17-Year Cicadas

Cicada on Wild Parsnip

On and around our property this year was the eruption of the 17-year cicada. We moved here 18 years ago, so we would have been here the last time they erupted.  But it was our first year here and the time of their eruption was also the time of the birth of my twins.  I don’t have any recollection of the cicadas.

This June we knew the cicadas were here by seeing the hard locusts shells on trees and clothes lines and items sitting near trees. About a week later we started hearing a background hum or buzz.  The Farmer described it as an other-worldly noise. (Think outer space other-worldly.) If we were in the city and coming home, there was no buzz up on LaFayette Rd.  But as we came to Graham Road, the buzz started and continued until we got to our home (and probably beyond).

I think the noise was temperature dependent and perhaps daylight dependent as well.  It would start around 9-10 a.m and stop around 4-5 p.m.  This continued for about 2 weeks.  We were able to record the noise of the cicadas.  At first you will hear the hum of the cicadas.  Then at about 10 sec. you hear the hum of 1 cicada.  From our internet  and book research, we found that only the males make the noise.

One day during this time as I took a walk on Kennedy Rd., I saw that the cicadas were covering everything – trees and weeds – everything.  Of course we had seen them flying around.  But I didn’t realize they were hanging off everything.  Here are some pics of them:

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Stray Livestock

If a man lets a field or vineyard be grazed bare and lets his animal loose so that it grazes in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard.  (Exodus 22:5 NASB)

Every so often we raise what we term a “naughty” cow. And our naughty cow recently went on a field trip to our neighbor’s house.

Naughty cows often arise when calves are out with Mom, and she is in a non-electrified fence. The curious calf naturally wanders to and then through the fence.  The calf never learns that fences exist as boundary markers. Most of our calves eventually learn what a fence is, but need one hot wire to remind them. Naughty cows only respect fences with multiple strands of electrified wire.

Generally speaking though, cows are quite content to lounge in the area they are given. Sure, the grass is always greener elsewhere, but as long as they are not super-hungry, they will not cross a fence line to get it.

We currently have a naughty cow, and it changes the pasturing dynamic.

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Generational Agriculture

When The Farmer’s father was growing up, their family house burned down while they were out of town. Eventually the family landed on a 100+ acre former farm. The Farmer’s grandfather raised beef and had a garden to help feed his seven children. This was the property that The Farmer knew as “Grandma & Grandpa’s house.”

Of those seven children, several stayed involved in agricultural pursuits.

Child 1 (The Farmer’s father) ended up on his own small farm doing part-time agricultural stuff. His first career was teaching agricultural mechanics, and his last career was performing testing at farms as part of the New York State Mastitis Control Program.

Child 3 ended up with part of the “old homestead” and built his own small farm (the one pictured here, at an annual Memorial Day Picnic) where his part-time pursuits include raising beef, hay, and eggs, and working in his retirement at a nearby farm.

Child 5 married a man who was the owner/operator of a milk trucking company.

Child 6 married and ended up on a small farm of her own raising beef part-time and having a family milk cow.

Child 7 bought the remainder of the “old homestead” and while he does not farm per se, he does breed and raise Newfoundlands as a part-time venture.

The Farmer does not expect 70% of his offspring to maintain an intimate connection with agriculture, but it has been nice to give them that exposure as they are growing up.

June Challenge – Your Choice

Our monthly local food challenge is a freebie month.  Find a local food and enjoy it.  Maybe you like local fish, or perhaps you have spinach or lettuce in your garden.  Maybe you grill local chicken or steaks, or you collect wild edibles and use that for food or as herbal remedies.  Or you like local honey!  (See this story on how we collected a bee swarm.) June is the month of comment on that.  Any comments enter you in our January gift certificate drawing!

Farm Technology?

When The Farmer graduated from the Cortland Enlarged School District, back last century, his parents bought him a Vic-20 computer. That was back in the days when you hooked your computing device up to your TV as a monitor.

The Farmer spent the summer between high school and college teaching himself the BASIC programming language.

He has dabbled with computer technology ever since.

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Pork Dishes – Flavor is in the Fat

This is what pork is all about.  The flavor!  Whether it is smoked or spiced or roasted, the flavor is what you remember from a good piece of pork.  And what makes the flavor?  The fat.  As Julia Child has been attributed to say, “Fat gives things flavor.”

The fat is what is left in the pan after you cook your bacon and what gets drained into a container to be later used to flavor veggies or rice or potatoes.  It is what mixes with the barbecue sauce of Sloppy Joes made with sausage or with the sauce of the pulled pork and what you sop up with the bread or boiled potatoes at the end of the meal.  The fat of a smoked ham slice or pork chops melts and flavors the potatoes or rice it is cooked on top of.

Pigs resting in their hut

We cook pork either by itself or on top of something: such as,  bacon cooked first and then eggs cooked in the grease; smoked ham slices, pork steaks or chops cooked over rice or potatoes; pork roast, first pan seared and then roasted in the oven.  In the last scenario, the fat is saved for a later use OR the bones and fat are boiled to make a broth for rice or for soup.  (This makes an excellent bean soup broth!)

Sausage is used to flavor things.  It is added to soups; it is the spice of sloppy joes – 1 part sausage, 3 parts hamburger, spaghetti or barbecue sauce for the sauce; it can be added to a stir fry or to an egg dish.

How have you used pork recently?  Let me know by email or in the comments of this post.

Spring Scallions

Our over-wintered scallions

Scallions are members of the onion (Allium) family that will over-winter in our climate. When spring (finally) arrives, they green up and make an early spring fresh vegetable. They have a  mild onion flavor and  can be used green or cooked.

These scallions have been transplanted

The Farmer began growing scallions just a few years ago. Here was the thinking: a single scallion grows into a clump of scallions over the summer…the clump overwinters…in the spring, the clump is divided and transplanted…the process repeats…wow-early spring onions without seeds!

What could go wrong?

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Bee Swarm

Way back in the day, The Farmer kept bees and extracted his own honey. But way back a few less years, the hives died off, and The Farmer moved on to other pursuits.

So these days someone comes and leaves bee hives for the growing season. He extracts the honey and pays “rent” to us in honey, and then we have honey to sell.

Bee Hives
2018 – some of the hives on the farm.

Recently, The Farmer’s teens have been looking at raising bees for themselves. They got the chance to get a hive for “free” when a swarm appeared on the property.

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May Local Food Challenge – Pork

The local food challenge* for May is pork.  Pork comes from pigs.  It includes steaks, chops, roasts, spare ribs, sausage, bacon, smoked hams or smoked chops, and feet and lard.

Pigs can be raised a variety of ways.  Just as cows can be raised in feed lots, pigs can be raised indoors on grain.  OR just as cows can be raised on pasture, pigs can be raised in a grazing setting.  Walter Jeffries of Sugar Mountain Farm has set a defining standard for how to do this well.  His website has a wealth of information about the whole process of raising, slaughtering, and processing pork.

2017 pigs on pasture

We raise our pigs in a manner closer to Jeffries than to the feed lot.  Currently, we purchase our piglets from a farmer who raises them in a manner similar to us, using non-GMO grains and letting them root and be outdoors.  Once they get to us, they are raised outdoors, getting fresh air and sunshine, being allowed to root, eating grass and vegetation.  They regularly get non-GMO grain, day-old produce from the local food co-op, kitchen scraps, and weed and grass clippings from the garden.  We keep their hut in an area for several weeks, expanding their grass areas before moving their hut to a new area.  During the time that they are with us, we may move them to an area that we want to garden on eventually, letting them do the initial work of tilling and setting down their manure as compost.  6 months to a year later we would then plant in this area.

During May our pork is on sale – $5.75 / lb for non-smoked items and $6.75 / lb for smoked items and sausage. If you would like some, email us, and we will let you know the cost and will set it aside for you.

Find and enjoy some pork this month! Then email me about how you liked it OR comment in the comments below.

*Each month we have been having a challenge for different local foods to find and eat.  Any comments about what you ate and how it tasted can be posted at  that month’s blog post.  Each comment entitles you to 1 entry in a drawing for a $50 Treasures of Joy Gift Certificate.  Limit 1 comment each month. Comments for that month close at the end of each month.  Drawing on January 1, 2019.