Tuesday, March 26, 2013

greenhouse completion + other small things

Hello everyone,

Apologies for the brief hiatus- we've been busy (the most productive day in the history of Two Spruce Farm happened last Thursday) and were traveling this weekend. But now we're back and several newsworthy items have occurred, chronicled below in photos.

Biggest thing for us is that we finished the high tunnel last Thursday and it hasn't blown down yet. Everyone cross your fingers. Just kidding. I guess if you're in to crossing your fingers you can do that but if you're doing it strictly for the benefit of the high tunnel you're probably wasting whatever magical power crossing your index and middle fingers gets you. In short, we're happy with how it turned out and it seems like it is not going to blow down anytime soon. We will be moving all of our seedlings to the compost bed (which measured 120 at the top of the pile today, so it's working!) this week, which is good because we're making a big potting soil-y mess in Donn & Maryrose's basement (we had been using a heat mat and fluorescent lighting to get our earliest seedlings started).

In other news, Maryrose has been shearing the sheep. I got to help catch a couple today, it is not unlike wrestling a fellow 150 lb man who is wearing a thick wool coat and doesn't really understand the concept of wrestling. We seeded peppers, kale, scallions and some herbs today with the help of fellow Dickinson farm intern Anna Farb (thanks Anna!) and also Daniel's sister + friends visited, presumably for the sole purpose of spreading news of the benefits of farming with horses to Montreal, to which they were headed. Thanks guys, for helping with the cause!

Thursday was also Get New Old Implements Day at Northland, as my Planet Jr seeder arrived via ebay, and Donn's two horse riding cultivator (a similar model seen here with discs hilling potatoes) was retrieved from Greyrock Farm after some repairs. Sweet.

and no, no mule foal yet. Lady Baby Watch continues.

Two Spruce for you, Bruce.

We moved a bunch of logs to the driveway Thursday morning so a grapple truck could easily pick them up. This meant making some tight turns with Connie and Polly and getting the logs in a particular spot, which was great practice for Daniel and me. 
Greenhouse progress: driving in stakes and setting up bottom boards
West wall up
Fast forward a bit, we've got all the hoops up, both endwalls and the shoulder purlins on 
Track for wiggle wire, which is everyone who has ever worked on a high tunnel's best friend/ worst enemy. (Wiggle wire is supposed to hold greenhouse plastic taut in place without putting holes in it)
Getting ready to put the plastic on with our new friends/ neighbors Jean and Deborah (thanks for your help!!) 
Starting to look like a hoophouse
Finished product

The crisscrossed rope is for preventing the roll-up sides from blowing out in the wind
Inside view, facing west (now there's no snow in it, these are a couple of days old)
Facing east, with the patented Scott scale bar (1 Scott= 6 feet)

The new (to us) Planet Jr 300a seeder, fresh out of the box and sans handles. We'll be using this for all our direct seeded crops (carrots, salad mix, beets, peas, spinach etc).
And here's one of Lee, doing what Lee does very well, which is try to lip/ chew on everything (here, the victim is the camera)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

deer + snow

Tuesday, 9:45 AM
Having planned a trip to Ithaca and beyond to visit a coffee shop and another farm, Daniel, Megan and Scott climb into Megan's mom's Subaru station wagon after many delays. They are wearing "city clothes." They had planned to leave at 8 but we (I) won't point any fingers as to the cause of our tardiness (like specifically I am not pointing any fingers at Megan or Daniel). They traverse the long driveway of the Northland Sheep Dairy, past the row of Lombardy poplars and fields waiting for the warmth of spring, and turn on to the road to Ithaca. Light conversation, likely about our tardiness, as we had an appointment to keep. Approximately forty seconds of driving occurs. 

Daniel: (interrupting Megan) Deer!
Scott: What?
Daniel: (with urgency to Megan, who is driving) Turn around!
Scott: (with exasperation, to Daniel) Dude, we have so much meat already.

Megan pulls the Subaru into a driveway and executes a three point turn. She drives about 100 yards in the opposite direction and pulls over to the side of the road, where a deer carcass is visible. Daniel excitedly jumps out of the car. 

Daniel: Dude, it's really fresh!
Scott: (skeptical) We definitely don't need more meat. Shit. (gets out of car)

Both Scott and Daniel realize how fresh it is. Blood coming from a wound on its eye had not yet congealed. It was not badly mangled. They tacitly agree that they totally need to take the deer back and butcher it, despite this being the total opposite of the morning's plan. Daniel opens the passenger door of the Subaru. 

Scott and Daniel (to Megan): soooo...

Thirty seconds later, viewed from the top of a hill a short distance away. Two men are lifting a heavy, limp object wrapped in a tarp into the rear of a red station wagon (Did I mention this station wagon is immaculately clean?). They close the hatch and get in the station wagon. The station wagon drives away.

And thus began the saga of the roadkill deer. Maryrose's expertise guided us through the skinning and gutting process, and then later through the making of 10 pounds each of breakfast sausage and sopressata (Italian dry salumi), as well as bresaola (a salt cure usually made with beef) from the two tenderloins. It was a really cool experience, having never broken down anything but poultry myself, and we're very pleased with how the breakfast sausage turned out (the sopressata and the bresaola are both cured/ fermented and it will be several weeks until we can try those).

In other news, the rain from earlier this week has shifted into snow, it was a surprisingly cold 11 degrees tonight. Two nights ago I won a seeder on ebay. Our tomato and scallions seeds germinated! Let begin the season of seedling watering! Most importantly, we have all been on foal watch as Lady is possibly going to give birth in the next few days.

Here are the photos. 

Starting to remove the skin from the carcass. Normally I don't consider myself computer illiterate but for some reason I can't get these photos to rotate 90 degrees, and they are kind of essential to the narrative arc I was shooting for, so everyone will just have to deal with my lack of initiative on solving this problem for a second. I promise I'll figure it out eventually. Sorry.  

Removing a loin to make bresaola
Because we knew we were going to make sausage and not other whole muscle cuts/ cures, butchering the carcass was basically a matter of separating all the muscle from the bones. 
Bones were roasted to make stock
Sopressata mixture, to be stuffed into casings
Fitting the casing onto the stuffer
Sopressata, hung to cure

Megan is gone! :( but before she left she worked on this banner. Not quite done yet. Let us know what you think about the "eight legged horse," it has generated quite a bit of controversy.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

hotbed + rain

Hey everyone,

Progress on the greenhouse is coming along swimmingly. Yesterday we worked on some endwall repairs, and are now just waiting on lumber to connect the whole thing, plus wiggle wire to hold down the greenhouse plastic, before we are able to put it up.
Because we want to be able to start seedlings in this house (I think it's technically a high tunnel, as it is lacking the permanence of a traditional greenhouse) we needed to find a way to heat it, and what's the one readily available source of heat on a draft-powered farm? (I'll give you a hint: it's brown and rhymes with haute couture)

Hotbed frame, with the first forkfulls of the power source in question inside

That's right, horse manure. Mixed with some carbonaceous material (in our case, sheep bedding), horse manure will decompose and give off heat for about a month. The last frost date here isn't till around May 15, so we may have to rebuild our pile in mid-April.
We built the frame of the hotbed using hay bales, and then worked with Connie and George to drag alternating loads of fresh horse manure and sheep bedding until the hotbed was full. We will now build the high tunnel over top of the hotbed, and place our seeding trays either directly on top of the hotbed or lay down snow fencing first and then place our trays on top of that.

The carbonaceous material for the hotbed, aka sheep bedding
Megan drives a load of bedding in. 
Connie looks on as Megan forks compost into the bed

The finished hotbed. I think it was three or four loads of manure and three or four of bedding to fill it.

We got the idea from... I guess a lot of people, but I think I first read about it in Eliot Coleman's The Winter Harvest Handbook, which focuses on the hotbed's widespread use in Parisian market gardens in the mid-19th century. We also got some guidance from Liz and Matthew of Muddy Fingers farm in Hector, NY. Here's a video of their hotbed system.
In other news, Megan learned to drive a bit. Also, it was raining this morning and most of the snow is melted off the fields- though it is supposed to snow more later this week, it definitely felt/ smelled like spring. The ducks in particular were having the time of their duck lives in all the puddles from the melting snow.

One of the front fields, minimal snow, logs that we (mostly Donn) skidded in the background.
The rainy garden, with completed hotbed.

Said happy ducks. photo courtesy of M. Moody

Sunday, March 10, 2013

lamb slaughter + first seeding + etc

1. Lamb slaughter
A year and a half ago whilst Daniel and I were still at Dickinson we got the opportunity to take some of the farm's sheep to the abattoir. I was still relatively new to the whole local food movement and had not, until that point, seen an animal slaughtered. The experience, at that time, was jarring enough for me to write this essay and stop eating meat for six months (Daniel also became a vegetarian for a long time). Reflecting on that article now, I agree with one comment about the piece being "overemotionally wrought," and it was clearly written from the point of view of a farmer noob. Yesterday, we saw at Northland what in my mind was the ideal slaughter for a farm animal (a lamb, in this case)- on farm, with no stress for the animal until the last few seconds. Maryrose also let us help skin the animal, and perhaps involvement in the process or an interest in understanding the various cuts of meat which will come from this animal were a part of the reason our reaction was so calm compared to the slaughter 18 months previous. But the fact of the matter is that most slaughters can't happen like that one; most farmers have to send their sheep to a licensed butcher, which involves probably a day of stress during transport for the animals at the end of their life, and to be honest I'm fine with that. Northland, for example, takes their lambs to a slaughterhouse in PA a couple hours away, but that doesn't mean that their lambs weren't raised under the most ecologically and humane (err, really, ovid? whatever the sheep analog for humane is) conditions possible. What still jars me is stuff like this, a system that respects neither animals nor the humans processing the animals.  

A magical photo Daniel took on the farm last October of Maryrose and Miley moving sheep

2. First seeding/ greenhouse & other things update
Things here have been good. Fellow Dickinson Farm worker/ Daniel's girlfriend Megan is here, we seeded our first plants a couple of days ago, we've been working on advertising our CSA, we (very awesomely) received a greenhouse from our friends at Kingbird Farm and are working on putting that up, most of our crop planning is done (yay), we've been making great waffles with yeast (thanks Maryrose) and we're waiting for the weather to finish the whole snow thing so we can start putting seeds in the ground. 
Here are the photos, sorry Elizabeth we didn't get any good ones of Lee this week. She is still very cute though, don't worry. 

OCDaniel organized the seeds. No actually it's super necessary.  Thanks Daniel. 

The seed card catalog/ library

Filling a channel tray with potting soil (for scallions)
Megan and Scott prepping some flats
Seeded cherry tomatoes
Okay sheep slaughter photos. Here's Maryrose "punching" the skin off the animal. She uses her hands to do this so as to not rip holes in the skin.

Mostly skinned

Megan and Daniel carrying the carcass to rest for a week.

Note the t-shirts. We're removing a fence in the area where the greenhouse is going to go.  You can see one of the endwalls for the house in the foreground. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

for elizabeth

So, our friend and former Northland Sheep Dairy apartment dweller has been begging for cute pictures of Lee. Here you go, Elizabeth. There will be more coming plus Lady is supposed to foal in a month or two so get excited for those. 

(Elizabeth, you may have taken the first three)

photo credit for the last three to Ben Rosenfeld