Thursday, November 17, 2011

Warning Shots

Its the time of year that mother nature fires warning shots across the bow of your tranquil farm skiff. She tests you for battle with winter. Usually during the first warning shot we run around frustrated and kicking ourselves for not having certain projects done, and cursing when something freezes, doesn't work, or that you ate sh#t while walking to your car. You curse when your feet are cold, and your boots are wet, or that your clothing is sub par, or your barn is not ready for your animals. Mother nature has a tendency to back off after the first warning shot. Which leaves us hustling around in better weather trying to get things in order. Buy boots, stack hay, insulate milk house, cut and stack wood, buy extra wood, get new socks, switch fencing, and re locate chickens and the bull calves. By the second warning shot, you feel a bit better, and by the third it could be winter.
Snap shots run though my head of horrific winters, and not so bad winters, some that were memorable, and some that sucked. As I use my mental farm check list of lessons learned to access our preparedness for the coming winter, I come up with a favorable two thumbs up. The wood is in the shed, the barn is stuffed with hay, functional boots on our feet, a freezer full of beef, a basement with barrels of kraut and kim chi, and an easy way to feed and keep our animals clean. However, on the list of lessons learned is this one: you are never totally ready, and it may suck like it or not. There is no getting around that one, except with a resignation letter to the small farm gods, an "I quit" to the current bosses, and a plane ticket with no return to a far away country near the equator.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Autumn Equinox

The Equinox is a the astrological event when we experience the same amount of daylight as nightfall. The pagans celebrated it as a time of balance. Equally as important as the two other astrological events; summer solstice and winter solstice. The summer being the peak amount of daylight experience, and the winter being the deprivation of daylight experience.  As humans we revel in the celebration of highs and lows, and overlook the mundane experience of balance. Balance sits as an ideal embrace by fringe spiritual pedagogues, and the new age aimless. Balance and harmony get used as buzz words that seem nice like flowers in the spring, but rarely do we take seed, and develop some sort of consumable, sustainable, nurturing food from a garden of existence.

Ironically during the Autumn we in the North East, experience a visual display by the deciduous forest unparallelled by any arbor event on the planet. The colors of the leaves changing have been described as natures orgasm prior to falling into a deep sleep through the winter night. We experience a peak of color during an astrological time of balance. On the farm we search for comfort in the fact that the barn is full of hay, and the woodshed ends up pack full of fire wood. A promise that this winter during the snow and cold we won't have to venture far to feel warm, feed ourselves and our animals. A feat each farmer strives for every year.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Open Farm Day at Symphony Farm

In July we had a house/farmwarming gathering.  Thank you to all who made the day special...and a huge thanks to farm photographer, Kat!
Baby Stewie
The Labyrinth Garden
The farmers

Johnny & Glenn

Levirgne & Shirley in action!!

Kat and Nimi

Bitsy & Nimi

Bits, Nimi, Kat

Sully love the camera

Ellia, Mathilda, Hanna, Eric, Malia & Zane

Eric, Kat, Jonathan, Leelee and Sully

Ma' boys

Mike and Ella

Kitchen craziness with Meg and Hanna.  Note the farm warming signature drink in the blender - watermelon mojitos!!

My newest favorite summer brew.  Beet beer.  Does it get any better?

Sweden and Holland represent!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


It is summer. The part of the year we all wait for and find that it goes too quickly. The snows of last winter disappear with our own version of seasonal amnesia. The garden has grown into its teenage phase. Large, lanky, a little uncoordinated, but filled with energy. A critical time for us to parent the garden, or to let it go out on its own and accept it "as is".

The cows have calved, and we are milking in a new barn.(Post move) We enjoy our hot water with a groovy on demand hot water heater, and a milk house that has a view of the farm.
Scything has come into our lives as a remedy to lack of pasture, and apprehensive land owners who have a bad taste in their mouths left from irresponsible grazers. We apply the scythe voiding our lives from fossil fuel in the summer months. We apply the scythe to build trust with our neighboring land owners in hope that we can show them that grazing can be done in a neat, clean, and enhancing way. The photo below is a hand rolled bale stuffed into the newly transformed "farm car" we call the 'Rolla.

Breads rising

We are part of the Barre City Farmers market again this year.  Despite the damn near 9 hours it takes to prep the greens and veggies, bake the breads and pretzels, make the pesto...we truly enjoy connecting with our community and feel proud of the Symphony Farm spread.  It's summer -- time of abundance and plenty of vodka tonics (with extra lime, of course).  Cheers!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Drying Off and Moving up the road

Dearest all milk customers, friends, family, and supporters,
Little red house and garage
Meg and I are drying the cows off on the 1st of April. This is one of those things we have to do. The cows need a chance to recharge, rest up, and work a bit less. Hmmm sounds like the farmers need this shot of R&R as well! They mend their udders, put on some body fat, and grow a calf in their uterus. The sixty to sixty days off helps ensure a healthy delivery of the calf, and a healthy lactation for the next year. So there you have it!
view of the white mountains
post and beam

Also we are moving. These rumors have been flying. They are true. We did not have this planned at all, but it is just the cards we have been dealt and so we are rolling with it. We have a bunch of work to do, but believe this move is leading us in a positive direction. We look forward to a better barn, cheeper rent, a three year lease deal, and an easier house to heat. Other positives are the amazing views of the white mountains, and a pond to take a dip in. Our new landlord has also built a sauna just out the back of the house, and is excited about developing a grazing landscape.
The Barn
We will notify all when we are going to have our grand re-opeing/open house. We think this will be some time in early July. Until then we can only take it one day at a time and do the work we have to do.  So the parting quote is one Meg and I hope to live by. "First do the work that is necessary, then do what is possible, and before you know it you have achieve the impossible."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Old Friends are Like Onions

Old friends are like onions. Many of us have cut open onions and marveled at the layers. The thin skin. Its not really possible to have thick skin with old friends, that is something we try to pretend to have with the people we recently meet.  Sometimes a green shoot is forming in the middle starting to re grow, or keep growing. 
Old friends are like the land stewards who grow onions. Old friends know that an onion starts as a tiny seed, and shoots up green. They understand "you" as a being, that started growing and adding layers to yourself. They understand having the green parts of  your life clipped off, and used periodically through out your growing season as sustenance.
The best part of old friends is that they are able to see all the layers that have grown on the outside, but they know what the core of "you" looks like. Old friend speak to the part of you that is beyond all the layers. They know that skin is really thin.
Onions add flavor to everything. They are spicy and tangy in salad. When the winter is over and the first salads come out of the garden,  onions are chopped up raw, often resulting in tears. The onion salad refreshes weariness, opens your eyes, invigorates, and charges the spirit. Like running into old friends on the street or in your home town.
Onions make the base for slow cooked stew. Slow cooking takes time, drawing the subtle juices out of the meat, and veggies. The flavor is one that whole is greater than the sum of its parts, like sound harmonics of different frequencies vibrating, to give us sweet music and symphony. The carrots, potatoes, and onions each play their part to perfection with old friend onion holding down the root note.
Onions speak for them selves. And the words we use for old friends fall short because we cant really explain them. They speak for themselves.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Winter State of the Farm Address

"The summer is worth every bad day in the winter." We quote ourselves all the time this time of year. We remind ourselves what is coming. After the new year I end up certain that the afternoons are lighter. I try to enjoy our extra two minutes of daylight and convince myself its actually more than two extra minuets of our beloved sun.

 We have too many animals. That is becoming painfully evident. We are wrestling ourselves into different situations to deal with this. Some situations are more expensive than others, and some more humane that others. On the bad days I want to call up the live stock dealers and put all excess animals on the way to the auction. On the good days I think about allotting certain cows a probation period and making gourmet food out of other aging cows.  This wrestling leaves us indecisive. At some point action just needs to me taken. No pun intended; "pull the trigger."

The chickens are sure that it is summer year round in the hoop house. It kind of is. We turn the lights on in the coop early, and leave them on until our bed time in the evening. Much like the photo periods of June and July. They are laying eggs for us! On Christmas Eve, when my loving partner Meg headed south to Braintree for the night, I decided that drinking a few Jameson's for the afternoon was a good idea. Given that the day was sunny, I was buzzed up.....I used the hoop house as a seasonal extension and do some mid winter clothing optional sunbathing. MERRY CHRISTMAS HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The winter wardrobe requirements is the driving force behind the clothing optional dress code that is adopted in the summer. For five months getting ready to do just the chores involves a regiment that is like putting on a suit of armor. 1.) wake up: be sure to put socks on your feet to guard against the freezing floor, which will crucify your feet. 2.) Dawn layer number one: long underwear, fluff your leg hair that may be matted from the entire day in long underwear the day prior. It will start to hurt if you opt not to fluff  3.) If you are having coffee before chores a bathrobe is a good idea. Often time I choose my primary layer for coffee. Long jonhs and a full length cotton shirt are common. On the best day the Under Armor has had the horrific smell of arm pit and cow barn/chicken poo smell washed from it, and it is dry and able to be worn for at least three days straight before it is eliminated from the options due to smell factors.  And then time to get serious. 4.) The Secondary Main Layer. Choose wisely. Wool is good, fleece is another option, quilted flannel shirt? All of these options require fore thought into the ultimate shell layer.  If you are shooting for bib overalls, the hoodie is yet another option that comes into play, or you could go wool. It all depends on the day. If it is a hayday, wool bites because the hay chaff sticks to wool and then gets tracked back into the house. However, if it is freezing and you are opting for the full insulated coveralls as the ultimate outer shell, long johns and wool is a brilliant option because the hay slides off of the canvas outer layer.

5.) After the shell layer and the main layer; boots. Leather or rubber? Did you dry the boots last night? Are your sock damp? Rubber is usually the common choice. Hopefully you have dried them out the night before, because if you didn't,  a wrestling match to get them on your feet is on for round one.  Be sure to tuck your  pant cuffs into the boots, otherwise they will end up coated in manure. Pull those boot laces tight because hay chaff will get in your boots, and it will pour out onto the floor.

6.) You're not done yet; Hat. Wool or fleece? Depends on the hay situation. And how cold it actually is. Hay seems to be the constant variable that leads you to manipulate your wardrobe. The deal with hats is that when your head sweats from working, wool will get itchy. Adding hay to the equation is the double deadly threat. Fleece hats and hay are not bad, but you never can avoid hay sticking to your hat. It's like vel-kro.<(not in the spell check dictionary)
7.) Gloves: there are three options depending on the day. The synthetic ski type gloves. They work good for the super cold days, and if there are no dry gloves available they are the choicest. Usually Meg lays claim to the ski gloves. That leaves the fleece gloves as next option. Long as its not windy they are OK. If they are wet and you didn't dry them, you can dry them out on the kerosene heater in the milk house. If the wind blows, they do nothing for you. The last option is the former ever so stylish, ever so thin,  knit purple ladies glove. They are not warm, the wind goes right through them - However, they offer the best fine motor skill mobility without taking a glove off. They can be essential if you are doing carpentry, mechanical work, or some other project that demands fine motor capacity.

After five months, 150 days, three hundred sock changes, 600 changes of coveralls, 300 wet gloves, 600 oz. of hay chaff spilling on the floor; Is it any wonder when spring comes, and the temperature rises above 60 degrees, putting on a pair of garden clogs, a cowboy hat and your birthday suit is an act of freedom from winter clothing bondage?