How fortunate we were to begin our organic journey at Coast is Clear Farms in Brookfield, NY. Rory’s Uncle Chris put us in touch with an old friend who had moved up to northern NY and started a sheep farm 5 years ago. After spending the morning driving through endless rolling hills, farms and small towns we arrived at her farm late Tuesday morning. It was a beautiful day – blue skies and big billowy white clouds – perfectly suiting for a day on the farm.
Mary’s farm was classic farm elegance – the house a pale yellow was decorated with classic farm adornments – wicker chairs on the front porch with vintage memorabilia and cats out on the entry way, chickens and roosters strutting across the yard, and there were the sweet baby lambs who greeted us with their little smiles as we pulled into the driveway.
Mary was fantastic in her big rubber boots as she shouted hello to us across the sheep pen. A nearby neighbor was just leaving as we arrived and things got moving as soon as we stepped onto the dusty soil. First things first she took us around the farm and introduced us to the many animals living at her farm. We met the ewes and their baby lambs in the barn – Mary was assisting in feeding some of the lambs that had yearlings for mothers with a large bottle. One of the ewes was quite distraught over not being able to find her lamb and reminded us of the Evil Dead. Here we also met the very friendly pigs that thought I was one of them when I released my very practiced snort (I suppose that’s what happens when you grow up raising pigs). Mary had lots of fancy chickens but the fanciest of all were the cocks – they were the cocks of the walk. One of them was so fancy it looked like it was wearing a suit of gold.
One of the highlights of the trip was meeting the 10 highly trained and obedient border collies that worked on the farm. They were all characters – Annie, Clyde, Bucket, Patch, Z and the rest of the gang. Patch escorted us over to the sheep grazing pasture. It was amazing to watch him work. At Mary’s command he waited, tail wagging in the grass and sprung up when she gave him the go ahead. Patch brought the herd of sheep over to us. There were also 2 bulls hanging out with the sheep who so badly wanted to dogs. The cats wanted to be dogs as well..
Another highlight was watching the baby lambs take their first steps into the outside world. Following their mothers call they pranced into the open fields taking their first bites of fresh farm grass and dandelions. Some of the lambs were stubborn and Mary tried her best to coax them over… eventually they figured it out and found their moms over in the field. It was truly a sight to see.
All the animals on the farm were so friendly you knew that Mary treated them with respect and love just by the way they all interacted with each other. The sheep were guarded by two Maremma Italian sheep dogs – one of which we met and went by the name of Ben. He was a tall drink of water and looked and sounded pretty treacherous from far away (I guess that’s the point right) but as soon as Mary went into the gated area he was like a big teddy bear.
Mary bought her farm 5 years ago – all 87 acres. The farm is thriving on the basis of sustainability. It’s amazing. She practices herd/flock rotation – the turkey coop on wheels, the free roaming chickens and the sheep who are natural maintainers of the fields. Mary allows the animals to do what they are supposed to do and in turn the animals do the majority of the work for her by maintaining the pastures, renewing the soil with nutrients and turning up the Earth. She also barters with other local produce farmers obtain goods that she doesn’t produce herself.
She took us to the top of the farm to enjoy the view and all you could do was take a deep breath in and be in the moment. What a way to live.. so happy and free. Not a sound in the distance except for the wind and the feeling of the warm sun on your face. Life’s simple gifts…
Later, Mary lead us down to the stream with the dogs and enjoyed a few fiddle heads growing on the banks beside it. They were delicious – a similar taste to green beans and asparagus. The dogs showed us a few of their tricks and boy could those dogs jump(z could do a full running dive into the water) and we watched in awe of their happiness. In those moments I truly felt blessed to have been given this chance to meet Mary and her amazing family.
Mary was great. She had a million wonderful adventure stories to share with us. It was awesome to begin this journey listening to such amazing tales – someone who was living life and being true to herself. Mary’s the type of lass that decides one random night that instead of waiting in line for a movie with her friend they decide that a better way to spend their time would be to do a N.E. Bowling Tour stopping at bowling alleys all the way North to Newfoundland. We shared our life philosophies and passions over a delicious brunch – she made us farm fresh eggs, homemade bacon, and home fries served with a hot cup of tea. When we were talking there was an instant connection and appreciation between us all – you could tell we were all on the same page – or at least had a strong understanding of the feeling behind the words. It would have been awesome to have stayed there longer but perhaps that the other great thing about embarking on a journey like this… you can always go back… and I’d like to someday…