Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Farm Reflections 2014

This past year, I had many goals set up for the farm.  I even managed to get a few done!  One was to try to produce more ourselves, and to cut expenses in both the grocery and the feed sections of our budget.  We did see improvements in these areas, I'm happy to report.  Yay!!

Another goal was to invest myself into getting my farm business up.  It's up!  Right now the business is like a foal - on shaky legs but full of potential.  I got my LLC, have the most wonderful, supportive customers (thanks guys!!), put together a better website, and have many ideas for the coming year.

My final goal was to get a better feel of what we're producing, and continue to produce in a sustainable, thoughtful way.  I did better with accounting what comes out of the farm, but really need to put a lot more thought/work into this. As far as sustainability - boy that's a tough hog to wrestle. I'm growing GMO free food, practicing organic methods, saving open source seeds, and reducing outside resources.  Definitely better, definitely more work to be put in.

We have a long way to go, and it appears to have a similar motto with learning.  The more you do (learn), the more you realize how far you have to go.  I'm super lucky to be doing something I love and feel passionate about and look forward to the challenge of working on these goals (and others that are sure to pop up).

With all that said, I thought I'd share some things that please me from the farm for the past year.


  • Chicken eggs - gathered around 5,824
  • Duck eggs - gather around 500
  • Harvested about 200 lbs peaches, 250 lbs asian pears, 200 lbs apples
  • Expanded Chicken Field 1 and had my biggest garden yet
  • Were given two goats which substantially helped clear shrubbery (and raspberries, and fruit tree branches, and etc...), then proceeded to give them to my cousin last month. Big J. & my cousin worked out a grazing plan for the goats and her Alpacas - summer at our place, winter at hers.
  • Hatched 46 chicks.  Sold some, kept some, and had a hen successfully hatch her own chicks for the first time
  • Received 2 ducklings - including a drake
  • Joined Livestock Heritage Conservancy - working on breeding above ducks (Ancona Ducks). They are considered critical with less than 500 worldwide, which is surprising considering they are great egg layers, hardy, and (I'm told) have excellent meat
  • Joined Seedsavers, and Slowfoods
It was a great year on the farm, and I'm all recharged and ready to tackle this year's goals!

Friday, December 19, 2014

infinity scarves

Last year, Momsie gave me two infinity scarves that she sewed. I love them and have worn them often, receiving many complements.  I've wanted to try my hand at making some, for me and for gifts.  Here are my results:


The fabric is light and so these scarves are not really for warmth - more for accessorizing.  I picked up 1 1/3 yards of each fabric and was able to make 2 scarves out of this - making a total of 6 scarves.


I love how fast these whip up!  I'm used to much more time consuming projects which made these a delight to get beautiful results in no time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

First Mowing soap


This soap is A.'s creation.  With spirulina to add a bit of a color, very lightly scented, and being superfatted to ensure a rich moisturizing lather this soap is great for sensitive skin.  We've used this many times now, and really like it.

Friday, December 12, 2014

chef extraordinaires

homemade herb crust pizza by A.


strawberry shortcake with mascarpone cheese by Little J.


I love that the boys are enjoying cooking.  It's fun to see what they want to cook, and taste test the finished products!  They each asked if they could cook dinner once a week, and this schedule has been going on for some months now, which is wonderful.  Sometimes, I cook beside them teaching them some meals that they like and are interested in learning.  Other times, they cook by themselves. Whatever they make, I always look forward to seeing what has inspired them for the week.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

small wall hanging

Often when I'm researching an idea, I will get completely sidetracked as I click link after link.  That's how I stumbled on this project, and nanacompany's site.  I love her work, and when I saw the tutorial, I knew I wanted to make it.

I gathered my thread colors and decided to try and match the fabrics before starting.  Here is what I came up with.



The hand embroidery was normally done on car rides in bits here and there, so I'm not sure how long it really took.


This is what I ended up with.  I like how cheerful it is, and the small size made the piecing and quilting a quick project.

When Little J. saw it, he shook his head and said "Mom, that's the kind of thing grandmas make.  You shouldn't be doing this yet."  This cracked me up.  Guess I'm ahead of my time and my inner old lady is desperate to emerge.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

cranberry mustard


I made some cranberry mustard to add a bit of a kick to my sandwiches.  My mom made some a few years earlier that I loved, and with that in mind, I tried my hand at it.  The recipe I used wasn't as good as her recipe, and I dearly hope she finds it so I can make the good stuff!

That said, this is nice.  A. loves it which is a win, and I too enjoy it on a veggie sandwich with the works.  This recipe is right here if you want to make it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

cranberry vodka


After Thanksgiving I had leftover cranberries.  After searching a bit, I knew I wanted to make this cranberry infused vodka.

I got the idea right here and she even has a crantini recipe that I'll have to try and see how it is.  It'll be rough doing all this taste testing, but somehow, I think I'll make it!

Monday, December 8, 2014

pumpkin vanilla soap

I wanted to make this in time for Thanksgiving, but that didn't quite happen.  Even so, I really wanted to try my hand at making this soap so I went ahead with it.


The bottom layer is vanilla scented, and the top layer is pumpkin creme scented.  I sprinkled cinnamon on the top of the loaf.

He'res a side view.  Layers aren't quite even, but I'm happy with it.


It smells yummy as it is curing and I love how pretty it turned out.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Little J. is now 14

 What are you doing Mom?

 Oh!  For my birthday post!

I'm ready now.

How do you feel being 14?
Good.

What do you like about it?
I can go to high school now!  (followed by a laugh)

What was good about your birthday?
The presents, of course.  And I liked being able to play new games with everybody.

Any goals for the year?
Get into Running Start

Any words of wisdom?
Be zesty and enjoy life.

kitty status, or maybe stasis


Why yes, Flower is still sleeping - like a champ!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

basket kitty

This is what I find when I don't put the laundry basket away quick enough.






Tuesday, November 25, 2014

monogrammed handkerchiefs



I made these handkerchiefs for Big J. when I noticed how little tissue seemed to keep up with his allergies or when he exercises in the cold.  These old fashioned cotton hankies are very durable and can handle more than one quick wipe of the nose.

To add a bit of color, I monogrammed his initials on the corner of each hankie.  I went through the fonts I had in Word, found one I liked and sized it for the hankie and printed it out.  Once printed out and traced on the cloth using a water soluble pen, it was time to embroider.  Each hankie went relatively quickly - maybe 20 min. apiece.

I keep these kinds of projects in the car so when I'm waiting for Little J. during gymnastics or picking the kids up from classes I have something to do. This takes up little space and because there are no complicated instructions it is easy to pick up and drop back down.

Monday, November 24, 2014

cheerful start of the day


I was lounging on the couch when A. surprised me with breakfast.

Friday, November 21, 2014

cranberry fig bath bombs


These smell so so very good!  They are my current favorite!  I tried a different molding process and I think they turned out cute.  I can't wait to try out other combinations.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

farm thoughts

Orange yolks should be earned, not bought


Growing up, if I were to think about eggs, I always pictured them white with a yellow center.  That was my normal.  When I first started raising chickens, I was caught off guard with how bright and orange the yolks were.  I found it deeply satisfying to see the sunset colored yolks stand tall above the albumen in the frying pan.  

My education continued and I learned more about eggs and their nutrition.   Eggs have a bad rap for exacerbating heart issues.  Omega-6, while essential, if consumed in high amounts can add to this problem, along with cancer, and diabetes.  Grain fed chickens, and their eggs, will have a much higher amount of this Omega-6 fatty acid than grass fed chickens.  Furthermore, grass fed chickens produce eggs that are found to be much higher in Omega-3 fatty acid than their grain fed counterparts.  Omega-3 is considered good for your heart helping with blood pressure and heart disease, among other benefits. Eggs from grass feed chickens can have enough Omega-3 to balance out the Omega-6, making the egg a healthy treat.  Based on the research*, I don't know if I can say they are heart friendly, but I certainly view them as not heart damaging.   

I see a correlation of the yolk color with the diet of the chickens, and how healthy the egg is.  When they are free ranged with plenty of grass and bugs to hunt down, their yolks are positively vibrant orange. If they are completely grain fed, the yolks are a pale yellow.  Of course, there are all shades in-between depending on the season and the ratio of greens vs. grains.  I myself, have paler orange yolks in deep winter while they are eating more grains, and the most vibrant in spring and summer when the vegetation is rampant.

I am proud of my eggs, and see the orange yolks as a hard earned indicator of careful stewardship. Imagine my surprise, when I found out that Purina, a major supplier in our area of chicken feed is adding marigold extract to their recipe.  You can buy this product and your eggs will have orange yolks, even if they are only grain fed.   The yolk color can no longer work as a good indicator of grass fed vs. grain fed chickens.  Crazy, huh? 

If this is important to you, consider chatting with your egg provider about their setup so you have a good grasp on what you are buying.


*There are may great articles out there on the subject of grass fed vs. grain fed. products. Eat Wild has a good article  here that covers eggs, meat, and dairy succinctly.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

chicken hawk

We have a hawk that has been showing a bit too much interest in the ladies.  He's been visiting frequently, and I keep thinking of the Looney Tune show with the rooster and the chicken hawk.

I don't know if you can really see him at the tip of this fir tree - but that's his favorite place to do his eyeball'n of what's happening near the coop.



This is a bit closer look at our visitor.  Again, not a great picture, but I was happy to get it before he got annoyed and flew away.


So far, no ladies lost.  Here's keeping my fingers crossed that our luck continues!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

peppermint bath bombs

I decided to try my hand again at bath bombs.  I tinkered with my recipe, and these are definitely an improvement.  They are lightly moisturizing so you won't leave the bathtub feeling like a butterball.



I also decided to try 2 color bath bombs.  These are a lot of fun to make, and I want to practice this method more!


I want to work on the shape of the bath bombs more, and get a more polished look.  I have some ideas on how to smooth out the bottom of the half circles.  As for the sphere below, I think it had the potential of turning out smooth, but Little J. was having so much fun playing with it while it was drying, that it ended up a bit rough.  Makes me like it more for that reason!


Would you like to make this? Here's how:


Ingredients:
2 cups baking soda
1 cup citric acid
3 TBSP corn starch
2 tsp. jojoba oil
4-6 drops peppermint essential oil
La Bomb coloring (could use food coloring)
4 tsp. witch hazel

1) Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl, and then divide the mixture in half between two bowls.
2) Mix 1 tsp. oil, 3 drops peppermint essential oil, and 2 tsp witch hazel together and add it to one of the bowls.  Stir thoroughly and work the mixture with your hands.  It should feel like lightly damp sand.  When you squeeze the mixture hard, it needs to hold it's shape.  If it is too crumbly at this point, add a touch more witch hazel.  But be careful as if it gets too damp, it can start swelling, or leave cracks when drying.
3) Repeat step 2, expect add your liquid coloring to your liquid mixture so you get a nice bright pink (or red, or green, or??).
4) You can use any mold you want.  I used a snowball maker I borrowed from the kids.  Pack tightly the two different colors in layers.  Let sit for a minute or so, and then tap the back of your mold with a wooden spoon to help release the bomb.  Let them try overnight, and then enjoy!

Monday, November 17, 2014

peppermint bath salts

We seem to be in a peppermint mood over here!  After making the peppermint soap, A. is craving peppermint bark, and I'm thinking all sorts of minty thoughts myself - including bath salts.

This idea has been around awhile, and I've used it over the years for the family, and for gifts. Another quick and enjoyable project to make.










You need:
1 cup Epsom salts
4-8 drops peppermint essential oil
Red food coloring
8 oz jar
2 bowls
2 spoons
funnel helps


Steps:
1) Split the salt between two bowls
2) For the red salt - depending on your preference, add 4-8 drops red food coloring Stir well until salt looks red
3) In both bowls, add 4 drops essential oil - again depending on preference
4) Pour the salts into a jar alternating between the white and red
6) Put a lid on, and decorate the jar however you like.  We used ribbon and bells.




A. wanted to try to twist the salts and see if it could look more like a candy cane.  So, we cut some cardboard and stuck it in the middle of the jar.  Then, we poured white salt on one side and red on the other.


Then, you twist the cardboard as you pull up.  This will give you a swirl.  Twisting more or less will make the swirl tighter or looser.

That's all there is to it!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

peppermint bar soap

Little J. and A. are getting really good at making soap, and I'm glad for their enthusiasm.  Now, when I start up on making a batch, they stop their school work and ask to join in.  The boys are great at getting me to try new things out, and here is one of them.  We usually make cold processed soap, but followed the melt and pour steps for this.


Little J. and A. really like this batch.  It was fast, and very colorful.  Little J. says he wants to eat the soap it looks so good, and A. agreed saying the top looked like whipped cream that he wished he could swipe with his finger.

It couldn't be easier.  If you'd like to try your hand at making this soap, A. found the project here.


Friday, November 14, 2014

new website

I've been working on creating a better website for the farm.  I wanted it to be up and running to coincide with tomorrow's FLG bazaar where I'll be promoting 2015 CSA shares.

I still have some tweaking to do, and I need to add my value added products such as soaps to the shop page, but the main information is there.  If someone wants to sign up for a CSA share, or an egg subscription, they can now purchase it online.

I'm sooooo excited!

Wanna see what it looks like?  Check it out here: heidisfancygoods.com



Thursday, November 13, 2014

and, we're back! (I hope)

We lost power around 10:00am on Tuesday due to a crazy windstorm.  We got it for a few hours Tuesday night and lost it again until around 4:30pm today.  Now, I'm so excited to have power again. I hope it stays on a bit longer this go round.  I can honestly say that I don't remember us having such a strong windstorm the entire time we've been here.  And it's been cooooold. Brrrrr.  I have been chopping thru ice for all the animals multiple times a day to keep them in drinking water. There's snow on the ground and it's supposed to freeze again tonight.

There will be a lot of clean up from this storm. That can wait a touch.  Now, we've all just had our turns taking the most anticipated shower of the season yet. The house is warm with a crackling fire,  the teapot steaming on top of the wood stove, and the animals are all bedded down with extra blankets and straw.

Here's hoping you are all cozy and snug too!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

farm thoughts - stewardship

I am continually striving to improve our little farm.  This involves lots of learning, observing, and mistakes.  Throughout my experience, I have changed many methods, and still struggle with where I am going in other areas.  One thing that hasn't changed is my main priority of being a good steward to the land.

What does that mean to me?  Well, a lot. Right now, I am going under two over-arching themes of permaculture: being in balance and being a closed system.  I am excited about how to run the farm in the most balanced way possible.  The more effort/labor something is, the more likely that thing is out of balance, and needs to be addressed.  Who doesn't like to save time and energy, and potentially money as well?  With a little forethought (and for me unfortunately, it's usually all afterthought) a lot of effort can be saved.

The second theme is running the farm as a closed system - meaning that the land can continually produce and be replenished without using external resources to support its ability to function.  By naturally building up the soil, saving seeds so they can become hardy for our area's climate and supporting the animals off the land instead of the feed store are my main areas of focus when contemplating a closed system.  Again, talk about saving time and money!

This is my personal rabbit hole right now.   My mind is flooded with ideas and thoughts that I hope to break down into small, focused chunks that I can natter on about weekly for a bit.

Monday, November 10, 2014

chive blossom vinegar

The chive patch did fantastic this year! It's hard to believe that this got planted March 2013 from tiny little shoots.


With so many beautiful chive blossoms, I've had the opportunity to try out some new ideas.  One is chive blossom vinegar.
This vinegar has a light, delicate flavor, and couldn't be simpler.

I loosely filled a quart jar about half way with the chive blossoms, and then filled to the top using white wine vinegar.  Then, let it steep for two weeks.  As it steeps, your vinegar will become a beautiful pink color.  When you are done steeping, strain out the vinegar and store in a lidded jar on your pantry shelf.  Use wherever you would normally.  We like it on pasta salad, potato salad, and in dressings.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

golden raisin like

Conversation between Little J. and I

Little J. :  I need you to buy me Rosetta Stone so I can start learning Swedish
Me:  You still want to move there?
Little J.  :  Yep.
Me:  I'll miss you!
Little J.  : Don't worry.  When I'm finally done with school and living there and you are golden raisin like, you can come visit me.  And I'll buy you snacks!

Friday, November 7, 2014

pumpkin bread

I cooked up one of my small pumpkins to make some bread yesterday.  Normally I have left over pumpkin when I do this.  This time, I was surprised to find that the pumpkin was completely used up.


yummilicious!


I had this with Milk Scented  Kinsen Oolong this morning.  Couldn't be better!!

Here's the recipe:  makes 2 loaves

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 TBP baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
2 cups cooked pumpkin
1 cup milk (or substitute)
4 eggs
3/4 cup oil
1 cup pecans
1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 350 F
2) Grease 2 loaf pans
3) Mix 1 cup of regular and 1 cup of whole wheat flour, along with all other dry ingredients down to the cloves together.
4)  Add all wet ingredients down to the oil in with the dry and mix very well
5) Add the remaining 2 cups of flour
6) Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips
7) Pour into loaf pans and back for 60 mins, or until toothpick comes out clean from center
8)  Cool about 5 minutes, and then remove from loaf pan - this will help keep chocolate chips that are on the bottom from being pulled out and sticking to the pan.



Thursday, November 6, 2014

chocolate chip mint soap protoype


A. is crazy about chocolate chip mint, in just about any form.  While watching me make soap, A. asked if I would make chocolate chip mint soap for him.  It sounded like a fun challenge, but I decided to play it safe and tinker with a tiny batch and see how it turned out before committing to a full batch.

I made 4 of these guys.  They smell really yummy and I love the look of them.  When I tested a bar in the shower I found that the soap chips leave dark streaks that rinse right off.  Even so, I think I will try to see if I can make new chips without so much color and see if they still look good in the soap.

Once I get this final step ironed out, I'll make a large batch of cold processed chocolate chip mint goat milk soap - hopefully this weekend or so.  When I do, I'll be sure to share the final results.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

awsome snail

"Soy muy guapo!", said the snail.

Picture taken by A.
Spanish taught by Little J.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

in the pot color method flop

Here is a batch of cold process tangerine lime soap that I was trying to do an in the pot coloring technique.  I separated my soap batch into different pitchers and added separate colors to each pitcher.  I then added the colors to a big pitcher and did a quick swirl with a chopstick, and proceeded to pour my soap into the mold box.

I was hoping for a bright yellow, green, and fuchsia pink that would be very distinctive swirls in my soap.  I got this instead:




I think the problem was that I was at a light trace, and I should have gone to a thicker trace before combining the colors.  The thin trace seemed to let all the colors blend with each other giving me a muddy look.

Also, weirdly enough, I keep thinking this soap smells like a fruity root beer soda, instead of the tangerine lime I was going for.

I will try again and hope for better results.  Now, I'm stuck with a whole pile of soap that I'm not crazy about.

Monday, November 3, 2014

saving the stevia

It was time to move the chickens into the garden field, and reseed their current field.  A purchased a stevia plant this spring, and wasn't about to let the chickens get their beaks anywhere near it.  Off he went to dig it out of the garden.

sleds are awesome for toting things up and down our hill

Snow Bear guarding the plant from chickens

Once planted, we realized it might need some pruning to help shape it a wee bit.  Currently, it keeps toppling over.

 Still, A. accomplished his mission of keeping his beloved stevia safe.  The rest of the garden is now being gleefully savaged by my ladies as I type.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

making chevre

This summer I got to take a cheese making class.  Since then, I've been putting my new knowledge to work.

Why do this?

1) Here's the blah, blah blah reasons:  I like getting to know what exactly is going into my cheeses and having the opportunity to use fresh, local, raw organic milk.  Plus, it's economical, cuts down on packaging waste, and gives me the opportunity experiment with flavors and textures.

2) Here's the main reason:  It's super duper fun to do!

One quick and easy cheese that I've been honing my skills on is chevre

Step 1) Warm the milk to 80 F and stir in either chevre culture from either a prepared envelope or from your own mother batch.  I used a 1/2 gallon of goat milk and will now put these guys into the oven with the oven light on overnight.  The longer you leave it, the firmer your cheese will be.



Step 2) Remove from oven the next morning.  This is what it will look like



Step 3)  Pour off the whey through a strainer and cheese cloth.  You will get a plug of cheese that will come out of the jar.  If you don't have lactose issues, you can use the remaining whey in cooking.  Otherwise, you can feed it to acid loving plants like blueberries.  I also like to mix it in a bowl with my chicken feed and give it to my ladies.  They are crazy for it.


Step 4)  After you let it drain a little more to get out the excess whey, you can serve it as is, or flavor and shape it to your liking.  Here, I am adding Green Goddess Dressing Mix from Penzey's Spices.


Step 5)  Once stirred, I will line my cheese mold with  cheese cloth and spoon in the herbed chevre.  I wrap the cloth over the top, and let it sit to drain a touch more on a plate in the fridge.



Step 6)  Unmold your chevre and enjoy!  This batch has olive oil drizzled on it with some lime zest sprinkled on top.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

caramel apples

We were craving caramel apples and decided to make some.  I read a trick about making sure your apples are cold so the caramel sets better.  With this in mind, we put the apples in the fridge overnight.

The next day we got out an assortment of colored sugars and festive sprinkles, and went to town.







You can't really see the sprinkles on the finished apples below until you remove them from the cupcake liner.  The kids put a few cinnamon bears on top of some for fun.


Another trick to help keep the caramel from sliding off the apples is to put them in the fridge once they were done dipping them.  I cleared an area of the fridge, and stuck the tray in so it was ready to hold the finished product.  Boy!  This really worked great.  We still had slippage of caramel, particularly in the first few apples while the caramel was still pretty hot.  Even then, it wasn't too bad.

These were soooooo  good and hit the spot!