AgriCulture: Let There Be Light

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WHAT’S NEW THIS WEEK:Plenty of meat, with a few pumpkins ($2/lb) and acorn squash ($2/each) left over.The nadir of egg production: The shortest day of the year also means the lowest ebb of egg production. We have just one dozen to offer, first come first served. As the days begin to lengthen, supply will build back up.Time to order lamb: We are sending six to market in mid January. You can order a whole or half lamb, $7/lb hanging weight, cut by the butcher to your specifications. Please inquire if you have questions about this process or would like to order one.
David Feeney’s electric jackhammer, Photo by Mark Scherzer
Hi all, Mark hereIn the nick of time. At least I hope so. The ongoing saga of getting our new barn fully operational for winter, a goal dependent on electricity being brought from the house via a 500-foot long trench, is coming to a close on the very first weekend of winter. Many thanks are in order.In a previous bulletin, Troy lauded his and Victoria’s friends, Hanna and Lila, and my friends Eric and Paul. As guests for weekend get-aways, they spent their leisure time helping clear debris in the areas near the barn where the trench had to go. Paul even came back for a second weekend to spend hours digging with a shovel and pry bar, when he could have been hiking his beloved nearby mountain trails.An attentive bulletin reader, David, called me immediately after reading my bulletin about digging through shale, to generously offer the loan of the electric jackhammer he had used to dig through the rock ridge behind his house on the Roe Jan for similar purposes. I was over at his house within hours. We were lucky that the shale areas were all within range of a fifty-foot extension cord run from either the back of the garage or the house.When the insurance proceeds ran out and we still faced $30,000 of expenses to finish the barn, my sister and brother in law, Jolie and Doug, came forward with a loan for the balance required. It was critical help at a cash short moment.Our electricians, Chris and Dan, and carpenter, John, gave up weekends, fitting completion of the barn’s lighting and power and internal features like stalls and mangers into their otherwise pressing work schedules. Thanks to them, and to recent modifications Victoria and I helped Troy to complete, we will have fully operational mangers and near eternal light (the LED fixtures are rated to provide 50,000 hours per bulb) in time for Christmas and Chanukah. Mangers and lights, a nice ecumenical touch.The electricians had told us last weekend that they could install the conduit and wiring and hook up the barn’s electricity this weekend if all the trenching from the back of the house to the barn were ready. If not, they said, the next chance for installation would not be until mid-January. Of course, the farm in mid January is as likely as not to be frozen in a foot or more of snow that can last until March, so we felt a particular urgency.Troy rented a trenching machine for last weekend, which did a beautiful straight furrow through the soft earth south of the vegetable garden and in other areas we hadn’t hand dug near the barn in just a few hours. It was not clear it would have such success, because torrential recent rains that followed upon 18 inches of snow created prodigious amounts of mud that threatened to clog the works. He tried the trencher on the shale areas, but it struggled, sputtered and seemed it would be damaged if we pushed it too hard.I did some research on building codes to see just how deep we really had to go. From what I could tell, on top of solid rock (and I verified that the shale ridge would count as that) we really only had to go 2 inches down, with two inches of concrete over the conduit. But our electricians advised to dig as deep as possible even in those shale areas in order to make the task of pouring concrete much easier. (by code, when the conduit is encased in two inches of concrete in a 12 inch, rather than 18 inch trench, that is kosher virtually anywhere). So we had to get back to work.Though I had done several hours of jackhammering and digging Saturday and Sunday we were nowhere close to our goal. I took off work on Monday for a final concerted push. Troy and Victoria did hand digging to restore the trench back to 18 inches wherever there had been collapses, and to complete the trench in areas where trencher couldn’t go. While they did that, I went at the shale with the jackhammer for a pretty steady six hours. It was satisfying work. Events that weekend and the week before had instilled a fair amount of anger and confusion in my heart and mind, and the aggression required to operate the jackhammer acted like a relief valve and clearing mechanism. The effort helped lift a considerable dark cloud. And I took a certain satisfaction in doing such a “butch” activity.By the time I left Monday afternoon, Troy was just finishing hand digging the last of the trench next to the house, near the point from which the line would emerge. We had reached our goal. What we were told would likely be a $5,000 cost for completing the trench if contracted out was accomplished for a cash outlay of about $200. If all goes smoothly, by Monday we will be fully operational. A big hay delivery on Monday should mean we are well set up for the coldest part of winter.I thought wistfully of our neighbor, Anne Rider, who died in October. She had frequently told us comfort she derived from seeing the light shining on our north barn door from her house across the pasture. Restoring that “north light” would have been a perfect Christmas gift to her. We, in the loving volunteerism of our friends, the generosity of our family, and the diligent efforts of our community contractors, have already received our gifts.
Tiny hot matchbox peppers, $5.00 a string, dried and quite decorative.
Acorn squash, $2/each
Decorative Tennessee Dancing Gourds, 4 for $1
Cheese Pumpkins, $2/lb, 5 to 8ish poundsEGGS: $5/doz – just one dozenMEATS: We keep some on hand, but it helps to order ahead in case we need to retrieve from our stash in the big commercial freezerGEESE: 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: 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), Jowl (roughly 2 to 3 lbs each), $12/lb,
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, 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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