Monday, April 14, 2014

The Big Challenge And The Monday Mini Challenge

Hey folks!

I joined a Local Bite Challenge over the weekend over here at Ever Growing Farm. The idea? Getting more people to eat local! This speaks to me because it is something I try (and mostly fail) to get closer to each year. Let's talk about what the challenge is, why it is important to me and my personal perameters and exceptions. If you are already doing the challenge, welcome and if not I encourage you to jump on board. This wagon is going places... but not too far. Ahem, there will be no more terrible puns. Promise.

The Originators have set their personal perimeters and exceptions and encourage you to make your own adjustments based on your needs, family size and budget. I'll hit the high points because you will want to pop on over and give their post a read for the details!

100 days
$100 dollars a week
100 miles

That doesn't sound so bad right?? The hard part is sourcing your food if you haven't already done the legwork. Remember farmer's markets, CSA (Check out Local Harvest), Co-ops (Azure Standard is one) and neighbors! You never know what you may find.
Common changes/exceptions to the Challenge seem to be: Coffee (totally jealous of the Hawaii gals), Liqueur, soda, salt and spices.

For me this challenge is important because it reminds me how much I want to be present in my community and my daily food choices. I want to source my food better, eat out less (if at all) and find out what is grown really close to home.

For this challenge I am starting with:
Everything in the freezer, fridge or pantry
Dairy: I have one goat in milk right now and another one in the next month
Whatever I can grow this year.... it is too early to really start gardening in my zone
My local farmer's market
My mom's farm stash (The lady makes Hard Cheese!) She is within my hundred miles!
My chickens, ducks, rabbits
My eggs
A small amount of local pork purchased in fall

My Exceptions:
Soda for my husband
Sugar, Salt, Spices
Wheat (I grind my own but I don't have a local source)
Beef, I will try to buy what I can from a local grassfed place within budget
My local butcher, his meat isn't always locally grown
Restaurants I hate making this exception but we do eat out.
Chocolate/Cocoa powder

So how about you? Will you join me and strive for 100 days of local food?

Monday's Mini Challenge!
One Item
This one is easy find something new in your local area and try it! For me, instead of buying something I will be attempting to make cheddar cheese tonight. I've made soft cheeses before and ruined a wheel of blue cheese so it is time to branch out. Soon I will make that blue cheese again...

Be Blessed,

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Kimchi or Korean Sauerkraut, so simple to make and sooo tasty! 
 Assemble veggies:  1 Whole Napa Cabbage, 1 cup Carrots, 1 bunch Green Onions and 2 Garlic cloves.
Add: 2 Tbs Salt (or 1TBS Salt 1/4 cup whey), 2 tsp ground chili peppers. (The green things you see are dehydrated green onions I didn't have fresh)
Take out your frustrations with a mallet!! Possible the most fun part of making fermented things,

You can get all fancy like this or just put an airtight lid on and call it a day. I have these airlocks and plastic lids so that is what I do. In a week break open some hot dogs (nice ones c'mon let's be classy), pork chops or a good old fashioned chicken cut. Enjoy!

*A note*
If your ferments mold, you probably have chlorinated water, use distilled or leave the water you will use overnight in an open container. I'm not sure how well this works however so I use distilled.

Be Blessed,

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ginger Kombucha Tea

We all know just how obsessed with tea I am! I found a new (at least around here) tea that comes in a glass bottle and has real ginger, honey and not much else in it. I love them, but at $3 a piece they are a bit much to get when I am out. Also in that vein of thought is my Kombucha obsession. Even though I make Kombucha at home, I don't drink as much as I'd like. Whenever we make it to the Health Food Store I always grab a bottle of Ginger Kombucha. That is another $3. Okay I know, in the scheme of things $3 isn't really that much, but I can make it for a lot lot lot less. So I set out to recreate my temptations!

Aren't these just the most adorable glass bottles? I have four and that is just enough to hold the tea and have a small glass on the side.
First step is to brew regular Kombucha and then do a secondary ferment with Ginger and Brown Sugar. This has been sitting on my counter for three days and it is nice and fizzy.

 Kombucha doesn't like plastic but I was kind of in a hurry to try this. There is about four cups of green tea and 1/4 of a cup of honey in here which I mixed with enough strained Kombucha to fill it. I know this sounds like a lot of sugar but it really isn't, the Kombucha itself feeds on the sugars and makes them into a digestible acid. I struggle with constant fatigue so I added green tea but you could use straight Kombucha or even water depending on your tastes. I find the caffeine in green tea to be easier on my body than coffee even though I love my joe.
Aren't they pretty?? I will leave these on the table overnight because I like my Kombucha extra fizzy. This was so close to what I buy in the store that I may only buy ginger from now on and make it myself. I snag honey from dad's farm and hoard it to use sparingly. This 1/4 of a cup is the biggest expenditure of raw honey in one place in the history of me. It went to a good cause but still makes me cringe at the "low" level of my honey supplies. (I have almost a full jar, don't feel too bad for me!) I need to drink Kombucha more often and this makes it so so easy. Unless you don't like ginger... then you are on your own ;)

Another thing to knock off the grocery list.

Be Blessed

Friday, February 7, 2014

Defeating The Grocery List

My friend over at Incrementally Stepping Toward Homesteading has a grocery store game that I am totally getting in on. She has a list here of some of the things she doesn't have to buy anymore. I'm sure the list has grown!

Her idea inspired me to make my own list today:

Bread (we still buy buns and the occasional sandwhich bread when I am being lazy)
Cookies, brownies, cake, pie
Most tomato products
A good portion of our veggies
Laundry Soap (I buy the ingredients though so not sure it counts)
Most cleaning supplies
Coffee creamer/flavors I usually stir in some Cajeta and cream when I have it
Soft Cheeses
Most of my own medicinals
Canned Soup

This is just off the top of my head. Last year's garden didn't really happen but this year I plan to do more. In fact having read that list I am aware of how little I progressed over the past year. Well, baby steps right?

This year I plan to add:
More of our own chicken
Hopefully Pork
All of our fruit and veggies
more snack items (Hubby has an unhealthy relationship with snack cakes)
Beet Kvass
Napkins I own a few but it is still habit to buy/use paper
Shampoo and Conditioner (still working on finding a recipe I like)
Bubble bath, Apparently mom doesn't plan on supplying me now that she shut her business down :(
Reduce the animal feed costs by growing field peas, beans to sprout, corn, sunflower seeds and extra squash and pumpkins.

I hope I/We have inspired you to make your own list and start playing the grocery store game! What can you make/use this week that you don't have to buy. What was one thing you thought was out of your league that now is part of your routine?

Be Blessed,

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Stitch In Time: Or Overcoming My Fear Of Sewing

I can't tell you how intimidated I have always been of sewing. I'm the type of person who can carefully cut out a pattern, lay it out on fabric and then stare in utter panic and not go one step further. Yes, I've done it. To be fair I have also sewed, with my mom, some pretty awesome things. For instance, I am a HUGE Renaissance Fair lover and for a while I went every year. My mother and I have sewn two flat out awesome gowns, one of which I still have. While wearing the latest one sever Fair actors would stoop low or curtsy and call me "Your Grace". (Admittedly one of the coolest parts!) The first dress, a purple confection, had a bodice that was too tight and I stepped on the hem and... well "popped" myself out of the top. Oops. A truly wonderful gentleman flung himself, quite literally, from his steed to stand with his back to me whilst I arranged myself back into the gown. I don't know his name but I am exceedingly thankful dear Knight Whoever You Were. Chivalry is not dead, it exists in grown men who dress up and act like they are from another time and place.

I have also managed a pair of pajama pants that, while comfy, are at least 2 sizes to big. Also 2 jean pillow covers for the sofa. I did those without Mom's help. That pretty much sums up my sewing experience to date.

However, several things have come to mind lately that make me desperately want to overcome my fear.

1.It occurs to me now that I am living an hour and a half from her that I can't make my Mom do all my sewing for with me anymore.

2. I actually own 3 sewing machines. A Singer electric of some sort, An Elna also electric, and the love of my life: An 1886 Singer Treadle Sewing Machine in perfect working order.

3. Hubby and I are reading a book series about a pioneer family in the 1890's and the wife gets her first Singer. While it is a fictional series the idea that they made EVERY SINGLE ITEM in their homes and on their bodies fascinates me on a deep level.

4. I've knit for a long time and lately I've been making my own patterns because I can't find exactly what is in my head. I feel like sewing gives me this opportunity on a grand scale because I can make just about anything I please.

Now I have been playing on my treadle lately but it isn't all roses and sunshine. I actually wanted to chuck it out the window and kick it for good measure. I am utterly happy that I can not lift the darn thing because not only would I have been mortified at losing such a treasure but c'mon let's be honest it's 88% CAST IRON! Kicking it is not the wisest choice.

Also can you just picture the ridiculous scene from across the street? You are calmly sipping your coffee and gazing out the window at the snow when suddenly... Something comes crashing through the window across the street! Oh no is everyone okay? Wait, what is this? Oh, it's the crazy lady, what is she doing now? She kicked it, whatever it is! Now she is hopping on one foot in her tee shirt and jammie pants (they look awfully large on her) in the snow. Isn't she cold?

No thanks. I probably scare the neighbors as it is.

This little scene was brought to you by Tension folks. Yes, tension. I googled it a lot today and I have found out that I am not alone in my fear/lack of knowledge about the windy knobby thingies and what it is they do. I did figure out how to adjust it to fix my problem though so the sewing machine will be staying in the craft room. For now.

So, wish me luck as I start off on another grand adventure!

Be blessed,

Monday, January 20, 2014

Such A Lovely Day Out

Finally we have some sunshine around here!
All the animals are out and I actually had to take off my Carhart while doing chores. That certainly hasn't happened in a while.

We have eggs again and I am ever so grateful. Our hens stopped laying in August last year and nothing, it seemed, was helping. Finally we switched from 16% protein layer pellets to 18% protein flock pellets and added a light 24/7 in the coop. Now every morning I have eggs to collect. It started out with just one... a little golden comet with her brown egg. This morning I picked up five, three brown, a green and the loveliest cream color.

We had a family birthday to attend yesterday and afterwards I drug Hubby off to Half Price Books. I love that place! I found an English Grammar book that was published in Ohio in 1868, signed by an owner, a Mr. Henry Bales. He received the book in 1874 and had lovely penmanship. Of course I had to buy it along with "Westward The Women" published in 1944, although I am not really certain what that one is about. I love old books and can't pass them up when they are so inexpensive.

We may have found the perfect farm truck. A friend has an old dually for sale that just needs some paint. It is supposed to run well and is in pretty good shape for it's 31 years. Hubby isn't thrilled that it is only a regular cab but since we rarely pick up animals/feed etc on the weekends we have his son I don't see it causing any problems. I have plans to take a load to the dump as soon as I have a truck! I know, I know, exciting stuff. Normally we recycle what we can and burn what won't cause environmental issues. However broken buckets from the extreme freeze we had, recycling from when the county collection was full and various odds and ends have built up. I'm ready for a clean slate. I'd like the yard to look like we care because we do have neighbors! On our street there is already a junk yard surrounding a house, we don't need to join them. Aside from all of that have you ever tried to weedeat around piles of falling down fence? Difficult doesn't even begin to describe it. The dump seems like a fantasy solution, even though it goes against our no waste policy, sometimes you just have to do the easy thing!

What did you do this weekend?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Let's Kick This Year Off With An Update!!

 We had a good year on the farm in spite of the confusion and limited funds. We kept ourselves and our animals fed, which was blessing enough for me. I'm looking forward to 2014 with hope tempered with some maturity. I think in the first year or two of farming we sometimes have a tendency to rush in headlong and try to do too much at once. I'm glad that we were able to accomplish as much as we did but I wish we'd have thought through some things better.

We built and lost a hay building and a greenhouse. I learned that we have a wind tunnel in our farm and now know I need to implement better structural planning. The greenhouse will be disassembled and moved behind the house. We will rebuild and patch it since some of the panels were lost completely to a tornado. So if you have a piece of corrugated plastic in your yard, my apologies! The hay building was originally made with pvc pipe and a $200 gray tarp from a local hardware. It has been replaced with steel pipe and wood frame courtesy of my parents who came to save the day so our hay would not be lost. We plan to order a used billboard tarp this week as the "heavy duty" one we have finally shredded, despite my best patching. I still think the pvc would have worked fine had it not been situated in a wind tunnel and if we didn't live in the tornado prone mid-west.

Due to the unfortunate loss of a friend's husband we acquired two new dairy goats. Between my husband and I we managed to milk one goat for two months. My husband tired of her attitude and refused to milk her and with my weird work schedule we dried her off. I miss the fresh milk and so do the cats. A friend I met while working offered to pick up our ladies and deliver them to his mother in law's buck for a small fee. I am awaiting April/May like only a farmer can, Hopefully there will be kids this spring.

Dulce and Shirley

I was gifted a wonderful NutraMill grain mill as a Birthday/Christmas gift from my folks and am so pleased with it. I can make my own flour and soak it now. I have also started sourdough, which is so much fun to have around. I can't wait until spring because I plan to plant a small patch of sorghum and barley just to try out in my mill!

A small bit of our harvest last year. I didn't plant much but we had some tomatoes, green beans, pears, pinto beans and sunflowers. We also got a small handful of strawberries and enough peaches, apples and pears to make wine.

Hubby bought me my a re-curve bow for my birthday and I have been practicing at home and with my kid brother. Brother has a compound bow and we like to tease each other about the differences. I love the traditionalism of it my bow, my brother loves the unmitigated power of his. I was telling someone recently that I am learning so that I can hunt turkey and deer. She said that it would be a nice thing to do with my husband. I think I shocked the poor gal when I politely said my husband doesn't hunt because with utter seriousness she asked why one earth I was "bothering" to learn in that case.
Well, for me that is simple. It is an extension of my food source, knowing where my food comes from. I also believe that ethical, respectful hunting allows animals to thrive. It is a fact of life that to eat meat you have to take life and I'd rather do that in the most respectful way I can, with an animal that has lived as it chose, instead of the ones who end up on Styrofoam. Does that make it easy for me? Not at all, and I hope it never is easy.

This year I am hoping to add Jersey Giant chickens, a couple lady sheep, and hogs. We need to add a lot of fence so that we can move our grazers around more effectively. Hubby has two friends who really want us to raise beef cows for them and while I am willing we don't have the fencing required.
The rest of my goals/plans for this year are mostly tools. We need a trailer and a working mower. I really want to go to school for small engine repair so that we can fix our own equipment instead of sending it out. At this point I'd be happier with a horse drawn mower, but again we need fence! Ah the circuitous way of planning!
We aren't as far along as I had hoped but now I realize that is okay. This life isn't a race, we can move forward at a pace that suits us. Enough about me, how about you? What did you accomplish last year? What are you planning/hoping for this year?

Be Blessed