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Harding Hill Farm

Posted 7/10/2017 9:27am by Harding Hill Farm.

It has been nearly a year since we gathered on the farm and in the woods to bid farewell to 'Pop' (Richard H Webb). We now anticipate another week of homecoming for the extended Webb Family as we say goodbye to an important founder of Harding Hill Farm.  

Just a short couple weeks ago, we lost our beloved Elizabeth T Webb, affectionately known as 'Gram' or to many others as 'Betsy'. She often provided a place to sit down, take a break, divulge in a sweet treat, and tell her about our adventures. She was our endless support system, always interested in our projects and seemingly crazy ideas. We gather later this week with family and friends to celebrate her life, legacy, and influence on the farm and woods we share with many. 


Harding Hill Farm - 1952

Elizabeth Thomas Webb passed away peacefully on June 23, 2017. Born Elizabeth Alden Thomas on October 4, 1920 in Islip, New York, she attended St. Agnes School in Albany and then Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School in New York City. Summers were spent in Thetford, Vermont where she was a counselor at Camp Hanoun. She worked in New York City for several years until meeting and marrying Richard H. Webb in 1951. Together they established a home and small farm in Sunapee where she raised 6 children and helped run the farm.

 
Van Webb & Betsy Webb - 1969 &  in later years - Dick & Betsy at a family wedding

Her love of the ocean and spending time with family led to many summers spent camping on Cape Cod or traveling as a fairly large group to other places. They continued to travel for many years, sometimes visiting family and sometimes taking family with them. Upon the birth of their first grandchild they became Grammy and Pops to all who knew them well and they loved watching their grandchildren grow to young adulthood.

 

She was a member of several organizations in the area and was particularly active with the United Methodist Women, the preservation of the Old Town Hall/Harbor House Livery building, and the Sunapee Thrift Store.

She is survived by six children and their spouses: Tom and Jackie Webb, Portland, OR; Paul Webb and Lisa Hall, Palm Coast, FL; Brad and Andrea Webb, Hightstown, NJ; Van and Robin Webb, Sunapee, NH; Tom and Faith Reney, Sunapee, NH; Bayard Webb and Lyle Engler, Reno, NV and eleven grandchildren.


Harding Hill Farm - Webb Family 2014

Memorial services will be held on Saturday, July 15th at 11:00 am with a reception to follow, located at:

Lake Sunapee United Methodist Church
Lower Main Street, Sunapee, NH 03782

There will also be a graveside service at the South Cemetery on Harding Hill Road in Sunapee at 1:00 pm.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Sunapee Heritage Alliance, PO Box 72, Sunapee, NH 03782.

Posted 7/10/2016 7:58am by The Webb Family.

 

It has been a week of reflection for the Webb family. We lost a beloved patriarch - a man that developed the farm and woods as we know it. Words can not fully express our sense of loss. However it has been a week of homecoming for family - filled with time with 'Gram', family dinners, walks in the woods, gardening, farm projects, and appreciating those around us. Richard H Webb, otherwise known as 'Dick' or affectionately as 'Pop' will live on forever in this place we know as the farm and forest he nurtured. 

"Whose woods these are I think I know" ~ Robert Frost


Richard H Webb
(July 31, 1921 - July 6, 2016)

The Webb family lost their beloved patriarch on July 6, 2016. Richard Humphrey Webb was born July 31, 1921 in New York City, the youngest son of Vanderbilt and Aileen Webb. He attended Groton School and Yale University before serving in WWII where he was awarded the Purple Heart and two Oak Leaf Clusters. In 1948 he made Harding Hill Farm in Sunapee, NH his home. In 1951 he married Elizabeth Alden Thomas and together they raised their six children. He was involved in the local community in many ways, served on the Sunapee School Board for 21 years, was a Boy Scout Scoutmaster, an active member of the Lions Club, served on the Board of Directors for a local bank, and was a Sunapee Selectman. He supported and embodied the philosophy of the small family farm and kept numerous animals and maintained large gardens throughout his life. Together, he and his business partner George Neilson, developed and maintained Harding Hill Farm, taking part in sugaring, logging, haying, and woodworking. Hiking, birding, and traveling were among his many lifelong interests. He and his wife Betsy enjoyed traveling together and enjoyed many trips throughout the world. He was a founding member of the Sunapee Harbor Riverway, which is dedicated to conserving the history and charm of the harbor area. He devoted much of his life to land conservation, and granted the first conservation easement in the state of NH. He purchased many woodlots and established areas for public use, such as the R.H. Webb Forest Preserves in Sunapee and New London, allowing recreational use year round. He served as Trustee, Secretary and Chairman of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests from 1969-1988. He was New England Tree Farmer of the Year in 1974 and New Hampshire Tree Farmer of the Year in 2000. His dedication to conservation will be a lasting legacy.

 

He is survived by his wife of 64 years and his children (Tom & Jackie Webb, Portland, Oregon; Paul & Lisa Webb, Jacksonville, Florida; Brad and Andrea Webb, East Windsor, New Jersey; Van & Robin Webb, Sunapee, NH; Faith and Tom Reney, Sunapee, NH; Bayard & Lyle Webb, Reno, NV and 11 grandchildren (Tyler, Sam, Aileen, Sara, Max, Seth, Blake, Sawyer, Emily, Rosie, Natalia).

An outdoor dedication for “A custodian of these woods” will be held at 10:00 AM on Sunday, August 14 in the Webb Forest, follow signs from Harding Hill Road, Sunapee to the designated parking area. A short hike is required.

Note Change in Time and Location: A memorial service will be held at Harding Hill Farm at 524 Stagecoach Rd in Sunapee at 2:30 PM, also on Sunday, August 14. All of Richard’s friends are invited to either or both of the services.

In lieu of flowers, the family has suggested that donations be made to Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust, PO Box 2040, New London, NH 03257

Posted 5/2/2016 3:21pm by The Webb Family.

There has been much anticipation on the farm in the past weeks. We have been busy keeping pens clean and preparing for our ‘new to us’ Belted Galloway cows to begin calving. Tyler and I have been considering beef cattle breeds over the last year or so… debating about which breed would do well with our management style. Until now, Harding Hill Farm has always purchased calves and raised them on a grass-based diet to maturity.

In February, we made contact with a breeder in the ‘north country’ or otherwise known as northern New Hampshire. Otokahe Farm has been raising and breeding Belted Galloway cattle for many years (and making beef jerky, yum!). Kris and Bert were looking to downsize their breeding herd slightly. We made the visit to their farm, just down the road from Santa’s Village, and immediately knew these cattle had the right attributes to fit in at Harding Hill Farm. We purchased four pregnant cows due to calve in starting in April/May. The cows moved south to Sunapee shortly thereafter.

 

One of the better parts of this adventure was the timing. Tyler’s parents, Van and Robin were on a ski trip when the cows arrived. We got the cows settled, and upon Van and Robin’s return, there were 4 large cows resembling oreos hanging out in the barnyard. It was quite the surprise!

We have spent a few months acclimating them, and unfortunately fighting the spring mud in our barnyard! Things have dried up some, though I write this as it is pouring rain outside. Fortunately there is plenty of dry loafing areas under the barn. We highly anticipate the greening up of pastures as we await the proper timing and level of grass growth to turn them out on pastures for the season. Meanwhile the cows are happily eating stored fermented grass (haylage) and dry hay.

 

Why Belted Galloway or as we call them ‘Belties’? There are MANY reasons. We wanted to create a niche breed of beef cattle for our farm as we continue to develop our grass fed beef business. Tyler and I always admired the breed… who doesn’t love cows that have a white belt resembling an oreo? Also, Robin has mentioned wanting them on the farm for many years. More importantly, there are many positive features in addition to their looks! This breed was developed in Scotland in the rugged hills where hardiness was a trait necessary for survival. Being a New Hampshire farm on a windy, exposed hill sitting on ledge, this sounds familiar. They are naturally polled (no horns), which we preferred because de-horning calves is a nasty (and often necessary) job for both farmer and calf. They have a double coat of hair that provides a great deal of winter warmth, while they shed that extra layer in the summer. Because of their coat, they lack the back fat of other beef breeds. Research has shown that grass fed, beltie beef has less total calories, fat, and cholesterol than conventionally raised beef and grain fed belties. Their heritage allows them to efficiently convert marginal pasture lands into delicious, lean beef. Yum!

 

Now… more about those cute looking cows. The look of the Belted Galloways, black with a white belt, was selected through many generations… however Galloway cattle originally came in numerous colors and patterns. Now the breed colors are Black, Dun (several shades of brown), Red, and Silver. You can still get a seemingly unexpected color combination, but nearly always with a belt. The answer lies in their genetic makeup. When breeding a bull and cow, two sets of genes interact to create the genotype. The actual appearance is known as the phenotype. Belties are unusual in that Dun is the dominant color, not black like in most animals. While an animal may have a Dun color, like our cow April, she may also be a carrier for a black or red gene. This carrier gene can lead to several shades of Dun… or with the correct bull, the birth of a black, red, or silver (two dun genes) calf.

 

Interestingly enough, it turns out that April, our one Dun cow, must have been a black carrier. She gave birth to a very black calf with a white belt just last night… quite a surprise and a bit difficult to match them together! It will keep things interesting. In the meantime, we continue to await our next arrival with one calf on the ground and three to go!

Stay tuned to more adorable pictures and stories.  We can certainly thank our friends Kris and Bert at Otokahe Farm for getting us hooked on these great cattle.

 

Posted 2/5/2016 11:32am by The Webb Family.

About one week ago on January 28th, Tyler and I sat around the dinner table and debated over whether or not to start tapping our maple trees. The seven day forecast was showing not a single daytime temperature below freezing, which would have been normal if it were March. Unfortunately it was still January. It would be the earliest the Webb family would ever start tapping, and we discussed the pros and cons. After much debate, Tyler concluded that we stand a pretty good chance of missing a really great sap run if we don't act NOW. 

What is the downside of tapping this early? Some may argue that you run the risk of missing later runs during the 'regular' season. The reason? - once you drill a hole into the tree and insert the tap, you have created a wound. Compare this to a cut on your arm. Human blood begins to clot in order to prevent your arm from bleeding. The trees act in a similar way. Sap carries nutrients up to the crown of the tree, and when the tree is punctured, the sap eventually will begin to clot around that hole. When you are looking to pull that sap out of the tree, this isn't good. However, much research has been done and new technology has been developed. The introduction of new drop lines (connects the tap to the tubing) every 3-4 years and taps/spouts every year has helped keep things clean. We use spouts that contain a 'check valve' which lets sap run out of the tree but prevents any bacteria from entering the hole. This technology both protects the tree and enhances the collection of sap, hopefully avoiding any pre-mature healing and prolonging the maple season.

 

We are a small operation compared to many in VT/NH. We put in about 1,300 taps, while the large operations measure in the tens of thousands. Those maple operations were tapping already, but they need to start early at that kind of volume. It usually takes us about 3-5 days to tap our trees, fix damaged lines, and assure our vacuum lines are running correctly (for more info on this, you can read last year's blog - Preparing for Sugaring Season). So on Friday morning, January 29th, Ty went into the woods to begin the 2016 season. 

 

Over the course of three days, we installed 1,200 taps throughout our 12 acre sugarbush. By Sunday afternoon at 2pm, when we installed the last 200 taps, the sap was pouring out as we drilled the holes. It was also nearing 45 degrees, and it was only January 31st.

  

Tyler then spent the rest of the afternoon checking vacuum lines and tightening up the intricate system of tubing. We went to bed that night wondering if all this work would pay off or if it would be a big bust. 

By Monday afternoon, we had 750 gallons of sap at 1.9% sugar (an average measurement would be 2-2.5%) in the tank. For the first time ever, Harding Hill Farm boiled sap on February 1st. We sweetened our pans and made one and half gallons of fresh maple syrup. The quality was perfect, yielding a clear, light Grade A Amber Rich. Prior to 2016, the earliest boil on record was on February 18, 2012. 

 

By Tuesday, with sun and 40 degree temps, the sap was pouring into our tank at a rate of 80 gallons per hour. In the afternoon, it was probably closer to 100-125 gallons per hour. We boiled over 1,200 gallons of sap on Tuesday night, bringing our count to 23 gallons of syrup for the week.

 

On Wednesday, it rained. The raw, damp temperatures just above freezing caused the sap run to stop in its tracks… but Mother Nature was about to throw another curve ball at us. During the night, Wednesday into Thursday, temperatures rose to nearly 50 degrees. When Ty went out to check the tanks at 6:30am on Thursday morning, they had been overflowing for at least a couple hours. Around noon on Thursday, we began boiling around 1,400 gallons of sap. When we left the sugarhouse around 6:30 pm, we had managed to make just under 50 gallons of maple syrup this week. It wasn’t a bust!

This morning we woke up to 28 degrees and snowing...We are wondering if Mother Nature is drunk or just very confused.

 

However, we have a few hundred gallons of sap left from last night, so we will boil again with friends this evening. As we watch the forecast closely, we may get a bit more sap over the weekend, with a possibility of making syrup on Sunday. After that, things should slow down and freeze up… and then we wait. What will the rest of the season bring? How will our trees respond? We wait and hope for the best.

Posted 1/3/2016 4:57pm by The Webb Family.

Winter weather has finally arrived. Being a snow lover, I'm trying to forget those 60 degree days we had around Christmas and embrace the change. Forecasts are calling for below zero temps in the next couple days, and I'm pulling out the winter hats and scarves. 

This is normally a busy time of year around here, despite the cold. Tyler is usually in the woods 6 days a week. During the week, I'm at the office, but on the weekend I'm usually skiing or coaching skiing. This year, without frozen ground, the logging season has been delayed. Meanwhile the ski area is just barely opening, and I'm not able to get back on the slopes for another month or so due to rehab from hip surgery. To fill the time, I have been experimenting with new recipes. 

We like to make meals that use real food, meaning as little processing as possible and farm-raised or locally sourced. Coming off of surgery and limited physical activity, I'm also focused on cooking healthy enough to keep the pounds off. I'm constantly on the hunt for new recipes and ideas. You can find some of my favorites in my occasional posts to the HHF recipe tab on our website. 

For Christmas, my mom gave me a new cookbook - Maple by Kate Webster. I figured it was just another maple syrup themed book, filled with breakfast, dessert, and generally unhealthy recipes. I could not have been more wrong. This book is filled with delicously fresh, seasonal, and healthy recipes using maple syrup in new and creative ways. It has inspired my latest posts to our recipe section of the website, and I highly recommend the book. You can also find more from Kate Webster on her blog - www.healthyseasonalrecipes.com.

Great for a weeknight dish, we tried her Maple Tahini Chicken and Broccoli as our first recipe from the new book. Ty is a big fan of Chinese food. I despise it, basically throwing it in the category of unhealthy, fast food. This recipe puts a fresh spin on the classic chicken and broccoli dish, both sweet and savory. Also a great excuse to pull out a bag of our frozen broccoli from the farm garden. We even had leftovers for lunch for the next couple days.

 

On New Years Eve, we had friends visiting for the weekend. To celebrate, we wanted to grill up some HHF grass fed steaks. I started thumbing through my new Maple cookbook and came upon a recipe for Chipotle and Maple Flank Steak Tacos. I was sold. The mexican theme gave me an excuse to make some 7 layer dip for an appetizer, which is one of our favorite indulgences. This dinner was delicious, and surprisingly not very spicy despite the chipotle peppers. We will use the marinade again, as it was a perfect fit for the flank steak. Steak tacos may become a new staple in our house.

I hope this helps some of you find some inspiration and new recipes to try at home. As a natural sweetener, maple syrup is filled with minerals and antioxidants. I love spreading the word that it can be used for more than just your Sunday pancakes. For the amount of maple syrup we are going through in our house, I'm just happy we produce it right here on the farm. Stay tuned for more posts and recipe experiments... Happy New Year!

~ Kelly

Posted 9/20/2015 4:43pm by The Webb Family.

Richard “Dick” Webb purchased our farm in Sunapee, NH in 1948, and he has always had conservation in mind. He was also instrumental in putting all owned forest land under conservation easement by the early 2000s. Over the past 50 years R.H. Webb Forest Preserve, now in its second and third generation, has continued to apply sustainable forestry practices on all of its properties.

 

While Van and Tyler now operate the Harding Hill Farm business, Dick continues to be involved when it comes to the farm. Dick has always had an interest in renewable energy, and he and Betsy had solar energy on their house for many years. However, the system was aging.

This year, Dick and Van pulled together the plans for a larger, more sustainable solar energy system for the farm. Dick and Betsy’s former home received a roof renovation with a new 20 panel, 5 kilowatt solar system. This system went online in early August, and it has produced just over 1.2 megawatts of power to date.

Dick also wanted to see the main barn preserved with a new standing seam metal roof and re-built cupola. That project was complete by mid-summer. A larger solar system was then installed on the barn roof. This installation is quite visible as you drive up Stagecoach Road from Route 103. The barn solar array is a 14.25 kilowatt system with a total of 57 panels. 

The barn solar array went on line September 2, and so far, it has peaked at 13.1 kilowatts produced per  day. Today alone, the system peaked at 3.2 kilowatt-hours produced in 15 minutes, which is enough to power a refrigerator for 17 hours! Since going online, the system has produced about 1.3 megawatts of power and has offset 1,971 pounds of carbon.

We are excited for the potential to produce sustainable energy right here on Harding Hill. It also ensures the preservation of the main barn for at least the next generation or two. We can certainly thank Dick Webb for his support and forward thinking as we complete this project. 

Posted 5/16/2015 8:28am by The Webb Family.

We want to increase our cow herd, but we know we need to improve our pastures and fencing first, which takes some time and money. Many of our beef customers have also asked if we plan to sell pork too. So, why not get some piglets? At least they kind of resemble cows with those black and white spots!

 

Finding piglets in New England can be a struggle. There really aren't that many people breeding pigs, and local pork is in high demand. Lucky for us, we have friends that raise pigs in upstate New York. We wanted to get off the farm for a little weekend relaxation, and so the adventure begins...

We packed up and headed north through Vermont, across Lake Champlain, and eventually to Sugar Bush, New York. Not many people have heard of Sugar Bush, NY... for good reason. There isn't too much there, but our friends, the Burke family, run Atlas Hoofed It Farm. They bought part of the farm for $1. How do you find a farm for a dollar? Well you find an abandoned missile silo, of course! They purchased the missile silo and the surrounding 80 acres about 8 or so years ago. Then the transformation began. Now it is a bustling farm with about 25 Scottish Highlander cattle and about 30 pigs. They have slowly transformed thick woods into some decent pastures, and the concrete pad that capped the missile silo is now a central headquarters for their pastured pigs, chickens, and horses. We had a fantastic time seeing the critters with Dan, Sara, Brooke, and Dustin. The Burkes' 100+ year old farmhouse is also a great place to enjoy a farm fresh pork chop dinner with friends. Thanks again Dan and Sara!

 

After a great meal on Friday night, we headed into Lake Placid for a two night stay. What a fantastic place to be! We were lucky to have some great mountain and lake views, and we visited Ty's alma mater, Paul Smith's College, for a fun nature walk in their conservation area. 


Lake Placid, NY

On Sunday morning we headed back to see the Burkes. Their sows had 14 piglets this spring, and they very graciously reserved four of them for us. After a little bartering with some HHF maple syrup, we had the piglets crated and ready to head home to the farm. The next adventure was the ferry ride across Lake Champlain. We really hoped these 2 month old piglets would behave themselves in the back of the truck. What if they started squeeling on the boat around all those people? What if they got sea sick? Well... we got lucky, they snoozed all the way home. 


Ferry ride across Lake Champlain, from NY to VT

In the two weeks prior to our pig pick-up adventure, Tyler and Sam spent some time constructing nothing short of a Pig Palace.

 

Upon arrival, we moved them right into their new home. For now they will be housed in one area until they are trained to electric fencing. Then we plan to move them around the farm to take advantage of some smaller pasture areas. And so the great pig experiment begins...

Meet Eenie, Meenie, Miney, and Mo!

  

Posted 1/12/2015 3:01pm by The Webb Family.

Season's Greetings to all!

We made it through another busy holiday season at Harding Hill Farm. After some set backs with unseasonably warm/wet weather in December, we are now "full steam ahead" on our winter forestry projects. The recent cold weather has created frozen ground which lets us be more productive with less impact. The only downside... when the overnight temp is 15 below zero, equipment is not as cooperative as we would like it to be!

We often log on our own property, since we manage around 3,000 acres of our own forest land. When the opportunity arises, we are hired by a landowner or forester to harvest additional land. 

Our 2014-2015 winter project is an 85 acre property in Wilmot, NH. We are logging the property for Meadowsend Timberland (the forester) and the Thompson Family (the owner). 

Big logs and a shot of our log loader and skidder

 

Every forestry project has a goal... the goals may vary to include wildlife enhancement, removal of valuable timber, view creation, encouragement of desirable species, and more. The goal of this project is to provide openings and thinning to encourage the growth of white pine and yellow birch. 

Before and After Photos at this site

    

Some of the marked timber is very unique! We are cutting a mixture of pine logs, pine biomass, hemlock logs and pulp, hardwood logs, and various logs for use as firewood. It is some of the tallest timber we have ever cut. One white pine tree was 128 feet tall and 44 inches wide at the base. This tree created five 16 foot logs, one 12 foot log, and a piece of softwood pulp. That is a total volume of 1,975 board feet! 

Tyler scaling a log...

    

The Thompson project has been a lot of fun for Van and Tyler, especially because they cut this lot 11 years ago when the Thompson's built their house. At the time, the Thompson's were looking for unique wide pine planks for their floor. We are excited to be part of another project on this great property. 

Here is a comparison from 2003 to 2014:

 

Posted 12/5/2014 11:55am by Kelly Webb.

Holiday Open Sugar House - Sat. December 6th 

Come join us at our Sugar House at 131 Route 103 in Sunapee. We will be having an open house to celebrate the holiday season. The whole family will be there to show off our sugaring operation and offer hot samples of maple syrup. We will also have sample grass fed burger sliders, beef stew, and beef sausage to offer. A variety of products will be available for sale, including maple syrup in plastic or glass bottles, maple candy, and our own grass fed beef. We hope to see you there!