Better Farm's Winter 2010 Newsletter

Photo/Andrew Keys

Hello, friends of Better Farm!

It's been a couple of months since our last newsletter, but there's been no shortage of activity at Better Farm! Now that the New Year is upon us, we can take a moment to reflect on the success that 2010 has been, and focus on our plans for 2011. As always, thank you for all your continued support!

Recap of 2010's Fall and Winter Happenings:

• Plein Air Painters visit Better Farm

• A Chicken Coop Fit for 3 Queens

• The Better Grub Supper Club's Thanksgiving Feast

• A New Wood Stove Heats Things Up

• "Give Better" Clothing Drive A Huge Success

• New York Fine Arts Features betterArts' Residencies

• Future Plans at the Farm

Plein Air Painters Visit Better Farm

Plein-Air Painters of America (PAPA) is a fellowship of professional artists who stay true to the historic tradition of "painting directly from life." The group, with members worldwide through the larger International Plein-Air Painters Worldwide Artist Organization, routinely sets up in various locations to paint what's around them.

We were lucky enough last week to have PAPA's Thousand Islands chapter visit us at Better Farm. Our Coordinator of Community Outreach, Corinne Rochelle, had contacted them a while back, and made arrangements for the group's visit. They breezed in Wednesday, October 13th on a most perfect autumn day, set up easels, and got to work. Artist-in-residence Brian Purwin spent the afternoon serenading the group on violin, which was the cream cheese frosting on an already lovely day.

Click here for more photos.


A Chicken Coop Fit for 3 Queens

Back in the spring we built a modest chicken tractor for Henrietta, the new, fowl addition to Better Farm. It was a simple enough structure, and a million times better than the cat carrier we were stowing the chicken in after-hours. Chicken tractors are great because they're mobile, so you can put them directly over ground you want tilled, turned over, and fertilized (thank you, chickens, for your need to scratch, eat, peck, and poop). Their mobility also means they're easy to keep clean. And during the day you can open the main door if you like and let the birds run around free range to their heart's content. When we added two chickens to Henrietta's roost (there's nothing lonelier than a solitary laying hen), our little makeshift chicken tractor seemed suddenly cramped. Sissy, Scarlet, and Henrietta were bonding in the close quarters for sure, but it was only a matter of time before they'd need a bigger space to call home.

We scoured the Web for weeks searching for fancy chicken coop plans. Then our buddy Rick tipped us off to some designer  "chicken mobile stagecoach tractors", the Web site for which promised the contraptions were simple enough to put together by any skill level. The downloadable plans, which could be had for a whopping $34.99, turned out to be 44 pages of roundabout instructions even the big guns at North Country hardware stores had trouble decoding. If people who construct homes, additions, decks, and roofs for a living were having a hard time with a chicken coop, we knew we were in trouble. But we toiled away anyway; bringing in various brave souls over the course of the last few months to help us out.  Many thanks to Joel DiCaprio, Tyler Howe, Corinne Rochelle, Nicole Caldwell, Brian Hines, Cory Flack, and Brian Mockler for their help and support throughout the process.

Click here to see more photos of the chicken tractor in progress.


The Better Grub Supper Club's Thanksgiving Feast


A New Wood Stove Heats Things Up

As many of you know, an old farmhouse is not the warmest place to be during a North Country winter. And with propane prices being what they are, we knew we needed to look into an alternative form of heating. Our friend Milt Davis, owner of Davis Construction, had a stove on-hand that he graciously donated to the farm. That left us in need of a lot of wood, and a new stovepipe. So we brought in the dream team: Better Farm resident and ax-wielding extraordinaire Joel DiCaprio, and master carpenter Gary Stevenson to get the stove situated.

Joel set out into the marshes of the property and felled a dozen or so dead trees. He split the wood, brought it to the yard, while Nicole wheelbarrowed it onto the decks and stacked. And stacked. And stacked (thanks to Joel, David Garlock, Brian Purwin, and Cory Flack for helping to stack; and to Walt Dutcher and Jody Szepeski for doing so much work on the wood splitter in a snowstorm!). Meanwhile, Gary and his accomplice Steve stacked a beautiful stove pipe up along the side of the house, constructed a stone wall in the kitchen, a hearth for the stove, and hooked everything together safely. All that's left to do is install a big hot tub and sauna somewhere on the premises, and you won't hear another peep out of us about the winter weather. Happy fireside snuggling, everyone!

To read more about the history of heating at Better Farm, click here.


"Give Better" Clothing Drive a Huge Success!


Better Farm's first "Give Better" Clothing Drive was an immense success! Upon finding an article in the Watertown Daily Times about a weekly, free, church-operated clothing giveaway our Community Outreach Coordinator Corinne (who was also behind the organization of our Earth Day cleanup and local basketball court painting), jumped at the chance to help out for the holidays. The outpouring of generous donations from the community was so overwhelming, we had to deliver 6 full truck loads to the Bethany United Methodist Church in Watertown. In fact, even after the donation box was removed, clothes kept piling up! Extra thanks to Butch, also, for helping to transport the clothes.

For those who still want to donate, or those in need of some free clothing, please visit The Shephard's Cloak at the Bethanny United Methodist on Tuesdays from 2-4pm, at 114 West Lynde St in Watertown. For more information, or to set up a separate appointment, call 788-7791.


New York Fine Arts ( Features betterArts' Residencies

Great news for betterArts: Not only are we now officially a non-profit arm of Better Farm, but The New York Foundation for the Arts has listed betterArts' residency program on its site. Click here for more information And, as always, Better Farm is accepting rolling applications for our betterArts artist residency program - on our website.


Future Plans at the Farm

• Renovation of the barn to make way for a "fully realized" art studio space. Stay tuned for possible wind power associated with this project as well.

Continuation of our interior renovations

Completion of the human-sized birdhouse, complete with nature-themed mural.

Expansion of our summer intern program

A Better Farm radio station?


Wanna Get Involved?
Just drop us a line at We can always use donations in the form of supplies, materials, connections, money...or even just some positive thoughts. Until next time, be Better!

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Better Farm
31060 Cottage Hill Road
Redwood, NY 13679



Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.