The Gray Fox Farm

Hudson, Ohio

Welcome to The Gray Fox Farm! We're a small produce and poultry farm in Hudson, OH. We sell our vegetables, chickens, eggs, and turkeys through a combination of our local farmers market, CSA, and directly to customers at the farm. Then we obsessively blog about it all. 

 

 

There's a Possum in the Hen House!

I need to apologize to my dogs. They aren't the world's worst farm dogs. This weekend they alerted me to a possum running across the yard. It was headed straight for the chicken coop. Since there's so much snow on the ground our poultry fencing is kind of just decorative at this point and that possum walked right over it and made his way through the coop door. He didn't even knock! 

The ladies weren't too sure about going back in the coop after the possum had been inside.

The ladies weren't too sure about going back in the coop after the possum had been inside.

I jumped into my boots, grabbed my coat and ran out the back door yelling, because obviously the best way to get rid of a predator is to yell at it (I'm a writer. I use words.) The chickens had already run out of the coop (the possum was after the eggs, not the live birds) and I flung open the coop door and told that possum in a very unladylike fashion to get the (insert words nice ladies shouldn't say) out of my chicken coop and leave my birds alone. I was rewarded for my effort with some hissing and that ugly fur ball proceeded to crawl up the coop wall to get into the nest boxes. 

I had nothing to catch him with and clearly I wasn't going to yell him out of the coop, so I did what any girl in my situation would do. I cried. I completely lost my cool over a slow moving intruder who wasn't even going to hurt my chickens. He was only after their eggs. 

Fortunately for me I have an exceptional husband whose only words were, "Go inside," when he caught up with me. He pinned the possum down with a pitchfork and shot him. Then he brought me the shells, which is the modern day equivalent of delivering the enemy's head on a platter. I do not deserve this man.

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I know I lost sisterhood points on this one. It's happened before. Needing a rescue is kind of embarrassing since I like to think of myself as tough, but aside from my pride nothing was lost. The chickens are fine, the possum is dead. In the great book of farm life this was a win.

I think I should get points for attempting a diplomatic solution before resorting to violence. I did try to talk the possum out of the house first. 

A Recipe for Muesli

Muesli is the easiest breakfast food/snack of all time. Here's the world's easiest recipe. 

1) pour

Put ingredients into mason jar. I follow a 2-1-1 mixture. 2 parts oats. 1 part dried fruit. 1 part nuts and seeds. Any combo will do. 

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2) shake

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3) eat

Put some of the mixture in a cereal bowl. I like to add a little milk and let it soak for a few minutes. Then add some yogurt or honey and maybe some fresh fruit if I've got it. 

Three steps and your're done.  How easy is that? 

Record keeping for farmers

Record keeping sucks. There’s no other way to say it. It’s tedious, time consuming, and most of the time feels downright pointless. Obviously I’m making money since I’m selling things, right?Wrong. When we were selling at the farmers market we would try to account for everything. Here’s what we did*

1. Wake up super early Saturday morning and begin harvesting greens in the dark. Immediately start arguing about which lettuces to take, how to clean them, and whose fault it is that we’re up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday. Every Saturday at 6am we say we’re going to finally buy a cooler so we don’t have to do this to ourselves each week. 

“How many heads of lettuce are in this bed?” 

“Heck if I know, let’s just harvest the bed and count how many boxes we fill.” 

2. Load the washed and packed boxes into the truck for transport. The bugs have woken up by now and all we want to do is put on dry clothes (washing produce is a wet job) and get away from the mosquitoes. 

“How many lettuce heads fit in a box?”

“Heck if I know, let’s just count the heads when we unload at the market.”

3. Unload at the market. Though we live the closest (3 miles) we are somehow always the last to arrive. As we’re setting up all thoughts of counting have gone out the window because we are selling produce right out of the packed boxes.

“How are we going to know how much we sold?”

“Heck if I know, let’s just count the money at the end. We’ll divide by the sales price and figure out how many heads we sold.”

4. Chaotically sell produce to people for 3.5 hours. 

“How much did we sell?”                                                    


“Heck if I know, I bartered some stuff with other vendors so the money in there isn’t totally accurate…”

5. Decide we’re totally going to do better next week.

 

*This is not actual advice. If you have suggestions we're open to them!

Eating local on vacation

I love to travel. It’s a strange thing to be a farmer, so grounded in land and home, and simultaneously want to see the world. We’ve found a way to work it out by traveling in our off season and relying on friends and family to care for our animals while we’re away. And I’m never sorry to miss some of the most brutal temperatures at home while sitting on a beach somewhere.

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One of my favorite things to do on vacation is eat. Local food cultures are fascinating. I’ve eaten wiener schnitzel (breaded and fried veal) in Austria, fresh mangoes in El Salvador, crepes in France, goulash in Hungary, roasted chestnuts in England, bryndzove halusky (potato dumplings with sheep’s cheese) in Slovakia, and pecena kachina (duck with dumplings and red cabbage) in the Czech Republic. I believe in “eating local” wherever I go. 

Eating whatever is local and seasonal in any given place requires a simple google query “national food of _____.” Or, what’s even more fun, is visiting the farmers market. The minute I got off the plane in Florida this year I went immediately to the market. After months of imported fruits and winter root veggies I nearly cried looking at a fresh tomato. No matter how much science advances a California tomato shipped to Ohio is never going to be as bright and flavorful as one grown and purchased in place. Life is too short to eat pale tomatoes. 

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Tomatoes aside I loaded up on citrus fruits. Obviously. Floridians do oranges the way Ohioans do apples. They’re sold by variety in big bins with each type sold in its own season. There is a run on Honeybell oranges like there is on Honeycrisp apples. The oranges are not uniform in size nor are they perfectly consistent in bright orange color. They ripen the same way peppers do, changing from green to full color, so you can find them in varying states of ripeness. The oranges have spots on them, just like apples. They can be ugly like tomatoes. They can be incredibly juicy like a local peach at home. Clearly, oranges are awesome and nothing like the ones sold at home. 

The funny thing about eating locally on vacation is how it changes your habits. I often put fruit in yogurt with my breakfast. I’ll add muesli and then drizzle the whole mess with honey. Strawberries, blueberries, stone fruits, even apples pair well with yogurt and honey. Citrus not so much. I didn’t realize I had a subconscious breakfast food culture based on the fruits that grow in my area until I was faced with someone else’s local food. So I skipped the yogurt and just ate the orange slices plain. It was so juicy I had to cut it up with a knife or risk having a full glass of orange juice floating on my plate. That's never happened with any orange I bought at the grocery store at home. 

Back home I'll return to my yogurt and honey and wait until those first strawberries show up in June. But it's fun to make a change while I'm away. How do you eat local on vaca?

Florida Farmers' Markets

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Ohioans have an inborn need to visit Florida once a year. It can be the snowbirds who head south for the winter or the family vacationers headed to the beach for summer vacation.  But something in our nature states we must make an annual pilgrimage to the peninsula.

I’m of the snowbird variety. I need to be on a beach for at least a few days during the winter to remind myself that life is worth living. After weeks of gray skies, subzero temps, and doing farm chores wearing my entire wardrobe to stay warm I need a respite. 

One of the main perks of my annual migration is that I’m landing in Florida during their growing season. I make it a point to hit the local farmers market and load up on fruits, greens, and fish that I can’t get fresh at home in February. 

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But Florida markets are not like Ohio markets. Yes they have a bunch of people with tents, tables, and pick up trucks but the market regulations are different here. One of the awesome things about Ohio is that the markets are mostly producer only. That’s the magical phrase that means the market vendors are growing the stuff that they sell you. It’s not a resale market. 

In Florida those rules don’t apply. There are so many out of towners shopping, me for example, that customers want what they have at home. Apples, peaches, and root veggies don’t grow well in Florida but customers want to buy those items at the market. Florida markets allow importers and resellers to have tents and sell other people’s produce. Ohioans might see this as sacrilege but let’s not be so hasty to dismiss Florida markets all together. 

These resellers are all about transparency. Truly. Every vendor I asked was straight up with me about where the produce came from. Some of them said that they grow only citrus but bring other fruits that they got from a wholesaler to meet customer demand. Other farmers pointed to each item on their table. “Those apples are from Washington. The blueberries are from Maine. The limes came from Chili.” Not one of them was embarrassed or surprised by my questions. No one hemmed or hawed or tried to get out of giving me a straight answer. 

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If you do see this as a violation of market law I want to give you some advice about spotting the producer at a Florida farmers market. They do exist and it’s important to you to buy direct from the grower (like it is for me) then I’ll tell you how to spot the true farmer.

 

1. Farmers are dirty. If you walk up to a vendor and he/she has clean finger nails you know they are not digging in the dirt. Also, dirty pant hems are a good sign. I put on clean clothes and wash my hands before I go to the market but I’m still wandering the fields in the morning. 

2.  Farmers will have a facial expression of exhaustion mixed with happiness. Farmers are excited to be at the market. They want to sell you their product because that’s how they make money. They are energized by talking to people about their products. And they will be a bit tired from standing all day after having harvested and packed all the produce boxes.

3. Look for a pickup truck. Resellers tend to have box trucks and, in some instances, a semi painted with their logo. They might just be a really big farm but small producers selling at a weekly market generally have an F150.

4. Look for long line. This is good for a few reasons. Lines mean that people are willing to wait for a good product. It also means the person behind the table is taking time to answer questions, explain how things should be cooked, and take an interest in his or her customers. 

5. Ask questions. The only way you’ll know for sure if the person selling actually grew what you’re buying is if you ask them. Don’t be shy. Even the resellers at Florida markets are going to give you honest answers. You decide what you’re comfortable with and who you want to have your money. If you don’t want to eat the lime imported from Chili then don’t. If you’re ok with those lovely fragrant peaches even though they came from Georgia go ahead and get them. And if you are determined to only buy something from a farmer who grew it look for the slightly dirty, slightly disheveled looking person with a pickup truck who’s chatting with a customer.

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