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.
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

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