Formerly,Bar None Ranch, of Berlin, NY, we are now Climbing Tree Farm, of New Lebanon. We raise PASTURED POULTRY, LAMB, GRASS-FED BEEF, and WOODLAND/PASTURE-RAISED, MILK-FED PORK. We keep our animals true to their instincts- letting our pigs dig, our chickens range, our sheep graze. We feed rotationally graze on pasture and silvo-pasture (in the woods). We work with a local dairy to feed our pigs Jersey milk. We are conscientious stewards of the land, and our animals.

Please visit our website
or contact us with questions or to place orders.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Laying Hens...again

Schuyler Montgomery-Nassif Gail's photo.

Schuyler Montgomery-Nassif Gail's photo.
Our hens

We started with 25 laying hens. It was fun. We knew each chicken's personality and quirks. We knew which chicken laid the biggest eggs, the spotty eggs, and which one was likely to lay eggs with double yolks. Our son was smitten, he played with the birds. We sold a few dozen eggs per week.

The next year we had 125 laying hens. It was fun too, but busier. Our son still played with the chickens. We sold tens of dozens of eggs per week. Our customers couldn't get enough.

For the next several years we kept 300-500 laying hens. It was crazy. They destroyed our garden. If we left the door open they would come in and (literally) poop on our kitchen table. It wasn't fun anymore. It was a job (but only marginally profitable). There were so many birds that our kids were scared to go in the fence with them alone.  We washed 450 eggs per day and sold what felt like billions of eggs per week. We had stacks of full egg cartons six feet tall. One of my messiest days (EVER!) was when the leaf on our table collapsed under the weight of 50 dozen eggs, breaking nearly all of the eggs. The floor flaked and peeled with egg whites for weeks, despite diligent and frequent mopping. Our customers were happy, but we weren't.

Around that time we took a Holistic Management class (look up HMI- it's awesome!). Unlike other business/ farming programs Holistic Management looks at what is best for your business, your land, and your family. It became clear to us that eggs weren't for us. They weren't fun anymore, washing all of those eggs was taking away time from our family, it was driving us crazy that the chickens were in our personal/family space (when they pooped on the table and ruined our garden). We went from 500 laying hens to 0. We bought eggs from other farming friends...and it was fantastic!

Eventually, we started missing having our own laying hens and our own eggs. We now have a dozen chickens. Our children play with the chickens, they are enjoying the responcibilities of caring for the birds and gathering eggs. Our daughter beams every time she does her chores- so proud of her chickens. She is learning to count by tallying up the eggs every day (a much more manageable task with about 10 eggs per day than with 450). Laying hens are fun again and we're happy to have them. Sometimes less really is more.


After an impossibly long, cold, snowy winter we are gobbling up the colors and smells of spring.

Our first chicks were out on pasture at the beginning of May and are growing beautifully.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Farm Kids in the City

You can take a farm kid off the farm, but you can't take the farm out of the kid...
My kids and I recently visited family in NYC. I think it's very possible that their favorite parts of the trip were petting the goats at the childrens' zoo, and riding on the city bus. (The small one also ate previously- chewed gum off the subway platform- yuck!) It makes me feel really good that they like what they know (farm)!

Life and Death (warning: graphic photos of chicken slaughter + pictures of adoreable newborn calf)

For the last several months we have been helping students at a local boarding school, Darrow, to prepare for and raise chickens for a project that they are working on- in which they hope to create a McDonald's-like "Happy Meal" with sustainable materials. Last Wednesday was slaughter day. We've been curious to see how the students would react to killing and cleaning the chickens they helped to raise from newly hatched chicks. These kids are awesome! They handled the chickens' death with dignity, kindness and purpose.
A group of students came to our house to pack the chickens up and take them to the school for slaughter. We talked about how that moment, when you choose to take the animal off pasture and to turn a living being into food, is a privilege, and something that should be done with ceremony, respect and gratitude. It felt  good to see these chickens help teach these lessons. I was proud of the students, who we have been working with for the last five or so months- they have a lot left to learn (about farming, and life, and all the millions of things we all have left to learn), but this they did really well.
During the slaughter I re-fielded a question I often get "why doesn't it bother you when your animals are slaughtered?" It does. Its sad every time. These are living things (some of whom are extremely cute and/or animals that we have become close with) and we choose to kill them. When killing animals (that we care about) becomes nonchalant and fails to stir our emotions- then we will know that we need to stop raising animals for meat. We respect our animals in life and we are thankful for them in death.

Generally at the end of slaughter you are left with a bucket of intestines, other unpalatable organs,
and heads. This slaughter was different- the biology teacher who helped with this project gave a
running commentary of every organ and how it worked. She even found a chicken heart with fluid
and explained that the chicken might have been experiencing heart failure.This is what teenagers do
 with chicken heads...they discussed putting them on strings or sticks to use them as puppets for
 performance art. Love to see every piece of these chickens used and appreciated.


While the cow labored some of the herd looks on.
After slaughter with the high-schoolers, our kids and I stopped by our friend Cynthia's farm. She had had two heifer (girl) calves born that morning, and when we arrived we learned that a third calf was on it's way. We watched from the car in the pouring rain with Cynthia as one of her Randall Cattle gave birth.  The cow grazed the fresh spring grass as she labored, occasionally arching her back or laying down to resituate the calf inside. We watched for about a half an hour before a bull calf was born into the pouring rain. The mother licked and cleaned the baby and the calf was up and walking (on wobbly legs) about a half an hour later. Birth, like death, is something that people don't see very often these days, in this culture. In a world so divorced from life and death, I feel lucky to see the almost magical segue between alive and dead, sometimes all in one day, and to feel my heart stir. It reminds me that I am alive.
That night four Great Blue Herons flew over our house in a perfect line. Somehow that felt important, but I'm not sure how. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Wintery Piglets

Piglets! Tina gave birth to 15 piglets March 3rd. They were born outside on a 0 degree night onto a bed of hay (in a sea of snow) that they shared with their mother, father and grandmother. The piglets came sooner than expected, and would normally have had snugger accommodations (like the hut they are in in these pictures), but have done remarkably well.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


We've got a LOT of frozen milk stockpiled at our place right now.
On these super cold days cases of milk often freeze in the time it takes to drive from our house, where we store the milk (a classy home d├ęcor) half a mile down the road to where the pigs are waiting to slurp it down. While we wait (months??) for the weather to warm, and the milk to thaw, our kids have found a good use for the solid ice blocks.
 Here you have the milk-gloo (igloo made of crates of frozen milk).

Feeding Pigs...On Skis

It has been very snowy.
We've had snow (and lots of it) a few times a week for a month.
At the farm we've also had a huge run of truck trouble (on all three trucks!).
These photos were taken on a beautiful snowy day when we had three broken trucks-
 skiing to feed the pigs.
We started the day out feeling grumpy and feeling like everything we owned was broken.
We ended the day with sore backs (that's a big kid to carry in a backpack),
hot chocolate, contentment, and a good memory.

Chicks on Darrow Campus

The chicks have arrived at Darrow School, where we are helping high school students raise and slaughter chickens for their sustainable "happy meal" project. At first the students would only poke and pet the chicks in their shipping box, but then they quickly became comfortable picking up the chicks. One teenaged boy said "it's like holding an angel."

One of the chicks was injured in transit. We discussed its options. We could leave it and let it die on its own or we could kill it, with the assumption that we would be lessening its suffering. Of killing the chick many of the students said things like "But I don't want it to die." We reminded the class that they aren't pets, and that in the end all of the chickens will die- so that they can have meat. This seemed eye opening, especially after the flurry of chick naming and cuddling. In the end the students decided that it was the most fair to the injured chick to kill it in order to prevent further suffering. One brave 10th grade girl did the job. I was impressed that this young woman and her peers chose the more difficult route in the name of kindness. I am proud to be working with these deep thinking, compassionate human beings. It gives me hope to meet young people like these.

The world's best documented chicks are raised
by teenagers with smart phones...



Cold and Sparkly

It's been cold enough and snowy enough to make our lives
extremely difficult this last month or so,
 but damn is it beautiful. I have never seen it so sparkly.

Guy Time

Tonopah (boar) and Kapugen (guard dog) get along well.
 Sometimes they curl up together to sleep, other times they share a meal.
 Here's a photo of a couple of guys just hanging out at -11 degrees.  

"Story Hour"

We've been regulars at library story hour for over seven years-
 both of our kids live(d) for it. I try really, really hard to be there,
 but sometimes we have work that can't wait and we can't go to the library.
 Here's what farm kid "story hour" looks like.

Darrow School Comes to Climbing Tree

Students helping Colby move a round bale.
We're working with Darrow school, a private high school in New Lebanon. The students have been challenged to recreate one of the most ubiquitous products in America - the McDonald's Happy Meal - from scratch, using only what we can find around us. They have been working with local farmers to help them learn some basic skills like cheese-making or bread-making, and they are trying to grow small pots of produce in various locations on campus.  They are also raising chickens right now in the biology classroom - for meat, not eggs - and another farmer is going to help them slaughter and render them for cooking.  Another team is working on the packaging - both paper and ink.

Ultimately, the goal of the project is to learn something about how we sustain ourselves - locally, nationally and globally - and to begin to think about whether what we are doing is in fact sustainable.  This challenge is the core project in 9th grade history - it was meant to lure the kids into examining essential questions about human geography.

The students are learning project management, how to use social media to advocate for change, research and writing, and self-reflection and evaluation, in addition to content.

For a longer description, you can read this:

Here are some examples of student research:

We've been surprised and excited by how insightful, curious, and thoughtful these students are. We look forward to watching their mistakes and successes (both important!) throughout this project, and can't wait to see what they come up with for a finished project.