Thursday, July 19, 2018

Eat Local

      Sourcing local food has actually been more of a concern for us in 2018 than in past years. Typically, we grow most of what we eat. This year, however, we bought an old farm house in January, moved into the house at the beginning of March, and didn't have the opportunity to get ground ready for a sufficient garden. Because we truly believe in eating food grown locally, we've had to branch out into the community to find good food.

If you've ever moved to a new state, city, or community, you can identify with the daunting task of sourcing sustainably grown, responsibly farmed, healthy food for your family.  I'd like to give you a few ways to begin your search.

  One great way to find local farmers is to be a regular, committed customer at a couple of farmer's markets near where you live.  While the number of farmer's markets is growing, some markets do allow vendors to sell produce that is NOT GROWN LOCALLY, so be SURE to ask questions at several farm booths.

You might want to ask more general questions first, such as, "Do you grow everything you sell?" Then you can move on to the more specific questions about things that are a concern for you. Be sure to spend time researching the farms and farmers with whom you entrust the well-being of your family, and develop relationships with farmers who have integrity.

     A second way to find local farmers is to get connected to national networks such as Eat Wild 
and Local Harvest . One USDA Local Food Directory lists farmer's markets all across the United States: Link
These networks can help you find farmers raising everything from meat animals to mushrooms.

 A lesser know means of finding local food is through your state's Department of Agriculture and the Agricultural Market Bulletin. In our Mississippi Market Bulletin I've found farmers selling beef, chicken, eggs, pick-you-own figs, blueberries, muscadines, as well as all the usual vegetables.

  Finding locally grown food and developing relationships with farmers will be time consuming, but this time will be well spent when you and your family experience the health and well being garnered from the fresh, local foods you get to eat.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Loved And Lost

There is a lot I could say about these photos...

When you loose something that you've worked on, put thought and care and time into, there's hurt.

Some people suffer loss at the hand of catastrophic events such as fire, flood, or hurricane. No matter the cause of the loss, it always hurts.

I put thought, care, time, financial investment and love into what I do. I receive pride, a sense of accomplishment, and joy from the outcome - or (literal) fruit - of my labor.

Then, in one day, most of it can be literally ripped away from me.

I don't mean to be overly dramatic. I only strive to "keep it real." I spent a great portion of my morning close to tears, fighting back anger.

Things aren't always rosy on a farm. Life is hard. Yes, we receive great joy from seeing and being a part of things that grow, bloom, produce, thrive, and change. But there are times of true trial when we are forced to deal with death, loss, failures, and other inevitable aspects of real life.

When we offer a product for sale, there is WAY more behind that packaging than a simple product, or a way to make an income... We are offering a piece of our lives! We are offering an experience, a piece of our own joy! We pour our hearts and souls into raising good healthy farm products! It is more than fulfilling to be able to get our products to a point of maturity and offer them to people like you!

I can say with certainty that it makes each of us overjoyed EACH time we see our products going home with our customers, because we know that with each of them, we have just shared a piece of our lives, our passion, our joy.

The pot in the first picture is filled with dirt. You wouldn't know anything was missing.... Yesterday it was filled with lettuces and spinach that were growing BEAUTIFULLY! We were looking forward with pride and joy to the soon approaching day that we would be able to walk off the front porch and pick our own fresh salad.

Each of these other pictures represents hours of work and weeks of attention. They were all filled with lovely micro-greens, some nearly ready to harvest. Now most of them are gone.

This was not the results of a catastrophic even, but all due to a bored puppy..... But it's gone, just the same...

They say it is better to have loved and lost than to never love at all... I think it's true. At least I know that I can start over. I have something that I am passionate about, and I can grit my teeth and begin again with patience and a little more puppy training!

No matter what happens, remember what you're passionate about, and that sometimes loosing everything is just a chance to get a fresh start.

....Keeping it real.....

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Bees Knees

     Several years ago, at a cattle show barn, my love for lip balm began. It was the coldest October I have been in, and I was outside. My lips were chapped and bleeding; it was awful! I bought an all natural lip balm, but it was so hard that it was almost impossible to apply. I saw a need for All natural, preservative free lip balms.
    My name is Patience, and my goal is to make the best product I can for you.
    All of my lip balms are made with local
bees wax, no preservatives, and all natural unsweetened flavoring. (Let's be honest. If it's sugary, you lick your lips, which only chaps them more.)
    The lip balms I create have a delightful flavor while adding a protective layer to your lips. They help keep your lips nourished with the highest quality oils.
      I offer a variety of natural flavors, so grab a few and keep one handy at all times. I think your lips will thank you.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Project: Building Soil

   So, Monday I spent the day building soil. Why? Well, the above photo shows what our land is made of: red clay. The very right is the soil taken from the garden patch that I have worked on for the past two years. And it's great. So I'm trying to give my flower/vegetable garden the same soil as I have achieved in other areas. 
    Here's the process:

It starts with chickens
     Here are the chickens in our "raken" turning wood chips into fertilizing composted mulch.  We keep a few chickens bedded on wood chips under our rabbit pens. As the rabbits produce manure, the chickens till it into the bedding. It takes care of the manure produced by both rabbits and chickens and creates a wonderful mulch for adding to gardens.
This is what it becomes
    And here we have the finished product. I put this onto my garden in a thin layer. I have already added about three inches of wood chips to this area over time.

Me, gathering the next ingredient
   It may seem gross or weird, but donkey manure is a gardener's dream. It is packed with awesomeness and doesn't burn plants like horse or cow manure. And since we have a donkey, I have an unlimited supply. :)
Here it is, on the garden
    As you can see, this is just another thin layer. A little goes a long way with this stuff. Think of soil building like lasagna: layer over layer creates a great result. That's essentially what I'm doing: adding layers of ingredients to end up with the desired result.
Next ingredient? More chips!
    Now that I have in the fertilizing ingredients, it's time to put on another layer of ground-protecting, water-holding, weed-killing wood chips. I also added three wheelbarrow loads of chips to the raken so that the chickens can make more fertilizer for next time.

A close up of decaying chips
   I'm not sure why, but decaying wood chips is a beautiful sight! Here's a close up of the mold microbes that grow in the chips and help with the decay. Decayed chips means that, in essence, the chips are composting on their own, and therefore will speed up the composting process in the garden and the other layers,which (long story short) will allow me to plant sooner in this area.

Mulch on the garden, covering the other layers
   With the mulch on, the other layers won't be able to run off at the next rain. Mulch will also reduce weeds, hold water, and provide a rich, loose soil inviting earthworms and wonderful bugs into the garden. 

   And now, we wait. This is one of the beauties of natural farming: it's simple, slow, and yet still exciting. I'm certainly looking forward to planting here in the coming season!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Where We're Headed

Gardening has always been alluring to me. There's just something about nurturing the earth, getting your hands good and dirty, pruning and training, and finally harvesting a fresh product from a plant that you grew! 

For that reason, I began reading a book today about building better soil for better crops. Within the first chapter I was struck with the magnificence of soil itself. That thought thread led me to deeply ponder some of the statements made within that chapter. I've pasted one of them below for your consideration as well: 

"As farmers and scientists were placing less emphasis on soil organic matter during the last half of the 20th century, farm machinery was getting larger. ...[This was] creating severe compaction and sometimes leaving the soil in a cloddy condition, requiring more harrowing than otherwise would be needed. Soils were left bare and very susceptible to wind and water erosion. ...

 A new logic developed that most soil-related problems could be dealt with by increasing external inputs. This is a reactive way of dealing with soil issues—you react after seeing a “problem” in the field. If a soil is deficient in some nutrient, you buy a fertilizer and spread it on the soil. If a soil doesn’t store enough rainfall, all you need is irrigation. If a soil becomes too compacted and water or roots can’t easily penetrate, you use an implement, such as a subsoiler, to tear it open. If a plant disease or insect infestation occurs, you apply a pesticide.

Are low nutrient status; poor water-holding capacity; soil compaction; susceptibility to erosion; and disease, nematode, or insect damage really individual and unrelated problems? Perhaps they are better viewed as symptoms of a deeper, underlying problem. The ability to tell the difference between what is the underlying problem and what is only a symptom of a problem is essential to deciding on the best course of action. For example, if you are hitting your head against a wall and you get a headache—is the problem the headache and aspirin the best remedy? Clearly, the real problem is your behavior, not the headache, and the best solution is to stop banging your head against the wall!"

That idea spun off others in my mind... I recently finished reading The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs by famous farmer Joel Salatin. In this, his 10th book, he proposes that the natural default position of this awe-inspiring earth is not broken, but whole; constantly refreshing and renewing itself, if we but follow and encourage the patterns set in nature. 

All day this has been going over and over in my head... 
  • Perhaps the way we nurture and care for the pieces of earth that we touch can determine whether or not they are whole, forgiving, welcoming, flourishing, fruitful, and lush. 
  • Perhaps the way we use or abuse the earth can also determine whether or not it is raped, degraded, ugly, bare, wounded, and dying. 
  • Perhaps our job as inhabitants and caretakers of this planet is simply to nurture and caress and aid the processes already created to replenish the earth.
  • Perhaps we've been given a big brain and opposing thumbs in order to nurture and massage the earth rather than "commandeer" it.

We can, by changing the way we care for the earth (whether it be our house-plant, our lawn, our garden, our pasture, or our ranch), change the direction the Earth is headed. There's an old Chinese proverb that says: 

"If we don't change our direction, we'll end up where we're headed."

Many people say we're headed for desertification, limited food sources, and not enough land to produce enough food to feed the world... Is that our main problem? Is Aspirin our best remedy? I submit that the real problem is our behavior, and the best solution is to change our actions and follow a path that will heal land, nurture animals, and feed the world!

Supporting local, sustainable, dedicated farms is one of the best ways to perpetuate this already blooming change. When people say "yes" to grass fed, sustainably raised, pastured, non, GMO products offered by local farmers, they are sending a message. That message goes to friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, doctors, scientists, - you name it- . That message is shouting "We care about our health. We care about the Earth. We care about the future."

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Fullest Potential

I enjoy using things to their fullest potential; especially food resources.

I will admit that I am not personally a fan of eating liver and other organ meat from animals... Don't expect a new spin on liver pate from me...  Beef heart stew is not on my menu...

I AM a proponent of USING all the parts of an animal, but chickens need protein too.....  I'll stop there...  I am also a huge fan of using vegetables to their fullest potential! When I can think of a new or unusual way to eat a common vegetable, it is truly a thrill!

 I believe that using our resources to their full potential encourages sustainability, responsibility, frugality, and just - general awareness.

This afternoon I was blessed with two bunches of radish from a friend! I planned to roast the radish roots themselves, but as I was looking at the beautiful greens attached to them, I knew I just HAD to use them somehow! Radish leaves are somewhat spicy, like the radish roots... To me, their taste is somewhere between turnip tops and mustard greens.

Being the Southern country girl that I am, I've been craving greens. Since we have a cool front coming in and are expecting it to be cool tonight, I turned to soup... Ok, Ok... I decided to make soup as penance for the homemade onion rings I made last night to go with our venison steak... But ANYWAY, soup it was to be.

I looked up a recipe for radish top soup, and then followed my usual cooking method: not following the recipe at all. (I know... Sometimes this works better than other times... Thankfully it worked beautifully this time!) 

So here is my recipe for Radish Top Soup. If you try it, please let me know what you think!

Radish Top Soup

2 T butter
1 medium onion
1 medium bell pepper

2 C chicken stock (Homemade, of course! :) )
1.5 C water

2-3 medium potatoes (I used 3 because I was afraid my husband wouldn't like the soup...But he did!)
2-3 C fresh radish greens (I had large greens from 8 radish)*
2 medium grated radish
4 oz cream cheese
Salt and black pepper

BACON (Homemade, preferably!)

Melt the butter in a pot, add chopped onion and bell pepper. Saute until tender. Add chopped potatoes and greens. (Since the greens I used were rather large, I chopped off the largest parts of the stem. Then I chopped the greens in half and that gave me two large handfuls.) Add grated radish. Stir to coat with butter. Add chicken stock and water. Season to taste. Simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in cream cheese.

Dip out vegetables (leaving most of the liquid in the pot) and place in food processor or blender. Add 1-2 ladles of liquid from the pot. Blend on high until smooth. Return to pot and stir into remaining liquid. Simmer until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, cook bacon until just crisp. Crumble and use as garnish.

*This is what I used in our soup. My husband and I both think I could have used more radish leaves to get more of that spicy delicious flavor.