Fall 2016 Update

How Was KettleFest?


Thanks to everyone who came out to Kettle Ridge Farm last month to support KettleFest and to have a good time. We’re especially grateful for all the volunteers who provided their assistance.

Over 1500 people braved the threat of rain—which ultimately consisted of two brief showers—for the workshops, music, vendors, kid activities, and food and drink. Check out photos from the day on our Facebook page!

We would love to know what you thought of this year’s festival. Please take a minute and send us an email with your general thoughts and reactions, as well as any specific suggestions you have for next year.

Honey Update

The honey bees at Kettle Ridge Farm have had a good summer, in spite of drought conditions. Our fall crop is less than expected in quantity but awesome in quality: deep rich honey made from goldenrod, aster, and other wildflowers. We anticipate selling out before too long so if you are hoping to purchase honey as holiday gifts please get your order to us as soon as you can!

Maple Season Is Coming...

Fall is a great time to get out in the woods. The cooler temps, foliage, and lower vegetation levels makes the work much more enjoyable. We've been busy setting up new maple lines and fixing damaged lines, mostly from fallen trees and branches that came down during the offseason. We're shooting to tap an additional 300-400 trees this year to bring our tap total well over 1300.

With more tapped trees comes more sap, and more sap requires bigger and better equipment. We have a brand new evaporator on order that's nearly three times the size of our current evaporator. To continue the chain reaction, a bigger evaporator requires more space... We'll be expanding the sugarhouse into the large section of the garage area for those that are familiar with our setup. Lots of planning and execution ahead, but we'll get 'er done.

We're VERY excited to announce what we have in store for our 2017 Adopt-a-Maple program. In response to suggestions we've received, we are making a few tweaks here and there to improve the whole experience. We'll be rolling this out in the next week or two... Be on the lookout!

KettleFest 2016 Preview

Only 30 days to go before KettleFest! 

For those of you who attended the inaugural KettleFest in 2015, don’t worry, this year’s KettleFest, although a bit bigger, promises to serve up the same ambience you enjoyed last September. We are excited to have many of the same vendors and musicians, along with some unique and interesting additions.

Music

We’re pleased to announce that two of Rochester’s favorite bands—The Honey Smugglers and Jackson Cavalier & The Fevertones—are returning to KettleFest!
 
The Honey Smugglers come to the main stage at 12 noon with an exciting brand of original music described as “folkrock, jamgrass, and acoustic Americana.”
 
Jackson Cavalier follows at 1:45pm. Nobody is more original than troubadour Jackson. Nobody.

To kick things off on the main stage at 10:30am we have the String Chickens. This group plays traditional fiddle music with fantastic energy and skill. For even more of their music, you will find them on the porch stage beginning at noon.
 
Thurlow will wrap things up on the main stage, beginning at 3:30pm. Just sit back on your hay bale to enjoy their original instrumental music. Or get up and bust out your air guitar or saxophone. Either way.

For something a little different, the porch stage offers up a barbershop quartet called Four Tune Chasers at 3:30pm. Last time I spoke with them, they were competing in Nashville. I suppose competitions are big for barbershop quartets.
 
We still have open slots on the porch stage at 10am and 1pm. If you know any local musicians who would like to do some no- or low-amplified “busking” on the porch stage, please let us know.

Food & Drink

No one goes hungry or thirsty at KettleFest. And the best part is that everything is local! McCann’s Local Meats will be firing up beer can chickens on the grill, the Finger Lakes Food Cart with hots, hams, sausages and garbage plates, and the New York Wine & Culinary Center will provide a variety of sandwiches and wraps to suit any taste.
 
Adults will be able to enjoy pints of beer or cider from VB Brewery, wine from Three Brothers Winery, and samples of spirits from Honeyone Falls Distillery.
 
Coffee and coffee drinks will be available throughout the day from Glen Edith Coffee, while Starla Bakery will be offering fresh baked goodies.

Artisan Vendors

We have so many top-tier artisans coming to KettleFest that we can hardly contain ourselves. Several were at KettleFest in 2015 while others will be new to the festival. Feel free to take a look at the details page at KettleFest.com and click through to the artisans’ own website to see what they offer. And be ready to spend some money! You will find all sorts of things for yourself and for others (the holidays are coming!).

Workshops & Demonstrations

Our workshops and trail walks were very popular in 2015 and we expect the same for this year. Our favorite chef, Jeff Christiano will be back to demonstrate how to cook with honey and maple, while DEC Forester Brice June will again be offering trail walks and info about mushroom cultivation.
 
Our new workshops offer up knowledge about birding (birding author Hans Kunze), permaculture (expert Patty Love from the Rochester Permaculture Center), and native plants (Jim Engel from White Oak Nursery).
 
Speaking of native plants, we have purchased many potted plants over the years from a variety of sources, and the survival rate of plants from White Oak Nursery far exceeds any other source. Jim Engel has some sort of secret to growing great native plants.
 
Of course, Chris and Joe from Kettle Ridge Farm will be demonstrating our production of maple syrup and honey throughout the day.

Kid Friendly

Kids are sure to have a memorable KettleFest, with several activities found nowhere else.
 
Topping the list are the famous KettleFest chicken races. Your child will have the opportunity to select their favorite chicken before the hens race through a 50-yard wire tunnel to the finish line. It’s an absolute riot. The races are scheduled at three different times during the day.
 
This year we have reached out to some guests to “call” the chicken races. One of them is State Senator Rich Funke, who chairs the Senate Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks & Recreation Committee and who knows a thing or two about sports (if you can call chicken racing a sport).
 
A new activity this year is our beehive painting contest. Kids are invited to paint flower, insects, or other pleasant scenes on the sides of our beehive boxes. Prizes will be awarded. And after the festival, we will actually place the painted boxes in our bee yards.

Thanks To Our Sponsors

KettleFest would not be possible without the sponsorship support from many local companies. The sponsors are listed on the KettleFest.com home page. Many of these companies are also sponsors in the chicken races. We are especially grateful to our title sponsor: Victor Chevrolet. Not only are they helping to cover a good chunk of our costs, but they will also be providing shuttle service to the overflow parking lot if needed.

See you at KettleFest! 

Making Honey

Life is good for the honeybees at Kettle Ridge Farm. All 15 of our colonies made it through a mild winter and have been enjoying bountiful spring pollen and nectar. With new purchases, hive splits, and captured swarms, we are now up to 35 colonies in four bee yards.

What this all means is that we now have honey to sell! Our spring honey is beautiful, light-colored, and delicate. Much of the nectar comes from black locust trees, which had a strong, but brief, flowering period. Many other wildflowers, including clover, were also visited by our bees.

We hope to have good crops of summer and fall honey as well. Our summer honey is typically dominated by nectar from basswood, sumac, milkweed, and motherwort. Motherwort is a member of the mint family and actually gives the honey a wonderful slight taste of mint.

Fall honey comes primarily from goldenrod and aster. The honey is deep and rich-flavored. The fall honey crystallizes very quickly and is delicious when spread on your morning toast.

We love our new packaging and expect you will too. The honey labels were custom-designed by our friends at Bee Paper House and are similar to the maple syrup labels they previously designed for us.

To purchase our honey, visit our Products page and order online or stop by our small self-serve stand at 515 Log Cabin Road in Fishers pretty much anytime. (It helps to call Chris at 217-7108 or email chris@kettleridgefarm.com before you come so we can make sure the stand is stocked.) You can also visit one of our growing list of retail outlets including Three Brothers Winery, The NY Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua, McCann’s Local Meats, Little Button Craft & Press, and Glen Edith Coffee Roasters in downtown Rochester.

Maple Season 2016 - Highlights

The 2016 maple sugaring season at Kettle Ridge Farm was a successful one:

  • We nearly doubled the number of taps from 2015, thanks to a few awesome neighbors who permit us to tap the maple trees on their properties. 
  • We more than doubled the number of families participating in our Adopt-a-Maple Program, and had plenty of outrageously fun outings with families that came out to help tap their adopted tree and enjoy a sampling of maple syrup.
  • We produced about 70% more maple syrup than in 2015. (Why not more? We missed a couple of sap runs due to the extraordinarily early spring warm-up.) Our new glass flasks and custom labels have been popular. 
  • We participated for the first time in the statewide New York Maple Weekend. A committed crew of volunteers helped us handle the steady stream of visitors with no surprises. We are already planning an expanded slate of activities for the 2017 Maple Weekend.
  • Our pilot launch of the Community Sap Collection Center ran smoothly and we look to expand it next year.
  • We attracted a significant amount of media attention on local TV and in local newspapers. State Senator Rich Funke, Chair of the Senate Tourism Committee, produced a captivating video featuring Kettle Ridge Farm.
  • We hosted a number of group tours of our maple operation including the Rochester School for the Deaf, Monroe #1 BOCES, Hickok Center for Brain Injury, and the Genesee Valley Club Culinary Team

Attention now turns to honey bees! the addition of ten new honeybee colonies (purchased through the local bee club), Kettle Ridge Farm’s apiary operation has now grown to 25 hives in four different bee yards. The warmer temperatures provided perfect conditions for overwintering, and our colony survival rate so far is 100%. (Compare this to our 20% survival rate last year!).

To keep things straight, we assign a college name to each of our beehives. Right now we have the following schools represented: St. John Fisher, Nazareth, SUNY Geneseo, Ohio State, Williams, Monroe Community College, University of Rochester, Hobart, Tufts, Boston College, Springfield, Univ. of Illinois, Harvard, St. Lawrence, Notre Dame, Villanova, St. Bonaventure, FLCC, SUNY Cortland, Syracuse, Hartwick, Cazenovia, and CalTech. Feel free to send us suggestions for future hives. If we capture a swarm of bees that you report to us, that colony will most definitely be named after the college of your choice.

If all goes well at these schools, we will soon have honey to sell.

Our Newest Product: Honey Bee Stings

Having some familiarity with the topic of bee venom therapy, aka apitherapy, we were intrigued by a recent request by a woman in Rochester who was suffering the effects of Lyme disease.  She had done some research into the use of honeybee venom and wanted to start stinging herself to treat her symptoms.

Could we supply her with honeybees on a regular basis? Of course we could!

It looks like our new customer will become a regular. Her goal is to self-administer the stings three times a week, with up to 15 stings in each session. She is under the supervision of an acupuncturist, and so far, she says, her symptoms are improving.

Although we don’t offer apitherapy services at Kettle Ridge Farm, the process of stinging is fairly straightforward: grab the bee behind the head with forceps and swipe its stinger on your skin. Presto, you’ll have bee venom pumping into your system in no time.

Just don’t try stinging yourself without having an epipen on hand. Although very few people have an anaphylactic reaction to honey bee stings, you never know if you are one of the few.

What Winter?

We are experiencing an abnormally mild winter so far this year. Not surprisingly, I frequently get the following question: How will the lack of cold and snow affect the maple syrup season? Since Mother Nature and I have such a close and communicative relationship, I can be confident in my response:

The 2016 maple sugaring season is going to be outstanding.

For background purposes, you need to know that a maple tree delivers sap only when warm days follow cold nights. Some sort of pressure thing occurs in the tree's veins during the freeze/thaw cycle that pushes the sap around. If the weather stays too cold, the sap won't begin to run. If the weather stays too warm, the sap soon stops running.

Two years ago Mother Nature delivered a surprise in the form of a very early seasonal warm-up. Maple producers who tapped their trees in January or February took advantage of substantial sap flows. Those who waited until March (including us) worried that we had missed the season entirely. Yet the temperature turned colder and the "late tappers" did fine.

Last year, the opposite occurred. The winter was long and cold. Maple producers worried that the spring warm-up, whenever it did finally happen, would occur all at once and we would not get the cold nights necessary for sap flow. Yet we ended up with plenty of cold nights even when the days turned warmer, and maple production in our area set records.

So whether the spring comes early or late, we always seem to get enough cold nights and warm days to allow maple syrup production to take place. But this is really only in the short term. If global warming persists, maple trees that evolved over thousands of years in colder temperatures will indeed be at risk, and we may instead be tapping rubber trees in upstate New York.

The next question inevitably turns to honey bees. How are they liking the warm start to winter?

My honey bees will tell you they prefer this year's weather pattern. Last year was so cold for so long that most of my bees literally froze to death. They were too cold to move to the honey stores in their hives. And they were too cold to venture outside for the bathroom breaks that are necessary to prevent dysentery.

So at least for now they seem happier. When the inevitable cold snaps occur, we hope Mother Nature interrupts with the occasional balmy day. (Speaking of mothers, did you know that the queen bee resumes laying eggs as early as February and that the worker bees must raise the temperature of the nesting area to 90 degrees? Simply amazing.)

Don't even ask about our chickens. As you can imagine, they are loving this winter. I've never seen a happier bunch of hens this time of year.

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New This Year: Community Maple Sap Collection

Imagine this scene: a late-winter evening with the temperature dropping as a car drives up and stops besides an old metal shed … a couple of kids eagerly watching as the driver (their dad) unloads a couple of 5-gallon pails of fresh maple sap from the trunk of the car … the sap being weighed, tested and poured into a large “community” sap tank as the kids get all their maple-sugaring questions answered by Kettle Ridge Farm personnel.

Then it’s on to the bonfire a few steps away where other families have already gathered after making their own sap deliveries … talking about their maple trees and sap gathering experiences … sampling some maple syrup … warming up.

Perhaps someone will even bring along a guitar and sing a few songs.

What you (and we) are imagining is the new Kettle Ridge Farm community sap collection station.  Because this will be the first year for the collection station, it will be something of an experiment. To our knowledge no one has tried to organize a community drop-off for maple sap. 

Our goal is to teach families about the maple trees in their own backyards. We expect to have a lot of fun with it.

Participating families will learn a lot about maple sugaring: how to identify the maple trees on their own property, how and when to tap them, and how to turn the raw sap into pure maple syrup. 

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The sap delivered to the collection center will be measured for sugar content, and credits will be recorded that are later applied to the purchase of our maple syrup by the participating family.

The syrup containers will be specially-labeled. So when 5-year old Susie presents her grandparents with a jug of maple syrup that says “Made With Sap From Susie’s Maple Trees,” she will undoubtedly swell with pride.

To participate in the Kettle Ridge Farm community sap collection station, you must attend one of our Saturday morning classes at the farm. The free one-hour class will provide instruction on maple sugaring and go over all the details of collection station. We will also have inexpensive food-grade sap collection kits available for purchase. 

Perhaps you just want to make your own maple syrup at home. That’s fine, too. You can still come to the class and bring home some collection kits.

The first class is January 23, 2016 at 10AM. Space is limited. Sign up at http://www.kettleridgefarm.com/community-sap-collection.

I call her Henrietta

I call her Henrietta, because anyone with hens should have at least one named Henrietta. In fact, none of the our other chickens, friendly as they are, have yet been named. 

But Henrietta is unlike the others. She’s a bit special.

Henrietta looks disheveled and she seems confused at times. Her comb is small and faded, much different than the large and vibrant red combs of her sister hens. And her gait is unsteady. In fact, she has trouble walking at all, and she is unable to roost at night with the others. Instead, Henrietta sleeps alone in one of the egg-laying boxes. 

Yet in spite of the juvenile and insensitive jokes we sometimes make about her (“someone must have shaken the egg before she was born,” etc), Henrietta elicits our admiration. 

She is determined to keep up. 


When we let the chickens out in the morning Henrietta is the last to exit the coop. But she eventually does. As the other chickens race up and down the chunnel, they may trample her, but she always weathers the storm and eventually gets to where she wants to be. 

We sometimes worry about Henrietta. The hawks are well aware that we have chickens, and we’ve occasionally experienced losses on days the chickens have been allowed to free-range outside their chunnel. The weakest and slowest chicken would seem to be the likeliest target.

But our special chicken might turn out to be our smartest chicken, and in spite of her disabilities, Henrietta may be with us for a long time. I hope so.