Monthly Archives

September 2012

Silky chickens at the fence.

Integration. Sort of.

Chickens eating separately from each other in the hen yard.

Eating Separately

The Husband’s efforts to integrate our two flocks have paid off, if by integration he meant they’d share a yard while the Silkies go anywhere the big hens aren’t. To his credit, there are no fatalities to report. I was certain the Ladies harbored in their souls the panache for relentless, if not deadly, cruelty, but I underestimated their ability to grow bored. The hens took a few initial pot shots but now ignore the Silkies utterly save for the occasional peck on the head as a reminder that the fuzzy runts are to keep out from underfoot. More stimulating by far are the Silkies’ yard and henhouse, and twice I’ve found all six red hens crowded inside while the two little birds enjoyed a bit of tomato in peace at the opposite end of the yard. The new arrangement seems to be that the big girls help themselves to whatever they like and the little girls steer clear, and in this way our flock is integrated.



Silky chickens at the fence.

Not exactly MENSA candidates…

Silkies are indescribably obtuse – they’re afraid of strawberries for heaven’s sake – yet we have another victory to report: ours finally put themselves to bed at dusk instead of shivering in a huddle through wind and rain and making me swear. A burden off our shoulders with winter looming, to be sure.


The downside to all this integration is that my morning egg collecting has become an ordeal. Three hens now lay in the Silkies’ nesting box (after forcing the little ones noisily off their own property each morning, naturally), two lay in the compost pile (a habit formed during the Broody Pants scandal) and one dutifully lays in the henhouse. Eggs everywhere, but so far in predictable and accessible locals. Maybe once we batten down the hatches for winter the girls will adjust back to their proper spots.


Bow before your Queen.


As The Husband keeps saying, “Stop worrying. They’re chickens. They’ll figure it out.”


October Rose Farm and our Chicken Sensei

Bottom’s up at the water cooler.

Now that the summer is indisputably over and we’ve a mere month to partake in the bounty and friendship that is the Farmer’sMarket, The Husband and I did what we’ve promised ourselves we would do for a long time: we visited our favorite chicken farmstead people in all of Upstate New York: Susan and Brian Underwood of October Rose Farm.
One Lucky Rooster.
Some people venture into farming with well-defined master plans, others with an inherited knack (and/or land) from familial roots. Susan and Brian Underwood of October Rose accidentally stumbled into chicken-raising when their teenage son reared a flock of egg-layers to pay for a trip to the Boy Scout Jamboree and, upon his return, surrendered custody of his 25 hens to Mom and Dad. Since then, Susan and Brian have painstakingly gathered knowledge and know-how to expand their farmstead into a beautiful, orderly, and sustainable spread at the tip of Skaneateles Lake.
Evening chores.
Rotation method.
Since product quality is necessarily tied to quality of life, and October Rose chicken and eggs are delicious, we were not at all surprised when we visited Susan and Brian to find hundreds of beautiful meat and egg-laying birds on pasture in the fresh air overlooking the Skaneateles valley. The Underwoods utilize a rotation grazing method that promotes pasture health and animal happiness. Broiler birds in pasture pens are moved to fresh grass every day; the Eggmobiles, which run a daily average of 50 pounds of eggs apiece, are moved to new pasture every week. Unlike the cringe-worthy living conditions and pollution of industrial farms, October Rose’s animals serve as the Cleanup and Renew Crew: the birds break down and scratch insect larva out of the manure left behind by grazing animals and then enrich the quality of the pasture with their own droppings. This revitalized soil enhances the grassland for grazing animals, and the cycle begins anew.
It has been widely reported that October Rose turkeys are the best tasting in all of CNY, but should you wish to partake be prepared to plan ahead: orders for the Thanksgiving birds are typically sold out by June. Regularly available are plump, fresh chicken (whole, half and quarters) and fresh-laid eggs at the Skaneateles Farmers market every Thursday and Saturday, or by contacting the farm directly. I wouldn’t dream of making my chicken soup with anything but an October Rose broiler.
We’ve been customers of October Rose Farms for years. As a matter of fact, Susan Underwood – with her calm, hands-in-pocket patience – has become our Chicken Sensei. Without our weekly consultations with her at the Skaneateles Farmer’s Market we would not have dared foray into chicken-rearing ourselves. Susan has guided us through pasty-butt and broodiness and when we showed up to market a bit bummed after the unexpected death of one of our hens assured us that sometimes this just happens and, yeah, she knows what its like to regard a farm animal as member of the family.
Try having thatconversation with an industrial factory farmer.
October Rose Farm, twilight.
Watch this very fun and cool video of chicken-life on October Rose Farm.

Unite Two Design

Unite Two Design Studio, 639 Harlot Street, Elbridge NY
At first glance Keith and Theresa Traub of Unite Two Design appear perfectly normal. Engage them in conversation and you’d never suspect them of being that type – you know, risk takers; convention buckers, people audacious enough to grasp a dream with both hands and trek across the country in pursuit of it. Who does that? Only people capable of bringing into alignment a rare trifecta – the Will to relentlessly pursue an artistic passion, the Gift to create a thing that stirs the soul, and the Know-how to transform the whole affair into a viable business.
That type.
They are an uncommon couple: fierce; artistic; wildly inventive. And utterly unassuming.
Farmpunk coffee table
Theresa Doddona-Traub and Keith Traub
We meet them in Elbridge in their design studio on Harlot Street – the former Vanderveer Coleman bean processing plant – where they’ve spent the past year and a half renovating the workspace. Artistry in the smallest detail suggests the creative impulse is instinctive, subconscious. Sunlight pours over materials piled on long work-benches. It is space arranged for possibilities.
Keith takes us to his latest project: a coffee table constructed from old barn boards and a slice of metal fuel tank. The table’s surface has been oiled to a fine patina. “Oh, I haven’t seen this one yet,” Theresa says, running her hand along the grain. “It turned out great.”
We concur. The couple has spent years refining their style: “Farmpunk,” a romance between repurposed antique artifact and modern iron-work. It is a study in contrasts, sometimes quirky, sometimes whimsical, often drop-dead gorgeous.
Take the coffee table for example. A sculpture, really.
What makes this couple and their art a symbiotic union – a relationship of balance wherein objects of daily usefulness are immixed with functional art thereby nurturing the body and the soul – is that their work resurrects the ancient tradition of oral lore. Every piece has a back-story, a former life, and they take care to tell it. They take us on a tour and share the history: eclectic benches constructed from beams of former nearby barns; wine-racks revived from machinery sprockets left over from local construction sites; tables made from extinct chestnut salvaged from a turn-of-the-century schoolhouse.
The easy hour we share with Theresa and Keith at UTD leave us feeling wistful; inspired by those who relentlessly pursue artistic passion, who dare to buck convention.
You know, thattype.
Reclaimed, fabricated and found object jewelry
Meet Theresa Daddona-Traub and Keith Traub of Unite Two Design at the grand opening of their gallery in the village of Skaneateles on Friday, September 7, 2012 from 6 – 9 pm. See and purchase UTD Farmpunk fabrications and jewelry. Gallery location: 37 Fennel Street, Skaneateles New York.