Category Archives: Community

We bought a house! (FINALLY)

We spent the weekend in NY house hunting again, after the farm we tried to purchasephoto 2 (3) previously fell through. The timing was good and we found a great house for sale in the Schoharie Valley, where we had hoped to land. The community is welcoming and the setting is tranquil and beautiful.

During this trip, we were pretty sure about the property, so we planned a day for house-related stuff and then a day for fun. It was a quick trip, but we managed to get an accepted offer on the house, watched Zootopia (awesome film!), and even found time for some cave exploration – think boat, underground river, Goonies…

We also enjoyed some downtime at the inn where we have stayed on previous trips out. This trip we brought along our son and youngest daughter, who wanted to offer her opinion of our housing choices. She was a big help and it was delightful watching our two youngest bonding as siblings.

photo 1 (4)Games, ice cream, and stories were devoured on this trip.

photo 2 (2)[My favorite part of being 200 feet underground on a boat floating down a crystal clear river? Hearing a woman behind me say, “It’s our time; it’s our time down here.”]

This plan to relocate has been in the works for more than a year, which has given us time photo 3 (2)to prepare emotionally for leaving home in the quest for a new place to call home. It has also provided us with opportunities to get to know other families in communities from all over the region, so the move isn’t as scary as it might have been otherwise. Our agent has been such a good friend to us in this process. He’s made this transition so much easier – we love this man! (Brad Morley – Benson Real Estate)

photo 3 (3)I can’t tell whether I’m more excited to link up with other farmers in NY State or sharing the history of this incredible region, known as the breadbasket of the American Revolution, with our children. There are cannonball holes in the sides of buildings here. Wha?!

Moreover, the house is near a state university dedicated to agriculture with barns filled to the brim with sheep, goats, cows, and horses. Yep, an entire college for agricultural studies. My kind of town!

We made sure to visit our friends at the ‘Il Cafe’ in Little Falls and Sunset Corners in Ames, the smallest incorporated village in the state of NY. The kids love this place especially. It really feels photo 1 (2)like you’re stepping back in time.

Feeling grateful also to those kind TC folks who helped us out while we were away. Thank you to Levi (RealEyes Homestead) for watching over the alpacas and kitty and to the Marker Family for taking on Louis Dog, who I have heard has been very well behaved (our sweet boy is growing up!)

Time for coffee and reflection. So many changes ahead. Thank you for the messages of support and encouragement. We appreciate them as we take this next, big step toward a dream realized.

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Things to do when not farming…

The seed catalogs are piling up and it’s a constant reminder of how in flux we’ll be as of

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Identifying cool mushrooms…

June. It’s been a long time since I’ve not put in a large seed order, and frankly, I’m feeling a bit antsy about it this season. So, to take my mind off of what I won’t be doing, I’m thinking ahead to the things this extra time will provide in terms of opportunities for learning. An ever-growing, ever-bearing, zone 1-10 list of things to learn while not farming:

  • Tend to the travelling orchard
  • Improve spinning technique
  • Improve fiber processing set-up and technique
  • Experiment with natural dyes
  • Learn about medicinal herbs
  • Practice grafting techniques
  • Volunteer at school or public garden
  • Help a fellow farmer with farm chores, butchering, shearing, etc.
  • Learn old-fashioned candy-making
  • Focus on food preservation techniques:
    • Pressure canning
    • Smoking meats
    • Drying
    • Fermentation
  • Take a class in business planning for the fiber mill
  • Maybe, just maybe, learn a new knitting skill
  • Explore niche or value added markets
  • Take a botany class
  • Spend some time with growers using methods outside of your own, including conventional, biodynamic, and other permaculture or organic farmers and gardeners
  • Cut up seed catalogs to make art with the kids
  • Cut up seed catalogs to do some companion planting planning
  • Re-read Edible Forest Gardens

The list continues to grow and hope blooms eternal, so… suggestions are always welcome and may spring shine warm sunlight upon your gardens!

Letter to the Greater Schoharie Valley

The woman in the photograph is my great, great grandmother, Rose Render. She lived onphoto 3 (1) a farm in middle Michigan, raising her boys and her livestock on her own, without the help of modern conveniences like electricity and running water. My mother remembers going to Grandma Rose’s for dinner, enjoying chicken raised on the farm and processed by our grandmother’s own hands. My mother described her visits to the farm as travelling back through time. The tiny, sturdy farmhouse walled off to the approach of a fast-paced modern era.

I assume the desire to farm runs deep. It’s all I’ve ever wanted, save for that year I wanted to run for president in the seventh grade. Some of my earliest memories involve planting radishes and pumpkins in a garden beside my mother’s house, beside the neat rows of cherry trees that stretched out for miles in three directions.

We’ve faced hardships as farmers. We’ve lost animals to predators and had to learn to harvest our own birds for meat. We’ve had animals get out of the paddock to explore the lake or visit town. Last year, we lost nearly 200 apple trees planted with love, by hand, to a brutal spell of unprecedented cold winter that followed an equally brutal drought. I’ve wept in the soil for these losses and questioned many, many times why we do this thing called farming.

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The answer always comes back to the successes. Grafting apple varieties on the brink of extinction in order to preserve this unique living cultural landscape. The raising of sheep, of alpacas, of learning to shear by hand, of washing these fleeces with great care and following this education down to carding each, and learning to spin so that the farm could support raising these beautiful animals. The reward in each of these feats far outweighs any set-backs.

Farming has also taught me to follow my instincts, to see failures as opportunities for growth, to find strength in vulnerability, and to be bold, despite the risks.  And this next bold move has taken us down some narrow roads – exploring the limits of our own fears and anxiety as we venture forth from Michigan to New York. Last fall we sold our house imageand have been staying with family as we make trips out east to locate a farm where we can finally put down permanent roots.

It has taken several trips out, but we finally feel comfortable in saying we would like to land in the region of the Schoharie valley, somewhere between Canajoharie to the undulating, aged mountains that rise up from Roxbury. And we’re seeking help. We’ve met with farmers, and are currently putting out feelers for any farmer or land owner who may be considering selling their farm. We are hoping to locate a farm with a house (we love older homes and are not afraid of renovations) with as few as four acres (more will be put to good use). A barn is not necessary, but a barn or outbuildings are a plus.

IF you know of anyone who may be able to help us, please feel free to share our email address healingtreefarm@gmail.com. We appreciate any help and look forward to becoming NY farmers this year! Thank you._o4xWwwKByO91WVxwu-cQcT7gkqweBxIjtCdCjO2G2U,NuqeJjwABcK9WcVXgvNf4Tkear9KK_FbgJqF45848_s

Hobbits, Unicorns, and a Cow Goddess

I just returned from another trip out to New York, this time to explore the Schoharie valley and Delaware County. This trip, thanks to the farmers who housed me, really invigorated me.  I think I’ve been feeling a bit disconnected from farming, despite the daily regimen because we’re currently partially uprooted. Being on a farm started by a woman and witnessing the incredible foundation she has built, along with the connectivity she fosters with neighboring farms, has really inspired me not to “begin again,” but to continue with this mission forward to build a farm and fiber business.

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Isadora, the Adorable

The farm where I stayed (had to make this trip out alone so Chris could tend to the alpacas), is technically East Branch Farm, but most of the locals know it as Straight Out of the Ground, a beautiful property with a goddess of a guernsey cow, who is the apple of Farmer Madalyn’s eye, for sure. And it’s easy to see why. Look at that adorable face!

In addition to farming, Madalyn also co-produces a radio show called the Farm Hour Radio.

The mountains are nothing short of magical. The roadways and farmland trace their contours, and in the mornings, mist hovers over the valleys, leading me to look for hobbits and unicorns as much as farmland.

Madalyn connected us with some good folks and resources for farmers and reinforced the awareness that New York is a good state for agriculture. Beneath every county sign I passed, the words “Right to Farm” appeared prominently. The soil in the valleys appears good and the prospect of a fiber mill feels welcomed.

photo 1 (2)Moreover, the locals are fiercely loyal to their agricultural roots and at one stop, in a village where we had been told we could not house our alpacas, a local business owner stormed down to the local village office and demanded to see the ordinance. When the village couldn’t provide any specific wording ruling against alpacas, she called me and said, “You can have your livestock here.” Can’t help but love these folks.

I would like to say we have figured this whole thing out, but after an inspection revealed some significant issues on the house we were under contract to buy, we are once again looking for the farm. However, despite this setback, I feel more confident than ever that we’ll find the right place, because more significant than where we will land is that feeling of where we belong. And it’s there, among the mountains and the hard-working farmers of the Schoharie, where we feel most at home. Looking forward to calling this place home.

Last trip out, we traversed Sharon Springs, where an inspiring couple revitalized a farm into an enterprising business. Madalyn told us it’s not only a thriving business, but they even had a television show. Check it out below. Also, living in the region, a woman I look forward to meeting at some point in the near future, Shannon Hayes, the Radical Homemaker. And so much more I would like to share, save for the time to write it all down…

If you don’t know them already, the Beekman Boys are fabulous.

Begin again with the Beekman Boys:

For the Win

On a shelf next to the fireplace, there’s a Little League trophy belonging to my husband’s childhood, alongside a Pinewood

http://www.idsketching.com/video/video-pinewood-derby-toy-car-sketch-demo/
Source: www.idsketching.com

Derby car he built with his dad in Cub Scouts. Chris won the Pinewood Derby three years in a row thanks to the careful instruction his father gave him on everything finding the “sweet spot” with weight to the physical build of the car to gain momentum faster than the competing cars.

Last fall, a young boy knocked on our door. We’ve grown accustomed to those fall visis from neighborhood kids selling everything from popcorn to flowers to cookies to discount cards, just to keep their beloved school programs afloat. This boy was selling popcorn to benefit his Cub Scout pack, and though we had no interest in the popcorn, Chris crouched down on the front porch and asked him whether he was planning to build a derby car. The boy said he wanted to, but didn’t know if he’d be able to. Chris then retrieved the derby car from the shelf to show the boy. After about 10 minutes of scout talk, the boy left, and Chris commented that it was nice to remember the experience of the derby and that he hoped the boy would have a chance to participate.

In January, another knock at the door revealed the boy had returned. Chris answered the door and the boy said, “Mr. Graves, will you help me build a derby car?” Another man accompanied the young boy and explained that the boy was in his care and that he didn’t have the tools to work on the car, but if Chris agreed, he would ask around the neighborhood and have the tools ready, as well as a place to work. Chris agreed.

When it came time to work on the car, the man returned and told Chris that another neighbor opened his heated garage for the effort. Tools had been gathered and Chris went to work imparting his decades old derby wisdom.

His goal, he had decided, was to show this boy, not so much how to win a derby, but that people cared about him. His photo 4 (3)goal, in line with the rest of the neighborhood, was to impart a sense community. A few days before the race, we learned there was no one who could take the boy, we’ll call him J, to the race. J ended up staying at our house and was happy to learn that not just Chris, but the entire G-T family would be joining him on race day to cheer him on.

Though I had no preconceived desire to win the race, my heart sank when, in the first race, the car came in third. It suddenly occurred to me that this boy might be really disappointed if the car under-performed. The next race, the car came in first, and seemed to set a bit of a pattern for doing so. Still, I didn’t know where we’d end up. There were so many cars, and so many dreams riding on that first place title.

After a few hours, it was time to reveal the overall standings. I was hoping for somewhere in the 10th to 6th place, but as the ranks were revealed one by one, J’s name did not appear. Fifth place, fourth place, third place passed, no name. photo 3 (6)Then second. I held my breath. Could it be? J’s car came in first place overall for all age-groups.

J jumped up, overtaken with the exhilaration of such a win. I looked over and Chris had tears in his eyes. He couldn’t believe it. He said he was worried that all of his input, decades old, would have been circumvented by new methods and approaches to racing. J’s car had come in a few ounces lighter, he explained. It worried him tremendously. And yet, something about the design, or maybe it was purely the energy of a community driven to show someone the love that brought that car to a first place finish.

After a victory pizza, Chris told J, “Now, I need you to promise me, that if a boy ever knocks on your door and asks you to help him build a derby car, you’ll do the same.” J nodded and smiled. And that was the best reward of the day.