Saturday, May 30, 2015

Farm Update

A head of our romaine lettuce (please ignore poor photography)
We had so much to do yesterday to get ready for the farmers' market that I wasn't able to post a "Farm Friday." Here are a few highlights from the week:

  • Got accepted as speakers at this year's Wild Goose. This year, instead of being on a panel, we will have our own session.
  • Slept outside under the stars
  • Helped set up our new drip irrigation system
  • Made deliveries
  • Line dried all the sheets and towels for our farm stay
  • Line dried all of our clothes and towels
  • Worked on two writing projects
  • Learned that Azure Standard now has a drop point in our area so signed up for the next delivery.
  • Got positive feedback on a salve I'll be selling soon. Spent part of this evening harvesting plantain, one of the ingredients.
Have a great week!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

When I go to the grocery store, I occasionally go down the "chemicals" aisle, that is the aisle with cleaning and other products on it. It seems like the "air freshener" category can take up an entire aisle by itself. People like the idea of their homes being and smelling "fresh" and "clean." However, there are two problems with these air fresheners, problems that most shoppers aren't even aware of.

First, the air fresheners don't actually freshen, they just mask. With so many of our homes sealed up for climate control, we often don't have the old-fashioned option of opening our windows to bring in good clean air. Just because it smells good doesn't mean it's really fresh. If you have a problem with odors, the first thing you need to do is look to see if you can eliminate the source.

The other problem is that these products are made of dangerous chemicals. The EPA website points out that these products are generally made of four ingredients:  four basic ingredients in air fresheners: formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, p-dichlorobenzene, and aerosol propellants. I don't know about you, but these really don't seem like things we should be dispersing into our air and inhaling. 

If you're not able to open your windows to freshen your residence, try some more natural options. Put some essential oils (such as lemon or lavender) into a bottle with some water and spray it around your house. Try one of the reed-type diffusers (such as the one pictured) and use with some natural essential oil product made for diffusers. Burn a naturally-scented beeswax or soy candle. Or simmer some natural ingredients, such as rosemary, cinnamon sticks, or citrus, in a small pot of water on the stove. (Beware:  Never leave candles or simmering pots unattended.) All of these options are natural, great smelling, and chemical-free.

Have a healthy week!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Bucket List

I didn't take a photo last night, but this is our back deck view during a sunset
While I don't have an official bucket list, there are a few things that I decide I want to do and sometimes eventually get to do them. Last night I finally accomplished something I've wanted to do for ages - sleep out under the stars (no tent involved). 

It's amazing what goes on when we're sleeping in our homes - and how noisy the night can be. At one point I heard a transformer buzzing near our equipment shed; never noticed the noise before. Later in the night, coyotes were yipping and howling in the distance and our faithful girl Ginny was telling them to go away. Around two in the morning, I woke to a light show put on by the fireflies. They were in the tops of the trees, twinkling like Christmas lights. 

Our cat Fabs seemed to like the change in routine as he snuggled into bed with us. Ginny, on the other hand, was very disturbed by our presence outside and, early in the morning, I found her sleeping in our front flower bed and not in her own bed on the back deck. The whole experience made her nervous and she only calmed down when we resumed our usual morning routine.

The sky was clear when we settled in for the night. I was prepared for some amazing star gazing but the bright moonlight covered much of the starlight. At first, we mainly saw the Big Dipper which was directly overhead. As the moon moved across the sky and then below the horizon, more and more stars were visible throughout the night.

I highly recommend a night under the stars. However, there are four things to consider before you do it:  safety, temperature, weather, and insects. We knew last night would be perfect as there wasn't a cloud in the sky, no mosquitoes were present, and the night was going to be cool. Of course, tucked away in our quiet corner of the country, we didn't need to worry about our experience being disturbed by others. I think maybe we'll need to do this again in the fall.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Monday Morning Amusement

Just had to share another Tripp and Tyler video. Anyone who has experienced a conference call will understand:

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Quote for the Day

"If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."
~Nelson Mandela

Friday, May 22, 2015

Farm Friday

Some highlights from this past week on the farm:
  • Baked 4 loaves of bread
  • Made 3 batches of granola
  • Spent hours killing Colorado potato beetles (adults, larva, and eggs) - just part of being a chemical-free farm
  • Ordered some new essential oils - I'm determined to create a natural tick repellent
  • Got some much-needed rain - the day after we....
  • Purchased a drip irrigation system to be more purposeful with our water usage in the gardens
  • Finished getting the farmhouse ready for guests
  • Our farm stay got accepted into the Virginia Green program! (Check out the listing for The Old House at White Flint Farm here)
  • Had our first farm stay guests - two people from Tanzania (one a farmer and the other an adviser to farmers) and one from the US (a long-time Peace Corps volunteer - and fellow Quaker)
  • Attended a class on perennial plants
  • Enjoyed some amazing sunsets!
Have a great week!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Taste of Tuesday

This time of year we have scads of Asian greens in the gardens - komatsuna, senposai, mizuna, tatsoi, yukina savoy, Tokyo bekana - plus other greens such as kale. I've found a new and quick way to make a delicious side dish, although I can eat a whole pot of it!

Steamed Asian Greens with Soy Dressing

Large pot of washed Asian greens, torn into bite-sized pieces (you can use other greens, too)
Water to barely cover bottom of pot
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup soy or tamari sauce (Bragg's Liquid Amino Acids also works)
1 tablespoon ume plum vinegar (available at health food stores)

Steam greens over medium to medium-low heat for about 20 minutes or until greens are tender, stirring occasionally. While greens are cooking, whisk together the olive oil, soy or tamari sauce, and ume plum vinegar. Transfer greens to serving bowl, pour the dressing over them, and gently toss before serving.

Bon appetit!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Monday Morning Amazement

I found this incredible story about extreme homesteading on the Smithsonian Magazine website. A Russian family moved to Siberia in 1936 to avoid religious persecution under the Communist rule. They were 150 miles from the nearest people and lived undiscovered until 1978. For 40 years they lived only with what they had carried with them when they left and what they could grow, make, hunt, or forage.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Quote for the Day

Seen on Pinterest

Friday, May 15, 2015

Farm Friday

UPDATE:  A reader pointed out that I uploaded the wrong video in this post. The correct one is included now.
Lambs Quarters - a delicious wild edible

A few highlights from the week:

  • Baked 4 loaves of bread
  • Made 3 batches of granola
  • Made deliveries
  • Got GMO-free feed order delivered to farm
  • Greens are coming in good so I've been making lots of stir fries!
  • Discovered new delicious way to make greens (will share in a future post)
  • Worked on listing farm stay on website and various sites
  • Applied for "Virginia Green" designation for farm stay
  • Got first farm stay reservation

I've been meaning to talk about the deer that has taken up with one of our goat herds. She must have been orphaned earlier in the year and, being a herd animal, decided the goats were close enough to being deer so she joined them. Here's a quick video I shot of her (please ignore shaky camera - not sure why it was):

Have a great week!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Farm Stay

After much behind the scenes research and work, I'm finally able to announce the opening of our farm stay - The Old House at White Flint Farm! This project has been in the works for a couple of years. I've been slowly putting the pieces together and it has finally all come together. I still have a few more tweaks to make but now I know that will always be the case. Since we've had lots of family and friends stay in the house, I now realize that it's a comfortable, peaceful environment that will be appreciated by anyone staying there. Here are a few photos (most were taken by Bill):

Old photo of the house
What the house looked like when we purchased it and then right after the renovations
Back side of the house
Entry hall
Another shot of the parlor - the photo is of the original residents, Bill's great, great grandparents
Dining room
Queen bedroom
Twin bedroom
This has been a project many years in the making. Our original plan was to demolish the house. As you can see from the photo of when we purchased it, the house seemed beyond redemption. However, after seeing a similar house after its restoration, we decided to look into saving what has always been called "the old house." 

We had an engineering company tell us the foundation was solid, then we had the front balcony and porch rebuilt before further damage was done. Next, we replaced the windows, then we painted the exterior. Then it was time to do the interior, which included replacing all the horsehair plaster, rewiring, and adding the kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry room. 

As you can see, we tried to stick with the spirit of the Victorian era when it came to decorating and furnishing. A few pieces are original to the house. During the years when the house set unoccupied, vandals broke in and stole furniture. Fortunately, the old sofa was so hideous (I think things were living in it) and heavy, that it remained in the house. A few years ago, I took it to an upholsterer and I almost don't recognize it today.

I'm excited about our new venture (and adventure).  We'll be meeting new people and have the opportunity to share our farm and our values. It's yet another unexpected chapter in our lives.  Anyone interested in the farm stay can go to our farm website ( for details.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

Farmers Field 5
According to this article in Mashable, the British Journal of Sports Medicine recently published an editorial confirming what seems like common sense:  exercise alone will not eliminate the obesity issue. As important as exercise is, if we do not eat a sensible diet - and instead subsist on the processed foods that have become staples in diets worldwide - the obesity crisis will continue.

One of the best ways to ensure you eat a healthy, weight-friendly diet is by following some of Michael  rules for eating: 
  • Eat food, mainly plants (especially leafy greens).
  • Eat whole grains.
  • Don't eat anything your grandparents wouldn't recognize as food (hmm, maybe we need to start saying great grandparents)
  • Don't eat anything with more than five ingredients or with ingredients you can't pronounce (except something like quinoa).
  • Don't eat anything that won't rot.
  • Junk food is permissible - if you cook it yourself.
  • Leave the table a little hungry.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

We're Winning

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”
~Mahatma Gandhi

Ignoring Us

Yesterday I was talking to a customer who remembers me as a vendor at the farmers' market about 10 years ago. Back then, I was mainly selling crafts but would also sell our surplus produce. The "organic" rules at the time allowed us to call ourselves "organic." (Now we call ourselves "chemical free" and explain to our customers what that means). Unfortunately at that time, our community didn't even know what organic was (or chemical free for that matter), so it really didn't matter what I called our produce. My prices didn't even reflect the true value of the food since I had to charge the same price as conventional growers.

Ridiculing Us

When Bill moved here full time and we ramped up our farming operation, we sold at a different market for a couple of years. We had to put up with comments and eye rolling from some vendors and customers. A neighbor told Bill that what we're trying to do for a living and for the world was a "bunch of bunk." Just last week someone told me that the world can't go organic "unless you want 2 million people to die." Really? While in times of crisis, I'm glad the US is able to send food overseas to help. However, as I told this person, the food aid we send regularly doesn't help - it really hurts. Working in Haiti, I saw how farmers - farmers who could grow their own food and do so without chemicals - were run out of business because they could not compete with the free rice distributed throughout the country (and often ended up for sale on the black market). This morning, while reading through Heifer International's World Ark magazine, I saw that 80 percent of certified organic farmers live in developing nations, with India, Uganda, and Mexico having the most certified producers. These are only the certified ones; imagine how many are using organic methods but just aren't certified (probably because they don't care about certification, they just want to feed their people). Certification is expensive, so are herbicides, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and GMO seeds. Obviously, organic methods are the way for developing countries to go. Only rich Westerners can even afford to use chemicals. Also, three of the major crops grown in the US - soy, corn, wheat - don't necessarily feed people. They feed animals. "Conventional" is not feeding the world and keeping 2 million people from dying.

Fighting Us

Some citizens in our area are jonesing for an integrated poultry complex, along with 500 of those industrial chicken houses. They say it's good for the community, that it will provide jobs. Without going into the disastrous history of these types of operations (disastrous for the communities, not the corporations), I'll just point out that there's a lot of behind the scenes maneuvering going on. For the initial meeting for farms interested in being involved in this industry, email invites were sent out to local farmers. Needless to say, neither we nor any of the other sustainable farmers were invited. Documents have been prepared calling people like us the "noes" and that we "need to be educated." 


The writing is on the wall. While we aren't going to win every battle, we will win the war. 
With declining health in our community and around the country, people are looking for answers. And they know they're not finding it in chemically-grown food or pharmaceuticals. We need to stop poisoning our bodies and our planet. We need healthy, chemical-free food and clean water to nourish our bodies. People are taking note of how much better they feel when they eat healthy food. They are paying attention (and being truly "educated") as more studies come out showing the connection between the poisons in our food (and other products) and diseases, such as cancer. They want healthy alternatives. 

Fast forward 10 years after I started selling at the farmers' market and I now see about 7 vendors selling some version of chemical-free food (and body products). Not only are there more like-minded vendors, the customers are seeking us out, and paying full value for what we sell. And there are professionals in our area who know that local, sustainable food is good for communities (they've been "educated") and are working towards boosting that segment of food production.

Maybe the community will go forward with the poultry program (I hope not); there's a lot of pressure on the politicians for them to do so. However, if they do, in a few short years they will see the error of their ways and maybe, just maybe, that will make them look at us in a different light. And we win.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Quote for the Day

Happy Mothers' Day

"The phrase 'working mother' is redundant."
~Jane Sellman

Friday, May 8, 2015

Farm Friday

Sunset on the Farm

A few highlights from the week:

  • Had great opening day at the market - even got interviewed by both local radio stations
  • Hosted videographer who was here Sunday through Tuesday to film video lessons to accompany Bill's soon-to-be-published book
  • Attended agritourism workshop
  • Tried (and loved) a new wild edible - lambs quarters
  • Tried (and will need to experiment with) a new wild edible - curly dock/burdock
  • Made new recipe - butternut squash biscuits
  • Placed our feed order
  • Made deliveries
  • Made extra granola for a special order
  • Dried some herbs
  • Prepped for farmers' market

Have a great week!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

At our house, we talk alot about the difference between real food and "food-like substances." Here's a cute flowchart I discovered on Summer Tomato that can help you when you're confused:


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Morel Mushroom Information for Next Year

Although morel season is over, I thought I'd share a great video a friend sent that helps clarify the difference between morels and false morels. As the narrator demonstrates, once you know the difference between a real one and a false one, you're not going to mistake one for the other. The hard part isn't distinguishing one from the other - it's actually finding them!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Monday Morning Amusement

Tripp and Tyler have some of the best videos:

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Quote for the Day

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.” 
~Aldo Leopold

Friday, May 1, 2015

Farm Friday

A quiet day at the pond

Some highlights from the farm this week:

  • Recovered from open house
  • No deliveries this week
  • Worked on our farmstay - did some painting and repair work; made signs to comply with Virginia Green; worked on Virginia Green application; crafted rules for reservations and for guests; took care of some miscellaneous purchases to make sure guests are comfortable
  • Worked on market setup - repaired PVC sign frame; set up sign, table, etc. at market; purchased small freezer and set it up at the market; 
  • Attended final training session for market vendors - learned about exciting things like labeling, sales tax, and insurance (also learned that all the encouragement in the world for small farmers and farmers' markets doesn't help with all the red tape and hoops you have to jump through, at least in our state)
  • Ran lots of errands today to get ready for the farmers' market tomorrow.
Have a great week!