Friday, February 27, 2015

and finally!

Last fall we finished our regular growing season in November. Our season includes planting, harvesting, feeding, watering, processing, washing, packing, freezing, loading, unloading, deliveries, driving, bill paying, collecting money, maintaining mailing lists, communications, updates, website, abiding by federal, state, county and township laws, coordinating deliveries, watching weather so that things can be covered or uncovered as needed, chasing things in or out of where they belong...well, it can be a lot if all that has to happen in the same day!

Last fall we added another hoophouse in the fall, while our regular season was still under way. Sweet friends helped or really managed the entire project, and once completed the beds were filled with seeds and garlic.

And then the daily amount of light decreased with ferocity. Dark. Dark. Ugh.

And now the sun is up. And those seeds...the kind that withstand cold, just waiting for warmth, are finally starting to sprout!

And sprouting they are! This year we are offering vegetables weekly, but not via a CSA. You can select what you want, and in August we will be able to replant the hoophouse so we can harvest green stuff all of next winter! There are only 52 weeks in the year, and things can be harvested weekly...

And this is happening too.

Garlic sprouting. Homer the grower hanging out in the 90° hoophouse while its 22° outside, happy as can be.

3 weeks until spring. We start weekly planting to be able to harvest weekly beginning in May! Its almost on!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

and here we are

We purchased this property in August of 2009 with the plan of farming. We have grown tons of chemical free vegetables, grass fed and finished cattle, pastured pork, chicken, eggs and turkey too! Most years we slip in plenty of flowers too.

We did not plan on home renovations. The property was owned by a real estate flipper when we got it, so we were pretty certain that things would need to be addressed, sometime down the line.

Year two we had a fire that did a good bit of damage. Every winter we are reminded just how poorly the entire house and heat system/heat retention methods work. And today: this...

We took what we thought would be a quick trip to Baltimore yesterday. But an under predicted snow forecast surprised everyone in the area as snow fell thick and fast. We quickly decided to ditch return plans and sleep in a hotel. We drove home this morning on clear roads with no traffic.

We opened the garage door to find a bit of water on the floor, and more in the mud room. It had not been running long, and Homer shut the valve off and shop vacced up the rest of the water.

The local hardware store had just the pieces needed. A mesh connecting pipe. A valve so we can switch it off if needed. And a new thing that replaces solder, flux, flame and tubes with a sort of expanding/clamping thing. 

Fixed and back in use. There is new technology in home construction and repair and we are using it!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

why our pens are heavy

Our first mobile pens, 12? 13? Years ago were impossible to move. It took 4 of us to move the thing each day.

Many redesigns have occurred, especially to the wheel structure. The pens get lifted on the wheel structure and balanced can move over rocks, divots and large grass tufts.

We have been in possession of some smaller pens, used only for holding birds ready for auction. These older pens just kinda drag across the ground and are a real challenge to move. Yesterday they held roosters and a couple of 5 year old laying hens who are no longer producing eggs.

Yesterday I posted pictures of the pens as the sun was setting.

The pen to the left in this group: painted green and orange, small, rectangular was relocated over night.

Winds of up to 60 miles per hour happened over night. The redesigned pens stayed in place. But the old pen, that we had realized did not work for us, proved again how much it did not work for us.

If you look closely you can see the pen off in the distance. The wind relocated it. Only the roosters were visible this morning. Its currently 1° with ridiculous wind chill factor. All our trees stood, the roof on our house and all other buildings held, and all other livestock are good. These are the days that test farm infrastructure, and what we design to withstand.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

valentines on the farm

It's sunny but cold. Snow predicted overnight. And there is already plenty of snow on our pastures.

The dogs helped with egg collection this afternoon. They are always ready to assist with any cracked eggs, eaten immediately.

Jasmine and Swayze


Jazmine and Blitzen


Luna and Chaz

Friday, February 13, 2015

"your good cholesterol is off the charts"

The majority, but not all of our food, comes from the farm. We don't grow grains or dairy products or coffee or chocolate.

We pick and can, ferment or freeze fruits and vegetables. We eat our pasture raised beef, pork, turkey and chicken. And eggs.

We never ever eat low fat, artificial sweetener, fake fats or things referred to as substitutes.

The last couple years I've figured out that I can't eat gluten. It gives me vertigo. And that sucks. The gluten substitute recipes tend toward ingredient lists that make me nervous.

Homer grew up with breakfast meals that featured pan gravies of fat, flour, cream. First a roux, then cream until cooked down. Added meat, poured over homemade biscuits...incredible. Except a meal like that left me in a world of spinning brain and nausea. Sometimes unable to stand or sit.

Hmm. Substitutions needed. Trial and error. Gluten free oats, ground down in the coffee bean grinder, acts just like wheat flour. Potatoes, sliced thin and cooked up offer a similar texture to biscuit.

So today, a few ingredient breakfast, gluten free, tasty, of ingredients we can all pronounce. Some of the fat is lard from our pigs, some organic butter we purchase off farm. And organic cream or half n half from off farm.

A bulldog gravy: a roux made with oats ground up to be like flour.

Beef cooked up.

Eggs over easy.


All combined onto one plate of delicious, gluten free goodness.

Recent studies show that grass fed meat, dairy and eggs don't actually raise cholesterol. That the fake fats might actually make the balance of good and bad cholesterol skew wildely. 

I'm not a doctor. It sure makes sense to me that my cholesterol measures as it does, and the math works out that my doctor has no concerns on this part of my health.

And meanwhile, we eat like royalty from the base of what goes in the pan to the finishing touches. And plan to continue. Tastes fantastic, is satisfying, and it appears my system is able to process.

Except flour, white vinegar, barley and malt. *sniff, I almost miss them.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

testing, testing

Today it was 19° and bright and sunny. Perfect weather for testing windows with and without insulation.

We have been researching how to stay warm, how to decrease usage of fuels to warm a living space and just how efficient windows can be.

Windows can be an enormous expense in a home. Glass is fragile, heavy, and when layered together with argon gas or something else that helps stop transfer of temperature they are a massive expense.

Our house was "updated" before we moved in. The windows were replaced. The new windows leak air and serve as a massive conduit of temperature transfer.

We tried insulated drapes. The air just went around them.

Homer has tried more drastic measures. A full sheet of solid insulation, an inch and a half thick, cut to just fit in the window.

Our vaguely scientific results are in. After a couple weeks of mostly below freezing temperatures day and night, the covered window is the clear winner.

The frozen bottle of water placed in front of the insulated window thawed out. We do remove the insulation during the day and replace at night.

The frozen bottle of water in front of the uninsulated window remained frozen.

Maybe those ineffective thermal drapes would look good wrapped around that insulation. Dress it up a bit and keep us from all our liquid parts freezing up.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

on Sandi, the best dog

Ok, let's be honest. Sandi was not an easy dog to have. As long as Homer was around she would walk right beside him. When he would look for her she would already be there, under his feet, her 9 pounds just out of sight range for a moment.

She was not happy when we added additional dogs. Homer is holding her in this video, as we tried to take a photo with all the dogs, she is quietly growling and occasionally snapping louder. She never, ever was a member of the pack. She belonged to Homer and that was that. A one person dog.

I knew that only when he was off farm would she pretend to tolerate me. If he was here she paid me no mind. She ended up on our sheets I had removed from the bed, I took this picture to send to Homer, asking him to get her back off of them. So the sheets could go into the wash. She would snarl and snap at me...she bit me more than once. I needed his help to move her when she had claimed a spot.

This was when she was mad at me. Would not make eye contact, or get up from her cushion for a treat.

And other times she was amazing to witness. A pure athlete, all muscle. Never in her life was there an ounce of fat on her. She would run like the wind. Jump higher than waist high, on the hunt for a critter or for Homer. We saw her pull a groundhog out of its hole and kill it. Mice, moles, voles never stood a chance next to her. 

She would parade the farm with what she had caught. She had a specific, proud yip that she made, and she would show what she had caught to every other animal and person here. Puffed up with pride. The first time I witnessed her dispatch a mouse I needed a cold drink and a paper bag to breathe into. It was so intense.

In October she was looking a little feeble. For years she knew Homer's morning routine, and would wait until he kissed me goodbye before she would hop out of her basket to go out with him. When it got cold last fall she would not go with him, snapped at him. "Ok, you sleep in now" he said to her. She never left early with him again, after years of a daily routine.

She came to us at age 9 in February of 2010. Her previous owners were so surprised that anyone would take an old dog. She was perfect for Homer, as she taught him well to care for dogs. She changed him and helped him see the value of a constant, loyal, dedicated companion. She was that for him.

When her previous owners dropped her off they both cried. Big, ugly cries. They could not have her anymore. And the woman told me Sandi would never be my dog, that she would take Homer as her person. And to never allow anyone to touch the dog unless she initiated the contact. That Sandi would bite them, go into full on attack, snarling, snapping, scary dog mode. 

We warned everyone. Most listened. Some had to test it because, well, some people hate to be told what to do, or think they have a way with dogs. Or, what happened most times: "she's so cute, I just forgot that she was mean".

She did her own nails. She bit them, kept them short and neat. I knew she was on the decline when I could hear her nails clicking on the floors.

She passed away today, quietly, in her favorite basket. We had considered taking her to be put down. But we knew a trip to the vets office would upset her, and she was little enough to carry her around, she made small messes and, truth be told, we had no desire to cause her any trauma. She was just shy of 13, which is a good life for a dog that was a stranger to us for most of her life. Her passing was quiet. She had us both well trained in how to treat her with respect, and we did our best to do so.

A year ago we attended a party at the home of the vet. They had a handful of dogs. One was an old dog, barely walking, tufts of hair missing, spine kinked up, cataract eyes, almost deaf. It was so reassuring to see that even the vets dog gets a chance to hobble around, we decided right then we would do that with our dogs. Age out gracefully. Go peacefully, here on the farm. We expect Sandi is at the pearly gates, schooling everyone in how and when to touch her, informing all she will not, no how, be a member of any dog pack. And today it was our turn to cry big ugly cries over losing her. 


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