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Well seasoned

Friday, September 07, 2012 - Updated: 8:30 PM

Last night I heard the strangest sound. It seemed so out of place. It's still summer in September right? The calendar says so.

Oh, the goldenrod is raging into bloom, with ragweed right behind it. Nights are getting cooler, longer and darker, too, or so it seems right now. Apple orchards are putting up you-pick signs and the trees in the yard are dangling tempting green fruit just out of reach. Any dawn now Orion will come stomping down the ridgepole of the heifer barn when I get up to feed the kitties. I think I caught a glimpse of him just the other night in fact, although it could have been the Dipper.

Around the edges of the swamps the red maples are beginning to live up to their name, with tinges of crimson sparking up the green. Mornings are rimmed with fog that creeps up from the river and down from the hills like sorrow, but it is still summer, isn't it?

Well, maybe not.

According to that unexpected evening sound that insinuated itself into the kitchen, over and above the television blaring from the living room, the puppy moaning and groaning over tasty ankles, and the grumble of the refrigerator refrigerating, it is indeed fall.

Geese, dozens of them, a big, strong flock, circled in the darkness over the farm, ringing the closing bell on the summer fun exchange. Within a few short weeks, flip flops will be traded for insulated boots and shorts for heavy overalls. Gloves will become more than passing fashion accessories, and those fleecy jammies I ran across while putting away laundry the other day will sign on as my best friends.

However, although winter looms painfully for folks who consider skiing and snowmobiling to be an incomprehensible waste of perfectly serviceable indoor warmth, fall is still a glorious season. Word is that the colors of the leaves may be especially fine this year, although it is a bit early to be sure.

On the bright side, one of early autumn's finest events is right around the corner. While it offers a chance to learn about one of New York's most important and interesting industries -- agriculture -- there is nothing back-to-school-like about Sundae on the Farm.

This year the event will take place at Morgandy Farm, on Sunday, Sept. 16, at 642 Paris Road, Fort Plain. Admission is free, as are many, although not all, of the events and attractions. You can visit from noon to 4 p.m. for an afternoon of food, music and harvest time fun. Better mark your calendar right now. You won't want to miss it. The region is among the most picturesque in the state and early autumn is perhaps the finest season for viewing it.

For more than 30 years the owners of Morgandy have bred Morgan horses. Today they continue the tradition, managing stallions and broodmares on 250 lovely acres above the scenic Mohawk Valley and Cherry Valley.

The horses represent one of America's oldest and most highly regarded breeds. Tradition has it that Morgan horses all descend from one stallion, a small bay named Figure, which belonged to singing master, Justin Morgan. The little-horse-that-could in time came to share his owner's name and an amazing level of fame.

He was foaled in 1789 in Springfield, Mass., and lived and worked for 30 years in Vermont, where his feats astonished local folks. According to the Department of Animal Science at Oklahoma State University, "... The little bay stallion worked long, hard hours in the fields and on the roads of Vermont. Gradually, the local population began to talk about the feats of "the Justin Morgan horse." Standing just over 14 hands tall, Justin Morgan's exploits gained him fame because he was not as big as colonial workhorses nor as tall and long-legged as racehorses, yet he consistently outperformed both. There was the time he pulled a log no draft horse could budge, the day only he had the beauty, spirit and manners to carry President James Monroe on a muster-day parade ground; and the time he outran the most winning racehorse central Vermont had ever known, at least until that day."

One of his grandsons, Black Hawk, went on to become a foundation sire for the Standardbred, American Saddlebred and Tennessee Walking Horse breeds. Other breeds influenced by Morgan genes include the Hackney horse and Quarter Horse.

Renowned for intelligence and versatility, today's Morgan horse still does it all, from Western pleasure, dressage, show jumping, endurance riding, to all sorts of driving and pretty much any purpose that a horse can fulfill. While hunting around for information on Morgans, refreshing my memory really, as I have always loved them, I came across an old print of the original Justin Morgan, and a photo of a lovely mare and foal from Morgandy. It is simply amazing to see how the long-ago stallion lives on today in the breed that bears his name.

Morgandy Farm's beautiful Morgan horses are only one of the many attractions that will be featured at Sundae on the Farm 2012.

The free ice cream sundae is always a great treat (while supplies last, of course, but said supplies tend to last long enough). Live music will be provided by several great bands, the dairy princess will demonstrate butter making, there will be a live milking contest, plus many educational exhibits. There will also be horse-drawn wagon rides, live farm animals, and games for children. Among the for-fee attractions will be food booths, barbecue, farmer's markets and face painting.

Visit for the horses, stop up for the scenery; come by for the camaraderie, but be sure to be there. Take a tip from the wild geese and flock on over to Morgandy Farm for a great time and a great chance to connect with New York farmers and learn about agriculture.

Sundae on the Farm is presented by Montgomery County Farm Bureau, AFPB, the Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District, and Stewart's Shops.

Fultonville dairy farmer MARIANNE FRIERS

is a regular columnist. She blogs



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