Sunday, August 22, 2010

hudson valley saturday night

Kinderhook Farm is beautiful. That's really what this comes down to. I was sitting on Lee and Georgia's porch last night with a slew of their friends at dusk, drinking Saranac and watching their flock of Dorper/Texels half a mile away munch on their new pasture. It was a scene right out of a story book. The kind of farm we grew up thinking all farms were based on songs and illustration. I drank my beer and smiled. Right before I arrived they had moved the entire flock (without a dog) by Georgia simply sweet talking them through it. No grain, no yelling, just a new fence on fresh grass and the request to follow her. I heard it became quite the stampede.

Kinderhook Farm is in the heart of the Hudson Valley. It's a haul from Cold Antler, almost an hour and a half drive, but lazy and fine. I always opt to ride down 22 instead of the highways. It takes an extra fifteen minutes but instead of whizzing down the interstate I can weave the truck through old towns and farms. When I hit 295 I head west through Chatham and then a few county roads later you find yourself coasting along a series of fences and hillsides. Black cows eat happily on what seems like endless pasture. (At 1200+ acres endless isn't exactly accurate, but you get the idea.) Keep driving and you'll come up to a red barn with an old restored GMC truck and a restored barn that doubles as their farm store. Exhale and grin: you've reached Kinderhook Farms.

I pulled up to the farmhouse and let Gibson out on his leash. Louie, their handsome boxer, came rushing to play with my pup. It took Gibson a while to realize the gentle giant wasn't going to eat him and then his tail came out from between his legs. In a few hours Gibson was with us at the kitchen table, playing with a little girl named Meg who took to him like a pair of old roommates. She walked him around the farm and yard. They were a happy pair.

I had first met Lee and Georgia at the Greenhorns event they hosted this past spring. I wrote about it on the blog and Georgia read it and got in touch with me over email. We chatted and emails started back and forth. She liked what I wrote and I loved their farm and thanked them for hosting such an inspirational day. I mailed her a copy of my book, and we said eventually I'd come down for dinner. Last night they held their promise true, and we had an amazing meal of Red Devon burgers, potatoes, glazed carrots, and a chocolate soufflé-type dessert with cream and berries. Fresh pressed cider (hours before was apples) was made by Shaun, and I was proud to serve my own bread and honey as an appetizer.

The meal was amazing, that goes without saying. Eating anything that fresh and clean, right off the farm, is an experience that changes how you understand a meal, what a meal can be. But food aside: it was the farm itself that wowed me. Just walking the miles around the main horse barns. Checking out the moving layer flocks and meat birds. Watching the lambs follow their mothers, bleating as we walked by with Louie trotting ahead like a carriage master. At night before I left a crew of us young guns went out with flashlights to close up the birds and settle in the farm for the night.

Night rounds are my favorite of all farm chores. I walked through the fields with the others, following erratic flashlight swerves and thought about closing up Diana's farm in Idaho. I remembered how we'd go out to close up the chickens and feed the cattle after a few drinks and dinner and then come back to her warm house and family with that satisfying feeling of safety-granted. That sense that everyone outdoors and indoors was okay. I did the same with my small Idaho farm, and then again in Vermont, and when I drove back to Cold Antler I would do the same. Across years and this nation: putting chickens to bed connects me to a place in a way an address and electric bill can't. Taking care of future meals, keeping them safe as possible, collecting eggs and saying makes a place home, for all species involved.

After the farm was put to bed, I was ready for the same. I thanked my hosts, gave Louie a kiss, and drove north up 22 to my own warm comforter. Gibson breathed slowly at my side, asleep on a sheepskin as the first drops of rain started to hit the windshield. My stomach was full, my nostalgia fresh, and my body tired from walking and driving. Tomorrow I'd pick up feed and t-posts and start planning fall work parties, but as I drove all I thought about was this culture of food and people I have been so lucky to have fallen into. I have fallen into it, sure, but it is there for anyone with a container garden and a canning jar. It's there for anyone who opts for the farmers market or a chicken in the backyard (even just once in a while) over the grocery store. It's a club, but it's not exclusive. It's for anyone who wants to know the story behind the recipes and sometimes those stories come with chicken lullabies and full stomaches.

I sighed, smiled, turned on the wipers, and headed home.


Blogger Erika said...

I can't wait to finally get down there. It sounds absolutely amazing. As I make pasta sauce from 30 of my home grown Romas mixed with garlic and cioppolinis from two local farms, I'm so thankful that I've found the gift of local, slow food too.

August 22, 2010 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

You make Kinderhook sound like it would be very hard to tear yourself away from it. Loved the old truck!

August 22, 2010 at 1:36 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

I'm canning salsa today. I don't have a garden this year or land yet, but I picked up all the ingredients from the farmer's market. I love your descriptions of the culture of food and people that we are part of. I hope to make more connections with this culture and these people as time goes on.

August 22, 2010 at 1:44 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Erika, I'm heading down in the fall to buy some burgers and take a pasture tour - wanna come?

August 22, 2010 at 2:09 PM  
Blogger Erika said...

Oh I'd love to! Just let me know when and I'll certainly try to be there!

August 22, 2010 at 4:53 PM  
Blogger melinamarie said...

This is a great story. Love love love Kinderhook Farm. Next time you are in the Hudson Valley let me know. I'd love to meet up with you or have you come to our land.

August 22, 2010 at 7:08 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

By taking 22 through North Hoosick, you went right past my childhood home. It is funny you mentioned the trip of 1.5 hours being a haul. I know my relatives in NY would say the same thing. In Down East Maine, 1.5 hours isn't considered much of a drive to attend an event. Funny how perspective changes with locales.

August 22, 2010 at 9:29 PM  
Blogger Floridagirl said...

Happiness/envy sigh.

August 22, 2010 at 9:49 PM  
Blogger Marti said...

beautifully written and very inspiring!

August 23, 2010 at 3:37 AM  
Blogger daisy g said...

I think you've answered the question you posed on the

August 23, 2010 at 7:20 AM  
Blogger treehuggers kitchen said...

Jenna I absolutely adore your writing. I'm sure that it doesn't hurt that I love the simple life, and am doing my best with my backyard flock of chickens and garden. However, when I read your blog, I read it slowly. I try to make it last as long as possible, kind of like what you do with your morning cup of coffee. I'm reading your book for the second time. The first time I read it, was 3 or 4 years ago, and it changed my life. Your unbelievable gift of writing, your love of everything farm and country, I can feel it, I relish it everytime I sit down to one of your writings. You have far surpassed any of my favorite authors (and Barbara Kingsolver is a tough match), and have come to be what I look forward to the most in my morning routine. Anyway, I hope this post doesn't creep you out in any way, I just wanted you to know how much I truly, truly appreciate your gift of writing.

Btw, your visit to Kinderhook farm sounds amazing. I like your thoughts about closing the chickens up for the night, but whenever I go out, I'm always scared out of my brains that I'm going to meet up with a raccoon or skunk that is mad at me for disturbing him. I usually take one of my dogs with me, and if not, while I'm walking the path to the chicken coop, I'm talking out loud to myself (sounding absolutely crazy, I'm sure) so as not to sneak up on anything and have them go nuts on me. Does anyone else get nervous about this? Am I silly by being so afraid of meeting up with one of them?

August 23, 2010 at 9:01 AM  
Blogger Sense of Home Kitchen said...

Beautifully written! That is the truck I dream of (only mine will be blue).


August 23, 2010 at 9:15 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

TK: thank you! That is damn nice of you to say. And I understand what you mean about being scared. When the bear was out in Sandgate ripping down bee hives and chasing dogs I was nervous, really nervous. I'd go out with a dog too. Sometimes, with a rifle (not that a .22 would hurt a bear, but it made me feel safer...)

Nothing wrong with being scared. Just be safe as possible and wear warm socks. They help.

August 23, 2010 at 4:21 PM  
Blogger Robbie Knight said...

"It's a club, but it's not exclusive," The combination of this eternally welcoming and honest tone with your lovely writing is an inspiration I'm passing on. We bought our backyard coop today, all fancy-shmancy to look nice in the suburbs (public relations and all that). We won't have to buy winter squash this year-we'll have all the butternut and acorn we can eat for months. All of my friends will answer a knock at the door to find me standing there with their Halloween pumpkin. You inspired, I got psyched, I ran with it, now my friends are asking to come see the coop and wondering about cold frames. You use your powers for The Good, Jenna. And you are SO fun to read. Thank you!

August 23, 2010 at 8:03 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Your description makes my Barnheart go into overdrive. I want to be there and live the life!

August 23, 2010 at 9:33 PM  
Blogger Judy Hamilton said...

Such elegance! Thank you thank you thank you again and again for putting into words a few of my favorite things!

August 27, 2010 at 10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was so nice to meet you - hopefully we can do it again some time. :)

Kinderhook intern

August 31, 2010 at 2:56 PM  

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