Archives for posts with tag: farm

In Western New York (and upstate as well) you always know when it is summer.  Every time you get in the car you’re bound to pass a farm stand or two with summer harvest bounty.  Zucchini, Summer Squash, and endless tomatoes fill the my meals every day.  Here and there you can still find some cherries or a few late berries.  Vegetables from a farm stand are different than the store.  They are warm, fresh, and simply holding them gives you a little thrill.  Every dish tastes better with fresh, locally grown food.  But it’s more than that.  You support local growers.  For example, peaches from down the road instead of across the country. (I look at the stickers on the fruit.)  But this food brings us together.  It brings family and friends around the table, campfire, bonfire, and so on.  It helps us make memories that last a lifetime.

My family has been making a conscious effort to shop at local businesses as much as possible.  We feel that it not only helps support our neighbors and community, but it helps rural poverty.  Here, and many other places like it, are so poor that they barely hang on.  The difference is that nobody talks about it.  Rather, they didn’t before recently. The falling economy has gotten people talking more about their hardships. It can be little things, like the price of milk, or bigger things, like the cost of heating oil.  I know many people who heat their homes with electric heaters over the winter because they can’t afford heating oil.  I guess that if I can help support them, I will. 

Besides, I have been on a journey to get healthy over the last year or two.  I have given up soda, junk food, and fast food.  I have been working vegetables into my diet (because I was one of those kids who hated them.) Shopping at the farm stands makes me eat better, which makes me want to cook more.  And then I buy more veggies.  It’s a fantastic circle!  We all could be a little more healthy, right?

I guess I just want everybody to be happy.  Myself included.  It isn’t always easy, but every little bit helps.  Lately that little bit is Zucchini! 🙂 

Thank you for reading.  I hope you have a wonderful morning/afternoon/evening!

My family has horses.  We used to have many more, but right now there are three: Two mares and a stallion.  They are permanent installments in our daily lives.  Many people don’t understand how much care it takes to keep horses.  They see rich people on television board their horses (which is very expensive!).  This has it’s advantages, but it also portrays that keeping horses is a walk in the park; all reward with no work.  In the real world, the horses are your entire life – the work has to be done every day without fail. 

That made it hard for me growing up because it was painstakingly obvious that I couldn’t do the things other kids did.  I have never been on a vacation where the whole family could attend.  We came close once time.  I was about twelve.  The down side was that my father had to stay at the house at care for the animals.  It was wonderful, but I always wondered about my peers who went to myrtle beach every year, or camping, or so on.  The other side of it is that I love my home, I love my family, and I love my life.  It is the only place I *almost* fit in.  The horses, the work, it all made me who I am.

Every year we pack 600 bales of hay in the barns.  This feeds the horses the entire year.  Sometimes we even have a couple left over when we start the new batch.  In the spring we supplement the hay with fresh cut grass.  The horses love it!  They would eat it like candy if we let them.  (Don’t, btw.  It makes them sick. 😛 )

This year had been wet.  It rained nearly every day for over a month.  Not constantly, but enough so the ground couldn’t dry.  For the hay farmers, that meant that they cut hay very, very late.  Normally we would have the whole batch in by now, or close to it.  However, we are just getting started.  About 1/4 of the way done. 

Horse hay is difficult  because it cannot be moldy.  It has to be cut and dried in the fields, then fluffed and baled.  If it is rained on, it is trashed.  Then it is just cow hay.  Cows can eat musty hay, but it will make horses very, very sick.  That’s why the farmers waited so long to cut their fields.  The crop would be trashed otherwise.  

It takes a lot of work, but in the end it’s worth it. 🙂  

Off and on through my life, my family has kept chickens.  My Father started the tradition when I was only a child, but I remember marveling at the chickens on the other side of the fenced coup.  Unfortunately, a raccoon (or a similar rascal) broke into the chicken coup.  My parents found them in the morning.  The rooster’s name was Paddy.  He was mean to anyone who got close, but I remember him as being a beautiful rooster with long green tail feathers and a copper red body.

When I was a teenager in high school, I wanted to keep chickens again.  My Mother decided that it was a great idea!  We got one Road Island Red and five black chickens. Each one had a name that described their personality or feather colors.  This backfired a bit when they grew up and all the black ones looked the same.  They became ‘Sunny and The Girls’, since Sunny was the only red one.  I held them every day, meticulously cared for their food, water, and coop cleanliness.  They became lovely free range chickens that lived in the barn alongside horses and barn cats too fat to care about the huge birds.  Since I hand raised them, you could pick them up, pet them, and even cuddle them a bit.  We loved them very much and had them for many years.

A family moved into the run-down shack across the street and had a dog that liked to run away. He got a few of my chickens, but four remained for two years or so.  Eventually, they were gone too.  That’s the way of life.

Last year, my Mother got heirloom chickens that were supposedly the best free range egg layers.  I was very proud of myself that I spotted it in Urban Farmer and researched the breed.  They were nine chickens and a stow-away rooster.  They were… not as wonderful as described.  Only one still lives. My Mother named her, “Sweety Pie Chicken”

 

"What are you doing? Is it time for my close up?"

“What are you doing? Is it time for my close up?”

So, this year my Mother went to the store and told the shopkeepers, “I want smart chickens that are good for free ranging!” They were a bit confused, but they gave her their suggestions. It took her over an hour and a half to pick them out.  She got eight red cross breeds, and a White Silky (who is VERY feathery and ADORABLE).  The Silky was protecting a small grey chick from the others in the pen.  My Mother was so taken with the pair of friends that she took the little grey chicken as well.  She looks like a Dove, and she and the white Silky are inseparable. The whole flock has accepted Sweety Pie Chicken, and they are one big happy family.

This story is a big part of our lives.  Over the years we have learned from our mistakes, and it has made us better at our tasks.  We know the best way (or a very, very good way)  to keep our animals healthy and happy.

There's always one who doesn't want to go to bed!

There’s always one who doesn’t want to go to bed!

Many people go into the grocery store and buy the cheapest eggs on the shelf, even if they can afford something better.  These eggs come from chickens packed into tiny cages, with barely any room to move.  They have no life.  They are fed terrible food instead of their natural diet.  Chickens need to move, they need to peck, and they need to eat a variety of food.  These differences produce a rich, delicious egg that is filled with more nutrients than their counterparts.

But it’s more than that.  We are humans, and that means we have different brains that are capable of compassion and understanding.  Eating and egg shouldn’t mean that you benefit from another living thing’s suffering.  I would rather have my eggs come from chickens who actually can move, eat, and thrive in their lives. I feel that just because something is different from me doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be respected.  A Chicken gives us eggs, meat, and in many cases enjoyment.  They give us their entire existence.  That means they deserve our respect.

You can tell I have had this discussion before, mainly with people who do not value an animal’s life.  They see them like a paper cup: simply something that is theirs to use.  That is so heartbreaking.

It makes me sad that people don’t understand why cage-free eggs are so important.  My family’s chickens have a pen and a chicken house.  They would not be safe at night otherwise.  But they are out from early in the morning through just before sundown.  They explore the world around them: the trees, the Sumac bushes, the horse paddock, and so on.  And you know what?  I think that is marvelous!  I wish everything could be as happy as they! Don’t you?

This is what a Chicken Stampede looks like!

This is what a Chicken Stampede looks like!

So, we are still up here, struggling against oppressive heat, still angrily mourning the tragedy of Treyvon Martin’s memory, debating Florida law, and wishing that something can be actually accomplished in Washington D.C.  We are here in Rural America, Chickens and all, struggling to have our voices heard.

On a happy note, it was announced today that the Lakeside Hospital was acquired, and is being renamed “Strong West”.  They hope to restore services by January.  Or so the news said.  I hope it is sooner.  Either way, it is nice to know that they didn’t completely forget us.  Why couldn’t they have done that before the hospital closed it’s doors is beyond me.  Perhaps it is a conspiracy to keep us dependent on this or that.  All I can say is that we will breath a sigh of relief when the emergency room is reopened.  Until then all we can do is wait.

Wherever you are, please stay cool, stay safe, and stay happy!

When people hear, “New York” they think of the big city – lights, cars, skyscrapers, business, stores, the crazy guy on the corner holding ‘THE END IS NEAR’ sign, and people as far as the eye can see.  The city has everything you need to survive (and many things that are just icing on the cake). Endless numbers of people move to New York City and others all across the world.  Some love it, some hate it.  But everyone has big dreams of what their life will be.  Whether it’s the next big music producer or an upscale chef with your own restaurant, New York City is the mecca of the Eastern Seaboard. That’s not anything new. It’s always been where the-next-big-thing hits the market.

But there’s so much more to New York – like, a whole state attached.  With people living in it – and cars – and color television.

I know that most people don’t think about that. Country!  That’s down south!  Farms! Those are out in Kansas!  I have heard it all.  Most people don’t realize that there are rural places in the North East United States.

I come from Western New York – right on Lake Ontario.  For 18 years of my life, I lived in the same house.  I graduated High school with nearly everyone who was in Kindergarten class.  My town has a Post Office, some houses, fields, woods, and nothing else.  ‘Going to town’ is a big thing out here… mainly because you have to drive about thirty minutes to the nearest grocery store. The corner store is 5 miles away.

I live in Rural America.

I graduated high school and went to college.  Small town kid in a big city.  I went out of state, far enough away from farms and livestock because I wanted to experience life in other places.  I earned my degree, bounced around a little, and worked in dead-end jobs that barely covered my rent and student loans.  I was tired, unhealthy, and not in a very good frame of mind.

And now I moved back home for good.  I have lived in several states and cities, with friends and roommates, near the streets and cars and skyscrapers and the hustle and bustle of people living on top of each other.  I returned home with no job and too much student loan debt – like so many of my peers.

Two months ago I felt like a failure coming back here.  I felt like I was worthless, like I wasn’t good enough to do anything.  Why can other people make it while I can’t?  Why?  There are many different reasons, but my mother didn’t care about any of that.  She wants me happy and healthy – and for me, that meant here in the middle of corn fields, horses, and the summer humid heat.

I have always looked for my place out here, but I never really fit in.  When I was younger I thought it was because I was meant for city living – and I met many people who agreed with me.  But over the course of seven years I have found that my place is out here – I just have to find it.

So, I am finding the beauty in rural, small town America (Small is a bit of an understatement).  People who are born in a small town grow up and leave.  They want bigger and better things, and rightly so.  The result of that is the rural community is dying.  Small businesses easily parish under the poor economic climate that has plagued us for over twenty years.  It is harder and harder to make ends meet.  The cost of living keeps rising while income stagnates or declines.  We have the same problems that people who live in the city have.  The difference is that out here, all we have is ourselves.

This past April, the closest hospital closed it doors.  It was in the nearby college town, 30 minutes away.  Now, we have to drive an hour to the nearest emergency room to receive care.  I heard the message loud and clear: We don’t care about you.  People who live in rural America don’t matter.  Just die, because you don’t even deserve a hospital.

I don’t accept that message.  I don’t accept the fact that the world is blind to us, our hardships, our people, and our community.  I don’t accept the fact that we are powerless to change that world view.  I don’t accept the fact that the world thinks we are worthless.  I don’t accept that we are invisible.

That’s why I am here.  I am on a journey to chronicle life out here in rural, small town America.  I am going to show you that we are beautiful, vibrant, and filled with sights, sounds, places, food, and more.  I am going to show you that the heart of America is worth saving.

Come on the journey with me.