A Good Year for Apples

I must admit, I was a little sad last year. I didn’t cry or anything like that, but I was heartily disappointed. The reason for this, of course, was that it was a terrible year for apples in our little corner of the world.

The previous year the apples were raining down on us from the firmament, as well as the branches they were on because the weight of the apples was too much for the branches to hold them. I was happy that year. There was apple sauce, apple cider, apple pie, apple crisp, apples just to crunch on, and probably about nine other apple type things for all of us to enjoy.

The whole point of this blog post isn’t to live in the past, as much as I enjoy picturing myself repeatedly throwing hand fulls of apples into the air and doing the criss-cross applesauce dance or as vividly as I recall sitting forlorn at our dinner table last fall, resigned to eating a second helping of mashed potatoes instead of moving on to apple tarts. The point of this blog post is to look towards the future, which the present is using two-thumbs up to point at. What I mean by that is that it is looking like a fantastic year for apples.

The Golden Delicious tree in full bloom next to our chicken barn.

The reason that the future is so bright for the apple crop this year was the lack of frost in the last couple of weeks. If you recall, only a week or two ago, apple trees all over were in their full-blooming beauty. Because the trees did not get to put much energy into producing fruit last year, many of the trees had an overwhelming amount of flowers on them this year. Everywhere I looked, I saw the (mostly) white blossoms covering apple trees. It was during this critical time that we didn’t get a frost. The flowers survived and many of them were pollinated, and now there are little baby apples on the trees.

A little baby Zestar apple!

Now we must hope (and pray) from here that we don’t get too much rain, causing an increase in rot– or too little rain, causing the fruit, and our hope for a good apple season, to shrivel up and die. But as things are going, I am starting to drool over all of the apples I may eat.

We should not get too far ahead of ourselves, though. The lack of frost also positively impacts many other fruits. Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, peaches, apricots, pears, and what have you also dodged Jack’s bullet. It will still be a couple of months before I am biting into a fresh apple from the backyard, but it will only be a couple of weeks before I am biting into a fresh strawberry from our patch.

The Non-Store Farm Projects

Somehow it has been a few weeks since our last blog post. Our last post was on our summer plans for the Store, so I thought it would be fitting to follow that up with a post on our summer plans and projects for the rest of the farm besides the Store.

Now, I must start this off by saying that we have a lot of things we would love to do on the farm (and we fully intend to give them our attention when the store is complete. This is a list that includes things like getting pigs and setting up a greenhouse. This is absolutely not that list.

This list is one that we hope to accomplish this year. It is a list of tasks that we feel we have no other choice but to give our time to despite the fact that we would love to be pouring everything in to the store right now. Without further ado…

1) Build a blueberry house. This year is looking great for the blueberry bushes, and we want to make sure that the birds don’t enjoy the harvest instead of us (and you!). This project involves putting some posts in the ground along with enough structure attached to those posts to allow us to staple netting up. We started this project this week, and I am hoping that it is completed by the end of the long weekend.

2) The garden. It is planting season right now, and we are very excited to add more and more of our own produce to our Weekly Produce Program. The garden is a large and constant job, and we will spend more time on it than on the rest of the things on this list, so even though it isn’t exactly a new project, I felt justified in listing it.

3) Build a new chicken house. We have been expanding our chicken operations steadily for the last couple of years, and thanks to our faithful customers , we are in need of more coop space so that we can keep expanding. We are planning it as a large hen house with space along the back to put rabbits, as that venture has experienced steady growth as well.

4) Fence in our pasture. To go with the new chicken house, we need to finish digging holes and putting up fence posts to create a pasture area that takes up a large portion of our backyard. We are talking dozens of fence posts. I am literally starting to refer to myself as the mole because of the quantity of holes that I have been (and will continue to be) digging. The goats and the chickens will co-exist in this pasture, and the foxes will exist outside of the pasture.

5) Other. I put other here because it seems like we can’t go two or three weeks without coming across another project that is way more pressing than we realized. I’m sure you all can relate!

This list, along with our farm store exterior project list, holds the goals of the next few months. I’d like to think that we can accomplish them all, and we are planning on working like packhorses to make it happen, but I will be realistic and be content to finish one project at a time.

Spring Goals: the Store’s Exterior

The “before” picture, the current exterior of the Farm Store.

It is always exciting to me when we undertake an exterior aspect of the store. Don’t get me wrong, the interior is exciting too (the whole thing is exciting to me!), but the outside of the store adds an aspect of immediate visibility to the general public. We can work for weeks on the inside of the store, and then we work on one exterior project for 2 hours, and I get a dozen comments from people that have driven by and taken notice. Well, it is now the season for exterior work! It is time to give the good people of Glen Aubrey something to look at as they pass our store.

We have a lot of goals lined up for the outside of the store this summer, and we hope they all add up to us being completely finished with the exterior before the weather cools. Naturally, I think that all of these goals are achievable. My heart and mind tell me that there is no reason why they shouldn’t be… but experience tells me that I should work hard and not take it for granted that these goals will come to fruition in a timely manner.

So, without further delay, here is the summer schedule for the exterior of the store:

1) Finish clearing the yard around the store. We already did the large majority of it, but there is still an old tree to cut up as well as a scrap metal pile and wood pile to make go away.

2) Cut the window and door holes in the Tyvek.

3) Build the deck for the front of the store. This will be where people enter and come up to the ice cream window. I plan on starting to dig holes for the posts for this in the next week or two.

4) Finish the roof. We still have to put up the new metal roof on the front side of the store (the back is finished) and then we have to put up the ridge vent and gable trim. I get the feeling that this would have been nice to finish it all at once instead of trying to remember this year exactly what we were doing. Alas, mother nature denied our request late last fall.

5) Put gravel down in front of the deck for the parking lot. Actually, we will need to fill in and roll out the hills and valleys first, but you get the idea. We plan to put a parking area of crushed stone in front of the store.

6) Put up the siding (board and batten) on the exterior of the store. She’s gonna look nice.

7) Paint/stain the board and batten.

8) Stand in our new driveway looking at the exterior of the store and feel a sense of accomplishment.

9) Go get ice cream.

There you have it. If we can do all of those things, the outside of the store will really be shaping up. We are excited to make it happen. If you see us out working, don’t hesitate to stop in and say hi or give us a honk with your horn as you pass by. We may not see who it is, but we’ll still wave.

Let the Growing Begin

The tail-end of April is an exciting time for all of us in New York  as the weather turns for the better and the earth comes to life.

Our big excitement at the farm this spring has been our Weekly Produce Program which we launched a few weeks ago. We are currently supplying our customers with produce from a local distributer, but before we know it, we will be able to add our own garden produce to the mix.

In our gardens, we already have radishes, peas, sweet onions, red onions,  spinach, beets and carrots planted in the ground (thanks to Cathy). These crops can stand the colder nights of April, though we still have to watch for frost.

We also have peppers, basil, and kale started under lights indoors.

Little radishes.
Rows of peas.
Onions popping up. And dandelions.
Baby kale under lights.

Meanwhile, we sit back and watch the perennial crops come up! Garlic, Rhubarb, and Asparagus. We already put in the work for these crops last year–planting garlic bulbs, pruning the rhubarb, and transplanting asparagus.

The Garlic is growing strong.

 

In the background, Rhubarb. In the front, Asparagus.

And then we have our fruit trees and bushes. We pruned these a few weeks ago before they started to sprout leaves. We currently have blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, grape vines, apple trees, peach trees, and cherry trees. The orchard may produce its first handful of fruits this year!

Blueberry bushes.
Apple blossoms!
A peach tree getting tall.

Meanwhile, more than just the plants have been growing…

It’s an exciting and busy time at Hust Roost Farm! In it all, we remember that the Lord is the author of all of this new life. In all the busyness, we want to always be able to take a step back and thank Him for all He provides, ask for His wisdom and sustenance daily, and trust Him with every outcome.

They grow up so fast

Well, spring has finally sprung and it’s a great feeling! The only sad part about the change of season is that our goat kids, who were born in February, are already ready to fly the coop. They’re 8 weeks old now and eating solid food (while sneaking swigs from their mothers, of course) and they are more than ready to move on.

Actually, we are keeping the one female (Beauty) but we sold the three males (Beast, Bolt and Biscuit) about 4 weeks ago. They are going to become pets to a nice family in Norwich!

Now that the weather is nice, they’re running all over the place! At their new home in Norwich, they are going to have 5 acres of pasture to romp across. We are very happy for them!

We are going to miss them, too. They’ve become a staple on the farm. When you look across the yard to see them leaping and skipping in their pen, it always provides a smile.

(Below: Beast is a good eater, just like his mama).

Thankfully we are able to keep one of them, our little Beauty cutie (the pure white one below). That means that next year we will, Lord willing, have 4 mama goats and lots of goats milk. We are hoping to start a “herdshare” program to sell the milk next year!

(Below: We love her pointy ears!)

While it is hard to part with our farm’s first goat kids, we are very happy with how things turned out, and thankful for the fun time we had with them.

Bye little guy! Have fun at your new home!

Farm Store Update

It has been a little while since we have given an update on how the store is coming, but I can assure you that we have been working on it the whole time. The progress can sometimes seem slow, but when we look back at it, there is certainly progress to be seen.

Last time we gave an update, we had just finished installing all of the new doors and windows. We promptly covered up everything with Tyvek. This wrap protects the house from the elements and adds a small element of insulation for heating purposes.

At some point in the coming months, we will cut the Tyvek around the windows in preparation for putting up siding to finish the exterior. When we get to this, we will also Tyvek the peaks of the walls before siding them as well.

Here (above) you can see the back end of the store which is a little bit more finished. If you were to walk up the steps of that porch in the middle, you would enter our future commercial kitchen (formerly the garage).

This is where we have spent the vast majority of our time over the last few weeks. Some of the differences a casual observer may notice include the existence of a floor now, as well as the insulation on the walls and the drywall on the ceiling.
We are very excited to be nearing the completion of the kitchen, but as you can see, we still have a bit of work to do. Next on our list is to finish putting drywall on the walls, then put the lights in, as well hook up the electrical outlets. Then we have to hook up that shiny sink under the window and put our heater in. At some point, all of this drywall needs to be spackled and painted as well. Then comes the floor…. after all of that I think the room itself (though empty of appliances and whatnot) will be a finished product.
At that point, we can walk up and out of the kitchen to go work on our store’s exterior (exit to the right) or we can walk one more step up into the main area of the store to get working on that. Let’s get to it!

Getting to know our produce distributor

A few weeks ago, we announced the opening of our Weekly Produce Program (if you haven’t heard about it, you can read up here). Thank you SO much to everyone who has signed up so far!

Can you believe that it’s just days away from April and only 2 weeks away from the start of our Early Season phase of the Produce Program?!

The Weekly Produce Program offers fresh produce from our farm as well as from our produce distributor, Mento Produce. Mento is a family-owned company based in Syracuse, NY which distributes fresh, high quality produce from G.A.P. certified farms (abiding by high standards of safety and quality–but not Organic).

Since this is our first year with Mento Produce, we decided to do a “practice run” before the program started.  Last week, we asked 10 of our close family and friends to join us to place a minimum order, and we ordered a variety of fruits and vegetables including sweet corn, romaine, spinach, oranges, grapefruit, cucumbers, tomatoes and red peppers. All of this produce came from the Southern states but was guaranteed to be much fresher than the grocery store.

And… it was! The lettuce and spinach haven’t even started to wilt (a week later). Everything tasted great with the possible exception that the tomatoes and cucumbers were not quite as flavorful as they might be from our garden. Everyone who participated agreed that even the non-local Sweet Corn was surprisingly good. It was a new experience to eat fresh corn-on-the-cob in March…

The other encouraging part was the price. We were very happy with the amount of produce we received for the price we paid (and we expect the Regular Season prices to be even better because the produce will all be sourced locally!)

In short, we are thrilled with how our first order with Mento went and we are already dreaming about the fresh produce we will get to eat and share next time…

 

Lessons from the Farm

One of my favorite parts of the farm, which really is one of my favorite parts of life, is learning the life lessons that seem to come up all the time. Some of these lessons are like low hanging fruit. They are easy to see and just begging us to learn them. Even if we don’t see this low hanging fruit, we run the risk of running right into it anyway. And some of these lessons are a little higher up on the tree, and if we want to enjoy the benefits of them we have to get a ladder or climb the tree and go up there to get them.

Of all these fruity lessons that are constantly ripening and waiting to be picked, I find myself frequently bumping my head on the low hanging fruits of delayed gratification. I always knew that delayed gratification was often a fine thing, noble even, but this farming venture has made me get up close and personal with it.

Our culture, when you think about it, is very much centered around our desires and immediately gratifying them.  Are you hungry? Go to McDonald’s, or Burger King, or any other of a hundred food joints that can get your food out to you in mere moments. Want a new car? Buy one on credit and pay it off later. There are a hundred other examples, and I’m not saying that stopping at a fast food place or buying a new car is bad, but I am saying that our culture teaches us that we should get what we want when we want it. And I do think that an attitude like that… one that is centered around me and what I want and how the world can make me happy… is ultimately destructive to ourselves and those around us.

Back to the farm…. I will say that I have very much been raised in the roughly the same culture as everyone else, and it took me a bit of getting used to how things work on a farm… namely the idea that so much of all that we do is for the future. Take the gardens, where you spend countless hours preparing the soil, planting the seeds, watering the plants, and weeding the garden before you can even think of harvesting anything from it. Then, once you harvest from it, half of the stuff gets frozen or canned and put away for an even later date. Another example would be the goats…besides feeding and watering them twice a day everyday and cleaning the barn regularly, we built the goat barn for them. We got a buck and bred them. And we waited five months while doing prenatal care and finally(!!!), we got to have goat kids and goat milk. These are just two examples, but you get the idea. A farm is a place where you put a lot of work in for a long time before you reap the rewards. That is delayed gratification.

So, what is better about having something later as opposed to having something now. Let me tell you. I feel like a king every time I sit down with a cup of goat’s milk and sip it, and the great part is, I have more than I could ever drink. There is great satisfaction in working hard for something and achieving it, and failing along the way only makes the end that much better. Also, I know a lot about goats now. I am by no means an expert, but I am delighted to say that I have learned a lot of really fascinating things… mostly because we had to blunder our way through various issues. Finally, such work builds character.  Hard, apparently unrewarding work is magnificent at developing self-control, patience, and perseverance, qualities which I think we all would admit we could use some more of.

Now we all have our projects and goals that try to teach us delayed gratification, and I am not at all trying to preach to people who probably understand the concept better than I. Instead, based on what our little farm has taught me, I want to encourage others as they undertake or are in the midst of their formidable tasks or are even considering doing something hard where the end is obviously to their benefit. These things have their own form of goat milk at the end, and it is rich and creamy.

Tis the Season for Baby Chicks!

It is that time of year again. You know, that time when Spring is so close and yet so far. Yesterday’s snowfall of 2-1/2 feet has us feeling “tis the season” …not for Winter Wonderland but for Spring to show herself! Well she’s starting… We’re hatching chicks!

Rhode Island Red Chicks for sale here!

Now I will admit that the chicks have lost a bit of attention to the new baby goats. Most visitors come to see the goats, and for good reason. It’s tons of fun to have a furry little goat crawl all over your lap and nibble on your nose–and if you haven’t gotten that experience, I highly recommend that you come visit before they grow out of their cute stage! But this isn’t a post about baby goats. This is a post about baby chickens.

They want attention too!!!

It is a magical thing to see a baby chick first poke a little hole in its shell, then slowly work a crack around the middle before giving a mighty heave to push the egg apart. There is something special about seeing a newborn creature that is just at its beginning. And, of course, it’s a practical thing. Thanks to our wonderful customers, we have a pretty good chicken business going, and the hatching of the chicks is a big part of that.

The chick enterprise.

We have to keep some of the chicks we hatch to replenish our egg laying hens every year, but we also hatch plenty to sell so that other people can experience the pleasure of  backyard farming and sitting down to a breakfast with eggs that were produced by their very own chickens. Some people even buy fertilized eggs from us so that they can hatch the eggs themselves.

For us, the routine is well underway. Every two weeks we collect fertilized eggs and put them in the incubator. It takes them three weeks to develop, and then they hatch. We have already hatched two batches of chicks, and our two incubators are loaded with the next batches. We will keep hatching chicks every two weeks until we call it quits for the year in September. This makes it so that we have chicks for visitors to see and hold all summer, and we also have chicks ready to sell all summer for those wishing to start (or continue) their own chicken venture.

The 2017 Weekly Produce Program

We are very excited to announce that Hust Roost Farm is opening sign-ups for our new “Weekly Produce Program!”

We have been carefully designing this program for months, bringing together what we learned from our C.S.A. trial run in 2016 and looking at new ways in which we could make this program better for our customers–and also open the opportunity to more people in the community.

Let’s take a look…

In summary, if you and your family decide to sign up for the program, you will be committing to buy a “box” of fresh produce ($5-$10) once a week for the length of the program. The program will start up in early-to-mid June and run through the end of September. We also have an Early Start Option for those who are itching to get fresh produce sooner!

What will you get in exchange for your commitment? In your weekly produce box, you will receive top-quality locally-grown produce at reasonable prices. You will know and trust your produce sources: Hust Roost Farm as well as this list of NY state farms–all of which are G.A.P certified (Good Agricultural Practices). Most of the produce we receive from these local farms will go straight from the field to the distributer to our farm in about 24 hours, ensuring that your produce will be super fresh!

Why did we decide to partner with a local produce distributor? Simply, we wanted to expand the option of fresh, local produce to more people in the community than our gardens could support.

How does it work? After you sign up, and once the program begins, you will receive a weekly email describing the options available to you in the coming week. Every week you will need to choose from this list of options:

  • Salad Box (greens & toppings)
  • Vegetable Box (other than salad)
  • Fruit Box (when in season ONLY)
  • A list of additional add-on items

You can choose one of the boxes, multiples of one box, or more than one type of box. You will also have the option to add-on other items. Think of it as shopping from home on your computer!

We realize that you cannot hand-pick your items as you would at the market, but we will do our best to provide you with your favorite fruits and vegetables. Please take our product survey, which automatically comes up after the sign-up form. We cannot please everyone but will design the boxes based on the survey responses and seasonal availability.

What is the weekly timeline? You will receive your weekly email on Sunday evenings and you must reply to that email by Monday night to receive your box. Produce boxes will then be distributed on Wednesday afternoon. We will have a downtown pickup spot at Oakdale Mall (Johnson City) on Wednesdays from 5:30-6:30PM. Produce boxes may also be picked up at the farm Wednesday afternoon through Saturday. The earlier you pick up your produce, the fresher it is!

What else is nice about our program? Payments will be made as you go, rather than up front. If circumstances do not allow you to get a box in a given week (ie. emergency, vacation), you will be allowed to miss a week.  However, whenever you do place an order with us, you must pay for what you ordered to be eligible for the next box.

When can I start? The Early Season Option will start in mid-to-late April and the regular season will start in early-to-mid June. The early produce will be out-of-state but still abide by the same standards of freshness and quality. The regular season will start your selection of seasonal, local NY produce and will continue all summer long!

Ready to sign up? Talk to your family about this fresh and healthy opportunity, and feel free to ask us any questions you may have. We are excited to connect with you!