Friday, October 2, 2015

Consumed by Life...

As is often the case in our busy world, the author's life off the farm has been all consuming over the past ten months... Supervising twin 9 year olds, coaching baseball, running other businesses, and even making it to the second round of screenings for Shark Tank for Powerful Plants have been very time consuming...  Hope you all understand.
Large Daikon Radish

So what's new on the farm?

Well for starters it was a very dry summer. What in spring looked like a simply amazing garden, sputtered and ended up less productive than in other years.  With mice searching everywhere they could for moisture, our root crops became prime targets.  Our large area of potatoes produced smaller (and dryer) than normal spuds, and our peppers in the high tunnel are being mauled by rodents as well.

This all said, Dave has done a good job of marketing everything he can through the Lackawaxen Farmers Co-op, and sales are building this fall.  We've also had a few on farm sales from our small stand at the farm.

Other news is we will be sending two sheep to the butcher this fall and we will be giving "Renny" the bottle fed ram to a farm in Susquehanna county while acquiring a new ram from the same farm to ensure a new line of genes for our flock.

The big news of late however is the incredibly long 3' deep trench that was just dug for underground electric and phone lines traversing the farm to Dave and Christin's building lot on the far north side of the property.  This was a big project and a lot to coordinate.  The power runs close by the newly erected farm intern cabin, so power and internet was trenched to that structure with water soon to arrive from a newly drilled well for a nearby growing area and pasture.

The turkeys are starting to roost in trees so Dave will be clipping their wings.  We lost birds to predators in the past due to them not be locked up every night.

Owen and Coleman recently spent a five day school break with their dad and grandfather at the farm.
It was great family bonding time and much produce was harvested, including a large "Sugar Baby" watermelon that the boys said was the best tasting watermelon they ever had!   Unfortunately the local fishing opportunities were not productive due to the drought.

A fun time was had at the nearby Prompton Disc Golf Course that abuts Prompton Reservoir - about 15 minutes from the farm...  Rumor has it a 9 year old tied his dad on a round of disc golf!

Finally, we send out a big hello and best wishes for a continued speedy recovery to our dear friend Mary Thomas.  Mary's family owned our farm for most of the 20th century and had our farmhouse built. Mary took a bad spill several months ago, but she is as tough as they come and is on the mend and well on her way to a full recovery we are told.   We love you Mary!

By for now...

Your Friends at Old School Farm

The super harvest moon that comes every 30 years or so...notice the red colored halo - only lasted a few minutes

A beautiful Butternut

Dave Benner - the 86 year old potato digger with his grandsons

On the trail to the cabin with some of our apples

Benner boys selfy taken up in deer stand

The 350 year old sugar maple

"The best watermelon ever"

"Sugar Baby"

Fishing on the very low Dyberry - not even a bite or a rise!

On the fallen walnut over the Dyberry

Sitting down to a farm dinner

Adding stickers to Powerful Plants vegetable seed packs

Lunch at the Dimmick Inn in Milford

An Icelandic ram's horns spiral as they age

Kale adjacent to new crop of carrots and newly planted spinach

A nice surprise!  Watermelons in the greenhouse!

Weightlifting for 9 year olds

Yellow Patty Pans - over ripe

 We have lots of Rainbow Chard....great stuff - boys love it

Snow White tomatoes - straight from the vine - literally (now that is a good use of this currently overused word!)

It was so dry, the Country Gentleman corn was just gummy once cooked

Lakota squash and Casper Pumpkin

Large Hubbard squash in foreground

Our friends at Ant Hill farm loaned us their potato harvester

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Full Freezer & New Healthy Lifestyle Business for Kids

If it were two hundred years ago, or even one hundred for that matter,  having a fully stocked larder to pull food from all winter was a necessity.   In today's modern world with mass distribution of food, it is possible to enjoy fresh produce year round.

But is something missing?   After three seasons of successfully growing, harvesting and preserving our own produce, meat, and eggs, we have gleaned the following from our firsthand experiences:

The  food we grow and raise ourselves tastes significantly better and in turn is much healthier.   We believe this to be true for several reasons:

A) Our river bottom soil is loaded with minerals, and when we grow organically with added compost, our vegetable plants pull up an amazing amount of macro and micro nutrients from the soil and into their plant tissue.  Note: Many studies now show that over the past fifty years or so, the nutrient levels in our food supply in this country have dropped by 40%.
Dave recently turned a couple of acres to test growing grain crops for feed

B)  We aren't dumping synthetic nitrogen fertilizer on our soil. Nitrogen makes plants grow quickly and produce more foliage, but by growing so fast, the uptake of other micro-nutrients from the soil that are critical for human health can be limited.  More water is also required and contributes to the lower micro-nutrient pulling capabilities of the plants.

C)  Our healthy soil has plenty of beneficial microbes. These micro-organisms allow plant roots to better pull a broad spectrum of nutrients from the soil.

These five got a pardon for Thanksgiving - breeding stock
D)  Our freshly harvested vegetables and fruits are either sold, eaten or preserved right away to optimize flavor and nutrient levels.

E)  Our chickens and turkeys (and deer we harvest during hunting season) enjoy an all natural diet of organic grains and naturally occurring plants they forage upon daily outdoors.

F)  Oh, and of course there is quite a bit of added satisfaction that transfers to the food itself when your realize and remember all the care and effort that went into producing these quality foods.

If you've ever enjoyed a true free range heritage breed turkey or chicken eggs you will realize there is no comparison to even "organic" or "cage-free" products now available at various stores.

So during the holiday time of year we give thanks for those full freezers, our well stocked pantry shelves (pickles, sauerkraut, tomato sauce, jams, dried beans, and honey) and of course to that spare bedroom floor covered with squash!

As we reach the winter solstice, we reflect on yet another productive building year for Old School
Freya, our resilient ewe is a leader sheep who heads our small flock

We plan on learning from, and leveraging our past success in the coming year, and we will be re-inventing ourselves a bit too.

This coming year we will attempt to sell more products on the farm and hope to hold weekly wood-fired pizza events.  We also want to try some experimental bread baking in our earthen oven.  We will be expanding our grazing areas and Icelandic sheep flock, adding back some more bees, and significantly increasing our asparagus crop that does so well in our silty river bottom soil.

The big news this time around however, we have saved for last.  Old School Farm owner, Al Benner has been hard at work for the past 18 months working on a new healthy lifestyle brand for kids. The business, Powerful Plants is officially launching this holiday season with a Kickstarter campaign focused on funding the last educational phase that needs to be completed by early spring.

The company’s mission is to get kids re-engaged with nature and the outdoors and encourage them to become involved with growing and preparing their own food.  This is accomplished by “edutaining” children, and creating a bridge between technology, useful information, and the outdoors.   Powerful Plants’ initial products are an interactive storybook, heirloom organic vegetable seeds, and free contests and prizes on their website.

The characters in the book and on the organic vegetable seed packs come to life when viewed through a tablet or smartphone using a free app. This cutting edge technology is called augmented reality.  The characters animate and come to life to complete each chapter in the book once a child has read each page and answered three questions.  These answers are accumulated and score points toward a grand prize contest.  The characters on the seed packs come to life to share growing and preparation tips and other fun facts.

Powerful Plants is a way for parents and grandparents to connect with kids and get them interested in plants, food, and help foster a healthy lifestyle. The company is about to launch its’ products to the marketplace and has just recently posted a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the final educational phase of animating the remaining characters for the vegetable seed packs.  

To learn more and help support the project and receive some pretty amazing thank you gifts, click here  

Until next time, enjoy the holidays, stay warm, and be well!

Your friends at Old School Farm

Butternut Squash soup doesn't last long

Quite a buck rub on an Austrian Pine down in the pasture

Our sheep enjoy kale, brussel sprouts and broccoli plants

The living edge siding on the cabin continues to go up

The long lost game cam...found while "watering a tree" up back

Oyster mushrooms with a late flush of fruiting bodies on our poplar logs

The first snow starts - newly plowed 2 acres shows up white first

The privy in orchard

Our 350 year old Sugar Maple in the upper pasture

Adjacent falls coming from Lake Elsie

The family enjoyed an Old School heritage Turkey at Thanksgiving 

"Kids" table - we can tell who is 8 ;)

Snowball breaks up - too powdery

A Midget White hen will be breeding stock for next season

A nice evening to hike the farm

Two deer were taken from this tree stand a few days after this photo was taken

Wendy & Matthew from Philly that also own a converted barn upstate

Their lamas

Pony and Hafling draft horse

The Benner family enjoys an excellent meal at Dyberry Forks in Honesdale

Chef Ben says hi to his friends from Old School Farm

The nicely re-worked dining and bar area

A nice place, good local food, and a good time.

That's one big snow person !