20 May 2015

around the farm

I've decided to alternate my independence days and around the farm posts.  

blueberry blooms and pollinators
so many lilacs (and lilac bouquets from my little men)
sweet corn in former pig pasture
three little kittens (our favorite is becky)
grape vines
kitty watching
gourds and birds
the serious farmer

What's going on around your farm, garden or homestead?

19 May 2015

happy chickens and the self-closing door

This spring, we bought 40 pullets from a friend, rhode island red crosses, right about the time when we moved the chickens from their winter coop near our house to a (rickety old) coop that we can (very carefully) pull with the tractor.  Many of our barred rocks were no longer laying and it was time for new birds.  The kids and I tried to hatch our own, so we'd have some barred rocks and araucanas, too, but none of the eggs we incubated hatched!  (Any suggestions from readers?  This was our first time incubating eggs.  I can't imagine that *none* of the eggs were fertilized of the 18 we incubated, but maybe?... We borrowed an incubator with a self-turning egg tray.)

Keeping 40-50 layers is an ideal number for our farm--enough for farmshare members, our local co-op, a farmers' market and our family.

We've been moving them through some winter wheat cover crop that hasn't been ploughed in yet and it is so nice to see happy birds running through the wheat and digging up bugs.  

While my parents were visiting a few weeks ago, Adam and my dad figured out a system to counter weight a heavy slate door with a bucket full of water.  The bucket has a small hole in it that slowly lets water out into one of the chickens' water bowls.  It's timed to take about 2½ hours, so when we do chores at night and fill the bucket, the door will close just after dark.

Happy birds, happy farmers. :)

14 May 2015

independence days challenge #2

Joining Aubrey again this week with the independence days challenge--working on the homesteading side of our small market farm.

1. Plant something:  We planted flats of brassicas this week (and the kids helped me plant some small flats of flowers--notice on the right--the only ones coming up are the flats LOADED with seeds, planted by Fenna) ;)  With the heat and then, finally, the rains, our spinach, carrots, beans, beets and other greens are starting to come up.

2. Harvest something:  I am still harvesting lettuce from the high tunnel and the first of our rhubarb, which we enjoyed in both a pie and a crisp this week.

3. Preserve something:  No preserving going on yet, but I am trying to make room in the freezer by using up the bags and bags of spinach from last summer.  Here's a busy, blurry Fenna helping with eggs and the spinach-egg bake waiting to go in the oven.   Adam and Zenon slaughtered our beef calf and brought him to a local custom cutting place.  Soon our freezer will be filled with beef for the year.  

4. Waste not (what have you reused, recycled, or repurposed instead of throwing it away or buying new?):  Many of the flats of plants we have coming up are coming up in old wooden drawers (see top photo).  These were found in our barn and have served us well as flats for years now.  We also reuse our plug flats every year.  I've been finding various plants around the farm (yarrow, chamomile, sunflowers) that I've been digging up and transferring to the herb garden before Adam starts mowing the yard.  Does that count?  

5. Want not (besides what you reported under "preserve something", what else have you done to prepare for the future or become more self sufficient? What new skills are you learning?):  I'm busy (re)reading Wild Fermentation and enjoying it more now than I did when I was in college and read it for the first time.  I can't wait to try out more of the recipes this year.  (Sauerrüben or Honey wine-anyone?)

6. Build community food systems:  Several of our neighbors have signed on for farmshares this year.  We love to be able to provide healthy, affordable food for friends and neighbors.  We've also been selling eggs at our local food co-op.  
Last week, I mentioned a great non-profit in our county, but our state has several as well.  Rural Vermont has been a wonderful resource for us as we've started marketing our raw milk.  They are really the voice for farmers like us and consumers who are passionate about food issues on topics like raw milk, GMOs, farm fresh meats and more.  In a way, they make it simple for us to stay up-to-date on what is going on in the state (and state legislature) and work to activate, educate and advocate for community food systems in Vermont.  Check out their page!  I hope farmers in other states have great organizations like Rural Vermont working for them.  

7. Eat the food:  I love that this one is last--saving the best for last.  Tonight we ate homemade pizza with our canned tomatoes on it, our fresh lettuce and enjoyed raw milk ice cream with our milk.  Last night we ate our chicken, our spinach and eggs (and Adam foraged for some nettles, too).  Every meal has something homegrown in it here!  Yogurt (above) is the family favorite.  I make one of these 2 quart containers at least five times a week!  Thank goodness we have our own milk--local jersey milk yogurt is more than $6/quart from the store!  

Interested in trying to be more self-sufficient?  Want to join in?  Check out Aubrey's blog and join the challenge.  

13 May 2015

Jeju's orchard

Yesterday marked four years since Adam's dad died.
Three years ago, we planted Jeju's Orchard in his memory.
We are so excited to see blooms on both of the plums and one of the cherry trees this year!  
Micah, who was just barely one when Jeju died, asks about him all the time.  I told him this year, he could paint a sign for the orchard.  He's looking forward to getting started...and looking forward to (hopefully) some plums later this summer.

12 May 2015

rain, finally

We are so thankful for the rain last night.  After more than two weeks without rain, and with very hot days, we were getting worried about the seedlings we'd already planted.  Fortunately, the work Adam puts into cover cropping and soil amendment helps with moisture retention and it seems that most of the seedlings fared well.

Slowly but surely I'm working on my february lady sweater.  Inspired by Sarah's project with the peace fleece wild mustard color and Kim's february lady sweater, I decided to make one for myself.  A slight mistake in the lace meant that I pulled out several inches.  It's been hard for me to motivate myself to keep working on it now.  But I do love the color and love knitting with peace fleece.

Joining Nicole this week.

09 May 2015

taconic peaks ramble

My mother's day gift this weekend was an afternoon at the Taconic Peaks Ramble (which I only learned the name of today!)  Since college, we have referred to this wonderful spot as "zen gardens" or "Japanese gardens"...an amazing, privately owned property that the owner shares with the public by allowing them to enjoy extensive hiking trails he's made.  
We didn't hike much, but rather enjoyed the views (and animals) around the ponds.  It was a relaxing afternoon.

Wishing everyone a wonderful and relaxing weekend, too!

07 May 2015

independence days challenge

all photos from our first summer on our farmstead in 2004

I am joining in with Aubrey's Independence Days Challenge.  I am looking forward to using this to encourage myself to expand what we save and make for ourselves from the farm.  It was, of course, our goal, long before we even had our own farmstead (back when we were in a homesteading class in college).  Each year our farmstead has grown or evolved to feed us more, or more efficiently.  Though I don't think I'll have something to post for each category each week, I'll try and come up with links, recipes or other information for those categories.  Here is the list from Sharon Astyk's Resilience Blog.

1. Plant something - This one is easy this time of year.  Yesterday, I took the kids to an ecosystem expo, put on by our local conservation district.  After a busy day assessing local river health by studying macroinvertebrates and learning about wildlife in our water shed, we came home to plant 4,000 feet of potatoes!   A busy day in the sun!  
2. Harvest something - We are harvesting lettuce from our high tunnel that was seeded down (and just sprouted) last fall.  Since early March, we've been enjoying it for dinner almost every night.
3. Preserve something - Most of our family's preserving happens in August and September.  The most recent thing we've preserved is our maple syrup
4. Waste Not- This category refers to food according to Sharon's list.  We find it easy to 'waste not' when it comes to food scraps here.  We always have pigs here on the farm--two or more sows for raising piglets, a boar and usually several we are raising to for slaughter--and they will happily enjoy most food scraps.  We also have chickens to feed scraps too as well.  And if we didn't have animals, we would be composting them.  
5. Want Not - Oh, we love this one.  We are big fans of bartering, using hand-me-downs or just making due with what we have for kitchen tools or even food in our pantry.  I'll find a recipe I want to try, but we only grow butternuts, not sweet potatoes--I'll just swap it out in the recipe.  My friends often tease me that I've never done a recipe exactly how it is written.  ;)  I did, however, just buy myself a (brand new) spiralizer kitchen tool and have been loving using vegetables in place of pasta or rice in recipes.  
6. Build Community Food Systems - This is something that is hard to do on your own, but where we live, we are fortunate to have many active groups working for this goal.  I was on the steering committee and eventually board of directors of our local co-op that was a scrappy, grassroots project grown out of the love and passion of a group from our community.  We have the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link, a local non-profit who in their words "has been working to expand availability and access to locally produced foods, bolster the greater Rutland region’s agricultural economy, and increase community appreciation and understanding of the positive impact of farms and farmers on the Rutland region."  They are a great resource to local farms and a wonderful way that our area is helping to build a community food system.  Next week, I'll share information about another statewide organization that is doing great things for our regional food system.  
7. Eat the Food - We do this everyday!!  There isn't a meal that we eat that doesn't have at least 1 item that we raised ourselves.  And even in the middle of winter, we enjoy meals entirely made up of things that we grow.  Obviously, we need to buy things at the store.  I'm horrible about making dairy products besides yogurt and some soft cheeses, so buy local cheddar and sourcream (I should make my own).  We buy flour, grains for grinding, some dry beans, lentils, sugar and rice from our local food co-op and other items like condiments, tortilla chips, and even "squishy bread" (store bread) when my family is craving it.  There is a balance when you are raising four kids, homeschooling and trying to fit in your own interests like crafting or schooling.  Sometimes I just have to buy it instead of make it.  But I try to do it at the two locally owned stores near us (the co-op and the little grocer near us).

Want to join in?  Link over to Aubrey's blog and join in!