Category Archives: country living

Transitions

Since I haven’t updated anyone in a couple of weeks, I guess I need to take the time to do so. As we have been building pages with the sale information (please see our Farm for Sale page), listing the ad on several social media sites and craigslist, it has become official that the farm will be sold.

As much as I hate to see this happen, I know that there are many different factors that have contributed to this decision. Looking back through the photos I’ve gathered over the years, it’s been an amazing transition to see the farm change. We’ve seen animals grow from newborn calves into cattle that have had their own (one has had two). We’ve watched turkeys grow, lay eggs and hatch their own young that are now prepared to do this same this coming spring.

We have seen major transitions in the land too. In 2006, the farm sat idle. There were no animals to graze, no tractors mowing the hay and the farm didn’t produce anything. In 2011, nearly the entire farm was planted into corn, contrary to what we wanted. In 2012, we planted fields back to a variety of grasses. In 2013, the whole farm was surrounded by new fencing and all the ground had been established as pastures. In 2014, the water system was built to make it easy to water the cattle without the use of electricity or trucks.

We’ve witnessed major improvements in the quality of the grasses we manage for grazing. We’ve seen first hand how well the cattle have done. This farm has also become a haven for birds like the Bobolink and the Eastern Bluebird. Last spring, we were blessed enough to consistently see the offspring of the wild turkeys (20 poults in total). We saw fawns and their mothers out grazing in the lush pastures. We’ve documented butterflies galore, by photography at least roughly 20 different species.

This farm isn’t just any other farm to me. In my opinion, it’s a work of art. It showcases our natural systems working together and how each layer benefits another. Consideration into small things that others typically overlook, like the earthworm population, and larger things like water quality and clarity of rainwater run off.

There is still work to be done like getting lime on the soil but, it’s still amazing to see how far we have come! It’s been a great lesson in learning that couldn’t have been done without trial and errors. This farm is at the cusp of becoming something great. With financial backing and the right people, this farm has the potential to become another Polyface farms. I know it can be done! Unfortunately, it’s just not us that will be able to do it. From health reasons, age and the lack of finances to keep expanding, we just can’t do it anymore. It would be great to be able to continue alongside the new owners as mentors/advisors though.

The new perspective is that this isn’t the end of an era, it’s the beginning of something amazing for the next person. There are others with the same visions we have and while they may be a select few, I know that someone out there reading this understands exactly what’s being discussed.

Thank you again to all of our supporters for the wonderful years you’ve given us. Hopefully, someone will come along to continue what we got started. I’m looking forward to making that announcement as time goes on and a buyer comes forward. Until then, we will keep searching.

Please feel free to drop an email to farmgirldoreen@gmail.com if you have any questions or would like more detailed information.

The Book of Life

The past is nothing more than pages written in our book of life. The future is still unwritten (I think those are lyrics to a song). As the pages develop, chapters start and end. Each new page contains another memory.

Barrows Farm has a big, thick book already. To tell the tale will take some time but, eventually I hope to put it all together. There are stories like the family history within the deed. A deed that contains pages dated all the way back to 1850. A deed that contains information on parcels that go all the way back to the Boston Ten Townships purchase. 165 years of heritage contained within those papers, written and documented history of Barrows Farm.

In more recent years, there are stories about farm owners and livestock that bring a smile and shared laughter among the family, tales of buggy rides to Syracuse and how a young man worked with his Grandfather and eventually took over on the farm.

Not all the memories are happy ones. There are tales of government buyouts and the end of a dairy here. There are tales of barn and house fires. Many things have changed over the years, mainly with the last owners occupation. It’s hard to express the hardships that have been endured. Granted, I haven’t been here for the majority of them.

I’ve lived here for ten years and I love this place as much as this family does. Someday, I really hope to be able to have the time to sit with Rich’s parents to document some of the history. Even if it’s only ever to just put together to share with the family for future generations. I think it’s something important to be passed down throughout the years, from generation to the next.

As I sit here with this thought rolling in my head, I’m also saddened that it won’t be passed down to the next owner within the family. After so much that has gone on here since 2008, I’m devastated. I can’t even imagine the thoughts rolling in Rich’s head. Having been on or around the farm his entire life, it has to yank a piece of his heart out to make decisions like selling. Eventually though, when push comes to shove, self preservation takes over.

I’ve talked with others about concerns over farmers committing suicide because of these types of decisions, lack of funds and severe depression. In my way, I’m trying to explain how hard it is to lose a piece of yourself at times like this. Farmers who have worked the land, watched it grow and change have an affinity for the property that is unparalleled. They put their heart and soul into every piece of hay, every head of livestock, every grain of soil and every drop of water. Farmers love their farms like parents love their children.

To farmers, our farm is our legacy. It’s our book of life that we have written the pages for. Failures or success, risks and rewards, it’s all in there. Our pages might not be written over the years on paper, but they are written on our hearts, our souls and within each detail we find on the farm. It doesn’t make a difference what kind of farm it is, how big or how small. It’s just the way it is for farmers.

Wildlife Wednesday ~ Birds

As the seasons pass here in Upstate NY, we see species of birds come and go. Fall is that time of year we get to see large flocks, swarms or gatherings of birds as they prepare to fly south to warmer regions.

One thing we noticed this year is birds that we normally do not see on the farm. A couple of weeks ago, a whole group of Bluebirds were seen in the upper pastures. It was neat to see their bright blue feathers as they flew from ground to fence and back.

A group of Eastern Bluebirds hanging out on the fence within the pastures.
A group of Eastern Bluebirds hanging out on the fence within the pastures.

Every fall, we always see a lot of Canadian Geese because of the pond. I think they like it there because it’s rather secluded. Can’t say that I blame them either because I like it for the same reason.

Just a few of the geese that come to visit every year
Just a few of the geese that come to visit every year

We’ve seen more Wild Turkeys too. This spring, there were 20 poults hatched and wandering around the pastures. It’s an amazing sight to see when all the hens (mother turkeys) would gather together with the little ones.

We’ve seen baltimore orioles and bobolinks too. There are Savannah Sparrows, Chickadees, Cardinals, Blue Jays and so many other birds that I don’t even know names for. We’ve had Great Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets. We’ve seen a Bald Eagle too.

Two male Bobolinks in one of the pastures during late spring and early summer. We had a total of four pairs this year…up from two the year previous and just one the year before that.
Sparrows on a temporary post that divides the pasture paddocks

Life in the country is actually rather amazing, if you just take the time to stop and see what’s around you. Sometimes, you just really need to sit, watch and observe…or you miss out on some really neat things around you.

Cow bird found in the pasture right next to the cows.
Early summer the Killdeer will nest in a couple of specific areas of the pastures.
It’s common to see birds sitting on fence lines.

Hope that you enjoy the “snippet” of birds we are fortunate enough to see all summer long. Next year, I’m hoping to host a “Bird Photography Day” here on the farm and allow all kinds of bird watchers to come set up, take photos and hopefully capture more of the amazing birds we have here.

If you are interested in coming out to the farm to bird watch, just give us a shout! Send an email to farmgirldoreen@gmail.com. Hit me up on twitter @CNYfarmgirl or find us on facebook at www.facebook.com/barrowsfarm.

 

 

Colder weather

As the temps dropped this morning, I realized that I could give you all some good advise and suggestions.

Do you have a farmer or other person who works outside in your life? Do you struggle to find good gifts for them?

I’m a firm believer in giving gifts of use. For the farmer who is an active researcher and reader, a new book available for beef, poultry, or other meat animal production might be a great option. Same goes for anything soils, crops or amendments.

Then there are the things that farmers can never have enough of. We usually destroy our wearable goods before most others would. Zippers break and pockets rip. Insulated bibs, jackets and long johns are always useful in winter months, as are boots.

One item that never lasts long is gloves! I can’t seem to find any that last longer than a month. Same thing for heavy insulated socks.

Heavy hooded sweatshirts are always handy to have too. They work great for layering. Good turtlenecks save wearing scarves that can catch on all kinds of crap.

Insulated coffee mugs and thermos items are a must for us too. If it keeps liquids hot….we LOVE them!

For the farmer or farm wife that loves to cook…those crock pot and thirty minute recipe books are always good to have too. Try to find ones that a person working 12-18 hours a day could use.

Other good things are boot jacks and boot scrubs.

Hope these help you with your shopping issues this holiday season, including our own families. We really aren’t that hard to buy for as long as you keep our daily basic needs in mind.

Illnesses and Injuries

I don’t feel good today and I am battling through some sinus infection, sore ears and just a general overall feeling of blah. Being sick gets me thinking though about 40-hour per week jobs, calling in sick and being able to lay in bed all day. Something that farmers don’t have the luxury of doing. Who should I call when I don’t feel like braving the elements with a pounding head, ringing ears and snot running out of my nose? I don’t think the calves, cows or chickens are going to care. They want their food!

Living the farm life isn’t for everyone. We farm through broken ribs, flu season, broken toes, dislocated bones and everything in between. I’ve cared for animals in casts and splints. I’ve cared for animals through pounding heads and aching backs. Farmers who deal with livestock are care givers. When you get sick, you still have kids who need caring for or a dog that needs to go for a walk…it’s really not that much different for us. It would be much more convenient if the cattle were in the house so I wouldn’t have so far to go…but it doesn’t work that way.

Being a farmer takes grit. I’m sure you’ve heard that before but it’s true. We have to push ourselves to work through an illness or injury to get the job done. We don’t get sick days, we don’t get days off. It doesn’t matter, 365 days a year you will find me in the barn caring for calves and feeding the animals.

I’ve learned a lot about pushing myself to get the job done since I have been diagnosed with MS. You need to push but not overdue things. Even if a chore takes you ten times long than it normally would, do it anyway. When it gets done, you can sit down with satisfaction knowing that you  accomplished the job. Besides, if your dealing with livestock they will find a way to make you smile.

Now, since it’s raining outside and more extreme cold weather is coming…I think I’ll tackle some paperwork and housework! Wish me luck in finalizing my plans for 2014 and getting my entire life better organized!

Saying Goodbye to Ring in Hello

2013 is now gone and in the record books. As the old saying goes,  today is a new day! A new day to the start of a brand new year full of hopes and dreams. I’d like to take a minute though to review our year of 2013 on the farm.

We have so many things to be thankful for that happened in 2013 but it didn’t come without heartache, stress and tragedy. We have suffered through the stress of planning, budgeting and financial woes. We have had our hearts broken over the loss of Belle, the rescue cow and favorite “mother” within the herd. We’ve had bad times through illnesses, aches and pains but we still keep pushing and we still keep going.

Farming isn’t for everyone. It’s a lot of hard work and dedication. It’s dealing with the tough times and take the good along with the bad. We did have some absolutely amazing things happen in 2013 that completely out weigh the bad.

After much personal discussion about financial woes and our own morals and ethics, we filed for a grant in November of 2012. In March, we finalized the paperwork on an EQIP grant that helped us reseed a field back into pasture, relieved financial stress of fence building and will even assist with a water project in 2014. The grant didn’t come without it’s own stress issues though. Budgets and monitoring, differences in opinions, and even clashing mentalities on timelines came with it. Yes, it’s been stressful but it’s also been a very rewarding adventure. Now that it’s past, we have a newly established 24 acre pasture planted with a wide variety of plants (18 or so were seeded) for grazing. We ended up with about 110 acres of perimeter fencing that was 5 strand instead of the USDA-NRCS recommended 4 strand. There are nice gates and hot wires to keep cattle in line and under control so they aren’t wandering the neighborhood anymore! These are major accomplishments!

We had five calves born on the farm in 2013 and brought in three more! Our total herd has expanded to 20 today with eight calves expected to be born in 2014!!!! It’s so hard to believe that in 2009, we had just one steer! My, oh my, how things have changed!

We held the first annual party in the pasture in May. I (Doreen) was so overwhelmed to have people I haven’t seen in a decade come to spend time on the farm with their children, letting them get to know what a cow is. We’ve had folks come visit for just the cattle kisses that are often shared on the farm. We’ve had visitors come from both near and far, made new friends, hosted a video crew and learned so much about what you enjoy about what we do.

We raised our first animals for meat to cater a wedding. Granted it was Rich’s sons wedding but who cares…well, maybe the bank account but hey, it’s all for a good cause right? We bbq’ed 200 quarters for that wedding! We raised them, butchered them and then the fun began around the bbq pit. It was a whole lot of hard work to make it all happen but the response from the guests was what made it all worth while.

Through all the stress and hard work, we managed to make some big changes in 2013. All of those changes will be allowing us to do even more in 2014! We are now preparing to work with another local farm to pasture their heifers in the grazing months. We are planning for more meat bird production, more eggs to be produced and even more Rose Veal to be raised! 2014 will also be a big transition in our marketing and we are expecting to start setting up stands once the markets open around May! We are also planning a second annual Party in the Pasture too! The water system will be started in April/May and will be completed during the summer of 2014 too.

All of these changes are because we are dedicated to our passions in life. Yes, it takes a lot of money and a lot of hard work. Yes, we suffer through heartache and stress. But…in the end and looking at everything big picture, we know that through all the struggles and trials we are doing just what God meant for us to do! Expect to read more about us as times goes on. Now that things have “slowed down” to a more regular pace, we will have the time to share more often.

In closing, our wish for you on this day of new dreams and hopes. “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson and  “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” ~Minnie Louise Haskins

Happy New Year to you all!

A new day, a new year...new hopes and new dreams. Follow your own star!
A new day, a new year…new hopes and new dreams. Follow your own star!

Classes

It’s hard to believe but I have started taking classes as part of the 2013-2014 Holistic Management Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Program for women in the Northeast. I wish you could all understand that this is an honor for me to be accepted into the program and become part of such a great group of women from all over the world, not just the Northeast.

I wouldn’t have even filled the application if not for a couple ladies encouraging me to do so. I know that many people have different opinions on what is the right way and wrong way to live life, run a farm or business but I have my own ways. Since 2006, I have been forced to continue looking forward and at the bigger picture. The Holistic Management training will help me do all that with new key insights and with better tactics.

Life has been floundering. Two different people involved in farming with two different aspects. One who has been around farming and ran a day to day operation in the past and another who may have grown up on a small dairy but has no clue about grasses, soils, fertilization, etc. I’m the second. One area that I handle is the cattle and small animals around the farm. I work with them to be friendly, halter trained and care for them. Sometimes, I have felt disconnected from tasks that I just don’t understand. My opinion is kicked to the curb because I just don’t know what I need to know to make a viable choice. These classes will not only give me a crash course in some of these steps but will also help us plan better for open communication and planning.

I have been reading and studying Allan Savory’s book titled Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making since January of this year. We have been actively putting these management practices to use since 2012. We just didn’t know it until a copy of the book was borrowed from the library. I think I have been using the same concept of planning and life choices actively since 2009 on a regular basis. Was it done right or with an intention of doing so? Nope, it wasn’t. Could/can it be refined to use and help eliminate planning issues, work issues and more? You bet it can! That’s why I’m taking these classes.

In section One, the topic was how to enhance success, meeting challenges effectively, addressing environmental issues and how all this works together inside your “toolbox” of management. The key is knowing who’s involved, what you are managing (an inventory of what you already have) and then knowing what quality of life you want and what you need to have or do to get there. The key is to PLAN-IMPLEMENT-MONITOR-CONTROL.

Section Two takes you from principles to practice and really starts digging into your Holistic Goal, defining what you manage and testing your decisions. It makes you take a look at who are decision makers and what human assets you have. It makes you look at the “stuff” you already have, including equipment and money.

If you want to test yourself on creating a holistic goal, it’s also important to know how you want people to see you. By people I mean your neighbors, vendors, suppliers, customers, etc. You also need to think about how you want the environment around you to look and how you want your community to be. I will admit, this task was rather daunting for me. I spent time talking with my advisor and one of the key things for me was to develop not one, but two holistic goals…maybe even three now that I think about it. Having the farm and knowing that this is something I am extremely passionate about is one things, but my own personal goals and even my photography have overlapping goals but ultimately, they are very separate and on very different levels.