Summer and farming go hand in hand. It started gradually in May with tilling, rock picking, and planting. First cut hay came and went in early June. By July, our pastured chickens were ready for processing and farmer’s markets were bursting at the seams with Swiss chard, cucumbers, radishes and lettuces. August is when the show really ramps up with tomatoes, sweet corn, and county fairs. These are the days when farmers work from sunup to sundown, with nary a break in between.
Unless, that is, we get visitors. Summer and vacations also go hand in hand, and this is the only time of year many folks can get away. Toss in a global pandemic and you’ve got tremendous pent-up demand and long-overdue trips!
My parents visited for an extended weekend in late June, stealing away for a few days in between concerts (my dad is a musician and band director) and babysitting obligations (my mom runs a day care out of their home). They weren’t able to be here on a Thursday and were sad to miss their favorite farmer’s market in Clinton. But Dad happily mowed our lawn while I washed eggs and Peter made cheese. We went out for wood fired pizza at Mangia Macrina’s in Little Falls and cooked fabulous meals at home, but mostly enjoyed catching up after 2 years (!) since their last visit.
Next came Peter’s brother Charlie, his wife Dana, and their three girls. Like my parents, we had not seen them since 2019. Charlie and eldest daughter Hannah are both avid bird watchers and generally love hiking so they went on long walks into our woods and down to our creek while we did chores. A few times we were able to join them. On what was meant to be a rainy day, we took them to the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown. It turned out to be a gorgeous day, so we enjoyed both the indoor art exhibits and the lovely grounds. Again, we ate like kings the length of the visit, alternatively going out to eat (one particularly amazing dinner at the Tailor & the Cook!) or preparing lavish meals at home. Their stay ended with a friendly game of volleyball, a campfire, and fireworks.
Our farm store, too, has been getting quite a few visitors these days. “Trail Blazers” checking out each of the eight CNY Cheese Trail member locations stop in to buy our cheeses and gelato, ticking off their visitor’s cards as they go. The Herkimer Diamond Mine and KOA Campground just minutes from our farm also provide a steady source of visitors, with hot and dusty “miners” looking for a cold treat or campers needing eggs and milk for their breakfast. We are nearly always working in the cheese plant and stop what we are doing to say hello, and to ask how they found us. We’ve met some very friendly people from all parts of the US and beyond, summer visitors that are simply charmed by the area and our beautiful surroundings.
No matter what time of the year, visitors to a working farm are sure to find it fun and educational, if not a little messy. Be sure to wear appropriate attire and shoes that can get dirty. Be open to meeting farm cats and dogs, and consider leaving your own pets at home. Our own dogs can be a bit over-friendly, if not intimidating to non-dog-owners. Archie, a rambunctious Border collie, certainly doesn’t realize how muddy his feet are when he jumps to greet visitors. If you visit, ask Archie to find his Frisbee!
As is usually the case, we’ve also had a couple of unwanted visitors this summer. Our oldest daughter Harper saved a young goat from a coyote just the other day. It was a small coyote, and it had not harmed the goat…yet. Harper ran at it with arms flailing and it quickly ran away. Husband Peter spent the remainder of the evening watching over the goats while they grazed; his trusty .22 at his side. We’ve seen the bold animal a couple of times since, and we wonder how long he plans to stay.
We also uncovered a nest of young timber rattlers. Curled under a stack of tin roofing, they were almost as surprised as we were to have their housing moved. I like them even less than the coyote!
Unwanted visitors aside, I am always happy to see people visit our farm. Young and old get a chance to reconnect, to breathe in the fresh country air, and to perhaps learn something new. And after a long period of social distancing, it is certainly a welcome change to see loved ones again. I hope you get time to unwind and enjoy the special people in your life. It may mean the chores get pushed back, or that you fall behind in some of your work, but it’s worth it. Enjoy your summer while it lasts!