AgriCulture: A Woolly Good Weekend (No Audio)

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Hi all, Troy here,

My apologies for the late bulletin. Our week and weekend here at Turkana was rather brimming with visitors and activities. Old friends, new friends, students, customers, and even some surprise guests came in and out of the house. The temperature dropped as low as it’s been all year, but our hearth felt warm with fire and company.

One of our first visitors was a person we did not get to see nearly enough of last year: Peter Siegenthaler, whom I replaced as the farm’s primary source of labor. Peter is the only person I have access to who shares the experience of working at this quite unique farm, and we finally got the chance to bond about it as we scraped flesh and fascia off the underside of several sheep pelts.

Peter managed to preserve a few of our Karakul pelts in the past, and I asked for his help in doing the same for the six lambs we slaughtered last week. I think I’ll spare you the gory details, but just imagine Peter, Victoria, myself, and our friend Lilli doing something that many would find gross and off-putting with bravery and determination to turn an otherwise waste product into something altogether beautiful, decorative and useful. The products of our labor are now drying under piles of salt in the basement where they will rest for the next two weeks. Then we’ll cross our fingers and send them off to a tannery in Pennsylvania.

Lilli, an old friend from our science days in Virginia, happened to be coming to the area this weekend to take an animal tracking class with us. The class, run by the Rusty Anvil Mindful Immersion Experiences, was held in the Mass Audubon’s Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. It focused on the joy of paying attention to our natural surroundings and using a combination of mindfulness, intuition and curiosity to not just discover wildlife, but learn from it as well. The teacher espoused the idea that immersion in nature can be a form of healing and that the creatures that have thus far survived human-induced environmental degradation are models for resilience in the face of oppression. It was a wonderful and joyful exploration for the whole class in spite of the frigid temperatures.

One hopeful thing we saw on the trail was evidence of a thriving beaver population. We saw lots of chewed up branches and trees with their signature pencil-point tips. There were both active and historic beaver lodges positioned all over the frosty wetland – a wetland made possible by the beavers themselves. After European colonization of North America, beavers experienced a precipitous decline due to the lucrative fur trade. Tens of thousands of hides were collected every year, endangering beavers to near extinction in some regions, until protections were introduced in the early 1900s. Today, beavers are still a fraction of their original numbers. They are often considered a nuisance, due to the flooding they cause and the trees they fell, which puts them in direct conflict with landowners. However, the Mass Audubon Sanctuary is well known for its successful coexistence with the beavers through very simple, flexible solutions that work around the lifestyle and needs of the beavers. For instance, all of the Sanctuary’s bridges are movable, so that if the water level is altered by a new dam or the disappearance of an old one, then the bridges can be moved to accommodate. It’s an elegant trick that lets the beavers create a beautiful landscape without the “help” of human intervention.

Today, we had a person visit who was also interested in Karakul pelts. However, the pelts she was interested in did not require that the sheep be killed. She creates what are known as “vegetarian” felted pelts. These crafted pelts are made with shorn fleece using a felting technique that binds fibers together at their base. This preserves the long locks of wool and makes them look like they do when they’re still on the sheep. She brought a shawl she had made that evokes images of a Viking warrior and said they sell well at Renaissance Fairs, which I don’t doubt. She gleefully pored through our supply of fleeces, well aware of the excellent felting qualities of Karakul wool, and clearly admiring their undeniable beauty. We sent her off with a couple whole fleeces to convert into rugs and medieval fashion.

I don’t think the the pelt trade threatens the sheep the way it did the beavers. In fact, it does the opposite. As a livestock breed, the more ways we can use the sheep, the more likely they are to stick around. However, it is nice to know there is an ever-expanding list of uses for these animals when they are still alive. Because, as far as we’re concerned, coexistence with them is not mere tolerance, it is our goal.

WHAT’S NEW THIS WEEK:

After all the recent attention to our fleeces, many more are still available for your very own craft projects! We can ship the fleeces too if you don’t live nearby. Shoot us an email for more info (farm@turkanafarms.com).

WHAT’S AVAILABLE THIS WEEK
Tiny hot matchbox peppers, $5.00 a string, dried and quite decorative.
Acorn squash, $2/each
Cheese Pumpkins, $2/lb, 5 to 8ish pounds

EGGS: $5/doz – new orders suspended this week

MEATS: We keep some on hand, but it helps to order ahead in case we need to retrieve from our stash in the big commercial freezer. See below.

GEESE: One remaining, about 8.5 lbs. $10/lb.

ROASTING CHICKENS – Nice fat Freedom Rangers, frozen, largish (4 to 7 lbs, a few smaller), $6/lb.

LAMB: Whole or Half $7/b (hanging weight), Riblets $8/lb, small and larger leg roasts $14/lb,

PORK: Loin pork chops, $12/lb (2 to a pack, btwn 1 and 1.5 lbs),
Spare ribs and country ribs $7/lb
baby back ribs $8/lb
fresh ham roasts (2 to 3 lbs), $12/lb
smoked bacon, $12/lb
Kielbasa $8/lb

FARM PICKUPS:

Email us your order at farm@turkanafarms.com, and let us know when you’d like to pick up your order. It will be put out for you on the side screened porch of the farmhouse (110 Lasher Ave., Germantown) in a bag. You can leave cash or a check in the now famous pineapple on the porch table. Regular pickup times are Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., other days by arrangement. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call at 518-537-3815 or email.



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