Friday, May 31, 2013

Farm Friday

We're entering our busy season.  Bill commented to a friend that we're like CPAs during tax season - crazy busy!  Tomorrow is opening day at our local farmers' market so we have to rise early to set up before customers arrive.  We're also getting ready to have more regular CSA customers as our summer/fall shares start next week.  Next week, we'll be opening our on site farm store one afternoon a week.  Since I don't expect a steady stream of customers, I'll use that time to catch up on weeding the flower beds and doing any other necessary work in and around the farmhouse.

Several of our animals now have new homes.  This past week we moved the pigs from a barn stall to their final pasture home.  We had to keep them in the barn until they became tame and large enough that they couldn't get out of the fence.  They're really enjoying their new digs!

We also put our portable chicken coops and fences in two grassy areas and last night moved the "teenagers" from the barn into their new homes.  Unfortunately, they're so used to being inside that they're afraid to come out of the coops!  Time will change that problem.

I plan to take more photos of the farm and the farmers' market to share next week.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013

Farm Friday

We never know what to expect on the farm.  A few weeks ago we noticed two birds that clearly were trying to lure us away from a nest.  Not being birders, we had no idea the species nor where to look for the nest.  We had some knowledgeable visitors at our open house who identified the birds as killdeer and also located the nest:
You have to look closely for the four eggs because they are camouflaged to look like pebbles.  We've been watching the nest carefully, waiting for the chicks to emerge.  Saturday night we checked the nest, as usual, and here's what we found:

Aren't they adorable?  As I was trying to take photos both mother and father were extremely distressed.  The killdeer try to distract threats to the nest and even resort to the "broken wing" tactic.  Here I caught both parents pretending to be injured:

This photo gives a better shot of one parent trying to fool me in order to save the chicks:

While I was photographing the parents, this little one decided it was a good time to leave the nest:

Another surprise this week was this:

My research confirms my suspicions - it's German chamomile that has naturalized.  When we first bought the farm, I saw this growing everywhere and was pretty sure that's what it was.  But then, once we built our house, we didn't see it anymore.  I suspected that it preferred the poor soil from the worn-out tobacco fields to the pesticide- and herbicide-free soil that we now have. Turns out I was wrong.  I also spied some thistle among the chamomile.  This plant isn't so good as it's got sharp thorns and spreads seed like a dandelion:

My plan is to harvest and dehydrate some of the chamomile.  

Have a great weekend!

Quote for the Day

vector_graphic 1
"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell."
~Edward Abbey

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

Beach Hat
It's starting to look like summer around here, what with temperatures in the 80s (although we're still having some crazy lows, as well).  That means sunburns and other sun-caused skin damage might be just around the corner.  According to the Environmental Working Group, not all sunscreens are created equal nor are they all safe.  Their website has several articles about sunscreen, including Nine Surprising Facts about Sunscreen, Nanoparticles in Sunscreen, and What's Wrong with High SPF184 beach and sport sunscreens met with the Group's approval (I had no idea there were that many out there!).  Go here to read the very detailed and scientific (i.e., over my head) methodology that goes into their evaluations.  The main sunscreen page has links to other articles and reviews of other products that claim SPF protection.

Enjoy the sun - but do it safely!

Wellness Wednesday

Buyer beware!  Commercial packaging can be deceptive. With processed food it often looks as if manufacturers sell products in single serving packages.  Not so.  Check out this brief video to see one reason why we have an obesity epidemic:

Monday, May 20, 2013


Today I'm taking a trip down memory lane and channeling that little hippie girl from Southern California.  After listening to this song, I realized that Melanie is a sadly forgotten singer/poet of the 60s (lyrics below the video):

Poor little hairy kids out on their own 
They run to the festival to show that 
They were one 
They've fallen in love with all human kind 
So tell them you love them 
So they don't change their mind. 

Write us a book of instructions or signs 
And if it's been written 
Then give us more time 
Recite a poem or sing us a song 
And tell us you love us 
So we don't feel alone. 

And it's sad that we weren't born 
Like horses and sheep 
To know where we're goin', to know 
What we need 
But you've written the music 
So we'll sing along 
But tell us you love us 
So we don't feel alone 

Give the poet a poem and the singer a song 
And then tell us you love us 
So we don't feel alone

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Quote for the Day

File:Photograph of a Soup Kitchen during the Depression - NARA - 196174.tif
"The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer."
~Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Social Justice Saturday - Buycott App

Since so many people now have smart phones, I thought I'd tell you about an app that can help you make socially conscious decisions when you make purchases.  With this app you link to various campaigns whose message you support.  Then when you scan a bar code, it will indicate the company behind the product and if it is involved with one of your  "buycotts."  These buycotts help you avoid supporting things like GMOs, slave labor, discrimination, and other bad and unhealthy practices.  Go to Buycott to learn more.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Farm Friday

We might live in the country, but there's never a dull moment around here.  It has been yet another busy week.

I mentioned that our granddaughter Rayne visited last weekend:
We picked her up on Friday night and our son and his wife came to get her on Mother's Day.  It was great to have them all here for the holiday as we don't see them often enough, what with work and school schedules.  Rayne loves visiting Grandpa and Mimi and spending time with all the animals.  One amazing thing about her is she loves the fresh produce on our farm - and will even eat it straight out of the garden.

We had a big event on Thursday as our daughter Peyton graduated from George Mason University with a degree in Conservation Studies.  Our original plan was to leave very early in the morning for her 11 a.m. convocation ceremony because we were worried about leaving the animals for too long, especially the piglets and the chicks in the barn.  However, due to the horrendous traffic in the northern Virginia/Washington, DC area, we realized we needed to leave the night before.  We were most worried about the piglets having enough water during our absence as they root around in their stall and turn over their water pan.  I came up with the idea of using our largest feeding bowl for the water, putting a cinder block in it, then positioning it in a corner with additional blocks framing it in.  That seemed to do the trick and they had sufficient water for our 26 hour absence.

The graduation ceremony was very nice and small.  Since the university is the largest in Virginia, they break up the events by college.  Peyton was in the smallest college at the university, New Century College, with fewer than 200 graduating students.  That made for a very nice - and brief - event. Here we are prior to the ceremony, standing in front of the class sign that Peyton signed on her freshman orientation weekend:
We saw Charles, one of our interns from last year, and talked to him about his plans for the future.  We also met Lauren, one of this summer's interns, and had lunch with her and her parents.  I know her parents feel much better about sending her off on an internship to a strange farm after meeting the actual farmers.  We met several of the professors who have been a great influence in Peyton's life:  the one who inspired her to go vegetarian, the one who encouraged her to make the next step to veganism, and the one who led her in a class to Belize and has continued to be her friend and mentor.  George Mason - especially New Century College - has been such a wonderful experience for her.  She entered college wanting to "wash baby hippos at the zoo" and graduated with a heart for sustainability and a desire to work in agricultural projects in Central America.  Her next stop?  Guatemala where she will be in a Spanish-language immersion program and do volunteer work with children.  

Speaking of having lunch, we got to eat at one of the wonderful Busboys and Poets restaurants.    There's so much good about this small chain that I can't share it all in a blog post.  One of the most important things for me is they have numerous vegan and vegetarian options on the menu.  You'll have to go to their website to learn more.  If you're ever in the DC area, I highly recommend a visit to one of their restaurants.

On to more farm-related business....Last week I harvested some oregano from the garden and used my dehydrator to dry it.  The lazy me tends to avoid such work but I really need to start putting up my own herbs - and even selling some dried, as well as fresh cut, at the farmers' market this year.  (We already put cut herbs in our CSA deliveries.)  While we were out of town, one of our sweetest goats, Ramona, had twins - a boy and a girl.  All seem healthy and happy.  The weather continues to be crazy - with one morning dropping into the 30s and the next day getting into the high 80s!  But we think those low temperatures are finally behind us.  Bill is spending today planting, keeping his fingers crossed that the soil is dry enough and that we will produce enough food to feed our CSA members.  We are now sold out for the summer/fall CSA, with new members who are excited about getting healthy, chemical-free food.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

Nora Likes Them Curly
Our daughter is graduating college this week so I can only share a quick wellness tip (or tips in this case).  Here's a link to an article on the Organic Authority website that gives 101 reasons (well, almost) to quit eating processed foods, both for human and animal health.  

Monday, May 13, 2013

Great Use of Technology

Heather Dewey-Hagborg is an artist in New York who has an unusual way of combining her artistic talents with high tech science.  She takes pieces of litter that she finds and extracts DNA from them to create a digital portrait of the people who left them behind.  You can learn more about her and see her work by reading this NPR article.

Wish I had access to this technology so I could expose the bubbas who toss their beer cans and (worse) beer bottles along the edge of our farm.  (However, while this technology is amazing, it is also kind of scary.)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Quote for the Day

“Mothers and their children are in a category all their own. There's no bond so strong in the entire world. No love so instantaneous and forgiving.” 
~Gail Tsukiyama

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Farm Musings

This week has been a busy week.  I haven't been on top of the blog but have been checking off items on my very long "To Do" list.

Earlier this week I was cooking like mad in the kitchen.  I baked five loaves of bread, made two batches of granola (one for us and one for a customer), and cooked some flax crackers in my dehydrator.  I'm experimenting with making crackers and welcome any recipe suggestions.  I've been using parchment paper in my dehydrator which isn't ideal so I just ordered some paraflexx sheets for making more liquid items like crackers.

Last Saturday we ended up going to a total of three nurseries looking for tomato starts.  Our own tomato starts weren't successful so we had to look to the nurseries to supply our plants.  Problem is all the nurseries started their plants anticipating that people would be planting them at the normal time.  Problem is the weather has been crazy.  It's mid-May and we're expecting near freezing weather next week!  So almost all the nursery starts are far too large.  Fortunately, we found some smaller plants, all the heirloom varieties that Bill likes to grow, plus some eggplant - both the traditional Black Beauty and  the smaller Japanese varieties.  I also picked up some more herbs (I can't resist!).  I bought more lavender, some lemon thyme, additional rosemary, and a very interesting "curry" plant.  The plant smells like curry although that is not what curry is made from.  

I made a trip to the organic store and stocked up on some staples from the bulk bins.  I was glad I brought enough jars from home that I didn't have to use any plastic bags.  I had run out of organic, fair trade Earl Grey tea but almost didn't buy any because I don't drink hot tea in warm months.  However, I decided to pick up some anyway and I'm glad I did.  It really hit the spot on some of the cold mornings we've had.

One of our goats, Emmy Lou, kidded and had a beautiful girl.  We were a bit frustrated because she's a first-time mother and she seemed to keep losing her kid!  For several days, we'd go check on the goats in the evening and Emmy Lou wouldn't have her kid with her.  We'd comb the pasture but not be able to find the kid.  Then the next morning, there would be no sign of the kid.  But then by mid-morning, there she'd be.  We have no idea where she could have been hiding her baby but obviously 1) it was a very good spot and 2) she knows what she's doing.  

We got a surprise yesterday when we found out we would be having our granddaughter Rayne for the weekend.  And just in time for Mother's Day weekend!  Rayne loves being on the farm, visiting all the farm animals and house pets.  Of course, she also like spending time with Mimi and Grandpa!

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Wellness Wednesday...Late

Elephants @ Australia Zoo 3
While wrinkles on an elephant are lovely, premature aging isn't - source
Here I go again; another late blog post.  Better late than never.

Late last month Huffington Post had an article/sideshow about foods that age you so I saved it to share on Wellness Wednesday.  You can find the slideshow here.  I've also made a list of the 11 foods from the article:

  1. Sugar - affects the collagen in the skin
  2. Trans Fat - clogged arteries
  3. Salt - dehydrates and tires you
  4. Coffee - also dehydrates
  5. Candy - causes inflammation
  6. Artificial Sweeteners - associated with headaches, joint pain; may cause cravings for sweets
  7. Alcohol - dehydrates
  8. Energy Drinks - damage teeth enamel
  9. Carbohydrates - too many can affect collagen
  10. Fried Food - also affects collagen
  11. Soda - dehydrates

Although the article focused on the cosmetic side effects of these foods, the health-related problems are more important.  Notice that most of these foods are processed and/or artificial foods.  As far as avoiding carbohydrates, don't be mislead into thinking you have to adopt a low carb diet.  It is the overprocessed, refined ones that you should avoid.  Healthy, natural carbohydrates found in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are good for you. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Taste of Tuesday

Since we're enjoying an abundance of asparagus, we thought we'd share a great recipe with you.  You can make it with fresh or frozen asparagus.  It's a great way to enjoy the taste of asparagus later in the year.  In order to freeze it for this recipe, cut the asparagus spears into thirds, setting aside the tips to blanch, freeze, and store separately.  Here's a link that tells how to do the blanching:

Cream of Asparagus Soup

1 bunch asparagus
1 large onion, sliced in large slices
1-5 cloves of garlic
2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups unsweetened soy, rice, or almond milk (you can use regular milk, too)
2 tablespoons soy or tamari sauce
2 teaspoons dried basil
salt and pepper to taste

Chop the asparagus, reserving the tips (if using frozen, steam or microwave briefly).  Put asparagus, onion, garlic, and broth in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.  Carefully put contents of saucepan into blender.  Add the flour, soy sauce, milk, and basil.  Process until smooth.  (You may need to do this in batches.)  Return the soup to the saucepan and add the asparagus tips.  Cook over medium heat until the soup thickens and is heated through.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, then serve.

I'm going to experiment with this recipe by substituting some of our fresh tarragon for the dried basil.

Bon appetit!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Quote for the Day

out on the streets...
"You ultimately judge the civility of a society not by how it treats the rich, the powerful, the protected and the highly esteemed, but by how it treats the poor, the disfavored and the disadvantaged...."
~Bryan Stevenson

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Social Justice Saturday - Pollution in China

I've been wanting to do a weekly post about social justice/environmental issues but don't feel like I have to time to do it justice on a regular basis.  So, instead I'll treat this topic like I do food - I'll post about it on a semi-regular basis so I don't have the weekly pressure to put out a blog post on the topic.   This week I ran across information about health and pollution in China and thought it important to share.

While people in the US continue to politicize environmental issues, the children (and adults) of China are experiencing very real consequences of the blatant disregard for the health of the planet.  While we bicker back and forth about whether or not our actions are causing climate change and if industry and the associated chemicals are doing any damage to us and the environment, China is experiencing extreme levels of air and water pollution with very real consequences.   According to the New York Times,  each year more than 1.2 million Chinese people die from air pollution.  Additionally, Business Week reports that birth defects, such as neural tube defects, have skyrocketed due to air and water pollution.  You can go to EcoWatch to read about it and to get the links to the sources.

Since the US is China's largest customer, we are culpable in this horrendous story.  While I hear people complain about the Chinese and others who are "taking our jobs," I rarely hear anyone talk about what our insatiable desire for stuff is doing to the people and the places overseas where it is all manufactured.  Do those who complain really understand (or care to understand) the pain and suffering our prosperity creates in the producing nations?  Would they like to live under these conditions:
I grew up in the Los Angeles basin and smog alerts were a regular occurrence.  When we had the alerts, children were kept inside as it wasn't healthy to go outside to play.  I understand the air there is much cleaner than it was during my childhood.  Part of the change is due to things like emission controls on motor vehicles.  But I think another reason is that we've shipped the problem overseas.  So it really hasn't gone away, it has just moved to where Americans don't have to see it.  How wrong is that?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Farm Friday

We've had a busy week - I think I'm still recovering from it.

Our open house was a huge success.  We could not have asked for a more beautiful day.  The sun was shining but the temperature was mild and there was no wind.  We estimate that we had about 100 visitors.  We had three other farms represented - all members of Chemical-Free Farms of Southern Virginia.  Since Bill and I ran the open house by ourselves we really didn't have time to take many photos but I'm sharing the few I took (mainly before the open house began).  We had activities for children, a hay ride/farm tour, and the grand opening of our farm store which we plan to have open one afternoon a week beginning in June and running through November.  I even unveiled our new product - my granola!  I sold out and have gotten three additional orders.  Here's a taste of what we had going on:
Pinwheel at the mailbox to catch everyone's attention

Farm banner on the balcony of the Old House
Back porch ready to welcome visitors

Tables set up for children's activities
Bill setting out feed for visitors to feed goats

The beginning of the farm tour, starting with the asparagus
Hay wagon hitched to the tractor
The afternoon was a blur and I felt like I didn't have a chance to really talk to everyone.  But we were told what a great afternoon it was and plan to do it again next year.  

Hosting the event made me realize I need to bring some other plans to fruition.  In the near future, I plan to open the house as a weekend rental.  Everyone who has stayed at the house has remarked on what a great retreat it is and that it is extremely peaceful and relaxing.  It's a great place to just get away from it all - no television, no internet, and, best of all, no city lights or city noise.  Plus they learn that sustainable farming is possible and important.   I'll keep you posted on this project.

We also got a couple of pigs this week.  Two cute, red females that are a cross of two breeds - Tamworth and Hampshire.  The chicks continue to grow and we'll be moving them to their new coop as soon as the new fencing arrives.  We also ordered a second portable coop.  This afternoon I discovered that Emmy Lou had given birth to a beautiful female kid.  The baby was all cleaned up, and even walking, when I found her.  Updating the post to share photos that Bill took:

Emmy Lou's baby
The new girls

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Sustainable Traditions

This week I was extremely honored to have my friend Jason feature one of my posts - "You Are What You Eat" - on his blogazine/website Sustainable Traditions.  Sustainable Traditions is a faith-based site that covers a wide variety of topics, including social justice, building community, environmentalism, homesteading, and sustainable lifestyles, all viewed through a Christian lens.  You can go here to re-read my post.  While you're there, check out some of the other conversations on the website.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

Today's post is for the ladies.   This article points out the health risks associated with wearing high heels.  I confess:  I sometimes do wear heels.  But when I do, I almost always wear very low ones.  In fact, I find it impossible to wear very high heels.  And I've never understood how other women can wear them  and wear them all day.  The idea of having surgery in order to fit into shoes - what are they thinking?