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Archive for the ‘Organic/Local Farming’ Category

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A burgeoning dandelion wine farm you ask? Oh no. That is our backyard. And every year I look onto this grassy wasteland of rocks and weeds hoping for inspiration. Every year I seek inspiration from the usual places; Martha, Country Living, Gardener’s Supply, etc. This year, we get serious. Stay Tuned: From Wasteland to Secret Garden in 2012.

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I had a grand post planned related to stockpiling and pantry stocking to make eating local and fresh easy and affordable, right up until my husband came into the house and shared with me and our daughter that one of our girlies had died in the night.  Of course my mind immediately went to weasel break-in, poison, disease, infection and for a split second I was certain he was going to tell me that we were on the verge of losing all 6 and our steady flow of eggs and I caught a glimpse of what farmers must go through when they fear that their entire livelihood could be at jeopardy.   On the contrary, however, he shared with us that he believes she was either smothered by her coop mates who all tried to huddle in a single box last night or suffered a heart attack or stroke.   Due to the extreme winds yesterday, she could have been literally scared to death.    Regardless of the cause, the other girlies appear to be fine thankfully.   Nonetheless, as someone new to livestock raising I had a twinge of sadness when I realized that one of ladies I had raised since she was a wee chick in my basement had been lost.  I also looked in my 4 year old daughter’s eyes as she processed the news that the chicken was not going to the doctor to get better and that she really was gone forever.   As we have always looked at these chickens as a food source both for eggs and for meat, our focus has always been to give them the best possible life and then a good clean death, so I decided that this despite the sadness of the moment, was an opportunity to help my child understand what was happening and what would eventually happen to all of the girlies one day.  Yes, I cannot tell a lie, this quickly became a bit of a Mufasa Circle of Life moment, but an important one nonetheless.   I have always felt strongly that whatever choice someone makes about the food they eat is there own.  Ours is to try and eat local humanely raised and slaughtered meat and locally grown produce.  We are far from perfect, but it’s what we strive for.    I hope that Amelia will grow up to make her own decisions about the food she eats, but while she is under our care, I want her to understand the food we eat and why now, and there is no better opportunity than the present to be honest about what his happening and what it means.  So, she stood there asking me why that girlie had to die.  She threw her arms around me and said that she loved that girlie and would miss feeding her grass and talking to her after school.   I felt the loss through the her preschooler eyes and it gave me pause to feel a new sense of grief myself.   So I told her it was ok to be sad and to miss that girlie, but that it was a part of life.  I told her to remember how much she loved giving that girlie grass and lettuce and how she should feel so good about giving her a good life.  I told her, that the important thing is not that girlie’s death but the life she had.   I told her we will always have animals we love and care for and that we will almost always have a point where we will need to say goodbye.   Sometimes, it will be like this, sad and unexpected and sometimes it will be part of the plan to say goodbye so that we might provide food for ourselves and others.   She was not very sure about the last part, but as she grows we can feel good that we were honest and gave her as much information as possible to make decisions for herself.   So tonight, as we put her to bed, she shared that she was still sad about the loss of a girlie, but that she was going to continue to love and care for the other 5 girlies.   She was still not clear on whether or not she wanted to eat chickens (keep in mind she hasn’t completely made the connection that her favorite dinner of chicken fries is the same as the girlies, but I am not going to push that light bulb right now), but she understood what it meant to give her animals a good life.  At the end of the day that’s all we can hope for as parents and a family wanting to raise our own animals for food.   So we keep calm, carry on and learn from our experiences with this group of girlies as we think about our plans for expansion in the future and teach our daughter the lessons and values we have surrounding our food sources.

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So when I think about what I want for my family and how I want our home, farm and business to run when we get to that point…this is a pretty good starting point.   Given that we have proven that we can successfully raise chickens without total failure, we maybe jumping onto this bandwagon sooner rather than later.   🙂   Regardless of your eggtrapreneur plans, this is a great article.  Thanks Flying T!!

 

The Egg Business – Progress Report.

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Alpaca

Image by James Preston via Flickr

So when I envision my life as a full fledged farmgirl I picture rolling hills filled with pasture raised sheep and alpacas (they are just so darn cute who doesn’t want an alpaca, especially when they sneeze), perhaps a cow and some pigs.  A few chickens, ducks and maybe a turkey a two.    I imagine a porch swing with hand squeezed lemonade in the summer and warm fires with home baked bread in the winter.  Then I think about winter some more and think of long drives to everywhere:   The grocery store (when the TP’s out, it’s out.  They used leaves 200 years ago, why can’t we?).  Dance Class.  Work.  School.  Daycare.   Well perhaps I will home school and run a CSA.  I make pretty decent Jams, Jellies and Relishes and Alpaca hair can be sold for a decent amount.  After all,  who needs a grocery store when you have your own cows for milk and beef and poultry for eggs?   Our children can learn how to weave and spin.  What kid doesn’t want to learn that?  I can knit and will eventually sew.   I could make all of our clothes.  We could get solar power and live off the grid…Yes, yes it’s a perfect dream, right up until I get tired of using leaves and drive in a blizzard to get real TP and get stranded in town overnight.  While I am gone my kids decide to invite all of their Facebook friends over for a raging party, raid the liquor cabinet to act out their frustration because I have ruined thier lives by turning them into miniature Laura Ingalls’  thus they have Facebook friends named Skunk and Popcorn who come by and next thing you know the porch swing is in the wood-stove, the alpacas all have mohawks, the sheep seem to have been tagged like abandoned train cars and the cow has moved into a neighboring farm just to escape the madness.    As I investigate the damage, I realize that I still forgot the TP and drive another 90 minutes round trip to get it.   Then I wake up, and find myself securely planted in my suburban home with one dog, one cat and 6 chickens, within 5 miles of two major grocery store and I breathe a sigh of momentary relief.   Then I think, OMG (yes, I have gotten to the point where my inner thought bubbles are written in text format), how will I ever make it on a farm?  Then I remember, the dream isn’t all about porch swings and lemonade, but rather creating a better quality of life for my whole family and I can do that now here in Vermont suburbia. Finding and moving too our dream rural farm is a commitment.  A commitment to being far away from the things we take for granted today.  A commitment to  being  totally invested in our home, land and any subsequent animals we decide to raise. A commitment to making sure that we have the resources to do this the way we want too.  So  we will plan and we will execute when the time is right we will have our dream home and farm.  In the meantime, I will perfect the  things I know I can do in this location and give our family the best life we can in the here and now.   We will get the rolling hills and alpacas, but until then, homesteading will be a state of mind and a daily practice.  Whether my children learn how to spin and weave remains to be seen, but either way, we will make sure to keep the liquor in a fire proof safe and place a ban on spray paint.  Happy Homesteading to all and to all a good night!!!

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Pictured below is a picture of one of my favorite go to dishes for dinner or brunch: Farmers Quiche. Essentially, it is a giant omelette fully loaded with whatever toppings make you happy. I adapted it from the plaid standard, Better Homes & Gardens. I start with some frozen shredded potatoes, shredded my own potatoes, and used tatertots , which I think are my favorite, and put them into a 9×13 baking dish. Cook up some toppings, bacon, Swiss chard, ham, sausage, onions, mushrooms, peppers, diced tomatoes, etc. Put the cooked toppings over the potatoes. Sprinkle about a cup of shredded cheese (whatever kind you like) then take a dozen eggs, beat them with some milk, salt and pepper. Pour it over the top of the casserole and bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 55 minutes or until firm and bubbly. Makes about 12 servings and at about 6 WW Points per serving it is a great dinner served with a salad and can become a great way to start the day in the morning. As clearly shown in my photo ( apparently the directions wait I have to take a picture fell in deaf ears) my family couldn’t wait to dig in. I haven’t tried it with egg whites replacing some of the whole eggs, but I imagine that would also be delicious!! Enjoy!!

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Grades of Vermont maple syrup. From left to ri...

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If you are one of those people who know maple syrup as the sticky thin stuff found in bottles featuring girls with braids or in the shape of a jolly looking grandmother, than you are missing out on North America’s Nectar of the Gods, pure Maple Syrup direct from the tree to the table.   And by “direct” I mean sap tapped from a tree, put through a rigorous and long boiling process to find it’s way onto my pancakes.  My yogurt.  My oatmeal.   Into my baked goods.  Into my tea and coffee.  Onto roasted carrots.  Into a glaze for bacon wrapped scallops and salmon.  Into a marinade for steak and chicken..well you get the picture.  In this house there is nothing a bottle of magical Maple Syrup cannot do.   It is worth EVERY PENNY.  Especially for this Farmgirl who has cut out all refined white sugar.   Without this gem of a sweetener I would be a very, very, very, sad and irrationally irritable panda.    The best thing about living in Vermont is that generally thinking you or someone you know will either produce or be related to someone who does produce this amazing sticky sweet goodness.  So whether you get your syrup fix from Vermont, NY, Maine, Canada or anywhere else that has the climate and the fauna for Maple production, if you have not tried the authentic product, there is no better time then the present.

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A single week's fruits and vegetables from com...

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As I prepare my last batch of hot pepper jam for this season and plot out the holiday baking madness for the upcoming season I am also preparing to put our garden down for an extended rest.   That’s right, for Garden Season 2012 we will not be planting anything in our garden plot.   Does that mean this Farmgirl has given up only 3 years and 6 chickens in?  On the contrary,  this Farmgirl has been inspired by a great book that I picked up at my local Tractor Supply  The Backyard Homestead:

This book is a must have desk reference for anyone who wants to start a backyard homestead or begin to dabble in producing  their own food from scratch.    Upon purchasing this book I had some AHA moments about  being a bonified urban homesteader.    I have not mastered anything mind you (as clearly illustrated by this year’s less than bumper crop of carrots and beets),  but I do feel that I have a good handle on growing vegetables in a garden.    So 2012 our goal is to make our yard a well-rounded food bearing garden retreat.   We would like to add apple trees and perhaps some pear trees.  We would like to clear out the random and useless rock garden next to our pool and create a blueberry patch.   We would like to plot out a location for  raised strawberry and raspberry beds.   Perhaps a deck and real live fireplace and/or bread oven.   Perhaps a door yard full of berries and nuts.  Boxed herbs and of course a handful of containers loaded with tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.  Oh and maybe, just maybe we might actually get that compost system set up that we have been threatening to put into operation for 3 years now.

So,  you ask what will these homesteaders do for fresh and local produce next year?   Well, we will start by getting a full share in our CSA, Maplewood  Organics.   My final calculation after this last pick up of what we received for this season was nearly $350 of organic potatoes, peppers, onions (which, I might add, organic onions were going for $2 a lb. today at the grocery store) brussel sprouts, broccoli, tomatoes, fresh-cut flours, swiss chard, kale, radishes, lettuce, green beans and more.  Given that, I am super excited to see what a full share will garner us.  Of course there is always our local farmers markets and farm stands where buying in bulk is encouraged.  Having  just filled my belly with Gluten Free Lasagna made with delicious homemade tomato sauce, we will make sure to do whatever it takes to get our hands on fresh tomatoes.  So. long story not so short, we will do what our ancestors have always done and give our garden plot a rest after what can only be described as a “challenging” season for growers across the nation.    We will fill it with winter rye,  and host a potato sack race over the top of it for leap year in July!!!  We will build the backyard homestead/haven of our dream and in 2013 recreate the veggie magic of old.   And by then, ideally, I will be picking my first apples from our own tree, making my own soap, jewelry and clothes (try to contain your envy) and munching on homemade yogurt and string cheese.   At the end of the day, homesteading is an attitude and a lifestyle.  Gardening is a huge part of that, but anyone can grow a vegetable, a true homesteader grows and decorates an entire buffet.

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