Grassfed Beef Cows

Sweet 2017 Send Off from Finger Lakes Cider House, Kite & String and Good Life Farm

The year draws to a close... 

We say thank you.

It’s a bit early for us to be drawing conclusions about 2017, but we have the honor of working with incredible people whose reflections are powerful insight.  Jeff Katris created this video comprising the lush seasons at the Cider House and the farm, and we offer it to you as our sweet goodbye to the year.

I recently heard a song in which the lyrics speak to the ever evolving farmer soul- “tell me how trees are planted and all the things I never studied, let me learn them now.”

My rewrite... “remind me to plant trees each year and to ask for help when I don’t know the way.”

Thank you to all of those who have worked to make the Cider House, Good Life Farm and Kite & String Cider what we are, and for all the help on the way.  

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. 

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!

MUSINGS ON THE ROLE OF THE FARM


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.

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!