Friday, August 7, 2015

Open Homestead Day 2015

At 12:07 am, Sean is creating Bee's Wax Wraps in the kitchen and I am steady at work trying to find the posters I created from last year's farm-welcome of friends and neighbors. With less than 48 hours before you all come to visit us, there is no point in reinventing the wheel, if little tweaks are all that is wanted.

Wanted. Hmmm. Well, I am going to be honest and straight up tell you, we did not finish all the projects on our list to prepare for your coming this year. I wanted to get a new deck framed and planked for you to sit on while enjoying a snack near where the baby chicks and Momma Wyandotte live. But, money is tight. Too tight, really, and the choice came down between spending money we don't have on wood for the use of the visiting peoples or using that money to expand some fencing areas for our birds. The birds won out. Both the duck yard and turkey yard gained an additional 200 square feet. They will grow larger through this year, but it is a good beginning. I also wanted to get the entire yard mowed, the herb garden weeded, and pretty flowering planters set out to welcome you. None of that got completely finished and the pretty flowers did not even get a foot hold. Folks, this is a working homestead. It is not a pretty lay-out in a homesteading magazine, no matter how hard or often I wish that to be. Sean and I work our tails off, but there is NEVER enough time in a day to keep up with everything. Just when Sean got the goat stalls looking clean and well-arranged, three of our goats started scouring. (For those of you not familiar with the goat lingo, that means diarrhea. Delightful, right?) Tonight, I attempted to make a couple quarts of dill pickles and dilly beans only to discover that I ran out of pickling salt. Undaunted, I moved on to start a batch of chevre for you, got the milk all pasteurized and at the right temperature to ripen with its culture, looked in the freezer for said culture... denied. I have 4 packets of Feta culture and 2 empty bags that once contained Chevre culture. (Who leaves empty bags in the freezer!?!?!?! It must have been me. I am the only one that makes cheese, so I don't even have a scape-goat here.) And, the best part? The closest store to carry it is 45 minutes away and closed 2 hours ago. *Forehead Slap* Add that back onto tomorrow's list. The point I want to get across to you is this, we are looking forward to your visit so much and we can't wait to see you, but if you are looking for a picturesque Martha Stewart-type farm, this is not that.
What we can offer you is a warm welcome and a peek into a small-timey family homestead with all its ups and downs. And, of course, tons of happy babies and their parents to visit with and learn about and maybe a scouring goat or two to round out the day. ;)

Here is what we have planned for you:
We are located at 435 Loggin Rd in Frankfort, Maine. The Hiking with Goats will leave promptly at 10 am, so if y'all want to participate in that, make sure you come a little early or call to let us know that you are en route to us. You can reach us at 323-0520 if you have any questions.

Hope to see you on Saturday!
~ Sean and Sonja ♥

Monday, July 27, 2015

Give Away to Celebrate "The Maine Gathering"

Man! It is high summer and we are so busy around the homestead and preparing for shows, craft fairs, and shops, we don't know whether to scratch our watches or wind our elbows! It is wonderful to be busy creating and building and to have the chance to meet some of you in person. At the same time, I got to tell you, the idea of being snowed in by 3 feet of snow is looking mighty inviting some weeks! We are often asked where we will be next, so for those of you wondering where you can find us, here is what we know about our schedule...

Weekly Markets:
Bucksport Bay Farmer's Market Thursdays 2pm-5pm through September (at least)
Belfast Art Market Fridays 9am-1pm through August

Fairs, Festivals, and the like:
The Maine Highland Games August 15th, Topsham Fair Grounds
The Union Fair August 22- August 29th, Union Fair Grounds

Shops & Retail Stores:
Silkweeds Route 1, Searsport, Maine
The Maine Gathering 8 Bayview St. Camden, Maine
Eden Rising 39 Cottage St. Bar Harbor, Maine

Pendant Set Prize $30 Retail Value
We are so pleased and humbled that these quality shops have chosen to carry an assortment of our original Mosaic Eggshell Jewelry, Goat's Milk Soaps, and/or Massage Melts. Of course, we love our creations. It just really feels good to know that someone else loves them, too- enough to carry them in their shops. I have always felt that we all rise together, so to speak. To that end, I often mention the shops we are associated with and other artists and their creations along with what is happening in our world. I figure, if you like us, perhaps you might like them, too. It is my habit to host give-aways when we sign on to a new shop. Besides being a nice reason to gift one of you with a piece of jewelry you might not otherwise own, it is a way to introduce you to new shops that you might not be aware of and a way for those shops to visit with new guests and make new friends. With this in mind, we are very pleased to announce a Give-Away!!! One reader will win this pendant set. There are four ways to enter using the entry form below; (1) visit Eden Rising on Facebook. (We can't ask you to give them a like, but we sure would appreciate it if you felt inclined to do so. ♥) (2) Leave a message for them. Be creative. You can do this each day and gain another entry each time. (3) Visit us on FB. If you haven't already "liked" us, feel free to join the fun! And, (4) leave a comment for us here on the blog. I love hearing from you. This give-away begins tonight at midnight and ends on August 11th at midnight. I will post the winner's name here and on our FB pages. The winner will have 48 hours to claim their prize or another winner will be chosen randomly from the entries. How easy is that?

Are you ready? Get Set. Go! (Well, you know, as soon as the give-away begins... :) )

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Stay-cation 2015

Stay-cation- a vacation spent at home or nearby; a vacation that is spent enjoying all that home and one's home environs offer; a vacation spent at home involving day trips to local attractions.

It is totally a thing.

With our homestead growing each year, both in terms of animals and gardens to care for and our participation in shops, markets, and fairs, a stay-cation creates the perfect balance for us. When our family visits afar, I feel too worried about what might be falling apart at home to enjoy my time away. Then, too, I carry an inappropriate amount of guilt over the cost of EVERYTHING-whether it be the time away or the money spent. The time we spend lounging at a beach competes with the stalls that need mucking out, the goat fencing to be extended, and the gardens that need attention. The $18.99 I would love to spend on a new skirt weighs against the cost of 2x4's for fencing, cement for posts for the horse pasture, a bag of grain or 6 bales of hay. A skirt is gone without and we make do with what's had already. I don't mind (most of the time), but there are minutes in life when these little things add up and something has to give- just to maintain sanity. Sean knows me well and understands this balance. As I worried about all that needs doing, to help ease my mind, Sean reminded me of a principle explored in a Season 2 episode of The Waltons "The Honeymoon", which we watched together recently:

[Narration as John 'John Boy' Walton, Jr. reading from his journal] Growing up on Walton's Mountain during the Great Depression, we learned early to concentrate on the essentials of life. With many of the necessities so hard to come by, we had little money to squander on extravagances. But there came a time when my father decided another kind of survival was important and, to nourish the human spirit, it was necessary to indulge in extravagance.

Just as we empathize with episodes of The Little House on the Prairie where Ma and Pa fight against the elements to eek out a decent living for their family, watching The Walton's cash poor and family rich lives ring with echos of our own venture into building our modern day homestead with all its ups and downs. It may be summer- the time for traditional family adventures- but these homesteaders need to balance making family memories and caring for daily necessities.

When I remember where we started and compare where we are now, I am proud of the life we are building with good, honest sweat and hard work. Consider this, last year we cared for three CSA shares. This year, we support shares for six families. We doubled the size of our garden space this year and will increase it again before the year is out. Last year, we supplied four goat rentals. This year, we have increased that to eight goat rentals. We welcomed 11 healthy goat kids into our world this season. Last year, you could buy our soaps, massage melts and mosaic eggshell jewelry in Belfast, Searsport, and Brewer. As of last weekend, you can now find us in Camden, Maine at The Maine Gathering and in Bar Harbor at Eden Rising. There is so much still to do, but we have made a good start of it, a place from where we can grow.

As for making those family memories, homestead building projects took a back seat to spending time with our teenagers in spiritual activities and day trip adventures- on a budget that would make the Walton's proud of our thrift. Thursday night, Sean and I set up our booth at the Bucksport Bay Farmer's Market. It is fast becoming our favorite market. There may not be as many people wandering through the stalls, but those that are there, have come to support locally grown food and products. Return customers are becoming friends that we look forward to seeing.

Original pieces available at
The Maine Gathering
After milking in the morning on Friday, Sean and I headed to the Belfast Art Market. We were especially excited to be rolling out our latest product offering; mosaic eggshell Mother~Child Pendants, ready to be made on-site for those who were interested. We were so thankful at the positive reception from shoppers and happy to create FIVE custom pieces! And, we met Margaret Gallagher of The Maine Gathering, a shop in lovely, coastal Camden, Maine. By the end of our short visit, Margaret selected a nice assortment of jewelry pieces to stock in her shop. We ended Friday by driving to Augusta for some supplies and then, to Camden to meet up with friends from whom we were stealing their teenagers for the weekend for a visit. With four teenage girls in the house we anticipated much laughter, loud musical sing-a-longs, and lots of fun. We were not disappointed.

Our group woke early Saturday morning. Sean and I milked the goats while Meaghan and Sierra collected eggs from the coop and Kristen and Sammy fed Chloe her morning bottles of milk. After a home-made breakfast of French toast from our eggs, milk and farm-fresh bread smothered with their choice of blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries, we cleaned up and headed out to preach the word together for the morning. The plan was to spend a few hours in our ministry work followed by an afternoon day trip to the Bar Harbor area. The first stop was a picnic lunch at Bird's Acres in Ellsworth, followed by a hike to "Egg Rock" and "Queen's Chair". From there, we drove up the Loop Road to the summit of Mount Cadillac. Our next stop was to Eden Rising on Cottage St. in downtown Bar Harbor, Maine to deliver mosaic eggshell jewelry, goat's milk soaps, and 2 oz jars of massage melts. We finished the day sharing two $6.99 medium pizzas at Pizza Hut for dinner before coming home. Total cost for our trip= gas money and $18 dinner. Memories made= PRICELESS.

Mount Cadillac Cairns
I have visited with the rescued birds at Bird's Acres for many years. This poor guy is blind in one eye and cannot hunt for himself any longer. That makes me sad, but I am glad he has a safe place to live, warm from the elements, well care for. I have been inspired to create some new owl pieces recently, now I have a model for some new ones.

Views from the top of Mount Cadillac~ Bar Harbor, Maine
Fort Knox Labyrinth
On Sunday morning, Sean discovered that Priscilla's chicks were in the process of hatching. She did such a good job at brooding, that we left her to do her thing with hatching them- though we checked them from time to time. (More details about them further down. ♥) After morning chores, I baked our crew their choice of home-made muffins; blueberry, raspberry, coconut, and cinnamon before our meeting for worship. When we returned home, we had a light lunch together and then Sean left to mow his Daddy's lawn while I worked on making some new jewelry pieces and the girls visited together. After Sean got home, we drove over to Fort Knox to explore and play some hide-and-seek in the dark labyrinth of the fort until we all were ready to go home for some dinner. We stopped at Wilson's Corner Store for 1/2 kiddie cones on the way home. That's right. Half Kiddie Cons each. At Wilson's that means a generous 1 1/2 scoops of Hershey's ice cream- more than enough to savor. If you order the "Large", I strongly recommend bringing a large bowl with you. You'll need it! Total cost for our trip= $25. Tired Teenage Girls= PRICELESS.

Granite for Fort Knox was cut
from Mount Waldo's quarry.

We let the girls sleep in on Monday morning and I had hot home-made cinnamon buns waiting for them when they roused. Sean suggested we take Molly, a few of this year's goat kids, and all the girls to hike up Mount Waldo. It is a nice easy hike with fantastic views made even better with bouncing goat kids romping about the granite. Since this was to be the last day of our Stay~cation, Monday was a "Free Day" of activities with plans to end it with a double feature at the new Drive In in Bangor. Unfortunately that did not happen as we planned, due to some unforeseen issues. As a consolation, we rented Big Hero 6 and made another stop at Wilson's. Total cost for our adventures $12. Weekend Spent With Friends= PRICELESS.

I think John Walton would be proud. ;)
The hike begins. Chloe does not need a leash. She is quite happy to stay with her people.

Anna and Bo
Chloe was a natural at hiking with us. She enjoyed exploring and finding tidbits to nibble on. Anna and Bo were not convinced that this hiking business was fun... until they reached the granite blocks. Their feet knew what to do, even if their brains were stuck on crying for their herd. Within a few minutes, they settled down and began to explore. By the time we were ready to leave, the twins were enjoying themselves and able to walk with us without needing leashes.

If you think hiking with goats would be a fun experience for your family, drop us a message and we would be glad to tell you all about our program. :)

This week on the homestead brought us the birth of more babies. Priscilla did a bang up job of hatching her eggs in the rafters of the barn. All eight eggs hatched into fluffy balls of turkey chicks. Turkey chicks or poults are by far the most docile and friendliest of any of the birds on the farm. Guinea keets are sweet and can be handled easily.... for about the first week. Then, a switch flips in their bird brains and they become aware that they are prey animals. Attempts to hold and play with them become more of a game of capture the keet, which is no fun for anyone involved. It does not dissuade us from holding, petting and handling the keets to help "tame" them, but in our experience, it really is a mostly futile effort, producing guinea hens and cocks that tolerate humans when food is offered and running from them at all other times. Ducks are very similar in nature. Our ducklings happily follow us around for a couple months, but once they are introduced to the other ducks, it is all over for us. Their preference for their own kind becomes clear. Chickens and roosters are considerably better. Ours gladly come running to greet us, especially if treats are involved. They willingly hop up on shoulders or laps. But, turkey poults are by and far the most helpless and friendly of all the chicks. Of course, we don't eat our turkeys. Still, either they don't realize they are delicious prey or they just don't care that you know it, too. They sit calm and still when my hand reaches into the brooder, then trill in my hand softly until they fall asleep content with the knowledge that I have them and all is well in the world.

I love baby turkeys.

Thanks for visiting with us, friends. We're glad you're here.

Sean and Sonja ♥

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ducklings, Chicks, and Poults... Oh my!

As the days warm, the "Drakes of Summer" return to this part of the world. Our normally stand-offish hens take one look at the boys that have been pestering them all winter long and are only too eager to fly away with some fresh looking young drake. A sadder lack of morals you don't want to see! One of our errant Mallard hens returned a couple weeks ago with a brood of ducklings trailing behind, as is often the result of such tomfoolery. I don't mind the new babies. In the wake of bird flu warnings in other states, I do wish our ladies would stay to home. Maine is not one of the states currently fighting this epidemic, but with the return of wild birds from other parts, it could all too easily happen here. I hate to pen our birds up, but we are considering it- for their safety until this passes.

As with the goat kids, we usually leave chicks, ducklings, keets, and other babies born on the farm to the care of their respective Mothers. It means less work for us; changing brooder pen litter, extra time feeding separately, etc. And, we feel that it makes for more naturally cared for creatures. We are not trying to tame our chickens or goats into behaving like domestic dogs, after all. So long as the Mommas are providing for their young, we leave them to it.

For the past couple weeks, we left the ducklings to the care of their Momma. They all looked healthy and in fine form. We could easily spot them in the morning learning what they should eat or washing up in an extra deep puddle in our drive way. By afternoon, Momma and the ducklings meander to the back yard to nibble on this and that on their way to the shallow stream bed. Sean and I bandied about the idea of capturing them and moving them into the barn, but hadn't made any real attempt to. After all, she managed to set on her nest for a month and hatched a good clutch of young, without our interference.

In the wake of several days of cold rain, we had a bit of a scare. Sean found Momma duck wandering around, but she only had 4 ducklings with her! Sean backtracked and searched in the direction she came from and heard a very faint "peep, peep, peep" from one very cold and miserable duckling, tucked into an island of tall grass beside the stream. This baby was in danger. Sean brought it inside to me to warm up while he collected the other ducklings and Momma Mallard and searched for the two still missing ducklings.

Inside the house, this little one needed to get warm and dry as fast as possible. I started by partially filling the sink with tepid water. Then, slowly added hot water until the bath was toasty warm. I thought this would be the quickest way to bring up the duckling's body temperature. Within a couple minutes, the duckling was peeping and alert. The next order of business was to get it dried off. I wrapped it in a warmed towel, grabbed the heating blanket and made a cave of warmth. Meaghan watched over it while I went to see if I could help Sean locate its two missing siblings.

Sean met me in the back yard with them. Momma Mallard was NOT interested in joining her babies, though. We tried to lure her out by bringing the basket of ducklings to where she was hiding from us. We hoped that she would hear their calls for her and come out. Ducks are smarter than chickens. Instead of coming out or revealing exactly where she was hiding, Momma Mallard called to her ducklings to come in to her! And, they were listening! They made a mad scramble up the side of the basket in an effort to get to their Momma hiding somewhere in the thicket. But, with the thought of finding cold, dead ducklings after the storm, we decided to intervene and bring the babies inside with us. Momma Mallard would weather the rain storm just fine, those babies maybe not.

We settled the ducklings into the brooder with the three month-old chickens living there for the night. Not a perfect solution since the ducklings like nothing better than to slosh about in the water container making a grand mess in the pen, but it would do until morning when we could move them into the barn. The duckling in danger perked up in no time and was able to rejoin its siblings.

The next morning, Momma Mallard was spotted calling for her young in the yard. Being apart from them overnight made her much easier to catch. She wanted to get to those babies! Sean lured her into a corner and gently swept her up. Three slightly older ducklings (from our hatch) were already living in the barn. We hoped Momma Mallard would not mind the addition of three more babies to tend. She didn't. We watched in case she tried to bite or shove them away. Because the other three were several weeks older, we also had to be sure that they wouldn't be too rough on the new ducklings. All was just fine.
Look at the size difference between full grown, one month, and one day. 

In a few weeks, all the ducks will be reintroduced to our flock. I love happy endings.

I also love surprise beginnings...

 Sean discovered a very broody Wyandotte sitting in a bucket full of eggs! 10 eggs in all. We spirited one away to candle it and discovered that they were very nearly ready to hatch. So, we let her be to do her thing. And, just a few days later brought us a bucket full of peeping chicks. Had she nested in a bucket downstairs in the barn, we would have left them alone. She didn't. She laid her eggs in a bucket upstairs with no real safe way for them to get down for food or water other than navigating a flight of stairs. This thought gave me visions of peril and terror. We decided to move Momma, bucket of chicks and all, to a safer location- an unused coop from last year.

All nestled in are Momma Wyandotte, six Wyandotte chicks, and one very distinctive Rhode Island Red chick. Apparently, another hen discovered her nest and laid an egg before Mrs. W got broody. She hasn't noticed or minded that one looks quite different. :) Chickens are good like that.

You can just see the lone chick with the chipmunk stripes tucked snugly under his Momma's feathers in this image.

Now that the duckings are sorted and the bucket of chicks is settled into its home, perhaps hatching will begin to run  on our schedule....

Or, in light of our broody Red-breasted Bronze Priscilla's unauthorized nest up in the rafters of the barn, we have a ways to go yet... Stay tuned! ♥

Thanks for visiting today, friends. We hope you have a good one- wherever you may be.
~Sean & Sonja ♥

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Ducking Hatching: First of 2015

With the kidding season behind us, it is time to turn our attention to hatching birds. We need to hatch some chicks, ducks, guineas, geese, and turkeys this year. We won't have many chicks for sale this season. We have so many requests for eggs from new Customers that we are increasing our flock. We will have ducklings for sale; these being Mallard, Black Swedish, or an occasional cross between the two. I have orders for 16 guinea keets to fill, and when those are completed, I would like to add a couple of each of the chocolate hens, violet hens, and pearl hens to our group here. With only two geese (and only one of them capable of laying) it would be lovely to add another couple of hens. And, I would like to have an additional couple of hens for both our slate blue and red-breasted bronze turkeys. Once we have cared for our needs, anything more than that will be available for purchase. That is a lot of hatching- especially when we don't own an incubator!

Like everything else on the homestead, we try to raise our birds as naturally as possible. This means working *with* our broody hens. At present, we have a Wyandotte sitting on a clutch of chicken eggs upstairs in the barn- those should hatch by the end of June. We have an Australorpe sitting on a nest of 20 Guinea eggs. Those should hatch in another 3 weeks. Two broody ducks are sitting on nests of duck eggs. And, our gosling is sitting on an assorted nest of duck and geese eggs- her choice. She kept stealing duck eggs and we let her keep them. We'll see what comes of that!

Over the past couple days, our first clutches have begun hatching. Our first nest of eggs only produced two chicks for us. Harley duck had been dutifully sitting on a nest of 5 eggs. One duckling hatched, but did not survive the night. A second hatched the following day, but Harley flew the coop, taking with her two eggs. (I spotted her in the goat's field. I suspect she was moving her eggs to a safer location, in her mind.) Sean found a second duckling wandering around in the coop unattended and brought it inside to keep company with the first. Harley has been spotted, but she was once more missing-in-action and a third little duckling was wandering around inside the main coop. We are three for five with this clutch of ducklings. We are hopeful that tomorrow, Momma Harley comes home with the last duckling in tow. If that is the case, we'll offer her these back and let her raise and care for them until they go to their new home. If she is disinclined, they will stay in the house for a bit and then get introduced to the main coop a bit later. It is never boring!

Tomorrow, we are going to be at the Belfast Art Market in Belfast with the Farmer's Market at Waterfall Arts on High St. from 9am-1pm. I am so excited for our first market... and a little nervous. But, I am looking forward to reconnecting with old friends and making some new ones this season. If you are in the area, be sure to stop by to say, "Hi." to Sean and I.

Thanks for popping in tonight, friends.
~Sean & Sonja ♥

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Peanut Butter Bars

Since Sean has been spending two-three days each week sub-contracting for a couple different local companies, his dietary needs have changed. He has always worked hard; breaking a sweat is nothing new for him. But, there is definitely a difference between painting out an apartment or deep cleaning it and carrying two tons of concrete forms from point A to point B or removing a brick chimney and carrying the bricks down three flights of stairs. There just is. Busy in this new work, Sean had started to really lose some weight... fast. Sean has nice muscles, but there wasn't a whole lot of weight for him to lose. I suggested that he could lose some of my extra pounds, but so far, that is a "no-go".

Anyway, I started to make Sean a more hearty breakfast and lunch on the days he is expending more energy and needs those extra calories. I did not want to pad his lunch with empty calories; heavy manual labor requires calories packed with protein, fiber, and natural sugars. On a typical day, Sean will get a breakfast sandwich with 2 eggs, cheese, bacon or sausage on fresh home-made bread and a piece of fruit. I pack him granola, nuts and dried fruit (an assortment of dried cherries, cranberries, raisins, banana chips, pineapple or kiwi, etc.) in a pint mason jar for a snack. For lunch, I make him a protein-packed sandwich; tuna, chicken, or egg salad with sliced onion, tomato and lettuce on homemade bread with homemade mayo and a piece of fruit. I pack him two half gallons of freshly made lemonade in glass mason jars. And, if he is really going to expend some energy, a healthy piece of homemade peanut butter bars. There is nothing diet or low-calorie about these bars, but they make up for that in pure delicious tasty-goodness! These are not for every day snacking, unless you work concrete, farm, are a lumberjack or exert yourself vigorously in some other manner. But, as a sometimes sweet treat, they can't be beat. I promise.

What You Need: 
12 Oz. Jar of Creamy Peanut Butter
2 Sticks of Real Butter (unsalted is fine)
12 Graham Crackers (smashed into medium fine crumbs)
2 Cups Confectioner's Sugar
12 Oz Bag of Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
9x9 (8x8 for extra thick bars) Glass Baking Pan with Deep Sides

What To Do:
In a microwave safe bowl, completely melt the butter. While it is melting, in another large bowl, use a pestle or the bottom of a glass and crush the graham crackers into fine to medium fine crumbs. (If you like a crunchy texture, leave them larger. If you want a smooth texture, make the crumbs more fine.) When the graham crackers are to your desired consistency, add the melted butter, one cup of peanut butter, and 2 cups of confectioner's sugar. Stir with a spatula to thoroughly combine. Turn this mix into your 9x9 glass pan. (There is no need to line or grease the bottom.) Use the spatula to press the peanut butter mixture unto the pan evenly. Microwave 3/4 of the bag of semi sweet chocolate morsels until they are melted. Be careful not to over cook them or burn them! Add the rest of the peanut butter in the jar to the chocolate and mix thoroughly. Spread the warm chocolate-peanut butter mixture over the top of the peanut butter-graham mixture. Refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting.

If the girls and I are enjoying them, I slice them into 25 very-satisfying pieces. If I am making a batch for Sean and the men he works with, I slice them into 16 bars. I have no idea what the calorie count is in these magnificent treats, but they are worth every one of them. True Story.

For our friends who cannot tolerate gluten, just substitute a gluten free variety of graham or regular crackers. I would avoid herbed or garlic flavor varieties, but anything like a saltine works just fine. We made these gluten free for a visiting friend and used Glutino brand crackers. She loved them. And, my teens couldn't tell the difference. :)

Thanks for visiting on this rainy day.
~Sean & Sonja ♥

Monday, May 25, 2015

CSA Garden Share

I have been meaning to write this post for weeks. In anticipation for it, I've been diligently capturing photos to share with you. Unfortunately, every time I settle to write, something else needs my attention and it gets put off for another day. I keep joking that I need a secretary to follow me around armed with a cattle prod. No more putting it off or delaying. I am proud of the hard work Sean and I have put in and excited to share it with all of you. I think it will have special interest to those who have signed up for this year's CSA shares. :)

Last year we entrusted Cameron DePaola to start some early seedlings for us. He did a fantastic job and we are thrilled to have his assistance again this year. Cameron started some of our non-GMO, certified organic seeds attached to his aquaponic system several weeks ago. Aquaponics is the growing of plants or crops without the use of soil, using fish waste and water instead. Plants float in net cups with their roots submerged inside the tanks. Cameron's system uses a 100 gallon reservoir. The system is symbiotic; the plants feed on the fish waste and in return clean the water, making it a safe environment for the fish. Cameron feeds his fish a mixture of meal worms, super worms, and vegetable scraps. We'll pick up hundreds of tomato seedlings, cucumbers, sweet and hot peppers and watermelons in just a couple of weeks. We are very excited to see how this method compares to traditional seed starting in terms of our yield.

With all those seedlings coming, we needed to expand the garden space... a lot. In the spirit of using what we have readily to hand, Sean and I have been working overtime cutting down large Alders to weave into garden beds. By that I mean, Sean has been cutting down the Alders with his ax and chain saw while Kristen, Meaghan and I drag them where we need them. I lop off the unwanted branches and use them to weave in and out of the Alder stakes Sean set deep into the ground. Krissy and Meg move the unused twigs to the burn pile. It is a fine system and our garden beds are coming along very well. With continued effort, we should have them ready for the seedlings just in time for them to arrive.
The beds in the front garden have been planted with lettuces, kale, spinach, three types of onions, carrots, beets, radishes, broccoli, peas, and summer squash. How are they doing? Take a peek:

Our wintered-over and perennial herbs are making a fine showing this season. From last year we have; chives, rosemary, thyme, peppermint, winter green mint, sage, basil, dill, oregano, and lemon balm growing brilliantly. New this year we have added; chamomile, apple mint, bergamot, nettle, anise, and stevia. We are looking forward to experimenting with these in our kitchen to season our food or make into teas.

Another new development was creating a brand new field for corn, pumpkin, and beans. A very good friend of ours helped prepare the virgin ground for our initial crop with his rototiller. Normally, we let the chickens and ducks help us prepare beds for planting, but we
were in a time crunch and the field was large. The birds still helped, but they had a supporting role in this project. I especially enjoyed watching the ducks follow along with Keith as he tilled the ground, snapping up any goodies turned over in the soil. Once he finished the initial ground breaking, Sean and I spread some 3 year old chicken compost and some 2 year old horse compost on top. We are ready to get the corn into the ground immediately. Before we do, we have to figure out a way to keep those helpful birds out of the garden. Eating parasites and weeds is very helpful, pulling out corn seeds, not so much. They can have it again this fall to their heart's content, but for now, the garden is off limits.

That goes for the goats, too. As soon as the garden is completely planted, the goats will be unwelcome in the back yard, too. The next project on our list, after the gardens, is to expand the goat's field once again to give them even more room. Every year, we expand their pasture deeper into the woods for them to browse. Eventually, they will have all of the wooded land to where our property borders the stream. This will give them several acres to roam at will. I can just see our family grilling on the back deck or hanging out at dinner with a nice view of our animals grazing under the trees. Close enough to see and enjoy without being so close as to be trouble.
Cassie is helping remove all that pesky, unwanted greenery from near the new garden beds. These beds have a long way to go, but it is a good start. Instead of tilling our garden beds, we cover them over with a good layer of cardboard. We soak the cardboard with a hose and then fill the beds to the top with compost and garden soil. Works great! 
We're going to try something new by way of fencing for the goats and as a separation between our yard and our closest neighbors- a variation of 5 foot tall wattle fencing. Basically, Sean will cut 7 foot sections of the thickest Alder trunks. These will be driven 2 feet into the ground every 3 feet, in an alternating, zig-zag pattern. We'll use slightly smaller Alder trunks to slip down between the posts, layering one row on top of the next the entire length, staggering the ends. Though, I reused baling twine to help secure the garden beds, I will reuse some heavy gauge wire to tie the beams together for the fencing. When it is all done, we will string electric fencing on the inside to teach the goats their new boundaries. We won't have the electricity on all the time, but it doesn't take long to teach them not to go near it. There are countless benefits of using the Alders growing here for our fencing needs. It opens up the area for fresh undergrowth to sprout up and gives us a clear view of the goats under the large pines, spruce, maple, and birch trees. Opening up the woodlands will make it more difficult for larger predators, like fox or coyote to breach our land without notice adding to our safety. Though it is labor intensive, it costs no money. And, Alders are a fast growing, renewable source of material. It will be fairly easy to make repairs and replace rotten materials as needed. This is the theory, anyway. I'll be sure to take lots of pictures of the process once we begin. And, you know you'll hear about whether this is a brilliant idea or a dismal flop. I am hoping for brilliance. :)

Enjoy it now, goaties. Your time is short for back yard munching!

I couldn't end this post without an update on sweet Chloe and Momma Lilly. Both are doing great, though Lilly still needs to gain some weight. Chloe is up to drinking 16 oz of goat's milk 3-4x/day and browses with the rest of the herd in between. She is exhibiting all the normal, healthy goat kid behaviors. We are very, very pleased with her progress. :)

Thanks for visiting with us today, friends. It's nice to share some company.
~Sean & Sonja ♥