Becoming a Farmer

I shared in February how at the Small Farm Conference we agreed that farming was something we wanted to pursue.

So the research and planning began. We have been visiting farms, reading great books like “The Lean Farm” and “The Accidental Farmers” for frameworks and inspiration. We have scoured the USDA, NRCS and FSA websites for information to help beginning farmers and to explore programs and grants offered. We have learned what all those acronyms (and more) are. Purdue Extension Services offers webinars, seminars, blogs, email and phone support. We have found tremendous help no matter what resource we have turned to.

After writing our own requirements and objectives for becoming farmers we reached out to NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Services) and invited them to come out to our place to visit. We wanted to share with them our plan and our dreams for a tunnel that we hope to get via an EQIP Grant We hope to irrigate via our pond dependent of course on how our water tests. We want to power our irrigation and electricity in the tunnel with solar power. We fantasize about providing fresh produce for our community year around using our outside resources and extending our growing season using the tunnel.

Two folks visited and walked our land with us. They spent a good amount of time listening. They were quite awesome and they left us with our next steps and a plan to help us on our path. Of course that meant a bunch of paperwork!

We are happy to share that our paper work is completed, signed, sealed and delivered. We are now in the hopper for tunnel next spring. HOW EXCITING!

Now the fun part begins (although it really is all fun). We are figuring out how to prep our land this fall to get it ready for the tunnel. We are positioning the tunnel where we currently grow, so after the season we will dump compost and plant cover crop. We are reading about planting in tunnels and visiting farmers that have them. I need to adopt my garden plan which is based on outside planting and elements and create a tunnel planting plan. It is all new stuff to learn- what varieties, when to plant, when to rotate, etc.

So we are becoming farmers. Not overnight, but we are on our journey and moving forward.

Happy Unleashing today!

FGU

Family Fun!

IMG_20160112_212631480I shared with you our focus on family, us and friends in the new year. We are two weeks in and so far have made some good progress. I don’t suspect all year will be this smooth as we get back into our daily routines, but every baby step counts right!

Typically when we leave our annual Florida trip we have lots and lots of flip charts and post-its on all that we are going to “do.” We seem to just love being “human doings”. We leave Florida and beeline it home because we have MUCH to do! While we were in Florida we found out that one of our daughters could visit us but it was the weekend that we were set to leave. So, we extended out stay for 2 nights and said “come on down!”. We had lots of fun eating, frolicking on the beach, playing games and doing puzzles. It was  wonderfully relaxing and joyful visit.

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When we left Florida, instead of driving straight home, we made another stop to visit our other daughters and grandson. I know this might seem logical and natural to you, but most of the time we head straight back. I mean we have lots and lots to accomplish! (I hope you are catching my sarcasm).

It was great to take the time to eat a meal (prepared wonderfully by my eldest!) and to see everyone’s smiling faces. The images don’t capture all the fun we had but that was because I kept forgetting to take pictures because we were enjoying the time so much. (not a bad thing!)

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Last night we quit working at a reasonable time and shared a nice dinner at home and some basketball followed up by reading and tea.

Tonight dinner with friends. Sunday, volunteering a bit a church.

We are still busy, keeping commitments and moving forward with things here at our home, but we are just trying to filter better and be OK with taking a break. So far no lighting has stuck and the world is still spinning so I think we are good!

How’s 2016 treating you so far?

Happy Friday!

FGU

 

 

 

 

Sometimes There are Disappointments

IMG_20141011_190339283_HDRI have said a number of times that our life here at Big Sky Acres is a living experiment. Everything we try is new and we have no experience to draw upon when it comes to bees or this land we are growing veggies in. We learn continually and sometimes those learnings coming with high fives and laughter. Sometimes they come with sorrow.

After a wonderful weekend away at the wood show and Lake Monroe we decided to take a walk around our property and check out the low tunnels, cold frames and bees. It was a beautiful day- 50 degrees and sunny.  We knew however that this 50 degree day had come after a string of frigid temperatures. We had wondered if things had survived and with hopeful hearts we wandered on back.

As we approached the one end of one of the tunnels was collapsed; not always a bad sign as sometimes the wind that runs across here will do that, but it felt like a red flag. As we peeked in we saw that all of our beautiful green babies had frozen and died. The cabbages and brocolini that looked so beautiful a month ago just could not handle the below 0 temps.

I ask myself, should I have added plastic or another layer of frost cloth? Probably one of those should have been done. More reading on year around gardening will give me the answer I suppose.  Since we are doing things before we read all the books sometimes the chapter you need is the next one and you make a mistake or miss something. You try again with some tweaks and hope for different results.

I also think that I planted too late. I was really close to the Persephone (less than 10 hours of light) when I planted. I have had a nagging feeling that would have an effect, but still wanted to try. That is how it is when you are a living experiment! Reading and tweaking is a constant here so I am in hopes that our wonderful low tunnels will supply us with produce in the spring when we try it again. So we say farewell to these for a few weeks…

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On a positive note, the cold frames seem to be doing well.  The arugula and lettuce are growing. They have a ways to go before harvesting and eating, but they are hanging in there. I am in hopes that the garlic that is under the straw is also preparing for it’s growth spurt in several weeks.

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We headed to the bees.  We have been concerned about our one hive, Green but we felt that Trudeau was well.  (yes we name our hives after airports).

On this 50 degree day we did not see any bees making their cleansing flights and only saw one bee in the sugar candy. We heard no buzzing in either hive. We feel they are lost too. We will get more bees and do it all again, but losing both hives is sad. We can’t really point a finger at anything here. When we last saw them there was buzzing and activity in both. We made sugar candy and put that and a pollen patty in there. They were used hives… could something have been lurking there? I have since read to NOT purchase used hives, so when we get our bees in the spring, I think we will trash these and get new hives. “Once burned, shame on you, twice burned shame on me.” I just feel to do the same exact thing again is not the right way to go. So sadly we say goodbye to our little bees and feel sorrow that they did not make it this winter.

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Life if full of experiences, isnt’ it? Some happy and some sad. I am blessed because the happy far outweigh the sad. I can be sad about these losses while at the same time look forward to the successes that will occur. Regardless of success or failure they are just that… learnings.

What about you? What are some tough lessons you have learned on your homestead? Do you have any tips for me, our bees or tunnels?

Happy Unleashing in your successes and failures!
FGU

Happy New Year!

10906521_10203509467041540_4797943210317936694_nWe had a wonderful holiday with family. We celebrated with my parents over Christmas and New Year’s Day. Then this past weekend we headed south to do Christmas and New Years with our daughters and their families. That would include our adorable grandson. It was so much fun to see him and his excitement. It is amazing at only 6 months old he quickly got that the presents were for him.

I love New Years and the thought of a new year and new experiences. I love to reflect on what I have done that is new in the year just ended and what is in store in the new year. I thought I would share some of these things that I hope to do in 2015…

  • Make more cheese. I have only dabbled in this; I want to make more and more cheese and buy less and less cheese.
  • Make candles. My daughter got me candle making stuff for Christmas. I cannot wait to dive into this; on my radar are some very special candles that I will be putting on Etsy… more to come on that as the year progresses.
  • Garden year around. I have a good start on this, but I have MUCH to learn and do here.
  • Understand my bees better; we got bees in 2014 and I continually felt like I did not know what I was doing. By the end of 2015, I want to feel like I do know what I am doing with them.
  • Visit family more.
  • Take down time with hubby-whether it be at home or elsewhere we need to relax and do nothing together more.

So there are some of my hopes for 2015. What about you? New things you want to try? Things you want to learn?

Happy Unleashing in 2015!

FGU

 

Remodel Survival Through Christmas

DSCN0329For those of your that have lived through a remodel you know that being in the middle of one at the holidays can be a bit challenging.  If you are doing it yourself, another layer of challenge is added.

A few years back, we were remodeling our dining room at our former home. It had been going on for months. As a matter of fact, the wallpaper alone was approaching 6 months in the removal process. It was a grass textured wall paper with other layers underneath. It had me in check mate and the holiday was fast on its way.

I think more than the fact that it wouldn’t be complete was the fact that I was hating this room a lot at this point since the wallpaper and I could not come to an understanding.

So what’s a girl to do?

Go with it. I decided that if I couldn’t beat it then I would join it and make the room the tackiest room ever! So out came every roll of wrapping paper I could find and the decorating began.

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As I started covering the wallpaper with wrapping paper my spirits lifted. I felt like I was in control for just a bit.  I added garland and then decided to not remove my ladder and tools, but include them into the decor!

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A friend of mine popped in as I was doing this and she did question my mental health for a bit, but then understood (I think)…

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We all loved the new look for Christmas, and it made me forget about the remodel that was seemingly taking over my life. The cheery look also brought a lot of laughs from all who visited.

We even took a holiday picture of Jasmine here.

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Have you ever done something a little extreme to regain your sanity in a seemingly impossible situation?

Happy Unleashing your creative side!

FGU

 

 

 

 

When Christmas Goes Down the Drain

On Christmas Eve in 2004, several hours before my parents were to arrive, we had a surprise! And not a nice one…

Now before I tell you about our surprise, let me just say that Mike and I had been engaged for just 6 weeks, we had the house decorated to the nines and we had more food than could feed an army. We had planned and prepped to make this the most perfect Christmas ever.  Let me also share with you that my sister had passed away suddenly early that year and we all needed a celebration.

As we were making our last rounds through the house, we picked up on a smell in the sunroom where the hot tub was. As we got closer the smell became more offensive and we soon realized we were smelling sewage! We lifted the deck flooring that surrounded the tub and we saw that the drain into the main line was totally backed up and coming up into the room and under our flooring we were covered with raw sewage!  YUCK! YUCK! and YUCK!

So what does one do when it is Christmas Eve (no plumbers available) and you have family on the way? You go and rent yourself a massive electric snack and head to the crawl space.

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Thank goodness the tool rental place was open and could accommodate.  We made multiple trips that day as the 50 foot and 75 foot snakes were not long enough to hit the back up that was way out in the front yard.

Needless to say, I was a mess! On my last trip to the rental joint, I was crying and thought all was ruined.  Mike knew that and while I was gone, he put together a little surprise for me in the crawl space…

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Yep! Mike had hung Christmas lites in the crawl space for me while I was gone. I felt like the Grinch in the scene “it came with out tags, or  ribbons or bows; maybe Christmas is a little bit more.” Yeppers! Christmas was still coming, it was still a happy time and we would have it in our crawl space with our 100 foot electric snake!

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So we went at it in the midst of our Christmas lites and cleared that clog!

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That night after everyone was in bed, presents were under the tree and all was nice and clean again we paused and took a picture of ourselves by the fireplace.

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Mike and those lites had turned my tears into laughter and smiles. It is a Christmas eve we will not ever forget. What a mess and what a great lesson for us to learn early in our life together. We can count on each other to raise the other up when we need lifting and to see it through to the end — even when it is YUCKY!

Happy Unleashing during this Holiday Season!

FGU

 

Mustard and Canning Peppers???

Mustard and PeppersThis was our last harvest of the summer (almost…). We picked 28 lbs of tomatoes, 11 lbs of green beans and 9 lbs of peppers. I am on a food preserving roll as you can imagine. The canner and I are one…

Well we farmgirls can get a little confident at times can’t we? I did and so much so that I got a little sloppy and negligent.

I had experienced great success with my pepper jelly earlier, so when it came time to pickle some hot peppers, I was feeling in a groove. I rinsed those beautiful cubanellas, jalapenos and serranos off and they were beauties. Bright and bold. I was so proud. I read the part of about wearing the plastic gloves–you know that part about they can burn your eyes or get in a cut. Well, I really wasn’t sure where the gloves were since our house is in major remodel and is in upheaval. And well, I have sliced hot peppers before. And I will just take precautions. NO TOUCHING ANYTHING WHILE I SLICE THESE. So I set the rules, the peppers understood and off we went. Slicing and pushing out seeds. And I did not touch anything. No pain at all any where. I washed my hands thoroughly and admired the peppers.  Aren’t they beautiful?

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While those were processing, it was time to take on the tomatoes. I had water boiling to blanch the skins, I had jars being prepped in more hot water, I had a canner going, I had my kettle on whistling and I started blanching and skinning tomatoes.

OUCH!!!!OUCH!!!!OUCH!!!!

My hands were on fire. You know that feeling that you get when you burn yourself cooking and it will not go away fire? That hot that is not calmed with cool water? Every time I neared a hot pot it got worse.

I HAD PEPPER BURNS! Those little beauties had done me good!

I grabbed my handy burn cream and yes, I went I found my plastic gloves so the acid in the tomatoes would not be in contact. The burn cream did not help however.

Hubby, who is a problem solver, dropped everything and started to google a solution. I continued on with burning hands; I had to get these tomatoes done afterall! A little pain wasn’t going to stop me.

And then he approached and said “put your hands out.”

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Yellow mustard! We don’t even eat yellow mustard since we are seedy and dijon fans. But we keep some on hand for guests. Lucky for me because he told me to rub it all over my hands.

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Mustard on Hands

And RINSE.

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And MAGIC! The pain was gone. Wow. I had never heard of this DIY cure, but it is a miracle potion that little yellow stuff.  Write this one down or Pin it, but do not forget it.

I did wear gloves for the rest of the day as I had more peppers to do. But my hands feel great.

I do wonder if I am going to feel hubby nibbling on my fingers in the middle of the night. They do smell like mustard and he does like hot dogs; I’m just sayin’.

Happy Unleashing,

FGU

My Green Babies are BURSTING with Color!

It is so good to be “back.” I have been away from my personal computer and away from my garden 🙁 for a couple of weeks.  Travels to see the grandbaby were SO fun, but my garden was ignored during that time. When we returned our life was full of hustle and bustle since we are in the midst of a remodel. By 7 a.m. the crew is at the house, banging away and looking for direction from us so that keeps me up at the house rather than back in the gardens. AND rain has stopped me in my tracks when I have been able to carve a bit of time out.

Confession— I had not done anything in my gardens since 8/17.  Confession— I was in a panic over that! I KNEW that everything would be eaten (remember those army worms I discovered on my last outing?). If not eaten then strangled from the crab grass! If not eaten or strangled then slumped over from too much rain or not enough. My mind was a terrible place to visit. I was sad about my neglect, worried about what I would find and pretty much paralyzed to hop in Ms. Tupelo and have a discovery run up there.

BUT as I loaded up Ms. Tupelo yesterday morning I felt my spirit lifting.  AND yes the grass was out of control and super long. But as we made it up our hill to the gardens, a wonderful sight was before me. The gardens were BURSTING!

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There were beets, green beans, squash, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, cucumbers, peas, chard and basil. I could not believe it! WOW! They did just fine without me (lesson learned).

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The beans had broken the trellis from their weight. The squash had grown over my rope so I had to reset it.

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There were so many tomatoes, that even after I filled a homer bucket with 30 pounds of them it appeared that I had not picked anything!

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After I picked the goodness, I sat in the back of Ms. Tupelo and wrote my thoughts for a bit. One thought is that no matter how long it has been since I have been outside gardening, the joy of being out there and seeing the goodness that is happening, far outweighs the stuff that is negative. And yes, along with all the goodness, I discovered that my cucumbers have mosaic virus. I filled a homer bucket with that also!

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The grass may be long, but that is a sign of good things–we are still getting rain, the ground is fertile and I found myself thinking of all the nitrogen my plants must be getting with all that green between rows. I want to add an under cover crop in my gardens next spring, but nature has just done it for me this year. The beets, soybeans and green beans do not seem to mind at all to share their turf.

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So, what did I harvest yesterday you may ask? (Even if you are not asking, I am DYING to show you!)

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Isn’t that the best ever?????? All this I grew from seed.  Sorry to be busting with pride but this is my first time starting stuff from seed and not buying starter plants.  I am such the proud mama here! Look at the smile and blue skies…

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And my little flower bed gave me some love yesterday also.

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IMG_20140903_113502280When I came in, I made me a great big tomato and basil sandwich! Oh my goodness, can you just taste this? It was so good, I even skipped the cheese!

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Today, I am heading over to visit my mom and dad.  I will be sharing the goodness with them in the form of bags of produce and a crock pot of fresh tomato sauce that cooked overnight in the crock pot.

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 So my garden is bursting and so am I! I hope you simply burst with delight over something today too!

Happy Unleashing (and bursting!)

FGU

Just Nice Folks

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We had an experience that no one wants- a broken down truck in the middle of no where, in the pouring down rain, early in the morning before church.  What started as a panicked “what are we going to do?” turned into a testament to the niceness of people.

After sitting with the truck for several minutes, it was obvious it wasn’t going to start. AND we did not have a clue what was wrong with it; after all we had just had it serviced from hood to tail.

We decided to call AAA.  We have a membership and towing is free within 3 miles. That’s all well and good, but in small towns nothing is open on Sunday. When asked “where are we towing you to?” we answered “we have no idea.” We hoped that in the 90 minute wait we could find a place open on a Sunday. Our church is 60 minutes from us, so towing us home was not really an option–that would be one expensive tow!

We are pretty new here and we don’t know many folks yet at church, but hubby had been to a men’s retreat and met some nice men, so he hunted in his cell phone for a number to call.  He came upon one and called their home. It was early and his wife answered. Hubby explained our predicament and our objective. We didn’t need them to come and get us or anything but we wondered if ANYTHING was open that we could tow our car into for a look.

She was the first highlight and testament to niceness.  She hung up and started hunting. She called and called around to places she knew of.  How nice is that? Unfortunately no one was.

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We thanked her sincerely for her time and trying and looked at each other. Hummmm…what’s plan b?

About that time our tow came.  Big ol’ dude came walking up to the car in the rain and said “what’s up and where are you getting towed to?” We must have looked like we just fell off the turnip truck as we said “we don’t know and we don’t know.”

He took pity on us and said “try to start your car.”. Hubby did and he said “you got air in a line, open the hood.” We did as instructed and he pushed on something and air released. Truck still a no go however. He said “you need starter fluid; you got some?”. To which we answered, “no you don’t use that on a diesel.” He grinned and said “oh yeah you can.” I’ll go up the road to the gas station and find you some.”

Wow, OK! We will wait here… (where would we go?) We had hope.

But when he returned, he couldn’t find anything open either. He said “let’s go to Walmart-get in the tow truck.” We hopped in, he connected up our truck for the tow and off the three of us went to Walmart to buy the starter fluid. We were still concerned about using it on a diesel, but we had to put our trust in him. We had nothing else at the moment!

The dude let off our truck, waited around while we made the purchase and then used it himself on our truck to get it going! WOW again.  And the charge was “zero.” He had towed us within the three miles, and wasn’t going to charge us for us other efforts.  We gave him a nice tip and told him to go get a good breakfast somewhere. We did the same and then went to late church mass.  We found ourselves in disbelief over our misfortune in the early hours but our fortune in such nice folks.

I know there are nice people everywhere, but it seems to me that in a small town you just run into it more. There is more of a “help your neighbor” feel. Like the man that stopped by our house one day to help get our tractor out of a ditch. Or another time when our tractor was stuck up to it’s belly in mud and a farmer down the way brought by heavy tow straps for us to use and said he’d pick them up on another day when he drove by.  We did not know any of these folks, but they saw a need and stopped to lend a hand.

I love it here in small town USA. I love all the niceties that I encounter in seemingly hopeless situations. How about you? What’s something that someone, you did not know, did you for you lately? How did it make you feel?

Happy Unleashing!

FGU

 

Musings: Identifying Passions

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Many of us “love” many things. We love this, we love that–sometimes we overuse that “L” word don’t you think?  I really like a lot of things, but LOVE is strong.  It is the for better for worse stuff right? It is loving this thing when all is well  but also loving it when it is not.

I spent the day in my veggie gardens on Friday.  I had taken a day off of the “day job” and asked myself what do I really want to do… my answer was quickly “play in the yard.” As I was out there for 7 hours all by myself (with an occasional visit from hubby and Jasmine) it gave lots of time for thinking and pondering and yes, musing.

I am in school studying Organic Agriculture. I have many ideas from supplying a CSA, to renting garden plots for community folks, to teaching organic gardening, to teaching growing your own food to lower income, single moms, to hosting farm to table dinners and on and on and on.

As I was outside on Friday, I wondered to myself if I could spend all day, everyday outside, growing things, helping others grow things, being dependent upon the weather, sweating, getting totally dirty, and yes, being by myself for much of my day.

I think that answering that when you are picking the red ripe tomato, cutting bloomed flowers, smelling strawberries as you put them in your basket is pretty easy.  Yes, I could do that everyday. I also feel like the days that I am planting is an easy yes. I love a freshly planted garden and the following days that you are waiting for the little guys to start popping through the soil. When the work is “glamorous” it is easy to say “yes” isn’t it?

But Friday was a great day for me to pose this question to myself.  Friday, for 7 hours, I weeded a 43 ft x 33 ft garden, raked mowed grass into a wheelbarrow (a bunch of times) and then filled the 80+ tomato cages with the grass to mulch the tomatoes. There was no planting, no picking.  It was what I would call “grunt” work.

Midday when I pondered over my question of if I could do this everyday, it was a resounding yes! I don’t need glamour to love my gardens. All my green babies don’t have to be magazine perfect (they are not). I love the grunt work of gardening as much as the glamour. That tells me, with a resounding “yes” that my gardens are a passion. I love them in glamour and grunt. I love them in seeing the fruits of my labor and the days that I really don’t see it immediately.

How about you? How do you know what your passion is? What do you love the GRUNT work in? Identify that and you will be on the road to knowing what your passion is.

Happy Unleashing your Passion!

FGU