Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Spontaneous Adoption

So lately our two roosters, Gus Gus and our Black Australorp(whom I will from here on refer to as Mr. Lorp) have been fighting... and Mr. Lorp has been winning. Gus doesn't stand a chance next to that guy. It had only been a little blood on his back, so we were letting them fend for themselves for the time being. However, yesterday afternoon when Ben entered their coup, Gus looked like he'd just been in the dirtiest of street fights. His gorgeous white head dress soaked in blood... it was time to intervene.

So, we took Gus Gus and his friend Big Tuna out of the main coup and set them up in a cage in the second horse stall that was being used to store hay. We knew Gus Gus couldn't return to that coup, but we had no idea what to do with him.

Gus Gus is perhaps our favorite chicken, and certainly not one we're ready to part with. At the same time, he and Tuna couldn't stay trapped in that tiny cage forever. Without a better alternative, Gus and Tuna spent last night in that cage with hay on two sides for them to nestle into, a pan of food, and a waterer full of warm water that we had to change every few hours to keep it from freezing... not at all ideal.

This morning during breakfast Ben suggested I jump on to see if anyone had chickens they wanted to get rid of. I had toyed with the idea of expanding the laying flock anyway, so now seemed a good a time as any. Gus and Tuna needed friends, and they needed them soon... three hours later Ben and I were on our way back from Washington, Vermont with 20 chickens in produce boxes and a huge dog crate in the back of the car... when I make up my mind about something, it happens quickly.

So now we have two coups full of chickens. Our old coup houses our 7 Black Australorps.

And the second horse stall has been fully set up to house not only Gus Gus and Big Tuna, but their new friends, a mixture of Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks.
While I ran around buying another waterer, water heater, more shavings, and food, Ben hung up our old set of nesting boxes in the second stall and made sure the chickens were safe and comfortable in their new coup.

Since these new chickens are 9-10 months old, they are already at laying age, which means that come tomorrow morning, we'll be getting about 15 eggs a day! Three Bean Cafe has agreed to buy our eggs in addition to the bread they already buy from us for their paninis! Needless to say, we're really excited about this wonderful addition to our farm family!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sundora Bread Share 2010

It's official! Sundora's Winter Bread Share is starting on January 6th! I've got order forms at the following places in downtown Randolph:
-Three Bean Cafe -Holiday Beauty Salon
-The Depot -Fenix Fine Foods
-Patrick's Place
If you can't get downtown or would rather have a digital copy, please send me an email and I'll get it to you!
I decided to change the structure of the bread share a little bit. The session is still 10 weeks long, and now I'm going to have people purchase credit at the beginning of the session. Credits range from $50.00 to $150.00 in $25.00 increments. So once you have your credit, you pre-order your items, and come to the farm every week, or every other week, whatever works for you, and you pick up the item(s) you've selected from our list. Each week that you order something, we will deduct the price of your product from your overall credit. You can add to your credit at anytime. Bread share members also receive a discount on all our items. Those prices are reflected on the Bread Share Order Form.
Pickups are every Wednesday from 1:00-6:00pm.

A list of our products can be found a couple posts down. We're also willing to take requests (within reason)!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Three Little Pigs: Closing Remarks

The following is a reflection I wrote about the final step in my journey with the pigs.

Saturday November 14th was a day I had been dreading for months. A vegetarian for the four years leading up to this event, I wasn’t sure I was cut out for this kind of involvement in my food but I was jumping in headfirst anyway. If I was going to eat meat, I had to hold myself responsible for the process that meat goes through before it gets to my plate. And I had raised those pigs for meat, so making their transition from life into my freezer as easy and smooth as possible was what I was determined to do, no matter how heartbreaking.

The previous day, we set up the pig trailer in their moveable pen and scattered bits of their favorite treats all over; corn chips, moldy bread, stale muffins, stinky cheese. They clumsily climbed in with little effort on our part, and shortly thereafter we embarked on the journey to Steve’s; the location of the next day’s events. They spent the night there, jammed in next to one another in that trailer, protected from the constant rain by a tarp.

The next morning we found them calm, sleepy and relaxed, completely unaware of what was coming. I climbed up on the wheels of the trailer, ducking under the tarp to lean down and comfort them one last time. Patting each of them on their backs I thanked them again for their delightful piggy lives and said goodbye, silent tears streaming down my face. After jumping down from the trailer, I excused myself from the crowd that had assembled to witness the process, and retreated to my car where I collapsed in sobbing gasps. Devastated. After a few moments, I gathered myself together, took a deep breath, and rejoined the group. Everyone was drinking coffee, sharing stories, and laughing, I tried my best to put on a smile and make the best of this.

When the butchers arrived, I explained in a collected, logical manner that I had grown quite fond of those pigs and didn’t want to be there when they died. “Well when are you takin’ a walk then?” Mark asked in his strong Vermont accent, smiling. I went into the house immediately where I found Josie, a shaman and one of Steve’s stepdaughters. “Are they starting?” she asked with a sympathetic smile… and the dam I had built to hold back my tears started to crumble … then I heard the first shot go off, followed closely by the other two. My heart sank.

Sitting there at their kitchen table Josie and I spoke about the importance of those animals and what they represent. Josie told me about her constant awareness that her life is made possible by other organisms giving up theirs. A humbling realization. She told me that there’s a great sense of responsibility that goes along with that knowledge, a responsibility to live each moment intentionally. It made me realize that my feelings of sadness were a necessary part of really knowing and owning this process of raising my own food. Those pigs were loves of mine, and now they were sacrificing their lives (unknowingly) so that mine, and the lives of others could continue… I had found a deeper gratitude.

I thanked Josie for her words and headed outside to take part in the process I had begun with those pigs. There before me was Flo Jo on her back on a sawhorse-like contraption, being cut in half. Mark and Dave, the butchers, were working carefully and quickly in the rain… I felt myself getting choked up. Walking around to the open side of the trailer I saw Herkimer and Crysta, both motionless as if they were in a deep sleep. And yet again I was overcome. What were we doing?! Just then Ben came up to me. “They were all quiet. It happened quickly,” he said. The butchers said that pigs rarely went that quietly. We discussed the fact that those pigs had been touched by countless humans and heard a range of loud noises (power tools, hammers, etc) in their time, so when that gun went off they were startled, but panic was minimal and brief. I looked over and watched as Mark handled Flo and felt all my fear melt away. The terror and uncertainty I had been drowning in were gone. There was a gentle respect in Mark’s movements. Sure Mark and Dave made jokes (not about the pigs) and laughed as they worked, but I welcomed their light hearts. They had treated those pigs in a humane way with no lack of accuracy. Yes, of course I still felt heavy with grief, but that grief was evenly matched with my appreciation for their skill and respect of my feelings as they cared for the bodies of the animals I loved. As I watched them work through the day my sadness lessened and I become more fascinated by the process. What beautiful animals those pigs were, inside and out! Those men had managed to turn a potentially scary, brutal, messy experience into a rather meaningful, almost enjoyable morning for me. After seeing every step (minus the first one) of the process first hand I knew it was one I had to, and wanted to go through again. I had made sure those pigs led fantastic lives up to the very last moment, and that was something to feel good about.

Mark and Dave told me several times what remarkable animals I had raised. They were healthy, lean, beautiful pigs, the product of a happy life. It comforted me to know that the fresh pasture, room to run around and wrestle, and ample amounts of affection had resulted in the best meat we could have hoped for.

It feels good to stand here at the end and know that the process was a success. And now that I have tasted the end product I feel even better about it! During their lives the pigs nourished me emotionally, and now they’re nourishing me physically. I do still have moments of sadness, missing the way they leaned on me waiting to get their tummies rubbed. But mostly I feel thankful to have had the opportunity to know and love those delightful animals. I am a better person for having embarked on such a challenging, rewarding adventure. And it’s one I plan to repeat over and over throughout the rest of my days.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sundora Bakery Pricing

Word is getting out about my bread! So, I've decided to list some of the items I offer as well as some prices to give people a better idea of what I have going on here. But before I begin, let me give you a quick snapshot of what my baking is all about. As a local farmer, I'm looking to use as many local/ethical ingredients as I can. Right now I use local wheat from Butterworks Farm, local eggs and honey, and fair trade sugar. I'm hoping to use fair trade vanilla and chocolate, and local sunflower oil (which is also from Butterworks) when it's ready in a few months. My loaves are made in small batches and are mixed, kneaded, and shaped by hand.

100% Whole Wheat $5.25
Whole wheat with flax $5.50
Whole Wheat with Sunflower Seeds $6.00
Whole Wheat with Sunflower Seeds and Flax $6.25
White/Wheat Hybrid Sandwich $5.25
Cinnamon Swirl (which has a white/wheat hyrbid based dough) $6.50
My take on a French Bread $4.00
White/Wheat Hybrid Dinner$3.00 for 6/ $5.50 for 12
Bulky Sandwich $3.50 for 4/ $6.50 for 8
Rosemary Chive Dinner $3.50 for 6/ $6.50 for 12
Sage Dinner $3.50 for 6/ $6.50 for 12
*Prices are subject to change slightly as I incorporate more local ingredients.

I am also open to taking requests if you don't see the kind you're looking for!

To place an order or get any remaining questions answered please call Claire at 802-522-6877 or email her at Orders must be placed by noon on Sunday for pickup on Tuesday at the farm. Pickup is between 8:00am and 4:00pm. We are located at the intersection of Beanville Road and Route 12 in Randolph.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Community Supported Baking on the Rise

Lately I have been spending a great deal of time in the kitchen every week baking. As we move out of the regular growing season and into the colder months, I find myself wanting to bake almost constantly. I think this is because last winter I worked at Great Harvest up in Burlington as an early morning sweets baker and absolutely loved it. It's the best job I've ever had outside of farming. So I have been continuing to use the skills I picked up there to feed my family and make a little money on the side.
I've been making both whole wheat and wheat/white hybrid sandwich loaves, all kinds of dinner rolls, and even some french bread in addition to almond white chocolate chip brownies, almond vanilla cakes, apple crisp, cinnamon raisin oatmeal cookies, and chocolate chip pecan cookies. I've been selling bread, rolls, and cookies every Monday during our retail time here at the farm and I'm also providing Three Bean Cafe with bread for their paninis.
So, with all the fun I am having baking, I've decided to do a winter bread share from my home, I'm calling it Community Supported Baking (CSB). It will work just like Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in that people will pay up front for so many weeks of bread, rolls, or sweets, and then come pick up their goods on a designated day each week during the baking term. The first round will start in November. I'm still getting prices together, and a few other logistical things, but once I do I will have order forms available via email and also at a few locations in downtown Randolph. In the meantime, if you're interested in ordering bread, rolls or sweets from me, please don't hesitate to send me an email or stop by on a Monday between 1:00 and 6:00pm to check out my baked goods.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Winter Veggies

Okay, Part II: Cold Frames
We farmers have the veggie bug, and we've got it bad. The short growing season in Vermont just isn't long enough for us to get in our full helping of cultivation and little greenlings (a.k.a. baby plantlets). So, we do the only natural thing, extend the growing season as much as we possibly can! How? Cold Frames! This way we can keep growing mesclun, onions, leeks, carrots, and asian greens even after there's a blanket of snow outside.

So, the other week I threw together a prototype of a cold frame out of some spare wood we had left over from the tomato trellises. Here is Ben being his own interpretation of Vanna White.

My cold frame is 8 inches tall in the front, and 12 inches in the back. It's got a storm window for the top(also called the light), and I just sized it to fit the window perfectly. There aren't any hinges on it, and I didn't include anything to prop it up because I wanted to be able to completely uncover the cold frames on the random warm days of fall. I plan to prop it up with different sized pieces of wood later on in the season when neccesary. Keeping it simple.

This is the cold frame uncovered in the green house, all ready for me to direct seed carrots into... and then me actually seeding the little guys.

Each cold frame will have its own thermometer mounted in it so we can carefully monitor each one's temperature. We want to do this to make sure that we prop them open when they get above 70 degrees. When you're transplanting into cold frames, it's important to keep in mind that the plants you start in seed pots aren't used to really high temperatures. Plants that are tolerant to colder temperatures from the beginning will do better over the winter of freezing and thawing.

Now, keep in mind that I have never grown anything in cold frames over the winter. All the information I have shared here I learned from Eliot Coleman. He came to the NOFA Winter Conference last year and gave a wonderful, informative workshop on his winter harvesting. He also has a great book called "Four Season Harvest" that's a fantastic resource for this kind of winter food production. I recommend him highly.

That does it for now, but I'll write more on baking and the approaching end of the 2009 growing season in the next few days! Stay tuned! Same veggie time, same veggie channel!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Preparing for the Cold

Fall is upon us, with our flowers starting to close up shop and the threat of frost in the wee hours of the morning. But even with the season’s end on the horizon, there are still many things going on on the farm. Let me catch you up on what you’ve missed… there’s a lot so I’ve broken it up into sections. Today I will do the pigs, and over the next few days I'll post about the cold frames, the end of the season, and the baking I've been doing! Okay, onto the good stuff...

The Pigs

Well, let me start by saying that they continue to be hilarious and lovable. We are having great fun with them. Last week we built them a new house on skids. I have included step-by-step pictures so you can see all the little pieces that fit together…

This is the base frame the rest of the house sits on...

The bare-bones frame and walls going up...

Ben putting the trough on after the tin roof had been attached...

We built them a new house because they are far too big for the other house they’d been in all season, and they were beginning to show us how bored they were in that same pen... ripping down their tarp, nosing branches onto their fence, etc. So, we called up our mentor Steve to see if he’d be willing to lend us some portable sheep netting and a couple batteries, he was.

So, we hooked up our pig house behind the truck and I took off driving over small boulders and through waist high weeds toward the site of the pig's new home. With Ben guiding me I was able to pull the pig house back behind the barn and back the truck out of there safely without falling off the cliff right next to me... all it all, it was quite a successful off roading experience.

Once we had the house in place, we set up the sheep netting, hooked up the chargers, filled the trough with food, filled up the water bucket, and got ready for the pigs to make the big transition the next morning.

The next day, with mom and dad along for the adventure, we all gathered around the pig pen, each at our stations, ready to help the pigs get acquainted with their new house. Ben distracted them with some corn while I snipped off the ties that held the end of their old fence in place, opened it up, and connected the (non-electrified) sheep netting to each side of the opening. Then Ben called the pigs over, showing them the new opening.

Now, I had thought the pigs would go charging through the opening into their new pasture land, so excited at the site of new soil to plow up with their little snouts. Not so. Those pigs stood at the opening of that fence, where the electric fence had been, sniffing the air, rooting in the soil, and not moving an inch. I had read that it's thought pigs associate some level of magic to these electric fences, and while I don't know if I quite believe that pigs even understand the concept of magic, it certainly seemed that that hypothesis wasn't far off. Those pigs knew that they had gotten shocked at that exact spot before and weren't about to risk that happening again.

After a while Flo Jo got over her fears and went alone, into the unknown wild of the new pen, grunting happily the whole way. Meanwhile, scaredypants #1 and scaredypants #2 were still in their old pen, grunting at Flo Jo, probably getting a report of the new digs. After Flo Jo had collected a sufficient amount of data, she headed back to the old pen to have a chat with the other two. But even after their pow-wow, they weren't sold. So they settled in to take a nap under their shade tarp. Ben and I had already been out there for an hour or so, and mom and dad had gone inside. We were running out of patience. So, we took down their shade tarp which stirred them up, but they still weren't crossing over. After trying watermelon, cracked corn, and pig pellets, we finally gave in and hand fed them corn chips. This did the trick!

After just a couple corn chips, backing up after each one, I was able to lure all of them over the "magic" line, and into their new home. They were rooting around and grunting happily almost immediately. So what we thought would be a quick 2 minute transition, turned into a 2 hour coaxing game of lure the pigs with tasty treats.

And now the pigs are happier than ever...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Fresh Veggie Mondays

Ben and I have decided to open a little farm store here on Mondays during the season from 1:00 to 5:00pm. We will have veggies and herbs for sale every week, and hopefully some baked goods and t shirts as well! We're working on finishing the sign for it right now and will make sure to post pictures of it when we get it up.

Please feel free to come by the farm on Monday afternoons and tell your friends! We'd be happy to give farm tours and/or answer any questions you might have about local sustainable agriculture as well!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Chickens are out and flowers are in bloom!

Things have been pretty busy around here now that the weather is finally cooperating! The veggies are in full swing, the pigs are getting huge, and the laying hens are out in their brand new chicken tractor complete with nesting boxes and roosts. Ben has been working long hours to get this thing up and running, and I have to say it gets the job done. The hens seem really happy and safe, which is all we can hope for. Ben is a proud papa.

The chickens are mostly black australorps but there is a white sultan chicken(among other random additions) that we've named Guss Guss. I think she looks like a mad scientist. She's a tough ole bird and seems to hold her own pretty well despite her dainty head dress. She's my favorite.

The rest of the chickens seem healthy and lively.
Constantly up to something and always with that guilty expression on their faces... I don't trust them for one minute.

This is our first season growing flowers, so our "cut flower" garden was a huge experiment. I had no idea what varieties to choose or when exactly things would bloom or for how long. So I just got a random assortment after reading their descriptions in the Johnny's catalog, and hoped for the best... and I have to say it's been wonderful so far and seems to be thriving despite this crazy season we've been having. The flowers are beautiful and they attract a great variety of beneficial insects. Here are some pictures...

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Yes, Ben and I are opening up the farm for an afternoon so that you all can come see, in person, what we've been up to this season. So, please come by the farm this Sunday, August 2nd, between noon and 6:00pm, take a tour, have some iced tea with us, and bring your friends! We hope to see you soon!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sundora Farm Luncheon

Every year Bethany Church holds the Talent and Treasure auction as a fundraiser. This year we decided to donate a tea luncheon for 6 to take place here at the farm. So last weekend 6 ladies came over to our house all decked out in mudboots and tea hats, ready for an agricultural spin on a tea party.

Our afternoon began with a tour of the farm. I showed them the fields and the flower garden, the pigs and the chickens while answering questions about cover crops and local agriculture.

The tour ended in the CSA pick up area, which we had turned into the ultimate tea party location.
There were cucumber and cream cheese finger sandwhiches on freshly baked homemade bread, a lovely local salad, a frittata, salad turnips and dressing, lemon squares, and a delicious spread of fruits.
The ladies enjoyed tea, both iced and hot, as they sat together in the barn tea room laughing and sharing stories.

We are hoping to make this luncheon an annual event, so keep your eye out for it next year in the Talent and Treasure Auction!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tomatoes and Chicks

Well, we finally got our huge tomato transplants out into the field.
They are all trellised between wooden teepees made from wood seconds from the Howards in town. We have four different varieties: Buffalo (your basic red all purpose tomato), Pruden's Purple (which is an heirloom that's pinkish purple and deliciously sweet), Green Zebra (a yellow and green striped tomato...
also quite tasty), and Striped German (a yellow and orange/red tomato that's perhaps my favorite tomato of all).
They already have flowers on them, so fruit is on its way!

Here are the chicks! I know you've all been waiting to see their little faces... Ben has been working hard to make their new
home in the chicken coup (where the pigs started out) as safe and comfortable as possible. They seem really happy.

And finally, I'll leave you with some more lovely pictures from our days here at the farm...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Finally, an update!

Sorry for the long absence! CSA season has been a crazy time for Ben and I, and the blog has had to take a backseat. However, I will attempt to catch you up as best I can!

The piglets aren't piglets anymore! Flo Jo, Herkimer, and Crysta have grown so much in the past month! They love their outdoor pen so much better than being in the chicken coup.
We were able to transport them out into their new pen a few weeks ago by throwing some cracked corn in the back of Dora's dog crate, and shutting them in. We then loaded the crate onto our garden cart and wheeled them right into their new pen. It was the smoothest transition we could have imagined... when they emerged from their crate they immediately put their noses to the soil, rooting around in pig heaven. Before we knew it they were covered in mud and running around playing tag in their yard. They are the happiest pigs I have ever seen.

One of my favorite things to do is to come up to the side of their pen (which is 20x50), yell "Come on guys!" and start running for the other end of their pen. When they hear that they all come bursting out of their little tarped in shelter and chase me down to the other end.

It took a little bit for the pigs to figure out that they could trust me, but now we have really comfortable interactions.... this is my sister Andrea rubbing Flo Jo's tummy!

In other news, Ben has baby chicks! We don't have any good pictures of them since they are under a red heat lamp, but once they get a little bigger I promise to post some.
They are black australorps. There are 25 of them.

We're still removing rocks daily... many of them are too heavy for us to move ourselves...

So the tractor does a good amount of the work for us. Thank goodness.

Our CSA has been going for three weeks now. Honestly I have to admit that we have far less produce than I had planned. From the rain and cold in May to a lack of experience in planning the season out, the first shares we've put out have been smaller than I had hoped.
But our shareholders have been tremendously supportive and are looking forward, as are we, to the green beans, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, etc. For now though, we are enjoying plentiful amounts of salad turnips and greens! These turnips can be pink or white and they can be eaten raw. The white ones are a little spicier than the pink ones, and both have delicious greens. I'm trying to get the town of Randolph addicted to them because they are an early, quick root vegetable that's as easy to grow as it is tasty. So far our CSA seems to like them and the Randolph Farm Stand even bought a few bunches from us last week! Such excitement!

This picture is one that Ben took of me a couple weekends ago. He thought the world needed to see what farmer Claire wears for Sunday chores... Sometimes it just feels better to be out in the field in my pajamas...

Now I'll leave you with some more pictures from the farm and a promise to do a better job of keeping you posted! Enjoy!