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!

Beauty & Beast: The Birth Story

Meet Beauty.

And meet Beast.

Aren’t they cute?!

Beauty and Beast were born to their mother, Cammie, on Wednesday of last week, exactly one week ago. I remember that it was a Wednesday because Casey and I had Bible study later that night, and we ate a speed dinner on the way there because Cammie had just birthed her babies. Days like that make us feel like real farmers!! 🙂

If you read last week’s post about Rosie’s babies, Bolt and Biscuit, you’ll know that we missed the whole thing (our FIRST farm birth, and we missed it!). We were expecting Cammie to go into labor first because she was HUGE, so we weren’t watching Rosie as well. Well, you better believe we were watching Cammie this time. Even though 90-95% of goat births go off without a hitch, we still want to be there for those 5% of cases.. and to support our mamas!

Biscuit (one of Rosie’s kids) says hello!

Back to Wednesday…  Casey and I went up to the barn at lunch time and found that Cammie was definitely in labor. How could we tell? Her backside was glazed with a very light pink liquid. (Sorry, folks, for any TMI) We really haven’t been able to tell they’re in labor by behavioral changes yet. It’s weird– the goats act like this whole labor process is “normal,” even though they’ve never experienced it before. Maybe us humans should take a cue?

Well, the labor could have lasted any number of hours at this point (up to 12 hours) so we went back inside where we could monitor her on the “TV surveillance system” rigged up in our bedroom.

Casey had to go back to work, but I stayed within earshot of the TV and worked on a few things before I went out to the barn to sit with Cammie. I grabbed my camera, the birthing kit and jacket and went out to join her. Luckily it was one of those random 65-degree days in February, so it was quite a pleasant day for a goat birth!

When I first got out there, I tried to time her contractions. To the best of my perception, I timed them at 5 minutes apart. Did that mean she was close or still had a while? Sometimes you realize you haven’t done your research…

Then she started pushing–I knew that sign! So I called Tyler to come out. (Casey’s brother Tyler was visiting from Michigan that week, and lucky for us, he had some experience birthing calves on a dairy farm! We were counting on him if anything went wrong… just kidding… Bahhhha.)

Here is a video of the final moments of Cammie’s labor. (If you don’t like viewing goat backsides or see slippery creatures come out of them, don’t feel you have to watch!!) My favorite part is Cammie at the end of the video. This was her first birth, so she seems really confused by this new little creature who suddenly appears in her stall! It actually took Cammie about an hour to warm up to her babies–but once she did, she became a professional mama: super attentive and a super protective. Way to go, Cammie!

Cammie with her little Beauty and Beast.
Beast is our biggest goat baby, and great at nursing.

We would very much welcome visitors to the goat barn at any time. We had a bunch of people come by last weekend, and we hope to have more people out this weekend! They’re so much fun and we’d love to share them with you! But hurry… goat kids grow up incredibly fast.

Bolt and Biscuit: The Birth Story

If you haven’t heard, we’ve had our first goat birthing at Hust Roost Farm! We’ve been waiting for this day for what seems like forever! Last year, our breeding wasn’t successful (whether it was our technique or a “dud” buck) so we waited and waited and the babies never came. This year, we knew the goats were pregnant because (1) They got HUGE and (2) One of the goats, Pepper, miscarried in January (sadly) but at least we knew the breeding worked.

Goats carry their babies for 5 months. So we measured the due date to be exactly 5 months from the day we brought Chief (our buck) in to run with our ladies.

When the due date was getting closer, we had several meetings to make sure we were ready to deliver our babies. We put together a birthing kit of everything we might need. We cleaned the stalls. We set up a camera which gives us 24/7 surveillance on a TV in our bedroom. We watched birthing videos. And we waited.

We were pretty sure that Cammie was going to deliver her babies first. Her stomach was huge and her udder was “bagging up” with milk. So we kept a close eye on Cammie and locked her in a stall, while we let Rosie stay out in the common area. Little did we know that Rosie was going to be the first momma….

Saturday afternoon, Casey’s mom stopped by the farm with her niece. They asked if they could visit the goats even though there were no babies yet. So we went on up to the barn.

When we walked into the barn, what did we see but TWO BABY GOATS standing in the corner of the barn!!! After all the preparation for birthing, we had missed the whole thing!

   

Rosie had already licked and cleaned the babies, and she had just moved away from them to eat some straw (mama was hungry!) While Casey’s mom called Casey on his cell phone, Rachel closed Rosie in her stall with some food, then brought the babies to join her. Now that they were taken care of, we tried to get our bearings. “Isn’t there something we’re supposed to do!?” The only thing we had to do was clean and trim the umbilical cords, and make sure the babies were drinking their mother’s milk. All of it went off without a hitch! What a gift that the first delivery was so easy.  🙂

Now you probably want to meet the babies!

Here is baby “Bolt” named for his facial markings that remind us of lightening.  He’s also very lively, so it fits!

And here is baby “Biscuit,” also a male goat. He is a little smaller than his twin and a little more cuddly, but just as playful!

Mother and babies are doing great and we are welcoming visitors any time! (Just send us a text so we can make sure that Cammie isn’t in labor) Come and visit soon! They’re at the perfect age for both cuddles and cuteness and they grow up fast. But it will be just as fun to watch them frolicking around the yard in just a few weeks! We’re going to enjoy this season. 🙂

   

 

Quick Pic Update: Windows and Doors

Starting this past fall, we have been working our way around the house replacing or filling in all the old windows of the store that were not in good enough shape to keep. If it was a nice day and we had more than a couple of hours, we would knock off another window. All told, we replaced or filled in 11 windows!

The hardest ones to replace, which are my favorites, are the big picture windows that face the road. We had to special order these, and putting them in required us to largely rebuild the side of the house, which was probably a good thing because the previous picture windows had let some water in and caused some rot.

You can see where the steps led to the old door

The biggest change that we made while doing this was the location of the front door. We filled in the old one that faced the road and put a brand new one on the side of the store that faces the parking area.

Come spring, we will build a deck to reach up to the door and the ice cream window, which is the window just to the left of the ladder

Now that we are done with all of the windows, we plan on wrapping tyvek around the house this weekend, and then we will be done with the exterior until the weather gets better. So for now, we can put our efforts into the inside of the store.
P.S.- If we are lucky , next week’s blog post will be about the birth of the baby goats (with pictures!).

Making Greek Yogurt (Crock Pot Edition)

I wasn’t really “into” yogurt growing up. I tried them all– Trix, Go-Gurt, Dannon, Yoplait– but the runny textures and fake fruity flavors just didn’t do it for me. I would often trade away my yogurt at the lunch table, and eventually my mom stopped packing it. (Thanks for packing my lunch, though, Mom!)

But… the tides turned completely when Greek yogurt hit the market later in my teen years. No longer was yogurt runny and fake-fruity– this was the real deal. I mean, seriously, who doesn’t love Greek yogurt?! (I haven’t met a hater… have you?)

The only downside to Greek yogurt is the price. It’s a high quality product, yes, and healthy and delicious… but did you know that you can make your own for a small fraction of the price? And not much work?! All you need is a crock pot with the “Keep Warm” setting, a kitchen thermometer, a 1/2 gallon of milk, a 1/2 cup of yogurt, 1/2 hour of time, and 1/2 an ounce of inspiration. 🙂

Here is what you need exactly:

-1/2 gallon of dairy milk (you can even use Skim Milk but you’ll have to strain more liquid at the end )

-1/2 cup of pre-made or store-bought yogurt (I think Greek works best)

-Stovetop saucepan

-Crock Pot, preferably one that has a “Keep Warm” setting

-a kitchen or candy thermometer (must include the range 100F to 190F)

-clean glass jars with lids (preferably 2 quart-sized Mason jars)

You can also make yogurt without the jars, right in your crock pot! It looks even easier so I want to try this next.

The method:

  1. First, pour your half gallon of milk into the saucepan. Put it on the stove and turn to Low heat. Put your thermometer in the saucepan, submerged in the milk so that you can keep an eye on the rising temperature. You want it to reach 180-185 degrees Fahrenheit (no higher). This should take about 10 minutes on Low heat. (Note: If you’re at all curious, the reason you heat the milk is to disrupt some of the protein structure so that it coagulates better, yielding a thicker yogurt!)
  2.  As the milk heats, prepare your jars and Crock-Pot waterbath. Wash the jars and lids with hot water and soap and set aside. 
  3. As soon as your milk reaches 180-185 degrees, turn off the heat. Now you will need to let the milk cool back down to 115 degrees. This will take 20 minutes unless you want to speed it up (put the pan in the fridge, surround it with ice, or put it outside if its winter time!)
  4. Meanwhile, fill your Crock Pot with warm tap water and check the temperature with your thermometer. The Crock Pot water should maintain at 90-110 degrees Farenheight (not more than 115). Adjust with hot or cool water to bring to temperature.
  5. Then turn the Crock Pot on to the “Keep Warm” setting. *If your Crock Pot does not have a “Keep Warm” setting, there are many other ways you can maintain an incubation temperature of 90-110 degrees. You can turn off your crock pot and cover it with a towel which should do the trick if it’s warm in your house. You can also use an oven, an insulated cooler, a dehydrator, or a nifty yogurt maker (about $20-$50 on Amazon). You can also find a warm place in your house, like on top of your wood-burning stove. Before trying any of these other ways, make sure your method can maintain water at 80-115 degrees for a few hours!
  6. While you are waiting for your milk to cool, you can get your yogurt “starter” ready. Take a 1/2 cup of pre-made or store-bought yogurt out of the fridge and let it warm up to room temperature.
  7. Finally, when your milk has cooled to 115 degrees, add your pre-made yogurt “starter” to the milk. Use a clean fork or whisk to stir it into the milk. Now your milk is ready to pour into your glass jars and get cookin’.
  8. Place the jars of milk in your Crock Pot water bath. The water should come up as high on the jars as possible. Now you just have to let them sit undisturbed for 6-10 hours. No babysitting required!  You can leave the house, go to bed and let it incubate overnight, whatever you need to do, as long as you are sure the temperature will stay below 115. You can check on it a few times if its your first batch.
  9. After 6 to 10 hours (watch for thickness) your yogurt will be ready! You may notice some clear liquid surrounding the yogurt. That’s called “whey” (think whey protein) and you can easily pour it off (or use it to add protein and calcium to other recipes).
  10. Put your yogurt in the fridge to thicken up. If it’s still not as thick as you want it, you can strain it. Place a soft, clean cloth (T-shirt material works well, or 2 layers of cheesecloth) into a colander and pour the yogurt over it. Place the colander inside another large bowl and let it strain in the fridge for 2 hours. Wahlah! You’ll have the thick yogurt of your dreams.

How do you use your Greek yogurt? My favorite way is to use it as a topping on savory soups… or salad or tacos! Casey’s favorite way is to flavor it up with vanilla, fresh fruit, graham crackers, or chocolate chips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me know if you’re interested in trying it and if you have any questions whatsoever. Just comment below or contact us here. Happy yogurting!

Go(a)t Milk?

Having a farm, even a hobby farm, has its high and low moments. Some projects turn out to be more than we can handle and some end in disappointment, but some things go just like they’re supposed to, or even better than expected! Let’s just say that we are on one of these farmer “cloud-nines” this week.

We just started drinking our own farm-raised goats milk!!!

We started milking one of our goats 2 weeks ago but we weren’t able to taste any of it for the first week and a half. This is because the first milk produced, called “colostrum,” does not taste… quite as good (Casey did taste it). We also had to treat our goat with penicillin when she had a fever, so we had to wait five more days to drink it. When we finally got to try it…

DELICIOUS!

What’s to love about goats milk?

First, the flavor. We were surprised to find that it tastes almost identical to cow’s milk. Just a creamier, unpasteurized version– like whole milk from the grocery store but somehow with a greater depth of taste because it’s FRESH!

Goat’s milk is thought to be one of the most “complete” foods known to man, meaning that you can drink a glass as part of a meal, and you’ll have almost all of the nutrients and vitamins you need in your diet. In general, goat and cow milk have a similar protein, calcium and fat content–but goats milk has less lactose and cholesterol, and significantly higher levels of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, and Riboflavin. The nutrients found in goats milk are more readily absorbed by the human body, and the proteins and fats are easier to digest than in cow’s milk. And it’s also interesting to note that goat’s milk does not contain A1-casein, the protein which is most often the culprit in dairy allergies.

All of that aside, it just tastes good!

So what are we going to do with it? Right now we’re getting 7 cups of milk a day, and that is from one goat. Two weeks from now, we should be milking 3 goats! That is a lot of milk!

For starters, we’re becoming milk-sufficient. Even Gramps stopped buying it at the grocery store (we were surprised, as he is a man of habit!) Next, we will stop buying yogurt because it is very easy to make (we’ve made it before). Finally, we are excited to master the art of cheesemaking so we can even stop buying cheese… I don’t think we will ever be able to keep up with our ice cream habit, though. 🙂

What’s next after that? Well, next year we may consider a “share” program.  Raw milk cannot be sold by retail in New York State, but this program is one legal way to offer it. People interested in a regular supply of milk or cheese could purchase a small “share” of our goat, making them a part-owner of the goat.  Say someone wanted a log of goat cheese once a month, we would figure out what percentage of the goat expenses they would cover and make up a contract. This is all still being figured out, but we are pretty sure we’ll have it up and running by next year. We can’t wait to share this wonderful treat with you! 🙂

Mmmmmmmmmilk.

 

 

Winter is Melting Away

The start of a spring to-do list, along with our newest task of milking the goat!

I know some people are looking at the month of February and thinking to themselves that we have a long way to go until we turn the corner to some golden days. Part of me feels that way. It really does. The other part of me looks at the last couple of months and wonders where they disappeared to. Winter is supposed to be the time on the farm where the garden goes dormant, animals stop having babies so we can work on the things we don’t have time for the rest of the year, like making serious headway on the farm store. And dare I say the winter is a time when we can go in before 9:00 at night and watch football on Sunday after church. Well… winter is just about over.

Technically, the winter still has almost two months to go, but if you are standing in my shoes (which are completely disgusting right now because I cleaned out the chicken coops today), things are about to get busy in an awful hurry as spring bears down on us like a freight train.

February Task#1: Hatching Chicks

Next week we’ll be releasing the roosters with the hens because we need to collect and incubate fertilized eggs for the first spring hatching. Once it starts, this project continues through the fall. The first eggs hatch March 1, and then we keep hatching them every two weeks until September.

February Task #2: Birthing and Milking Goats

Starting in mid-February, the goats could deliver at any time. We are already milking one of them (Pepper) because she had an early stillbirth a few days ago. While this was disappointing, it made us quite sure that the other two are pregnant, and getting to refine our milking skills for a month before the other goats give birth could prove to be very helpful. Once the other two goats deliver their bundles of joy, it will be a full-fledged nursery out there, with three goats to milk twice a day and little goat babies to enjoy 🙂

February Task #3: Maple Syrup

Around the same time as that, we will be watching the temperature closely, as the daytime temperatures could be subtly climbing into the high 30’s and low 40’s regularly, meaning it is time to tap the trees and make maple syrup. Somehow, that magical season always seems to sneak up on me. It is winter one day, then all of a sudden we are outside every day collecting sap and boiling it down every weekend.

Not to be overlooked, we have a garden to plan and seeds to order. Come March we will be starting to grow plants under the lights in the basement. The planning of our garden is particularly exciting this year as we are expanding our summer produce program.

On top of all that, we are putting in every free minute we can find (they get harder and harder to find) on the store. While we still have a lot of work left on the store, the progress we have made thus far has made us more focused on the finish line, which is becoming clearer and clearer as the weeks roll by.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining that winter is melting through my fingers. I am greatly looking forward to everything I wrote about above. It is just a marvel to me how fast even the dreariest seasons go when you have so much excitement right around the corner.