In celebration of ice cream

I’m not sure it is possible to separate the story of our farm from ice cream. Ice cream is the fuel that powers our farm. It is the treat of choice for brainstorming sessions and hard conversations. It is dinner at the end of a hot day filled with field work and chores. It is the sweetener we add to our coffee during morning milking. (If you haven’t tried ice cream in your coffee, step away from your computer, pour yourself a cup, scoop in some ice cream, and try it right now!) It is the midday snack when it is too hot to eat, but we need to refuel our bodies. Ice cream is our deep exhale at the end of the day before we crawl into bed. Ice cream is the glue that holds our farm together.
 

The view from the porch while enjoying some post-storm icecream

The view from the porch while enjoying some post-storm icecream


Four years ago we made the decision to pursue our farm over a meandering conversation and some ice cream at Caz pizza. We had just finished looking at another farm and on the drive home we stumbled across the farm that eventually became ours. Our farm wasn’t an obvious choice; the land was steep, the barns not ideally suited for dairy, and the fields bore the signs of decades of neglect, but the farm radiated potential and hope. We lingered over our ice cream that evening, planning and plotting. Pastures 1, 2, and 3 got names that day, as did “the field by the road”, “the field at the end of the road”, and “the field at the top of the hill”. The beginning ideas of our crop rotation, long term improvements, and growth objectives came together over a placemat slightly stained with tomato sauce from a wayward calzone and Mint Chocolate Chip drips.

As all big decisions do, the choice to buy our farm took time -- there were lenders to talk to, family to consult, and offers to be negotiated. But the decision started over ice cream. The decisions to rebuild after our barn fire, expand our farm during a downturn in milk prices, and continue to farm in the face of continually declining milk prices have all been made over ice cream. So as we celebrate ice cream, we also celebrate our story and journey to dairy farming. 

 

Interested in how other farmer's relate to ice cream? Want some cool recipes? Check out these other posts!

Enough Ice Cream? by Farmer Bright

Mint Chocolate Ice Cream by Kimmi’s Dairyland

Why this Ice Cream Addict has a New Addiction: Ice Cream Sandwiches by New Mexico Milkmaid

 Sprinklers, Fans and Ice Cream in the Barn by Modern-day Farm Chick

Here’s the Scoop on My 5 Favorite Ice Cream Recipes by Eat Farm Love

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal a la Mode by New Day Dairy

Gimme the Jimmies by The Deere Milkmaid

Ice Cream Month by Spotted Cow Blog

Oregon Ice Cream by Guernsey Dairy Mama

Sadie’s Homemade Ice Cream by Dairy Good Life

Keeping our faces to the sun and our feet on the ground -- 2015 in review

After a difficult last few days of 2014, Chris and I decided to ring in 2015 quietly with my grandparents. We ate cheese and crudite, watched the Dick Clark show, and were happily home and tucked into bed by 12:20 on January 1. What our New Year's celebration lacked in excitement, our year definitely made up for. 

January was spent planning. Empire State Development offered a grant opportunity that we thought would make a great planning exercise. We thought about our guiding principles of social, environmental, and financial sustainability and set goals for ourselves that were in line with these objectives. We envisioned a heifer barn that would provide all the facility needs for our young stock, a cow barn that would accommodate the herd growth we envision for financial sustainability, a manure spreader that would be able to better handle the compost that comes off of our pack, and a mixer wagon so that we could feed our cows exactly what they needed and conserve precious nutrients. We packaged our goals up into the grant application and then created a separate plan for ourselves that would help us realize these goals over the next 10 years. 

February was cold. The polar vortex was no joke and Chris would come in from chores with icicles in his beard and his eyelids frozen shut. We spent most of February feeding the fire, bedding the animals, finding new and creative places to store snow, and trying to get cold diesel engines to start. 

March was a readjustment as I returned to work and Little Miss H started daycare. We redefined our family rhythm and were thankful for the relationship that Little Miss H and Chris forged in the barn. 

April brought the return of life to the farm as the grass greened-up and the birds returned. We improved our pastures, reclaimed old farmland, and ran a lot of fence. Little Miss H and I spent a lot of time clearing fencelines and moving cows. I also had the opportunity to move to a job more closely aligned with the agricultural field. 

May brought exciting news to the farm. At the very end of the month we heard that we had received the big grant that we had applied for in January. Our 10 year plan was suddenly our 6 month plan and we took a deep breath, dug in, and prepared for another long summer of construction. We decided to do first cutting early and got everything baled just as almost thirty days of rain started. 

June saw a lot of rain and the beginning of site prep. What should have been a small project for two barn pads spiraled into almost two months of excavator and dozer work. Not only do we have the barn pads, but we have the storage area we need for our feed, and the security in knowing the hill will not fall down into our barn yard. 

July saw more site prep and the start of concrete work. We built what we affectionately call the Great Wall of Munnsville and finally completed site prep for our barns. We also finished up second cutting and I learned how to drive a tractor. 

Site Prep1.jpg

August saw us catch our breath for just a moment and then dig back in to get the barns built and finish up all the summer stuff. As it always does, the riot of life that is August got the best of my vegetable garden and I lost the battle with the weeds. 

September saw the posts go in, the trusses get placed, and sheet metal go up on the barns. Progress came fast as our builders hustled to get the barns built in order to give us a large enough window to pour the rest of the concrete. 

October saw us begin what felt like an endless number of concrete pours. Day after day, week after week we built forms, poured concrete, stripped forms, and built them back up again. Each pour was a little bit different, but each saw us pause at least once and pray that the forms would hold together. While we had a few close calls, our forms held. 

November saw even more concrete and the creeping fear that we were going to run out of time. Construction on the barns and farm work blurred together in what felt like a final sprint towards a finish line that kept moving further away. 

Concrete.jpg

December saw us hold our breath and hope for just a little bit more good weather and then a little bit more good weather. And today, the very last day of the year, I can say that we have made it. The concrete is all poured, our water and electric lines are run, and our builder comes today to take final measurements for the last details on the barns. Our cows are happily out on pasture (this weather is weird) and we will be ready to move them into their new barns tomorrow. 

2015 was a hectic year. Amidst the push to build two barns, we found time for three (and a half) cuttings of hay, brought calves into the world, milked our cows 730 times, grew our CSA, and strengthened our little family.

What will 2016 hold? I'm not sure. But I can tell you that our hopes center around our daughter and our cows. We want to spend more time as a family; whether that means doing chores together, going to the zoo, or just enjoying quiet meals, we want to make sure that we consciously prioritize our family. We want to focus on settling into the new rhythm of our farm as the cows and we acclimate to the new barns; we want to focus on using our new barns in the best way possible. We want to continue to grow our CSA; the little community of people that visit us on Sundays to pick up their vegetables has become a highlight of our week and we want to continue to see this community expand.  

 

#DairyChristmas: Love and Latkes

Latkes are a cherished tradition on our farm. Chris and I got to know each other while I was making latkes for 25 people. Five hours of grating and mixing and frying allowed us to open up and learn about each other's passions. Somewhere in all the grease, we bonded over a shared love of life and wonder at the world. 

We closed on our farm three years ago today and in the time it took us to finalize the closing and return to our brand new farm, all the appliances disappeared. It was the second night of Channukah and without appliances making latkes seemed impossible. This was our first real holiday as a married couple and I felt that we needed latkes to make it complete. While we struggled to unravel the mystery of the missing appliances, I wrestled with how to get latkes on the table. At one point, I even considered buying frozen latkes and a toaster oven.

We celebrate Channukah because of the miracle that happened. A small group of Jews held off an army at almost impossible odds, came back to find their temple desecrated, and discovered just enough oil in the sanctuary to keep the eternal flame lit for just one day -- but the oil lasted eight days. And so, on Channukah, we eat latkes and donuts fried in oil to remind us of the miracle of the oil. 

And just as we reflected on the meaning of Channukah, we found a way to save our favorite tradition. While we didn't have a cooking stove, we found enough wood to light our wood stove, heat oil in the big cast iron, and make latkes. Those first latkes in our new house were especially sweet.  

The recipe we follow for latkes is pretty simple:

  • 1 pound of potatoes
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Olive Oil

Grate the potatoes and place in a large bowl of cold water. Let the potatoes set for 3 minutes and then drain in a colander. Pat the potatoes dry. 

Combine the potato, onion, egg, salt, and nutmeg.

Heat a think layer of oil in skillet until hot (but not smoking). Spoon potato mixture into skillet (2 tablespoons for small latkes, 3 tablespoons for large latkes) and spread until you have a flat round. Cook until underside is crispy, flip, and remove once the second side is browned. Transfer latke to paper towel to drain. Season with salt. 

The best part about latkes is the toppings. Traditionally they are topped with sour cream or apple sauce, but in our family we also like to top them with cheddar cheese or jam. We have even made miniature grilled cheese sandwiches from leftover latkes. What are your favorite latke toppings? 

Interested in other great #DairyChristmas recipes? Check out some of these posts:

Eggnog is Ice Cream by Farmer Bright

#DairyChristmas: Peanut Butter Balls by Messy Kennedy

Winter Iowa Corn Chowder (as featured on Cheeserank) by Little House on the Dairy

#DairyChristmas by Farm Barbie

The Best Christmas Cookies in the World by Truth or Dairy

Recipes for a Dairy Christmas by Cow Spots and Tales

#DairyChristmas Cherry Mint Sugar Cookies by Kimmi's Dairyland

Perfect for a Party -- Cheddar Olive Bites by Dairy Carrie

Dairy Christmas Traditions by Knolltop Farm Wife

#DairyChristmas: Love and Latkes by New Moon Dairy

Family at the Table by The Deere Milkmaid

French Onion Soup -- Our Family Christmas Tradition by Eat Farm Love

Dairy Delight by Spotted Cow Reviews

Christmas Cookies and Holiday Hearts by My Barnyard View

Italian Soup by So She Married A Farmer

Christmas Tapioca Pudding by Guernsey Dairy Mama

#DairyChristmas: Festive Parmesan Frico by Dairy Good Life



When Progress Looks Like Poop

Poop. We aren’t supposed to talk about it in polite company or at the dinner table. It isn’t to be bragged about or analyzed in too much detail. But if we are being honest, farmers deal with a lot of poop. The first piece of equipment we bought was a manure spreader. Our first barn chore each day is to clean the barn and spread the poop. We have even attended conferences about poop.

When we built our first barn we didn’t think too much about manure handling because the bulk on manure is stored in our composted bedded pack, but we have been struggling with the sheer volume of manure that the cows leave in the scrape alley.

Our new barn project offered the opportunity to fix our daily poop struggle. The single most expensive part of our project and the part we spent the most time designing was our manure push off. Our manure push off allows us a safe, easy, and clean place to push the manure into the spreader. Once the manure is in the spreader, we are able to spread it on our field, returning important nutrients and organic matter to the soil.

The first spreader is loaded and ready to come out of the pit!

The first spreader is loaded and ready to come out of the pit!

New Moon Farm 5533 Stockbridge Falls Road Munnsville, NY 13409 (315)495-6504 newmoondairyfarms@gmail.com

Background image: Carolina testing the theory that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence