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Posts Tagged ‘Organic Farming’

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

Image via Wikipedia

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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There is nothing quite as magical as going to an open air market on a beautiful day. Whether you are in Africa or Hometown USA, the overall feeling is still the same: COMMUNITY. Where else can you go with $15 in your pocket and leave with $30 worth of produce and kettle corn? Even here in my hometown, which could stand to amp up it’s farmer’s market a scootch, the market has an amazing feeling of warmth and highlights all the wonderful things our town has to offer. In two hours I tasted honey, smelled kettle corn and chit chatted with a local farmer about his growing methods while negotiating a salsa/dilly bean trade with my friend and neighbor. I learned a little about soap making (one of my next big homesteading endeavors) and I learned that a local crafter makes these amazing fleece backpack blankets, perfect for even the coolest of preschoolers. This is not the same experience you get a big grocery store. Upon stopping at our local grocery store my farmer’s market perusing com-padre and I reveled in our fresh and frugal successes when compared with store prices. For example: I got nearly 6 pounds of zucchini for $1.00. At our grocery store, $1.49 per pound for not so fresh or delicious looking zucchinis. You do the math. Beyond the joy of the market experience there is also a certain thrill for every aspiring homesteader and/or culinary artist of drawing inspiration from the bounty you have gathered whether from the market or your own garden:

Creative inspiration

When I look at all of that delicious, fresh, vegetable goodness on my table I see not only zucchini, spaghetti squash, tomatoes, hot peppers, green beans and apples, but I see salsa for a Mexican fiesta in January and zucchini bread on a cool fall morning. I see a pasta dinner with no noodles and a green bean casserole (that is my favorite GF Recipe) on Thanksgiving morning. I see money that I will not have to spend and meals filled with fresh, delicious and local ingredients. In fact, I was inspired to make an entirely local dinner on Saturday night that featured vegetables from my stores not even shown here. It included carrots, beets, pork, honey, maple syrup and cabbage. Every bit of it produced within 30 miles of my house. Without getting on a soap box about eating local, I can tell you that there is nothing quite so tasty as a vegetable grown in your backyard or just down the road. When you put your food on the plate and it is composed of whole and delicious foods there is a sense of pride and accomplishment and a feeling that you are providing your family with a healthy meal packed with nutrients.

Spicy Glazed Pork Chops, Sauteed Red Cabbage and Roasted Root Vegetables

So the moral of the this story? Whether you are into the localvore movement or growing your own food or not, a visit to your local farmer’s market is always worth the trip and you never know what kind of practical magic it might inspire.

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I am getting ready to turn yesterday’s bounty into delicious foods that will make great gifts and see us through the winter. There will be chopping, boiling, labeling and jars popping. There will probably be some swearing and maybe some tears, but in the end it will all be worth it. Let the canning games begin.

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