring unscathed fall crops to the farmers markets, by loaning hay, helping with milking and lending farm machinery and tools. Instead of organizing a fundraiser why not encourage visitors, tourists, second home owners to return to the Catskills and support our farmers, stores, restaurants, hotels and events. Better yet - go to the farmers market this weekend and support the farmers who are supporting their fellow farmers.

First Frost

The first frost came precariously close to my herb and vegetable gardens. The frost line was one foot from the garden gate. I stopped weeding the garden two weeks ago and it is a disgrace, a wild tangle of weeds taller than my waist. Somewhere in the overgrowth are the potatoes, onions and beets. A good hard frost will kill the weeds and reveal where I planted them. The sun chokes were blown over by the Hurricane winds. So there is a natural hedge row of yellow flowers along the end of the garden. Since there are still ten jars of sun choke relish in the canning cupboards from last year, I may forego digging the tubers this year. I harvested the rugosa rose hips and made rose hip jam and sauce. The seeds inside the shell are coated with sliver like hairs and when digested, irritate the digestive tract. The aborigines called it itchy bottom disease. After reading that, I painstakingly cut and deseeded every rosehip that I harvested from four large rosa rugosas. After many hours of cutting, seeding, boiling, straining, jamming and canning, the harvest yielded four eight ounce jars of sauce. In terms of labor, they are worth an ingot of gold – little jars of rose gold. I will open one jar every month from January to April to help me get through winter.

The Creamery is Coming Up

After the excavation debacle, and then weeks of flooded post holes, we finally got the foundation and the perimiters up. Trusses and roof are next. The equipment is in storage or on hold until the building is up and weatherproofed. The barn raising date will be announced soon.  Our farmer friends Dave and Sonia gave us a gallon of sheep milk. I made a gallon of sheep milk yogurt in the picnic cooler.  The yogurt was thick and creamy and as Sonia described it, like white velvet.  We are fielding calls from people interested in learning how to make yogurt and ice cream.  Once we are up and running, the possibilities are endless. 

Turkey Time

Because we lost most of the turkey chicks for the smaller size turkeys during the hurricane, we have a very limited amount of small size turkeys this year. So if you are looking for fifteen pounds or less, please order now. If the owls don’t stop picking them off, the larger turkeys will be in abundance this year. The owl net we attached to the roost seems to be fending off the owl predators. A reminder - we are usually sold out by the end of October so order early this year. Broad breasted bronzes or broad breasted whites are the breeds – the taste is the same – the bronzes have black pin feather marks on the skin and tend to be smaller.


The last brunch of the season will be held on Sunday October 11th. Only a couple of more weeks to join us this season for the farm tour and buffet brunch.  Dinners at Fable will continue as long as people continue to make reservations.  Last year, the last dinner of the season was the weekend before Thanksgiving. After Columbus Day, we bring in leather chairs, sofas and rugs and tuck the table up to the fireplace. The menu changes to hearty stews and soups and other seasonal fare that highlight the autumn harvest. The menu for the next two Saturdays is on our website at http://www.stoneandthistlefarm.com/fable.htm