Chronicling Spring at high speed

Loving and trying to keep up with life at Good Life Farm

Spring 2017

It happens so fast!  Throughout March we watch spring plod towards us, hoping it won't come too fast and expose us all to late, killing frosts. Simultaneously, we are HUNGRY for it!  The warmth! The absolute burst of life that is late April and May. One day you are sitting, covered in bees and thinking "oh, this is unique".  And then you are covered in everything, and possibly underwater with your task list.

And then it comes, very suddenly.  And absolute all at once. Bloom begins in the peaches, spreads to the crabs and continues in perfect succession through the orchard.  We are blessed at this point in the 2017 orchard season to see fruit in our future, as a deep balm to the huge losses of 2016. And we are challenged to keep up!

This past week we got through orchard set up and started planting our 1500+ dwarf orchard alongside and in between the past 8 years of long-lived, slow growing semi-dwarfs. 

We also chased cows around, and got them onto pasture!  Huzzah- calving season can begin!

Asparagus popped up, we'll be a-pickin' starting Saturday and every day til June!

And always trying to take time to admire and appreciate this frantic, fleeting season. 

The Orchard Year Opens With A Bang!

This year can be said to be a watermark for Good Life Farm, home of Finger Lakes cider House. Each year since 2009 we've planted up to 300 semi-dwarf trees, but this year we're acknowledging several things, notably that we need higher production for GLC cider. So while we continue to grow out our 1,500+ large trees, this year we'll be popping in 800 dwarf trees and trellising them all with Good Life-grown, -horse logged and -hand hewn locust posts. Here's to calories! 

So while we continue to grow out our 1,500+ large trees, this year we'll be popping in 800 dwarf trees and trellising them all with Good Life-grown, -horse logged and -hand hewn locust posts. Here's to the calories that keep us all going!


Living the Good Life now: Farming the way we want to live

We are refreshed. We are determined. We see and we set the way forward. We believe this, and we are joyful though we have considered all the facts.  We are citizens, we are farmers and we are hopeful.

A member of my family and business- who remains nameless- said that 2016 was the year “Stella got his groove back”.  This statement was utterly at odds with my own experience of the year, which was more of an anxious and disorganized firefighter.  The complexity that the Cider House brought to the farm is just that- complicated.  It brought Garrett home to the farm and cidery full-time, and knitted our family and staff together so that we offer year-round jobs with opportunity for advancement and creativity.  It also created an administrative boondoggle and bound me personally to learning and employing a series of mysterious tools based on my tiny desk in my even smaller yurt.  Yes, 10 years and multiple construction projects later, we still live in and work out of the yurt.

So, gratitude for the coming of 2017: while one partner in a two member team perceives extreme challenge, the other overflows optimism.  In listing my top reasons for looking forward to 2017, Garrett’s bright eyes and forward vision easily make #1.

What does Good Life Farm look like in 2017?  The week between Christmas and New Year’s (2016) was a delightful breath of fresh air in thinking about the farm.  The more my job at the farm became that of supreme administrative ruler, the more confounded I became.  In seeking balance, we return to the sort of farm enterprise planning we were so actively engaged in from 2008 up until we shifted focus to the Cider House in 2014.  It feels great to hear Garrett rant about the next generation of trees on the farm, to plan for carbon sequestration, to see the health of our herd ever increasing and to play with the makeup of geese+duck+chickens vs turkeys for the orchard and asparagus polyculture.  More challenging is the continued use of draft power vs the tractor that we finally kowtowed to in May.  After a year of borrowing tractors to load and unload cidery-related stuff, we realized that this particular level of outsourcing was… ridiculous.  Ridiculous not in a funny, zany way.  And so arrived on the farm a front loader, easily harnessing the power of two well-sized horses. In denial and mulish stubbornness, I worked with Polly and to mow, plow and harrow the tiny amount of bare-field work we have left now that our farm is covered in grass and trees.  And I pondered.

Here’s a hopeful answer, for now.  Polly and Leo are a good team- calm, middle-aged, strong, healthy.  Draft power is important to me on an emotional-historical-impactful-audial level.  I love the swish-swing-clink of mowing, pulling, and harrowing with horses.  I love it when Polly calms down and focuses.  I love horse sweat and I deeply value horse manure.  Leo, I just love. Animals are an incredible and compelling part of our farm.  Some systems make complete and inherent sense.  Poultry in the orchard: check.  Cows in the between-times pastures, and clearing honeysuckle and brambles from the woods: all good.  Dogs as friends, greeters and deer-chasers: certainly.  Draft horses: how practical?  How affordable?  Do I have the time to keep them in training?

Why the constant reference back to horses?  Isn't the farm all about apples and cider now? Draft horses are certainly only a part of Good Life Farm, and currently are not economic drivers. But they continue to embody core farm mission in terms of impact, pace, lifestyle, in-sourcing, energy. Recently, I read a sprightly article on demolition in a Vermont mountain wilderness- requiring the use of Percheron power to haul out rubble. (Hell Hollow Bridge Removal: The Green Mountain Club, Winter 2016).  Draft animals fit and maneuver with less impact and greater elegance than tracked or wheeled machinery sent into similar situations.  I grew up in an aura of Muir-inspired wilderness love.  The appreciation of wildness tracks straight to my own love of nature-inspired agriculture and our farm management.  Land stewardship is something I can wrap my head around, get up in the morning and work for.  I can administrate the heck out of this idea if I know we are still on this track.  Good Life Farm has a long way to go in proving anything about the combined yields and ecosystem benefits of polycultures, but on a day to day level, I think we can continue to offer an experience of the farm where all who come imbibe a feeling of peace, pace and empowerment.  I believe that Polly and Leo can help us along this path, the human-horse relationship being as deep and old and sensitive as it is. 

When folks visit the Cider House, they often wander down to the horses.  I’d like to be bringing the horses out to the people, and taking the time to tour and chat about what such members of our system mean.  Yes, let’s debate the anachronism of farming five times slower than one’s neighbor. Let’s acknowledge feed and vet bills and never getting to leave the farm.  In the 2 years of the Cider House, I’ve come to realize that what might be lost in time and efficiency can possibly be gained back in education, imagination and inspiration.

Whether we can keep the horses as a part of the functioning farm is still in the air.  So this Saturday we’re celebrating our years as teamsters and the love we have for working with Leo and Polly.  We invite you and your families, friends, colleagues to join us to WASSAIL our orchard, ride along with the team, make some noise, sip some cider and invoke abundance for the 2017 harvest.  Come on out!  The rest… will be the stuff of more blogging.

SATURDAY, JAN 14TH, 3:30 - 5:30 PM

Celebrate the orchard: Good Life WASSAIL

Garrett and I invite you to our Cider House and farm next Saturday for a Wassail!  We'll tour the orchard on a sled, powered by our draft horses Leo and Polly, bang some pots and pans, enjoy a warming fire, sip some cider, sing (or not) a song to the trees, and share in the love of orchard-based cider. INVITE EVERYONE!

Cider House Blog Share... Resting To Reignite A Sense Of Curiosity

Seasonal Interlude With A New Friend

For the past two days- Wednesday and Thursday- I've been swept away by what I've come to call a core-mission experience. Simran Sethi came to town to share her book "Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love", which we carry here at the Cider House with pride.  Simran's book focuses on agricultural biodiversity and how this affects flavor, sense of place and food stability.  Among other things.  There's a lot out there to read about both Simran and her wonderful book, and my aim is not to repeat that necessarily, but to continue to share with the Finger Lakes Cider House and Good Life Farm communities how this kind of reading, writing and discussion circles back to spark our passion for what we do here.

Please do check out Simran, "Bread, Wine, Chocolate..." and find her where you are!

Listening And Contemplating Amidst Much Doing

First stop- Simran's lecture on Wednesday night, brought to us courtesy of the Cornell Plantations Fall Lecture Series.  Sitting in the audience was the first time in 2 months I'd sat and sustained a quiet, listening pose.  September-November in the cider world is pants-on-fire, between the bookends of FLX Cider Week (Oct 1-9), NYC Cider Week (Oct 21-30), and all the harvest, pressing, fermenting, tasting room hosting, etc that goes on at our farm in a busy Finger Lakes fall.  These times are critical to our business and we do our best to keep up and provide our customers and employees with a truthful and rich experience to keep us all grounded.  It is a time to say "Yes" and take every opportunity to get out into the world with cider, with ginger, with beef, before we all hunker down for a northeast winter.  In the midst of all this comes Simran and her rejuvenating message, and so back to the Statler Auditorium. 

I find a direct and essential connection to Simran's work in the frequent decision making here at Good Life Farm, and continue to be reminded just how far we've come on the strength of our belief, our willingness to compromise and our youthful naivete. 

Walking The Right Livelihood Path: Every Decision A Compromise

When it came time for Eric (Redbyrd Orchard Cider) and me to talk, I realized that despite being there ostensibly to talk about cider and preserving apple varieties, I could easily discuss many farm conundrums, and chose to illustrate the painful decision around turkey breeds we faced each year.  Quoth one of our mentors regarding heritage breed turkeys "they will ruin your high tunnels, they will ruin your marriage, they will ruin your life".  And so, uncharacteristically, we chose NOT to take on the challenge of breeding and raising only heritage breed turkeys.  In actuality, the minute the broad breasted whites and bronzes hit our farm we found them to be active, curious animals who didn't at any point become catatonic on their way to processing weight.  When holding up the permaculture ideal and trying to carry this biodiverse torch, each compromise that involves a nod back to industrial breeding seemed like a huge burden to bear.  Except, it was really hard enough.  On the agricultural side organic, day-range turkeys moving throughout an orchard and asparagus polyculture is a beautiful, productive system.  On the financial end, the intense labor and high grain prices produce an endless series of question marks, so many that this year we took a turkey-raising break.

Luckily for me, I wasn't at Simran's talk to problem solve these issues as much as acknowledge and contemplate.  On Thursday, we followed up the Wednesday Plantations lecture with an intimate Community Writing Circle, Discussion and Happy Hour here at the Cider House.  This workshop was among a few we've held that are small, free, and content-rich without having a sales focus and they truly light my fire.  We sat in a circle, sipped hot toddies of sweet cider and Pommeau, and followed Simran through her process for writing about food (read, love) and were challenged to write our own food story.  Precious time spent in a more restful and thoughtful period that I could have wished for in this hurly burly season.  Again, I found myself writing about the food aspect of Good Life Farm and our challenges in growing food in such an idealized bio-extensive system.  I continue to realize how this farm is intended for the second generation of farmers here, who will enter into a land base of well established trees, a solid herd of cattle, and maybe some clarity around raising poultry. 

Til Next Time

At this moment, a lot seems unclear and in flux.  The Cider House has made it possible to run this as a full-time family operation but still entails 80-90 hr work weeks, which leads me to wonder where that second generation is going to come from.  Instead of just worrying, the past two days of reconnecting to my personal "why" for all of this provides me with a tool for analyzing and discussing it with myself, with Garrett and with our team.  And, in the midst of the exhaustive season of harvest and cider sales, I am awake!  Thank you for the visit, Simran.  Looking forward to sharing more on this topic.

Good Life looking towards fall. On beef, fruit, ginger and this crazy year

How's the Farm?  Drought, Frosts, Cider Houses, Herds not Flocks

Looking back at our last newsletter- May- I find myself wondering "what's news, farm-wise?".  It has been a heck of a year to be a farmer in the Northeast.  We've recorded the hottest months for several months on end.  This heat began with unusually high and sustained winter temperatures, little snow fall and continues to be aligned with drought every step of the way.  We said goodbye to our peach crop during a 50 degree temperature flux in February, and goodbye to much of the apple crop and part of the asparagus during the late frosts of May.  After all that loss, we found that turkeys were not in our budget this year and we buckled down on what we could offer and found that the beef, ginger, fruit and cider remain.  

We continue to find ourselves in a state of identity crisis between the Cider House and the farm.  As Garrett and I analzyse our enterprises, we are increasingly reminded that our major crop systems are really for the 2nd or 3rd generation of farmers to work this farm.  Growing a beef herd with excellent genetics and an orchard of drought-reslient, deep rooted semi-dwarf trees- these things take up to 20 years to yield fully.  It is hard to find a farm like ours without a secondary or matching source of off-farm income.  In 2015, the Cider House became that for us, and we've continued to pile our eggs in this vertically integrated basket. We are asked, regularly, whether this is "working".  

What IS working?

On one hand, I can see that after 7 years of continuous cover, our soil seems to have the ability to bounce back a pasture, even in drought years.  We are not yet feeding hay to the cows, but still rotating on a rapid basis and seeing regrowth in our wake.  This, and the ability to grow trees, are the reasons I farm in the Northeast.  

While waiting for it to rain, praying for it to rain... we accept the losses of this year, and do have some Good Life to share with you all!

Things we have to offer this year

  1. 100% Custom Cut Grass-fed Beef!  More info here.
  2. Organic, baby ginger.  Starting October!  Order info here.
  3. Pending info on organic apples and asian pears.  Info will be posted here.

TURKEY UPDATE: No Good Life Turkeys This Year

Why, one might ask?  Each year I tout the glory of an integrated animal and plant polyculture, wherein the turks do all the fertility work for the following year's fruit and asparagus crop.  While this is still true, organic grain prices continue to outpace the price we can sustainably charge (and pay up front for grain delivery) for a finished turkey.  We decided, after seeing the other 2016 farm losses coming down the pipe, to take a year off from turkeys to regroup, rebuild our financial stability.  In the weeks to come, we will have a set of recommendations for where you might find this year's Thanksgiving bird, so please feel free to ask!  And please do consider us in the future- turkeys have been an important part of Good Life Farm, and we hope to bring back this enterprise.

Good Life Farm May: Appreciation and Chaos!


This morning was an excellent reminder of the way the work of farming balances the energy needed for the Cider House.  Each morning, I start with animal chores- visiting cows, horses, geese, dogs, and soon, back to turkeys.  This morning was a chaotic and distracted start and when I got to the boy band of bull/steers, I was flying.  The cows move each morning to fresh pasture, from which they are only separated by a single strand electric fence.  Today I dropped the line off the charger, let it down to the ground and lazily started rolling it up.  Any anxious cow could easily hop this dropped line, and in the process learn a new and destructive trick.  My bad, entirely.  I was, however, offered forgiveness by the cows themselves, in the form of Jed the bull.  Jed followed me up and down the dropped, dead line, all the while staying on his side.  When I made a very small corridor free of fence line he gently walked up to it, waited for me to move, and cheerfully moosey-ed onto the new grass.  It wasn't dramatic, just patient, but it created a moment of stillness and peace, and things seemed more clear afterwards. These moments are somewhat unpredictable, but in some ways, are more so every day.  They are created by choosing good genetics, fully providing for the animals and maintaining constant contact.  As my role in the Cider House changes, I find that morning chores are an essential grounding in the truth and vision of what we're nurturing at this place, in this time.

Good Life CSA+ Reckoning

An Update for past Good Life Spring CSA members!

I write in the midst of a truly weird spring full of jump starts and jolting stops, weather-wise.  Possibly this is how the Spring CSA communication has seemed to go as well, and I want to reach out and explain ourselves :)

Good Life CSA Summary

We decided not to run the Spring CSA this year, as I am sure you've surmised.  We tried an experiment back at the beginning of March (deliveries March 9 to be exact).  That experiment is about loading up the van with a whole lot of food to fill your larder and pay for free delivery/staff time.  It was successful!  And as we move towards our grassfed beef herd producing more, we're going to look to this bulk buying model for meat, fruit to keep our relationships with you intact.

For us, the March 9th experiment worked, and that those of you who ordered enjoyed the mix of larder supplies and CSA+ add-on's.  We would like to continue to work with our CSA+ Kindred Farms to offer that full diet range of preem-o FLX food, raised in a way we are sure of and can pass along to you. 

Why no Spring CSA?

I think we've talked about the relative expense of running a Spring CSA versus the Summer/Winter CSA models.  By committing to fresh Spring vegetables in the share, rather than stored roots, we felt we were filling an important niche in the local food scene.  However, most of those crops take 3-5x longer to get to harvest size than they would during the May-November growing season.  We found it difficult to charge for the CSA package accordingly and to fill the shares to a point we felt comfortable, thus finding the Spring CSA a challenging economic model.  From 2011-215 we tweaked and tweaked, but this year needed to take a step back to find what will really sustain the Good Life Farm on its path.

We still value, very much, our connection to you and your family.

We hope you will stay in touch with us!  Thanks to the Cider House, there are a lot of ways to do so!  Come out for a Friday night date, come taste on the weekends, come to Asparaganza!  (PLEASE come to Asparaganza on May 28th!  More Info Here)

More info on our next Bulk Delivery will go out over email, social media and will be posted here!

Welcoming the New Year starts in the Spring

Awake Ye Good Life!

Welcome to Jax.  Born sometime before 9:30am on Thursday, March 31st, 2016.

Mama Sparky, a wonderful, experienced mama cow, had a smooth birth.  She is always first to bear, in our experience with her.  She came to us from dear friends the Chezoys at Angus Glen Farms and has given us Magda and Jax. 

Sparky's first tasks as a mama: lick baby clean, ensure good nursing.  Assist baby to hide in tall grass or brush.  Protect from curious 1 yr old calves and the farmer with the Selenium shot.  Lick again. 

This also marks a moment in time for Jed (Jedidiah of Hector).  He was a bottle-fed baby at Kathy
Engel's RK Farms before she absconded to Nebraska.  Jed is now a real bull, able to breed, but sweet and friendly in a way no one expects a bull to be.

Jax is a month earlier than we usually prefer to see calving.  We like to do it on full pasture.  Jed was not of the waiting mind back in the 2015 summer, and routinely hopped the fences separating him from the lady herd.  So, Jax.  Last day of March.  Welcome sweet one!

Orchard Moments at the Farm

Meandering around in a hurry... Spring is nigh!

Looking for success!

Above: Garrett started re-thinking our later (2011) Honeycrisp plantings and decided to use the B118 rootstocks we'd established to really get more cider apples moving.  Now these promising Dabinette scions are ready for their first year on this tree!


Why we make Ice Cider from fresh-pressed juice

Above: Bledded Golden Russet in the orchard.  Frozen, thawed, frozen, thawed... mealy, smushy but brilliant in color!


Not Success: Girdling

This Dabinette didn't make it.  Sad face... despite the tree guard (pushed up for this pic), the bark mulch was too inviting for our many vole friends.  Goose and Reepicheep, asleep on the job!

Thanksgiving is Nigh!

A Guide To Stocking Up and Getting Down...

Come to our Thanksgiving Market on Monday, Nov 23rd in our Tasting Room!

Prepping the bird...

Good Life turkey birds had a great year!  We ended up needing to process the last batch early, so all our birds are frozen this year.  Please let us know if this changes your order!

To help make this all easy as... pie... Early Morning's Tracy McEvilly and Chef Emma Frisch teamed up on receiving, thawing, rubbing, brining and generally prepping for the big day.  See their Guide to your Good Life turkey, below.

Click here for RECIPES!  Apples, ginger, cider, turkeys, oh yes!

'Tis Organic Apple Season!

Good Greetings!

Our joint Good Life Farm + Hemlock Grove Apple Shares are up for the Fall season!  Delight your family with a weekly or biweekly 10 lbs of fresh, organic apples!

Season's line UP:

Early Apples (til mid-September)

  • Paula Red  Tart but sweet, juicy and crisp, with a lovely white flesh. They're perfect for eating out of hand and makes a superb applesauce with little to no sugar additions required! Leave the skins on for a sauce with a beautiful pink hue.
  • Red Free  Great for eating out of hand. It is less sweet than Paula Red but will still make a great sauce. The flesh is barely off-white with plenty of crispness to it. Try slicing and drying this apple for a real treat!
  • Akane  Great for eating and cooking as it holds its shape well.  Suggested to be one of the best early apples. Cherry red in color and somewhat small in size with a sweet and mild flavor. Look for a bit of russeting on the shoulders and a pleasant crunch with each bite.
  • Burgundy  As it's name suggests, this apple is deeply colored with a purple-red skin that often bleeds color onto the flesh. The flavor is intense like the color and pleasingly tart.
  • Honeycrisp  Medium-large fruit, mottles and striped red over yellow. Cream-colored flesh is sweet and juicy with hard snapping-crisp texture. Best for fresh eating and holds well in cold storage.

Early-Mid Season (mid to late Sept)

  • McIntosh  Small- to medium-sized round fruit with a short stem. Macs have a vivid red skin brushed with bright green that is thick, tender, and easy to peel. Its white flesh is sometime tinged with green or pink and is juicy, tender, and firm. Great for fresh eating as well as cooking.
  • Sweet 16  Fine-textured crisp flesh contains an unusually complex combination of sweet, nutty and spicy flavors with slight anise essence, sometimes described as cherry, vanilla or even bourbon. Truly excellent fresh eating and also highly rated for cooking. Round-conic bronze-red medium-sized fruit, lightly striped red over yellow with cream-colored flesh. Keeps well in cold storage.
  • Scarlet O'Hara  Fruit is round-conic, full blushed red, sweet and juicy.  Medium storage life, delicious and perfect for fresh eating all Fall.
  • Liberty  Liberty is a handsome medium-sized, round-conic shaped red apple, with white flesh. It is juicy, crisp and has a sharp, mildly tart flavor. Fabulous for fresh eating and juice. It can be processed into a beautiful pinkish applesauce.

Mid to Late Season (early October)

  • Jonagold  If you're looking for a juicy apple, this one is it! Jonagold is a cross between sweet Golden Delicious and tart Jonathan, developed in Geneva, NY. These two parents produced an apple with a wonderful balanced sweetness - a honey flavor with a hint of tartness. This fluffy, crisp and juicy apple is great for eating, baking and sauce. Jonagolds make great fried apples; simply saute in coconut oil and add a little cinnamon.
  • Empire  Empire apples are red, juicy and crisp with a nice blend of sweet and tart. This tree, also developed in Geneva, NY, is a cross between the varieties Macintosh and Red Delicious. Empire apples are excellent for eating and salads, and good for sauce, baking, pies and freezing.
  • Enterprise  These apples are tart with a hint of sweetness, very firm, and are sometimes described as “spicy.” Their skin is a beautiful deep purple-red, although it is a tad on the thick side, and their flavor is excellent. Enterprises are great for slicing up and eating fresh, or use their firmness and tart flavor to enhance pies and other deserts! Makes for a superb storage apple.
  • Hudson's Golden Gem  Considered to be one of the best russeted apples, Gems are sweet, nutty, and distinctly pear-like in their texture and flavor. They are conical in shape, and their yellow skin is partially to mostly covered by russeting and sometimes sports a copper red blush. The original Gem was a chance seedling discovered in a fence row in Oregon; it was introduced for sale in 1931.
  • Tompkins County King  An antique variety popularized by Kingtown Orchards in Tompkins County in the early 1800‘s. Called the King of apples for its size and flavor, it was the fourth most popular variety in New York in the early 1900‘s. Considered by many to be the finest apple ever, it is crisp, course, sweet and juicy, with a real antique apple flavor. Unexcelled fresh eating quality and highly prized for sauce, pie and cider making.
  • Spigold  Spigold is a large apple, with red streaks over a yellow-green background. It is juicy and dense, with a sweet complex aromatic flavor that combines the best qualities of Northern Spy and Golden Delicious.

Late Season and Storage Apples (late Oct thru Winter)

  • Melrose  Large and slightly squat in shape, Melrose apples are a dusky red over a yellow-green background. Firm and pleasingly coarse in texture, this apple's creamy white flesh is juicy with a sweet and mildly tart flavor that becomes more floral and aromatic with age.
  • Northern Spy  An antique New York state apple, Northern Spy was originally discovered around 1800 in East Bloomfield. It became very popular for its juicy tart flavor and reputation as the best apple for making pies. Northern Spy apples are variably colored from green to red, and thin skinned. They store well, and are an all-purpose apple, good for fresh eating, cider making, and of course, excellent for pies!
  • Baldwin  Popular old American apple variety, widely grown for culinary use, and a good keeper. Its inherent hardness makes it an exceptionally good pie apple as it maintains it’s crispness through the baking process. This juicy, firm, sweet to mildly tart winter apple is also great for fresh eating.
  • Golden Delicious  :  Golden Delicious is an 1890’s heirloom with exceptional sweet flavor and silky, tender skin with creamy-crisp juicy flesh. This is one of our favorite apples to snack on while working out in the orchard, and it is also good for baking and sauce. Reduce the sugar in your recipe when using this apple.
  • Florina  Medium to large fruit, skin very attractive, purple red covering almost completely the yellow background. Flesh is medium firm and aromatic, a blend of sweet and tart, used mainly for fresh eating.
  • Gold Rush  This is an attractive smooth-skinned modern dessert apple, with a crisp hard flesh and good sugar/acid balance.  The flavor is typical of Golden Delicious but with a bit more acidity.  Juicy apple that keeps well and makes for excellent snacks, pies, sauce, and juice.
  • Golden Russet  Golden Russet is a small moderately attractive apple, which keeps well, and is very versatile for eating, cooking or juicing.  The flavor is typical of a russet apple but rather more intense than the traditional English St. Edmunds Russet or Egremont Russet - usually considered one of the best-flavored American russet apples.
  • Mutsu  These apples are sweet, crisp, juicy and refreshing. Their skin is green to yellow, and they tend to be large in size. Mutsus are an excellent multi-purpose apple, and can be eaten fresh, baked, or turned into applesauce. Mutsu apples can sometimes be found marketed under the name Crispin.
  • Esopus Spitzenberg  One of the great American apple varieties, thought to be Thomas Jefferson's favorite. Widely used for both dessert and culinary purposes. Noted for its spicy flavor, and for its susceptibility to any and every disease afflicting apples. Flavor improves with storage.
  • Ida Red  This old-fashioned variety is excellent for baking, pies and sauce. The apples hold their shape perfectly, but make delicious soft and tender pies. They have a mild sweet-tart flavor and are extremely juicy.
  • Fuji  Fuji is well known apple developed in Japan in the 1940’s. It has a predominantly sweet, mild flavor and is refreshingly juicy and crisp. It is a very pretty apple, with pink, speckled skin and creamy colored flesh, and is best used as a fresh eating apple.
  • Roxbury Russet  Probably the first apple variety originating in North America, as a seedling from a variety brought from Europe by early settlers.  Although it has some tartness it is like all russets a fundamentally sweet apple.

Parting is such sweet sorrow...

Today, we said goodbye to our two retirees- Randy and Pet- as they headed off to Tammy and Jody's farm near Cooperstown. We've had 5 horses for a few months, trying to balance the working needs of our farm with geriatric Randy and rescued Pet. We are so grateful to Jody and Tammy for a good place for Randy and Pet to rest, and allowing us to concentrate on Leo, Willie and Waylon.

Spring CSA Explained!

In time for St. Patty's day, we bring you our Spring Green!

Spring CSA explained.  We’ve been fielding a number of questions about how the new CSA+ project fits into rest of our story… one of my favorites is when we meet new folks, and they ask “but is Good Life really a Farm?”  In some ways, the CSA+ looks like a distribution business, and I believe that the CSA+ is probably confusing even to those of you who’ve grown with us, but that one is especially funny for me.  So, here are the basic deets on what we’re doing, and why.

If you’re looking to join the Spring CSA of olde, the CSA+ is the way in!
For our Spring Green aficionados, we have two Vegetable options, which pair really well with each other (no overlap) and with any of the rest of our extensive list of Shares!  They are:

  • Green and Fresh (April 2 start date is full, but pro-rated for rolling starts- sign up quick)!  This share is the most like the Good Life CSA formerly known as “Spring”… based on our greens, on heads of early stuff and on Asparagus!  Check it out.
  • Spring Roots (still taking full Spring members).  A truly wonderful mix of roots to fill out your veggies needs.  Always contains carrots, sweet potatoes and onions.  Then we rotate in Watermelon and Daikon Radishes, Cabbage, Kohlrabi and a few other choice roots, for diversity  and delicious-ness!

Loving and Leaving (this) Good Life

She was tough, every way.  Challenging.  A little crazy.  Amazingly strong.  Generous and effort-full. 

Goodbye to Betsy, our dear Belgian Draft Mare, who died at 4am on Thursday, January 15, 2015.

What does it mean that we’ve lost this friend and fellow worker?  RE: the functionality of the farm, and friendship and love and shared teaching, and hard pulling in hot weather.  I try to be organized about these things- when should we look for a new horse, since Randy is also aging suddenly and too fast?  Can we afford a new horse?  What type and how old?  How will we fit a younger horse into our older herd?These first days are dominated by a hollow feeling that has nothing to do with plowing potential.  Betsy was the greatest challenge to work with, and gave the most amazing rewards.  She had a layer of crazy that was deep at first.  She came middle aged with some bad habits- wouldn’t lift her feet, wouldn’t allow us to catch her.  Once I spent an hour chasing her in circles just to go in from the nights’ grazing.  And then, over time and always during hard work, there was the rest of her.  The rest was a deep, abiding, amazing core of endless willingness and effort, of super smarts and of strength.  She was serious about dominance, and would take it unless told otherwise, which made me get straight with my own intentions.  Betsy was one of our first two horses, with her partner Randy, and helped us start this farm and aim it in the direction we’re still traveling.  We were beginners, and she helped us see our way through.  I miss her sass, I miss her focus and I just… miss her. 

Why do I share this in our newsletter and blog?  I debated it- it is very personal and raw, but it is also insight into our farm and our relationship with our animals.  For those of you who’ve had a wagon ride or petted a horse here, you’ll know that Betsy wasn’t the public horse.  But you might also remember that even as I was saying “she doesn’t like people too much” and we were all petting Leo, or Pet, sometimes Betsy would sidle up and nose about for some attention.  I believe she loosened up here, recovered from some of the stresses of her previous life elsewhere, and ended well.  I hope I did everything I could do during the two days when she and I fought together, and I believe our vet that we did.  She was the ultimate stoic, and toughed it out longer than any of us predicted.  I am glad I had a friend who challenged me, pushed me and ultimately allowed me to care for her later years and at the end.  This feels and likely seems anthropomorphic but again, as insight into this place, Betsy as a friend, teacher and fellow worked is apt description. 


First Team- Betsy and Randy.jpg

Thank you Betsy, thank you to those who knew her and to all you who support our work. 

Good Life Farm Diary: Trials, Tribulations and Success with Greens vs. a Changeable NE Winter

January 6, 2015

Trying to harvest for CSA deliveries on Thursday... Today we watched the sun arc slowly and southerly across the sky- it peeped out about noon and engendered great hope that the thawing and refreshing process would commence and succeed in the tunnels. Generally in a cold Winter, there are 1 or 2 days in a week when there is enough sun and resulting solar gain in our passive tunnels to thaw and revitalize our hardy greens mix. Think of the temperature shifts in your car, turned off, based on sun exposure. We don't raise greens in a heated environment- we rely on solar gain in plastic tunnels, we select hardy varieties that can stand to be frozen and thawed repeatedly in the winter, and we harvest ONLY when the complete thawing and waking up cycle has finished. That means that tunnels need a few hours of direct solar gain to overcome temperatures outside, and the best, exciting part is that they can do it! With SUN, passive tunnels can overcome single digit and negative temps! With no sun, as in now, we can't combat even 20's and teens. So... we await the SUNNY few precious hours of Friday. You can bet your bottom dollar that we will be watching, waiting, and HARVESTING FOR YOU! as soon as we are able.

January 9, 2015

We DID harvest greens successfully yesterday and we WILL deliver them to your site tomorrow, Saturday 1/10!  Interestingly, even with all the sun yesterday, only the southern rows in each tunnel were harvestable by 1pm (tunnels run East to West to take advantage of low southern winter suns, thank goodness!).

What Makes A Pastured Turkey's Meat Moist? A re-post from Stockman GrassFarmer

We feel no need to reinvent the wheel or good writing, so unabashedly re-share this great article (that we could not find on the internet so transcribed and paraphrased here) from the November 2014 Edition of the Stockman GrassFarmer... by Joel Salatin (p. 10).  Whom else?!

"What is it that makes a pastured turkey's meat moist?"

Answering the question specifically  brings up numerous general issues about texture, taste, and eating quality.  The universally tasteless, dry and cardboard-like texture of industrial poultry is axiomatic. ... Differences between herbivores and omnivores extend far beyond diet.  Behavior, group size and exercise play a large role in flesh quality.  As a context, let's see what the industry has done to diminish firm and moist meat qualities.  First, group size increases.  Second, exercise decreases.  Third, diets are simpler.  Fourth, air is filled with fecal particulate.  Fifth, the salad bar- or any fresh greens- are no longer ingested.  It stands to reason that if these five big changes are the culprit, then changing them would be the cure...
Group Size: In nature, turkeys group into a convenient size of  somewhere between 20-100 individuals.  You will never see a group of 1,000 wild turkeys.   In the 20-odd years we've been raising pastured turkeys, about 400 seems to be the maximum number for one group without seeing aberrant and overly aggressive social behavior... Turkeys like to flock together, regardless of how big an area they have.  The size of the flock carries social implications.
Exercise: Properly toned flesh is more moist and tasty. ... Turkeys need to roam.  As a flock, they tend to move en masse from one area to another.  
Complex Diets: In nature, poultry feeds on a wide variety of foodstuffs.  Few things are as entertaining as watching a turkey chase down a June bug [or vole].  Amazingly, more often than not the turkey plucks the beetle right out of the air.  I believe scavenging a healthy supplement of insect protein to the feed grain ration is a key to creating moist eating.
Fresh Air: This is where pastured poultry systems shine.  And when I say pastured, I'm not talking about dirt yards.  I am talking about green grass.  ...texts say that deep breathing and fresh air affect blood flow and cleanliness, which affect(s) taste and texture...

Thanks Joel and Stockman, for an incredible and right-on article!  Good Life turkeys have these quality-of-life considerations in spades, largely because mimicking  natural systems is the foundation of our farm design and crop and livestock selection.  We believe 100% in fresh air, green grass and exercise... take a look at our daily chore video if you want to see how this half lives!

Multi-species working... easy-going Randy and Leo are taking the Turk Ark to greener pastures by turning a corner in the Orchard-Asparagus fields... and the turkeys really enjoy it!

Marching Hand in Hand...

First fires.  Cooling weather, cozy first fires of the season ignite!  This evening, I was struck by how much I love that I get free hot water from a pot on my wood stove.  For years now, I’m utterly delighted to be getting two for one- dual purpose warmth feeds my sense of economy, my preferred use of fuel from my own woods, and my hopes for generally putting it all together, simply and functionally.  I know those of you who already knew that fire makes heat are not impressed by this epiphany, but my point is broader- my simple (but true) example intended to illustrate the wonder and inspiration that come when we attempt to take responsibility for our basic, routine needs and then we find that by stacking functions (heating our house, making tea), the sum is greater than the whole (tea, heat, delight in daily tasks).

In this busy time, we struggle to put into elegant words the thoughts that come through the days of work and wander (perhaps a little short on the wander).  In particular, I’ve been chewing over the language that I want to put out about what we’re doing with our farm, our products, and why this is worth participating in.  With Good Life Farm and the CSA+, Garrett and I are trying to build this thing, this ark… which is capable of carrying our business and other, like-minded farms into sustained success.  I appreciate that many of you believe in our mission, or parts of it, and love our farm.  The funny thing about the Good Life Farm’s ecological goal trotting is that we’re a business, and the awkward part for me is asking for money to support our work.  Obviously, we believe in our work- we revel in the stacked functions of the turkeys-orchard-asparagus and cows-pasture-woods reclamation.  We write these newsletters in hopes of continuing to engage you all with the larger story of eco ag on our and related farms, and to place ourselves in the food scene.  Since food is one of those necessary and daily needs, and if eating is an agricultural act, and farming is a political act… then we suggest that our efforts and your support are indeed aimed at our vision for future humans on Earth.  Below, I’m going to share some of the most powerful things that move us, and please don’t think that I believe that our work here is on level with the work of the amazing folks I reference.  Please know instead that we take our inspiration for daily, necessary tasks from these words, and we take our hope for change from the belief that we are together, a force greater than the sum of our parts.  We commit to being a business that is not of “broken morals”, and we encourage you to stay with us on the way… whatever that looks like for you.

I’d like to share the poem from Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner of the Marshall Islands, as read at the Sept. 23rd UN Climate Change Summit.  Below is an excerpt, and here is the link to this amazing, evolving, evocative poem…

…and there are thousands out on the streets
hand in hand
chanting for change NOW

and they’re marching for you, baby
they’re marching for us

because we deserve to do more than just
we deserve
to thrive