Sunday, June 15, 2014

Open Homestead Day

Our first barn swallows have moved in!
The first day of summer seems like an appropriate time to open our home and homestead to those of you who would like to visit us. It honestly doesn't feel like summer yet in spite of the days creeping into the 80's and the black flies fit to carry you off.

I think I feel that way because this last winter was so hard for so many, us included. The weather did not break until later than usual, which sets everything else back just a bit. But, with the lengthening of the days, our land is slowly awakening. And, we have been able to check off a few things from this year's "to do" list. In the past couple weeks, the garden beds we built last year were weeded, fertilized, and made ready for planting. We picked up the garden plants from Cameron which he diligently nurtured for us. New fencing was installed for the dog yard. New fencing was installed for the new main chicken coop yard. New fencing was built for our 2 small chicken tractors in the back yard and the appropriate groups of chickens were moved to reside within. The turkey coop yards were both expanded with, you guessed it, new fencing. Chain link fencing was installed to help keep the goats from straying onto our neighbor's yard. The burn pile collected from debris over the winter was fired. And, the bones of my working studio have begun to emerge.

Herb Garden in containers are easy!
We have a lot more to do before you fine folks come to visit us. Our mudroom and farm entrance needs a thorough cleaning and organizing. The stalls need their weekly clean out. The main coop needs to finish being sided. I would love to get the ducks moved to where the lawn floods and our pond will eventually live. The  rest of the lawn could use a taming ( I have started that, but it is slow going.) and a solid go at weeding. The compost bins need repair. There are pies and drinks to prepare. Assistants to conscript. And, plans to be made to make the day an interesting one for you and a productive one for us.

Aquila, our red-breasted bronze tom.
You see, the homestead never stops. So, while we will thoroughly enjoy sharing our lives with you all for the day, answering your questions, introducing you to our animal friends, and demonstrating soap making, cheese making and some animal husbandry, it is also a day to work for those of us who live here. While I would love to have a farm that would gleam as if Martha Stewart herself waved her magic wand, in the real world, you should expect to wear old clothes and some boots. Please, come and visit us for the day. We'll be open for company on JUNE 21, 2014 from 9 am until 3 pm.

Rough and Very Bendable Timing of Events:

9 am Milking Demonstration. Sean will hand milk our four does. If you want to see how it is done or try your hand at it yourself, this is the time to come!

10 am Morning Feeding Time. Since the critters are normally fed hours earlier, they will think we have forgotten them for good and act like they have never eaten before. If you want to help out with feeding or watering chores for any of the animals, now is the time to be here.

11 am Hoof Trimming Demonstration. Sean will show interested ones how to properly trim goat hooves. This is a necessary part of goat husbandry and a skill every goat keeper should have. We'll also be checking eyelid color and worming any goats that are in need of it.

Cheese Making Demonstration. Sonja will demonstrate how we make chevre and  feta cheeses. Sample some here and take a small cheese sample home with you for later.

1 pm Soap Making Demonstration. Sonja will whip up three batches of Lally Broch Farm Soap and walk you through how it is done. Take a sample home for your family to enjoy. Folks who are interested in making their own soaps can sign up for a one-on-one walk through in your kitchen. We'll provide the materials you need to create three different soap scents of your choice. These personal classes cost $60 and last one and a half  to two hours in duration. You will keep six, 5 oz bars of soap from the class (two of each scent you create.) A recipe with materials list is included in the personal class for you to keep, too.

2 pm Home~Made Ice Cream. Join Sean in the kitchen as he uses our ice cream maker to whip up some fresh ice cream for you to sample. We'll make ice cream with a few simple ingredients: fresh goat's milk, sugar, vanilla, (and when applicable, berries). You can taste a sample Raspberry, Strawberry, or Vanilla flavors. All I have to add to this is YUM.

Self~Paced Activities:
* Visit with the animals who live here including heritage turkeys, chickens, ducks, geese, guineas, bunnies, goats and their kids, our Vietnamese Potbelly Pig, and our retired horse, Jasmine.

* Visit our Open Studio. We'll have ready soaps, scents, reusable food storage wraps, and original mosaic eggshell jewelry to browse, touch and smell. Perhaps, you'll want to pick up something special for yourself or as a gift.

* Satisfy your sweet tooth with a slice of homemade pie, a bag of popped corn, goat's milk fudge, or other yummy treat at the bake sale table.

We are eager to meet you all and share part of our day with you. At the beginning of our 2nd year, there is still so much to do before this homestead becomes the farm Sean and I are dreaming of, but this is a celebration of where we are and what will be accomplished this year.

Directions to Lally Broch Farm 

We strongly recommend rubber boots and "play" clothes for your visit. This is a homestead with farm animals. As cute as farm animals are, animals poop... a lot... unexpectedly. Spring and early summer mean babies around the farm. Some of our birds are sitting on nests and should not be disturbed. Please, obey posted signs. Also, though we anticipate your visit will be full of great memories for you, farming and homesteads carry inherent risk. Animals, even "friendly" ones can injure people and carry germs. By visiting our homestead, you are assuming those risks 100% for yourself and those you bring with you. 

For more information message us or call us at 207-323-4982. We hope to see you at the farm!

Sean and Sonja ♥

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Recycled, Reusable Beeswax Cotton Food Wraps

I am always looking for new ways to save money, stretch our budget, and add to our sustainability. I was intrigued when I came across a post on facebook from My Healthy Green Family and thought to myself, I have to try this out. I am aware of many reports about BPA leaching into food from plastics, but I confess I have not changed over from using disposable plastic containers and using products like Saran wrap® to cover our food. Until now, I just did not have a suitable replacement. That changed yesterday when I followed the directions and created my own Reusable Beeswax Cotton Food Wraps.

I used a couple of clean 100% cotton pillow cases I had on hand and some sheets of 100% beeswax which I had tucked away to use for candle making one of these days. All that was left to find was an old cookie sheet and a large paint brush that I would never use for another purpose again.

I began by preheating the oven to 180*. Our oven begins at 200*, so I made a guess. Once set, I turned my attention to measuring out four 8 inch squares in my fabric. Because it occurred to me that the left over fabric would be perfect for new spring valances over my kitchen window, I cut them out with that in mind. (I purposely left myself long panels of the fabric with a pocket sewn into it already. This will save me some time when it comes time to whip up those curtains.) Following the straight line already afforded in the checked pattern as my guide, it was easy to cut out the squares I wanted. I decided to cut out two additional 12 inch squares for covering larger bowls and plates.

The next step was to cut the beeswax into small slivers. The article I read suggested shredding the wax for better coverage and that probably would have made for more uniformed coverage, but I did not want to have to wash the beeswax from my good (read that only) grater, so I used my scissors and it worked out just fine. I placed 2 squares of fabric side by each on my baking sheet and sprinkled the wax slivers across it. Remember the wax will expand as it melts. Less is more in this case. It is easy to add more wax if you need it. I think starting with too much max might make the fabric harder to fold around bowls, the wax might flake away, or it might leave unsightly globs on the fabric.

Once I thought I had enough wax covering my fabric, I placed it into the oven. I used the timer on my oven to find that it took just about 2 minutes for the wax to be completely melted. Using pot holders, I removed the pan from the oven and used the paint brush in a swishing motion from center to sides to evenly distribute the wax, fully coating the fabric. You can tell that it is fully coated because the color of the fabric becomes darker and appears wet. I used my fingers to remove the waxed fabric to a drying line to cool. I did not find it uncomfortably hot to use my fingers, but they were coated with beeswax. I considered that a bonus, hot wax treatment, too! :) If you prefer, you could use tongs to remove the fabric from your pan, though. Within minutes the fabric cooled and was ready for use. In the image above, the wrap is easily folded around the edge of the bowl and no additional fastener is needed to secure it, but if you are concerned, an elastic band would do the trick nicely, I think.

To wash the wraps, the article suggested running cold water over them. Curious, I did not wait until they were soiled to attempt that. Because the wax permeates the cotton and coats both sides, the water beads up nicely and runs off. I expect that any food particles that stick to the wraps will come off easily. And, I experimented with swishing them around in warm water for a few minutes to see if the wax would run off. It did not, but the material seemed to soften somewhat from its original semi-hardened form. Once dry, it re-hardened into moldable sheets. I suspected hot water would not be advisable to use and did not push my experiment further to see for myself.

The entire project from beginning to end took about an hour to create 6 waxed cotton food wraps. I love how this project came out. So much so, that I plan to create more using local beeswax and recycled cotton to sell at the farmer's markets and craft events I attend this year. Now, I have an inexpensive, reusable, washable solution to storing and preserving my family's food in the refrigerator that is completely all natural. That is a win-win-win in my book!  I am reconsidering those plastic tubs holding other food items lurking in my fridge. Hmmm.....

I have a couple other posts in the works for you all that include updates on homestead happenings, pictures and videos, and information about the upcoming Open Homestead Day on June 21st. I'll get them posted through this week as I can. Thanks so much for visiting with us today. I am really glad for your company.

Have you tried reusable food storage options? Which work the best for you?

Sonja ♥