Sweet Woodland Farm: A Growing Homestead

Nestled within the pine barrens of Hampton Bays, NY, is Sweet Woodland Farm, a self-sustaining small family homestead that is 5 minutes from my home Sheridan Green.  Rachel Bristel Stephens, her husband Mike Stephens and their two children Ben and Rayna moved from a ½ acre lot to their dream house in the woods, 2 ½ years ago, with a desire to grow and raise as much of their food organically and to expand their ever growing homestead to serve the community, while living in harmony with nature.

I met Rachel last year at the Hallockville Museum Farm seed-saving seminar that was given by Steph Gaylor, a voracious heirloom seed saving expert, farmer and owner of Invincible Summer Farms. It is no surprise that Rachel was attending this seminar as Sweet Woodland Farm grows a variety of organic heirloom vegetables, flowers and herbs from seed.

Rachel is a natural homesteader with an inquisitive and devoted spirit to grow Sweet Woodland Farm for the health of mother earth, her family and the community at large.

During the past two years, the Stephens family has been growing their homestead steadily. They have ducks and chickens for eggs, bees for luscious honey, guinea hens for tick maintenance, and sheep and rabbits for sheering fur into beautifully spun garments and yarns.

 Photograph by Rachel Bristel Stephens

Photograph by Rachel Bristel Stephens

 Photograph by Rachel Bristel Stephens

Photograph by Rachel Bristel Stephens

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Mike Stephens is a talented Woodturner and sells quality handmade wooden bowls and stunning objects; his woodwork is breathtaking. What I find most impressive is the families hatch and release program of the Northern Bobwhite quail. The Bobwhites are native to the area, but have been disappearing due to over building and loss of their nesting areas. Currently, there are 6 adults for breeding and 76 chicks being raised for release in hopes of repopulating the area and an effort to control the tick population. You can read about Great South Bay Audubon Society Adopt-A-Quail program here.

 Photograph by Rachel Bristel Stephens

Photograph by Rachel Bristel Stephens

On top of a large hill is the farms organic heirloom vegetables, berries, herbs and flowers. The vegetables and berries are grown in Hugelkultur beds,  a mound bed which uses organic compost mixed with manure from their farm animals. From a distance I noticed dead pine trees marked with tape. Rachel explained that the trees were killed by the root borers this past spring and they are to be taken down to make room to expand their growing space. A kickstarter campaign was recently launched to support this expansion effort. “This area would allow us to produce more than twice as much as what we are growing now, and the present growing area will become a fruit orchard,” says Rachel.

Rachel and Michael's daughter Rayna, who is 8 years old, gave me a private tour of the gardens that sit atop this bountiful hill. She pointed out the cucumbers that will to be made into pickles and walked me through the flowerbeds where bumble bees were buzzing about among the purple majestic anise.

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Roy who is their impressive Rooster, was rambling and running the roost, causing quite a stir with his colorful calls for food finds and hen flattery.

The guineas were gaggling and gawking about as I tried to capture their exquisite feather and painterly like face patterns.

The sheep, Belle and Kelly, were very curious about my camera and took a break from eating hay for a portrait.

There are plenty of classes and workshops for everyone: beginners knitting, sewing, canning, brewing and fermentation classes, raising backyard chickens, organic vegetable gardening and plenty of kid programs.

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You can find Rachel on the Suffolk Homesteading Forum' Facebook Page sharing best practices and tips with like-minded homesteaders or at Sweet Woodland Farm’s Facebook Page.

The Stephens family and their Sweet Woodland Farm is a homestead worth supporting through their kick-starter campaign or you can visit their farm stand on Saturday and Sunday between 10 – 5 from Memorial Day through Labor.

Address: Sweet Woodland Farm: 45 Old Squires Road, Hampton Bays, NY 11946
Phone: 631.594.1789  Email: sweetwoodlandfarm@yahoo.com

Sweet Woodland Farm: Duck Egg Quiche

 Photograph by Rachel Bristel Stephens

Photograph by Rachel Bristel Stephens

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 whole wheat flour
  • 4 oz butter, softened
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 4 eggs *duck eggs are the best for quiche!*
  • 1 large leek or onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chopped green vegetable of your choice (spinach, arugula, broccoli, summer squash)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese or swiss gruyere
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°.  Butter and flour a 9-inch round pie pan. 
  2. Combine flours in a bowl and work in the butter with your fingertips or a food processor till crumbly.  Add about 2 tablespoons of water and mix with hands to form a ball. 
  3. Press the dough into the pie pan with the finger tips carefully and slowly starting from the middle and working your way up the sides of the pan.  Cover pan with parchment paper and toss in a handful of dried beans or rice to hold the paper down.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove parchment paper and bake additional 5 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 375 degrees F.
  4. Meanwhile, sauté the garlic and leeks(or onion) in a tablespoon of butter over medium heat.  Cook till tender and a bit caramelized. 
  5. Add green vegetable and cook, covered till tender (adding a bit of water to steam if needed).
  6. Combine eggs, milk and cream in a bowl and beat till well mixed.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Spread vegetable mixture in the bottom of the quiche crust and pour on the cream/egg.  Top with the cheeses.  Bake at 375° for 45 minutes or till set and golden.  Allow to cool to room temperature for best results.

Sweet Woodland Farm: Beach Plum Jam

Ingredients

  • 5 cups of pitted beach plums
  • 5 cups of organic cane sugar

Directions

  1. Combine together in a stainless steel pot and simmer over medium heat, until it is jelled.

    note: This can take anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour. It all depends on how juicy the fruit is.
     
  2. Stirring often so it doesn't stick.
  3. To test for jelling, keep a plate in the freezer, put a spoonful of the jam on the plate, put back in the freezer for a minute. Push your finger through the jam on the plate. If it wrinkles it's ready.  
  4. Allow to cool and refrigerate or can using the water bath method.