farm

Do you remember our Fairy Godmother?

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Do you remember the newsletter from last December where we shared about our Fairy Godmother? You know, that amazing customer of ours who came into our lives and changed it forever? You can click here if you need a recap on this incredible human being...

Well, here's the scoop. The high tunnel (farm lingo for unheated green house) that our Fairy Godmother funded and that Greg built to solve the frozen water issue for our hens last winter worked like a charm!

We started using it in December, and for the remainder of the winter, we didn't have ONE SINGLE DAY without running water for our hens. And not only that, we didn't have a SINGLE frozen egg, which was awesome because frozen eggs used to be a problem for us.

Well, one of the things that you have to do when you're a farmer is learn to repurpose. I think it's safe to say that almost none of the structures on our farm have just one single purpose. And the new hen house (which we lovingly call the Fairy Godmother House) is no exception.

To date, it has served our laying hens all winter long. It has served as a cozy spot for 3 of our sows to give birth in during a winter cold snap. And this week, it's been repurposed again into a brooder, the warm and protected place where our baby turkeys hang out for a few weeks, until they're old enough to go out on pasture!

One of the coolest parts about farming is watching our farm transform season to season. This week, we're marveling at the sight of all those baby turkeys in our Fairy Godmother House.

Your Farmers,
Jenney and Greg

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

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People often ask us about predators on the farm. Especially when they realize we don't keep our animals in barns and they see our piglets roaming the pastures and the laying hens searching for bugs beneath the snow. The truth is, I'm not exactly sure how we do it, but we have a few stories to share that might help answer this question. 

In our first year here on the farm, we had a large family of foxes living across the road. They were cute at first, until the mother fox started traveling across the road daily to teach her kits how to hunt with our laying hens. During our absolutely back-breaking first summer as livestock farmers, we were losing chickens right and left to these guys and it made us feel terrible.

We considered a variety of solutions. Traps, guns, guardian dogs, you name it...none of them felt right. We talked to farmers, we consulted our farm books. And eventually, we realized that the best option wasn't to rid ourselves of this family of foxes but to strengthen the preventative mechanisms we already had in place. 

Enter a stronger electric fence charger that increased the current 6-fold, and voila! Problem solved. My original farming mentor always said that a hot electric fence stops anything on four legs, and he was right. We've never had another fox-related incident on the farm since.

Unfortunately, the hot fences do not stop the two-legged predators that roam the skies. Hawks torment lots of farmers and homesteaders we know and have been known to kill entire flocks. But as you probably guessed by now, we've developed systems to minimize the impact of these predators, too. We keep large animals like the sows nearby the small animals like the chickens and this seems to keep most of the ariel predators away. Along with shelters and hot fences, and we are happy to report that we have only rare run-ins with hawks. 

Knowing this, you can imagine why I was so flabbergasted to see a large hawk tangled up in one of the electric fences this past summer (check out the picture below to see the photo proof!). I approached the bird to get a closer look. Even though I knew full well that he might someday be my greatest nemesis, I resolved to set him free just the same.

I spent a whole hour trying to untwist the fibers that were wrapped around it's leg and wing. Eventually, it became clear that in order to free the bird, I needed to cut the fence. A couple of quick cuts with the knife and the bird was untangled. And, within a few minutes, the hawk was gone soaring through the sky again. 

We've learned that coexisting with predators is part of what it means to be good stewards of our land. Someday, we might need to set a trap or move toward guardian dogs, but for the past three years, we've established a nice working relationship with our local wildlife and we do hope it lasts...

Your Farmers, 
Jenney and Greg

How We Grow Ginger and Turmeric

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Last week we shared all about WHY we grow ginger and turmeric and this week we wanted to share HOW we grow ginger and turmeric. 

We start with super high quality seed that we purchase from an organic farm in Hawaii. The seeds are essentially small roots and they arrive in the dead of winter. They are very sensitive to the cold, so we plant them into big seed trays right away and place the trays in a warm, dark spot to encourage sprouting. Greg waters them once a week and fusses to make sure the soil conditions are just right. The little shoots eventually pop out of the soil and then it's a waiting game until April or May when they are strong/big enough to be transplanted outside.  

If we planted the sprouts directly into the ground they would likely die during those cold April/May nights. So, instead, we plant them into a 80-foot long high-tunnel that we built specifically for these crops. The high-tunnel (which is essentially a green-house without the heater) allows us to keep the air and soil warm and prevents the plants from being damaged by the wind. They require a lot of attention at this stage, too, with frequent weeding and irrigating and temperature regulating until they are ready to harvest 4 months later. 

Harvest time is usually in early September (or maybe late August...) and it is a busy time on the farm.  When we pull the large plants out of the ground, each ginger/turmeric root is covered in dirt and has tons of smaller fibrous side-shoots (imagine hard pipe-cleaners or tough pieces of spaghetti) all around it. We cut these off and carefully clean the roots so they are ready to bring to market. 

It takes us about half of a year to grow ginger and turmeric and many hours to harvest and clean (which is probably why most farmers don't bother with growing this stuff!). But, for us, growing these plants is a challenge and an opportunity that we relish. It's the only produce we grow and it has a special place in our hearts. 

Your Farmers, 
Greg and Jenney

PS- Next week, we will share how to store fresh ginger and turmeric so that you can use the good stuff year-round (No more buying the dead cured stuff grown overseas from the grocery store.  YAY!).  We are making videos and can't wait to share our best tips and tricks with you soon!

Organic Farmers Go On Vacation

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Greg and I were chatting with a friend this week about what it's really like to own a farm.  We were discussing the behind the scenes, real-life experience of living here at Stonecrop Farm that we don't often talk about. 

There are so many overwhelmingly positive aspects of living here on the farm. Constant access to nature and animals, the sense of purpose we feel farming, the fresh air, farm walks, lightning bugs, wild cherries galore...I could go on. 

But, like any path in life there are sacrifices too. I think the compromise that has been hardest for both Greg and me to adjust to has been the difficulty of stepping away from the farm.   

Have I told you that we both absolutely love to travel? We love to explore new places and cultures and try new cuisines. We've traveled solo and together all over the world to incredible places like Madagascar, Tanzania, and Indonesia.

With the farm and our business where it is...leaving is not just complicated, it's scary. There are animals to feed/water multiple times a day and fences to check and a significant chunk of our savings (our animals!) walking around our fields. If something were to go wrong, it would be devastating to us on sooooo many different levels.  

That's why we are so (SO!) lucky to have a friend like Allie. Allie knows our farm backwards and forwards and is able to take over for us once or twice a year so that we can truly step away.

This week, Greg and I were able to spend 4 whole days together NOT FARMING up in the Adirondacks. We hiked, swam, read our books, and rested our brains and our bodies. 

Going on fewer vacations and overseas adventures is a sacrifice that we do miss from time to time. But it makes the trips we do take all the more sweeter and we have our dear friend Allie to thank for this last one. 

You Farmers, 
Jenney & Greg