Monday, September 30, 2013

Some Dreams Never Die

   Heavy in weight, cold to the touch, with dust covering its once beautiful form... My fingers brush the grime of ages off my find, and I can only softly smile at it. I'm so strange to be smiling at this. But it brings up such memories and past longings. I trace over the faded letters, touch the brittle ribbon, sigh over the fact that it's been neglected so.

  Before me, sitting at a garage sale, is a typewriter. In all its ruinous, rusty state, it sits silently and proudly. Unlike a broken iPod, Ultrabook, or MP3, it hasn't been cast away in the dump. People hold on to these things but don't know what to do with them. They're reminders of a past that was once more solid, and permanent. You didn't throw things away then, you fixed them.

  When I was ten years old, my favorite books to read were the American Girl books (yeah... I admit it), and I loved the character Kit. She was a writer, and had a typewriter that she would clackety clack on whenever she had a story. I read those books over, and over, and over again, purely because I liked the descriptions of the typewriter. I liked the noise, the solidity, the old fashionedness of them. And I dreamed of having one of those contraptions myself, one day. Not too much longer after that, a childhood friend of mine and I were exploring the attic in our church (her father was the pastor, so exploring and playing in the church was usually what we did together), and I found two pea-green colored typewriters. They were hideous to look at, were extraordinarily heavy, and had keys like a modern laptop, rather than the round, exposed ones you see on the truly old fashioned ones. But they still made that clackety clack noise. I wanted one so bad, but being the silly, shy young kid that I was, I was too scared to ask if I could rescue one from the dusty, dark abyss that the attic was. I think two years passed before I got up the nerve to ask about them... My mind had jumped to them every Sunday since I first found them; I would sit in the pew and try to focus on the sermon, but one far corner of my mind was still thinking about those ugly typewriters. When I did finally ask about taking one, I was told that I was one week too late... They had just cleaned those attics out and thrown the typewriters away, not knowing what else to do with them. It was like having a secret crush on someone for two years and then finding out that they like someone else besides you. You feel empty, and lost. Not really sure you heard things correctly.

  Owning a typewriter seemed like such a grand thing... Only writers had those things and used them, right? I always wanted to be "a writer" when I was growing up. But I was terrible at it, and was lost in the shadow of a younger sister who had natural talent for words. To me, having a typewriter was like someone handing me keys and saying "You are now a writer. You can now write all those words into sentences. Sentences into paragraphs. Paragraphs into stories. Stories into books. Go for it." I tried writing in my early teens, but there were always problems with it. I couldn't find a rhythm, a voice, a comfortable spot. The pens and pencils hated me. I wanted to type. To feel like a journalist who knew what she was doing. I craved the cold, hard keys that noisily sang the tune of the mind's thoughts turning into words.

  I saw many a more typewriters after those ugly pea-green ones. Some worked, some didn't. Some were rusted and covered in cobwebs, and some were pristine. Some were affordable, and some were way out of my price range. At garage sales, at antique stores, in people's homes. I never could bring one home though. Where would I put it? I was a writer who didn't know how to write, and one who had no space for her secret desire.

  When I was eighteen, the writing world opened up. It was my last year in school, and I had finally found one curriculum that taught language arts in a way that made sense to me. It wasn't easy, or fast, but through much determination and pure stubbornness, I cracked through the musty secrets of writing, and began unleashing all the pent up stories in my head. One by one they tumbled out. I wrote, and wrote and wrote. Much of it was poor work, and much of it still is, but I write because I love it.

   Today I sit here. Right now I sit here. My fingers do not press down on old, faded keys that create an antiquated font, but rather on a modern, sleek Dell laptop. The sound of the keys is not a noisy clickety clack, but a more subtle "click, click, click". My thoughts aren't being recorded on smudged paper, but on a screen in cyber space. I have come to love the elegance of modern technology. Ultrabooks that fold in half backwards and turn into touch pads, iPads that can fit in a purse, and Leap Motion plug ins that allow you to control things on your screen like Tony Stark does in Iron Man. In all honesty, I'm a geek when it comes to techy stuff. I don't necessarily understand the technology behind how it all works, but I'm a sucker for these new fangled things. I find them quite cool.

   However, there's still that corner in my mind that remembers the ugly pea-green typewriters. Still remembers the longing for a typewriter so that I too could be a part of the mysterious writing world. Still remembers the books with Kit, and still wants that tie to our history. Eleven years later, I'm sitting in front of a laptop and wishing I had a typewriter. It's always been my intention to "someday" buy a typewriter. It's like how I knew that someday I needed a good dog of my own. Having an old fangled, heavy machine that spits out words in a clunky fashion feels right to me.

   But now that I'm older, I have to face the realization that a typewriter isn't a very useful thing to someone who types things online. Typewriters only do paper. Don't they?

  Turns out that they don't. A week or so ago I randomly found one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen: A gentleman in Philadelphia is taking old typewriters, fixing them up and - get this - hacking them to work as a keyboard for your computer/laptop/iPad. I'm serious. Check out his website HERE.

  When I first saw the images of his work, I wigged out. Honest to goodness, wigged out. I wanted to scream and cry. Oh my word, these typewrites that worked with iPads and laptops were the marriage of the new technology that I love, and the old fashioned stability that I've swooned over since I first entered the double digits in age. This was mixing my childhood hopes and dreams with my present day needs. All wrapped up in that one invention is Kit, and the pea-green typewriters in the attic, and the longing to write, the fear to write, the feeling of being overshadowed by a younger sister who was better than me, the breaking through the fears, the stubbornness of becoming a writer even though others snorted at my attempts, and then comes to a slow halt at today. I think these have got to be the coolest things ever. You get the clickety clack and solidness of the typewriter, while still being able to type online. Just awesome.

   Someday I want one of these things. Maybe I'll splurge and buy his ready-to-use typewriters, or maybe I'll go with the cheaper route of buying the conversion kit and putting it on a typewriter that I find in one of my adventures yet to come.

   I became a writer without the typewriter. I always thought I needed one to get to the point that I'm at today. Now I've found that I didn't. But I still want one of those clunky contraptions. So that I can go clickety clack on my stories whenever I want...

Q&A Monday!

  I *almost* forgot to write today's post. Almost. Between trying to get an appointment set up with my vet this week (need to get a health certificate for Summer. She's going to a friend in Pennsylvania!!!), harvesting and planting the microgreens, and eating lunch; well... I was just about to post something else on here when I realized that it's Monday and I'm supposed to be answering questions!! I'm so off on my week days, and the week's only just started. This does not bode well. LOL.

  But here we go! I remembered just in time that it's Monday!

Penelope, you left a comment asking about making soap; specifically goat milk soap. I love making soap!! And especially the goat milk stuff! It's way easier than most people think, and much less dangerous than it's said to be (yes lye can do damage, but it's pretty easy to stay safe).

  My favorite recipe that I use these days is from a small raw milk dairy down in TN. I've used this recipe countless times, and I've also bought soap from these folks (yeah, ironic. A soap maker buying soap... I wanted to compare theirs with mine, okay!?). You can grab the recipe by clicking HERE! If you're serious about making soap, then I would highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend buying a good quality stick blender. The cheapest one at Walmart won't do it, either (trust me; that's what I bought and still fight with every time I make soap. It overheats really fast, stinks, and is poor quality).

 One tip I like to offer to soap makers is a twist on the stirring part. Pretty much all recipes (including the one I just gave you) will tell you to "stir the oils until you hit trace". This is code for stirring until your liquid oils/fats/lye turn into what honestly looks like banana pudding in consistency and you can trace smiley faces into it. I get really bored with all that stirring though, and when you've got an awful stick blender like mine AND you're doing a large 5+ lb. batch of soap, it can take an easy 1.5 - 2 hours to come to trace. I'm an impatient soap maker. So here's my tip on stirring: Stir with your stick blender for 15 solid minutes right off the bat. Then let the liquid sit still for 15 minutes. After that, stir for 5 minutes at 15 minute intervals. So basically you're letting it sit more than you're stirring. I love doing it this way, as I can go do other things while it's sitting, and my total stirring time comes out to about 20 - 25 minutes. I can handle that.

  I can't think of any books right off the top of my head that I like for soap making, but I have a couple websites. One is The Goat Spot, in their "Crafty Cabin" section. If I mess up a batch, or have a general question about something, then I usually go here to ask it since I get a pretty quick answer, and folks there are accustomed to using goat milk in their soaps. When I'm looking for soap making supplies, I like to shop at Bramble Berry. Their prices are decent, and their quality is really good. They also have a handy, dandy thing called a "lye calculator", which I prefer to call a "recipe creator". Hehe. This is what I use when I find I'm out of an oil that I needed, and now suddenly need to make up some sort of random recipe that will still make soap. You just enter the amounts of each oil that you want to use, and it tells you how much liquid and lye to add. Kaboom. You're cookin'.

  Those would be my tips and advice for you. I hope they help!!

Tasha, you had the next question, and that was "can does (female goats to new readers here) be bred in December? Breeding season typically starts in August/September, so not many people think about December breedings. To answer your question bluntly, yes. Goats will *usually* continue to come into heat up until January (I've had a few does keep cycling until March, and I ended up with August babies!). Nigerian Dwarfs will cycle all year around, so you can breed them whenever you want. I've always bred my does in November and December since I don't like cold weather kiddings, and I don't want them born during March which is our mud season (well, it's muddier than usual.). Breeding in November will give you April babies, and breeding in December will give you May babies. Lots of green grass and warmer weather during those months. :)

Kaia, I answered your question in the comments. Hope you don't mind!

 So there you have it folks! Soap and baby goats! Fun topics, if you ask me. ;)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Rejected Writer, The Rejected Farmer.

I am an enigma. An outcast. A reject. A freak.

   When I think about where I try to fit in, in the agriculture world, I realize that I am all these names I have libeled myself as. Truth is, I don't fit in anywhere in particular. I want to fit in, but I'm so middle of the road that both sides reject me. 

   I often times look around on the websites of varying organizations and magazines; looking to see if there's a position available for another writer (meaning me), and trying to get a feel for the place and what would be expected of a writer. And I keep coming to the same dilemma over and over again: I'm not passionate enough for the groups. The websites that naturally grab my attention are the ones that are for small farming practices, sustainable farming, grass based ideas... You get the idea. The problem is that I'm not willing to verbally slam the big farms. I can't bring myself to slander and yell at the farmers who grow corn and soy, and raise animals by the thousands in small barns. Yes I know that ultimately corn and soy crops aren't sustainable, and that the confinement barns are causing some serious problems with the ecosystem. But that doesn't mean that *I* want to degrade the people who do these things. They're human too, you know. These things are the livelihoods of folks, they rarely do their way of farming for money (in the end, do ANY of them!?), and frankly, we need them. The small farmers have a long way to go before we can replace the large farms (*gasp* did I just say that!? You bet I did!). Until we can figure out how to utilize our land in the most efficient manner possible, bring food prices down to something decent ($16 for a gallon of milk is not decent, in my book), and we can provide food year around for folks (because no matter how much we tell folks to start canning and freezing, not everyone will do it), we need those big farms. Yep, the confinement barns and GMO's are a big problem. But they're not going anywhere until we small farmers get off our rears, get outside (off of this blog!) and start doing everything we can to make things better (granted, we'll need political help too; so the lawyers and politicians better get busy as well). 

   Okay, so the "green", eco-friendly, small farming, Prius driving, $16-for-a-gallon-of-milk paying groups don't want me. I'm obviously not passionate enough about small farming and saving the world (please note the dripping sarcasm in this sentence) since I won't do my part in trying to send the big farmers on a guilt trip, and shaming the general public for eating store bought ground beef and buying 2% milk from the dairy aisle. So what does a freelance writer do? Well shucks, if that side of the pendulum won't accept me, what about the other side?

   Yeah. The "dark side". Oooh we're gettin' scary now. Wading deep into the belly of the beast, and brushing shoulders with folks who consider a 500 cow dairy to be "small". For the most part I feel lost in this group. I wander around forums and websites, gleaning information and getting a feel for these people. I can relate to a lot with these people, and feel pretty comfortable around them; in fact I think I'm more comfortable with this group, than the first group of folks I mentioned. These people are down to earth, skeptical about the global warming theory, know their way around back roads, and make jokes about PETA members. But I become an outcast in this area too. No writing positions available because, in all honesty, I'm a bit of a freak to them. I know about mob stocking cattle and raising broilers in chicken tractors. I can only have two cows because I leave my milk raw. I know how to whip up herbal remedies for sick animals. I think GMO's are wrong. 

   I can be so similar to each group, yet so different. Neither one wants me because I feel compassion towards the other instead of a bristling hostility. I so badly want to be writing more than I currently am. I want to be broadening my experiences on new and various platforms here in cyber space. But I seem to be hitting a wall. I can't give these organizations my 100% loyalty because I believe in balance; and since that's the case, no one wants me. Ouch. I feel like two people in one; half of me likes and wants to be in the circle of small farming, elitist people who will pay whatever price I tell them, organic everything, heritage livestock, solar power... I've been in this circle enough years to know my way around and understand it. But then the other part of me resists this circle. It's the part of me that loves the backroads lifestyle of hunting, fishing, mud, drawls, huge tractors and combines, cash crops, big dairies, fast growing, commercial breeds of animals, and prices that middle-class people can afford. I know this circle pretty well too. I may not know it as well as the small farming group, but I know it well enough to realize that this group feels normal and comfortable to me; whereas I feel a bit like a fraud in the first group since I like to grow Cornish Cross broilers, and I feel that the majority of dairy cows should receive grain. 

  Why can't there be an organization or some online place that is of the same middle-of-the-road thinking?? You know, some place that's "normal" (my idea of normal, that is. Probably not yours. LOL.), where instead of bashing the opposite side of thinking, we spend our time looking for ways to work towards the mutual goal that each side has, which is growing food for people in the most economic, efficient and sustainable manner? Why not try to blend these conflicting, arguing, name-calling sides, taking the best ideas from both and creating the brain child that turns out to be better? I see these things happening already; that's how we came up with electrified netting for fencing, and fodder is quickly becoming popular on large farms. What if the fodder worked so well for dairy farms that the farmers didn't need corn silage? So instead of turning the corn stalks into fermented feed, what if they put 10-20 hogs to the acre of that corn and let them "hog down" all that green material and grow fat on it (supplemented with other feeds of course)? Is it more profitable to hog down the stalks, or ferment it and feed it to dairy cows? And how many cows will an acre of silage feed, anyway? Maybe in the end it really would be more profitable to hog it down... Or maybe not. Sorry guys... I'm rambling here and losing track of where I was going with this. It happens when I need a nap. ;) 

   When all is said and done, I'm still an outcast and a freak. A freelance writer who doesn't seem to be wanted anywhere. But then, that's why I have this blog. So I can be my own editor and not have to try and fit in anywhere in particular. Who knows though, maybe I'll eventually find a place or two where my oddities are welcomed and I won't be expected to verbally bash anyone... A girl can dream, anyway. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Pinterest Link Up! Week #2!

It seems I underestimated how popular this idea of sharing my Pinterest finds could be. For the last 6 months, my most popular post I've written on here was my tutorial on how to grow fodder. And then that one single post with the Pinterest link ups that I did last week threw my stats off the wall. Wow. I got more views on that post than I've ever gotten on the tutorial in a span of seven days! 

Seeing the numbers behind that post has shown me that this does indeed seem like a good thing to keep going. :) So with that in mind, here's the next Link Up for y'all!!

A few quick notes though... First, just a reminder that all highlighted, bold words are active links, and will take you to the original website that I found. And two, I'm trying something different this week and am omitting the images from Pinterest. *sad, sad face* I like having the images, but it's really hard trying to get permission from the owner of the image, asking if I can post it here. I'm still tweaking and modifying things here, so who knows, maybe I'll eventually be back to posting images with the links.

Okay, now we're good to go. Let's see what I found on Pinterest!!

1. A Plan For Meat. Reformation Acres, a conservative, family oriented blog, writes up a post on how they plan how much meat to raise for their family each year. They grow chicken, beef, pork, and rabbit, and give the math behind how they decide how much of each thing to raise so that they'll have enough until next year! I really liked this post for the numbers. It's detailed, well laid out, and gives you a good idea on how to scale up or scale down your own plans so that there will be enough in your own freezer. 

2. Working Dogs: How To Pick the Perfect Pooch for Your Pastures. This is a direct link to a Mother Earth News post, and it's a four-page article on how to choose the best dog for your situation. Not sure what you need? Herding dog? Livestock guardian dog? A terrier for rodent control? Something that will "do it all"? I felt like the article gave a well rounded idea of what the different dog groups have to offer, and was handy in helping one decide what would be best for them. I won't make the mention that the English Shepherd is spoken highly of in the article, because that might - uh - sound a little biased. ;) *cough, cough*

3. Sheep 201. I love this website!!! Sheep 201 is not a blog; just your ordinary website, but my goodness is it ever PACKED with information on all things sheep. 

4. How to Raise Pigs. This link goes to the Righteous Bacon blog, which I mentioned a couple days ago... And it would also be the post that I found her through (thank you Pinterest!), and I was really impressed by the detail she lays out in planning for raising a pair of hogs. She goes over fencing, feed, shelter, health, transporting, and gives little tips here and there. And the pictures are great. ;) 

5. Dairy Goat Linear Appraisal. The name of this blog made me laugh when I first saw it: "Better Hens and Gardens". Hehehe. That's one way to put an agricultural spin on modern day decorating. ;) Puns aside though, this looks like a neat blog that I want to spend a bit more time sifting through. What caught my attention at the start though was a cool post explaining linear appraisal in dairy goats, and what to look for, conformation-wise in your caprine friends. I tend to forget that not everyone knows what the dairy jargon of "EEEV 91" means (meanwhile I'm literally wigging out over a goat that has a score like that). I felt like this post explains it pretty well, and even gives a visual on what a goat should look like.

6. Raising Pastured Pigs On No Grain. That got your attention, didn't it? Got mine too. Pigs are a single stomached omnivore that can't live solely on grass; so how does one still manage to skip the grain? Check out the link! It leads to another Mother Earth News article (just a short one this time) that explains my favorite method of raising omnivorous meat animals: Feeding milk. But this post doesn't go saying that you need to buy a cow, or goat, or sheep (or camel). Instead it explains how to get the outdated milk from your local grocery store. I like this idea, I've spoken with farmers who do this, and I'm determined to start doing it someday!

7. Glass Milk Bottles! This isn't an article... But if you've ever wondered where to find those lovely looking glass milk bottles so that you can upgrade from 1/2 gallon mason jars, then check this website out! The Red Hill General Store carries a lot of high quality products at a good price, and I am totally in love with their 1/2 gallon milk jars. Love, love, love them. ^_^ And they're surprisingly competitive in price in comparison to the mason jars that I've been buying for my raw milk all these years. When I get started back up with dairy animals, I will definitely be investing in these bottles. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Ask it!

'Tis Friday again, dear readers! So if you've got a question of sorts that you'd love an answer to, just shout it out in the comments below, and I'll answer it on Monday!

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Effervescence: To show liveliness, enthusiasm, vivacity, and/or exhilaration.

In short, effervescence = my dog when he's working stock.

Righteous Bacon

If there is one thing that catches my attention on websites and blogs, it is high quality photos. And when you put high quality content in tandem with the high quality photos, then you've got a winner right there.

I say all this because I found a new blog last night, and I'm already loving it.

It's called Righteous Bacon. Awesome name for an awesome blog. Check it out, by clicking the highlighted title!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Homemade Poultry Feed Recipes

I was cleaning out my big binder a few days ago, as it was stuffed to the gills with all my farming papers... All those receipts, records, phone numbers, addresses, notes, and miscellaneous things I had printed out for future reference were making my binder crack prematurely. One of those miscellaneous items that I had forgotten about was a sheet of feed rations for poultry, which the Fertrell company had listed on their website for folks. I liked the detail on the ingredient lists, and the fact that they state the protein amount for each thing; so these papers have stuck around. 

Then I had a thought: "Duh; I should share these on the blog!" And so here I am. :)

Fertrell Poultry Rations:

Chick Starter/Grower - 19% protein

. Shelled corn - 1015 lbs.
. Roasted Soybeans - 625 lbs.
. Oats - 100 lbs.
. Alfalfa meal - 100 lbs.
. 60% Fish meal - 75 lbs.
. Aragonite (calcium) - 25 lbs.
Poultry Nutri-Balancer - 60 lbs.
Total: 2000 lbs.

Pullet Grower - 16% protein
. Shelled corn - 1215 lbs.
. Roasted soybeans - 450 lbs.
. Oats - 100 lbs.
. Alfalfa meal - 100 lbs.
.60% Fish Meal - 50 lbs.
.Aragonite (calcium) - 25 lbs.
.Poultry Nutri-Balancer - 60 lbs.
Total: 2000 lbs.

Layer Ration - 17% protein
. Shelled corn - 965 lbs.
. Roasted Soybeans - 600 lbs.
. Oats - 100 lbs.
. Alfalfa meal - 100 lbs. 
. Aragonite (calcium) - 175 lbs.
. Poultry Nutri-Balancer - 60 lbs.
Total: 2000 lbs.

Notes from Fertrell:

. All rations should be medium ground, or rolled. The chick starter ration may be slightly altered for other species of fowl.

. For brooder chicks needing a 21% protein starter mix (meat birds, for example), add two pounds of fish meal to 20 lbs. (a five gallon bucket's worth) of the 19% starter/grower.

. For turkeys and game birds, make a 26% protein mix by adding four pounds of fish meal to 20 lbs. (a five gallon bucket's worth) of the 19% starter/grower mix. Feed day 1 through 28.

. To make a 21% protein mic for Turkey Grower #1, add two pounds of fish meal to 20 lbs. (a five gallon bucket's worth) of 19% starter/grower. Feed day 29 through 56.

. Once turkeys are out to pasture, feed them regular 19% starter/grower until slaughter.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Rainy Weather and Empty Pastures

We went 3 1/2 months with no rain, and boy howdy did it get dry around here. The ground cracked open in ugly ribbons. The dust made clouds when you walked the pathways in the pasture. The grass was brown and stiff; seemingly lifeless. And then we hit mid-September, and the skies opened up at long last. We've had a lot of rain these past few days, and I'm loving it. Today we got a flash downpour that reminded me of monsoon season down in New Mexico (don't really miss that... LOL.), and while it was tempting to dash outside during it (I'll never grow up on that score; I love being in the rain!), I instead stayed in. 

These days of rain have caused an amazing difference in the pasture grass already; it's greening up at a stunning rate, and everything is starting to look lovely again! I went outside after the downpour and snagged a few random shots... Just to celebrate the wetness of it all. Hehe. It was even cool enough for me to don my Carhartt coat, which was an extreme pleasure! ^_^

Apples from our trees! They're finally ripe and ready for picking!

I loved the reflection on the wood!

Raindrops on a clover... I thought it was awesome that the drops were so perfectly globular. 

And as of this morning, the livestock count around here is down to only a handful of goats. Ruby, my heifer calf, left today; leaving the pasture starkly empty. I'll be taking down the electric fencing this week, and then that will be it. The land will officially be fallow ground.

 It's quiet around here (well, except for Summer's screaming, but she's leaving in two weeks, so then things really WILL be quiet!), and rather lonely... Gyp and I used to go into the pasture each day to work on our herding skills (such as they are). Summer and Ruby were both dog broke, and each one offered a different style of herding challenges... Summer would circle me closely like a shark, which gave me the opportunity to work on Gyp's directions (circling us clockwise and counter clockwise). Ruby often times didn't like to be caught, but instead preferred to kick up her heels in play and run all over the pasture; so Gyp learned to "head" stock (instead of circling, they face the stock and try to stare them into being still). Let me tell ya', this dog may enjoy circling sheep and goats, but he LOVES heading bovines. There's a wild, silly, intensity that he throws into his heading; zooming around Ruby in a wide arc, trying to lock onto her gaze, and getting right into her face if she got stubborn. He would even take nips at her heels at times, one quick, gentle bite right below the dewclaw and then he'd slam himself to the ground so as to miss the inevitable kick that came afterwards. 

Ruby would let Gyp do his thing until she got tired of the game. Then she'd stand beautifully still while I walked up and worked with her. She really didn't care two hoots about that canine, once she was ready to be done. Gyp would sit at my side while I worked with Ruby; his tongue lolling, and a huge grin splitting his face. Oh that dog is happy around cows... 

But now everything is quiet. The heifer is gone, and Summer is leaving in two weeks.

Soon it'll just be me and the dog. Out walking through, silent, empty pastures...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Q&A Monday ~ Where To Find Local Food

I got a fun question to answer on the weekend, and that was a reader asking where to find local food. This is a question I got a LOT from milk customers, or just other random people who are curious. Sure, we all see those small farms and homesteads as we drive by them, or we might see a sign here and there saying "Eggs for sale", but what about when we're looking for some place where we can get as many things as possible from one spot? Or when we're looking for a farm that's in a specific area? So I thought it would be fun to give y'all a heads up on places to check out, as well as answering the direct question of the week.

We'll start off by answering the broader question of, "How do I find local farms" and then get more detailed from there... There are lots of websites that will host listings of local farms; I personally stick with about four sites, since I'm a girl of very little brains (and obviously one who has been watching too many Winnie the Pooh movies lately), and I lose track of places, people, and things when I try to get broader in my memory scope. 

Which four would I recommend the most, you ask? Good question. I'll list them from my most favorite link first, and then go down from there. (P.S. highlighted words are active links)

1. Local Harvest ~ I really like local harvest. It's easy to find things on here, it's well laid out, and it's helpful for the farmer and consumer alike. You can search for farms near you, or you can use the cool sidebar and search for specific items (I use this frequently when I'm searching for non-perishable items that can be shipped). 

2. Eat Wild. ~ I like Eat Wild because there's usually a good number of listed farms, and those that are listed fit the criteria of the website which is very specific and detailed. The only downside I see to this website is that you have to scroll, scroll, scroll, through the list in hopes of finding a local farm. It's alphabetically listed by farm names, rather than cities, so if you're searching for a farm near you, then get comfy; it might take a while before you see what you want. Other than that, I like it. I've always wanted to be listed on Eat Wild, but my farm has yet to meet the criteria. (I fed too much grain to my high producing milk cows to meet the criteria necessary; and rather than decreasing my grain amount, I chose to just not join. Maybe someday I'll have hardier cows though, and then I can join!)

3. Real Time Farms ~ This website has been so neat to watch as it's grown!! I was the very, very first Oregon farmer to be listed on here. It was lonely. And rather disheartening at the start. But it took off like a rocket and now there's no lack of Oregonian farms! I like RTF because it's fun, easy to use, specific to your searches, and has the option of farms, farmers markets, artisans, and eateries (I guess that's now the posh thing to call a restaurant??).

4. FarmPlate ~ This is another one of those websites that is fairly new but has a good following behind it. I admit that this is the last website I visit when I'm searching for something, although it's not for any reason against the site itself! It's certainly easier to find a farm on here than on Eat Wild, and shows more info upfront than Real Time Farms does. Shucks, the listings even give the exact mileage from where you started your search (e.g. McMinnville, OR), to each farm. I guess I tend to forget this place... Old habits die hard. I've been visiting the other websites a lot longer than I've known about FarmPlate, so perhaps it'll just take a bit more time for the ol' memory to remember coming here before giving myself a headache as I scroll through Eat Wild.

These are my four favorite websites. :) And this is how I generally start finding farms near me. And generally speaking, farmers know each other. So if you find one, but they don't have what you're looking for, there's a good chance that they'll know someone who does.

Having said that, I guess that's my cue to do more than talk the talk! Beth, let me introduce you to some of the farmers in our area!! 

1. Cast Iron Farm ~ This is a quick, easy drive to get to in McMinnville. I believe Christine primarily focuses on raw milk these days, and she does the job well. (her dairy parlor is to die for. Seriously.) 

2. Everbearing Farms ~ Everbearing Farms is a bit of a drive from you and me, Beth, seeing as it's in Woodburn, but I like this place. This is where my summer flock of sheep came from, as well as Cinnamon the Holstein/Jersey cow. Friendly, helpful folks here, selling vegetables and flowers. :) 

3. Oakhill Organics ~ Located on Grand Island (just outside of Dayton), the Kulla's run a year-'round, full diet CSA. I worked here for a short time last winter, and can attest to the fact that they have a wide variety of food that they offer! I have no idea if they have room for 2014 members, but I suppose a body could always ask if they were interested. ;)

4. Kookoolan Farms ~ Okay, in all honesty I don't know a lot about this place. What I do know though is that every time I speak with a local about food, they always instantly know who Kookoolan is. Ditto for farmers. They have vegetables and meats, as well as a small on-site store that they sell cheese making supplies through. They used to offer milk as well, but I believe they just stopped...

5. Working Hands Farm ~ This would be another drive for a person living in Mac... But personally, I think the drive would be worth it. I follow Jess and Brian's blog (ahem, and their FB page... If I did instagram then I'd most likely follow them on there too), and between their stories and photos, I'm intrigued by this pair of hardworking folks and their eye catching farm. I haven't officially "met" Jess and Brian... I saw them at the raw milk tour that was held at Cast Iron Farm some time ago, but I was in too much awe of them to walk up and shake their hands and introduce myself (and yes, I regretted not doing so, afterwards). Offering their customers fruits, vegetables, dairy, eggs, and honey in a well thought out CSA (I admit... I drool over their handmade wooden boxes that they put shares in.), they also do fun things like movie nights on the farm and other such things.

These five are probably the top five I can think of right off the top of my head. Search around on Local Harvest, Eat Wild, Real Time Farms, And FarmPlate though; you'll be sure to find lots of others in the area that have what you're looking for!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pinterest Link Up

Yes, this is new; no, you haven't been missing it for years and years without knowing it. This idea is a mix between wanting to justify my time on Pinterest a bit better (strange things happen when a farm girl doesn't have animals to keep her busy... Finding Pinterest would be one of those strange things), as well as just wanting to share some of the neat things I've found on there with y'all. :) Pinterest can be a treasure trove of information if used wisely (or 100% pure fun and wasted time if you let it be. Hehehe.).

So here we go folks, let's try this crazy idea and see how it pans out! And just a heads up, all the words in bold are active links that take you directly to the original website that will give you the information you're looking for.

1. Wintering pigs in a greenhouse! I enjoyed this link! A family raises a few pigs in the fall/winter each year, letting the pigs go hog wild (couldn't resist) in the fallow garden, and sheltering in the greenhouse (that has been strengthened to handle the porcine race). The writer also explains their fencing, feeding, and watering setup. Good read, and a clean website.

Wintering Pigs in a greenhouse. Photo courtesy of 'Our Little Farm'.

2. Choosing a Dairy Cow: Breeds. It seems that I'm a person who likes lists. I didn't think I did, but maybe I do a little bit... Anyway, this link was super handy since it lists the different dairy breeds and their pros/cons very neatly and seems pretty accurate! If you're wanting the black and white on each breed so you can compare which one would be better for you, then here you go. The website is a professional looking blog called 'The Well Fed Homestead' and so far I like the place... I'll have to spend some rainy afternoon poking around there a bit more, but so far so good. :)

Choosing a Dairy cow breed. Photo courtesy of 'The Well Fed Homestead'.

3. Homemade Chick Starter. I've had a lot of people ask me if I know of a good recipe for starting chicks, and while I haven't tried this exact recipe (I didn't have any millet at the time), I think this is the one I will go with next time I get to raise chicks. Link goes to a personal blog that's got clean content.

Homemade Chick Starter. Photo courtesy of  'A Homegrown Journal'.

3. Free printable milk records. The Prairie Homestead. Need I say more? Shucks, with almost 20,000 followers on her blog, I hardly feel like I have to introduce this place. LOL. But she's got a handy, yet simple, printable sheet so you can keep track of your dairy records. Because believe it or not, you WON'T remember how much your dairy animal gave you this morning in three months time. Trust me, I've got 6 years of milking behind me, and that means six years of saying "Oh, I'll remember how much they gave..." Yeah right. I can't even remember what I had for breakfast three days ago.

Free printable dairy records. Photo courtesy of The Prairie Homestead

4. Pallet Hay Manger. It's just cool. I like pallets. To me, they're like the lego of the construction world. That, and they seem pretty non-threatening to this farm girl who is typically wary of any type of building projects that don't call for PVC or duct tape. I can do pallets. The link this project leads to is a clean, simple farming blog, but the info on actually building this manger is precious little. You're basically going off the image. Looks like a solid bottom and 4 whole pallets to me... 

Pallet Hay manger. Photo courtesy of Homesteading Wife.

5. Disaster preparedness. The image says it all. I think this has got to be the greatest way ever to organize and label your outdoor working tools. Just think, this way even visitors will have a clear idea of what to do if zombies suddenly attack!! Or, if nothing else, it'll bring a laugh to those who pass by...
No link to this image. ;) It is what it is. (and yes, I posted it more as a spoof. But seriously... Zombie preparedness. It's a good thing.)

Photo courtesy of

There you have it folks! Just a few neat things I've found online lately. What think ye'? Would you like to see the Pinterest Link Up become a weekly Saturday thing or not? I would really love your opinion on this. After all, if no one's interested then that means I can sleep in on my Saturday mornings after all. ;)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Ask It!

I used to do this in the past... Every Friday I would ask y'all if you had any questions that you wanted answers for, and then I'd answer them the following Monday. I've decided to try picking this habit back up again, and since it's on my blogging calender/schedule, I might be able to remember to do it now. Hehehe.

Got a question? Ask it in the comments! It can be anything from farming stuff, to wondering how I do something here on the blog, to some random personal question you've always wondered but never knew how to ask (I do retain rights to keep some things private though. Remember? I'm an introvert. *grin*).

Ask away my friends! If I don't have the answer you're looking for, then I'll do my jolly best to find someone who does, or if that fails too, then we'll all just throw our hands in the air and decide that the question is unanswerable. I'll do my best to stick to the first option though.

Clear As Day

Of all the country singers I listen to, Scotty McCreery is probably one of my top favorites. I was floored the first time I heard him; couldn't believe that a voice that deep could be coming from someone so young (he was 17 when he made the song below). I also like it that his music is quite clean where lyrics are concerned; something that's not always easy to find in the world of country music.

His song 'Clear As Day' is one of my favorites (I have a few faves though... LOL.). It's a slower song that tells a story. And the ending always gets me. Always takes me by surprise. Each time I listen to it, I think some part of me hopes that it'll end differently. It has yet to, but hey, maybe someday...

I tried to upload a Youtube for y'all, but the only one that was good was restricted. -_- Ah phooey. All is not lost though. Here's a Grooveshark bite for ya'! 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Check It Out!

Psst! Try hovering your mouse over any image on this blog! See that little button that magically appears? That just made your Pinterest life easier. ;) Click the button and it'll pin the image you want, right onto your board. I'm not making this up! Try it!

I shall now sit here smiling like the Cheshire cat. I'm quite rusty when it comes to HTML codes, so I wasn't expecting this to work. But lo and behold, it did.

Coming Back

Being caught in the slow flurry (no other way to put it... If you've ever moved, then you'll understand me) of preparing to go out of state for a good while has left me trying to readjust myself, my schedule, my life. It's an odd place to be, and I've said that before. But this uncertainty and change has also crept into my blogging life; since the beginning of August I've felt really unsure about what to write. Heck, I'll come clean; I haven't know what to write about AT ALL. And when faced with that uncertainty I unconsciously shut down. If I don't know what to write, well then I just won't write at all! In short, I created a burnout in myself. I missed writing, but at the same time it didn't sound appealing to do. Logging into my Blogger account was like someone shoving bad news into my face. "Well look who's back! Hey there you big failure farm girl! You finally came back, eh? Here's a reminder that you have no animals at present, you lost two cows in a span of 6 months, and you gave up a whole bunch of great opportunities here in Oregon so that you can go gallivanting off to Missouri! Enjoy trying to find something to write about, girl. You know you won't think of anything."

Sometimes I really hate that voice inside my head...

But today I threw that voice out. Evicted it and gave it a 30 second notice to go away. And with that, I picked up the shredded pieces that were left of my writing habits, lovingly dusted them off and began making changes.

A blog can be just like a business. If you don't have a firm foundation, how can you expect to succeed? With that thought in mind, I collected materials for my afternoon... Pretty colored, glittery twistable crayons (I hope I never outgrow glittery twistable crayons), a calendar, notebook, and a bowl of ice cream. It was time to get a foundation down for this dusty ol' blog.

The next hour was spent writing. Slowly, sloppily, painfully (carpal tunnel doesn't like twistable crayons. Boo.), but I stubbonrly wrote along. Wrote myself a mission statement for this place, wrote short, medium, and long term goals, brainstormed post ideas, set a schedule, used my glittery crayons on my printed calendar so that I'll know what to write each day, and wrote up a wishlist for small changes I want to see on my blog template.

By the time my hour was over, my ice cream was gone (except for the melted part that my fork couldn't pick up... I don't like to use spoons), my purple crayon was dulled, my hand was sore, but boy howdy did I have a list before me! I feel organized now *smiley face*, and I feel good about my plans. They're not huge, but they're steady. That's what I need right now, steadiness in this sea of change. 

I'm coming back, folks. Thanks for waiting on me.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Impulse Buy

I had a small gift card for (one of my most favorite websites!!), and at first I figured I would spend it like I usually do: Buying a new book. 

Then I saw something else and on an impulse, bought it right then and there.

It was this:

It's a dog tag, with the confederate flag etched on the front of it. I like dog tags, and I definitely like anything with the Rebel flag on it; so buying this little gem was a no-brainer!
There were two options, either a dog tag in color (the ol' red, white, blue coloring), or black and silver. I chose the classier looking black/silver for my first one, since I can wear it with absolutely anything and it looks awesome. ;) The colored one is next.

Yankee I am not. And this impulse buy seemed like a great way to show my Southern Pride.
Long live the South!!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Rain Poured.


Not a gentle rain. Not a soft rain. Not a rain to merely cut the dust.

No. A rain that comes down in sheets. Falling heavily. Coming down so hard that it stings the bare skin. Soaks to the bone in minutes. This is the rain I have for weeks prayed would come.

And this evening it came. In all its fierce, harsh, torrential power it came down from the leaden skies.

I watched from a window in awe. It's been so long since we've had a true rain like this. I didn't last long at the window though; some feral part inside me wanted - or perhaps needed - to be a part of this and celebrate its arrival. I have waited for this day and could now wait no more. Staying inside left me pacing like a caged wild cat; the pent up energy was enough to rival that of an OCD Border Collie.

The urge was too strong to control. I ran and pulled out the long bow. Strung it with an ease that only comes with much practice. Reaching back into the closet, I slid a handful of arrows out of the quiver; for some reason I had no patience to use that little bag that clips neatly onto my jeans and holds the arrows for me. Nope, didn't want it today. I gathered my simple, silent tools; one bow that stands almost as tall as me, and four slender arrows. Harbingers of death. And with that, I dog trotted outside, beyond the confining walls that create a house. I could not withstand this cage right now... I needed a wild, fierce freedom.

The sudden hit of rain was almost a shock. Cold, wet, harsh; the rain's fury was untamed and unparalleled. I could only grin in anticipation at the thought of being a part of this wildness. It satisfied something deep within me to be able to not only withstand the elements, but fight back in my own small way.

Time was fleeting, and I was eager to set my arrows flying. Gates take too long to deal with, so I instead jumped over the fence in one swift move. I landed on the other side, and in the pasture; my playing field for the evening. Setting an arrow on the bowstring never fails to send a small thrill through me... It is calming, focusing, quieting, empowering, and wildly exciting all at the same time.

Rain poured. I loosed my first shot, not aiming at a target but merely wanting length of flight. To loosen up, get a feel for how to shoot through such driving rain. I set the second shaft and took in my surroundings. Inhaled smoothly as I drew my string back. Three fingers on the right hand create a claw, holding your your arrow, holding your string. Draw back to your cheek, your ear. Draw and hold. Elbow level, neither pointing up or down. Draw and hold. Sight your target. Release. The arrow flies off the string with such power that a ribbon of rain water follows behind it like a streamer. Rain water bounces off the bow string, ricocheting into a display similar to a firework.

Rain poured. Stung my exposed skin. My bare arms, bare head, bare feet. I wanted to be in the rain; I had no hat, no coat, no shoes. I did not want them. Wanted to feel the driving rain which has for so long been only a prayer.

More arrows were shot; all equal in length, steadiness, and target impact. I was blissfully happy to be out in this powerful torrent, doing one of my favorite things. Feel the bow string slam against your left wrist, left hand. See the welt and bruise forming. Feel the aching pain in your fingers from drawing the string over and over again. Feel the pain and own it. It means you're alive; alive enough to be standing outside in a storm that not even the hardy sheep want to brave.

Rain poured. I cannot physically become more wet than I am... Feel the rain run down my face, get in my eyes, drip off my chin. My shirt clings to my spine, my hair clings to my neck. Jumping in the creek that borders our property could not make me wetter than this. Puddles have formed in this short amount of time; I run to retrieve my arrows; run through puddles through sodden grass that squelches and yields to pressure with each step of my small bare feet. Dry dirt turns to mud and I do not avoid it. I love mud just like I love the rain. As long as I run and shoot arrows, I am warm. Warm and do not care that I am as wet and ugly as a drowned rat right in this moment. The huntress in me will not be satisfied until I can prove to the storm that I can stand up to it and hold my own. 

I shoot my arrows for an hour. Sixty minutes in the pouring rain. I am so in love with this moment, yet also wish there was someone next to me shooting their arrows too. The only thing better than shooting in the rain and mud is having company to laugh and yell with you through the whole thing. But for today, I do this alone. A solitary, lonely creature out in weather that no one else wants to endure. 

My fingers come close to beginning to bleed. My shots are beginning to become unsteady; I accidentally shoot an arrow that weaves itself through four holes in the livestock fencing. How I did that I will never know... My time is up; the storm has held out longer than me. I pick up my arrows for the last time down in the low part of the pasture. It's hard to look down to see them because then the rain water runs in my eyes. I retrieve all four of them; knowing full well that if I lose one then I have to replace it with two new ones. Such was the deal I made with my younger sister who owns these particular arrows. I do not run back up to the house, but walk slowly. Through the rain, I meander; thinking how I would like to buy hot pink camouflage arrows. Not because I like that color, but because it would make spotting them in the grass so much easier.

I climb back over the fence; careful not to hit the bow on the old, creaky wood that threatens to crack while my muddy, wet feet are still on it. Walk up to the house and realize a sense of satisfaction. Contentment. Quietness. I needed that hour with my arrows... Needed it more than I thought. I turned to go inside and then heard a noise that normally sends a chill of dread through me: Thunder. I looked at the angry sky that was still releasing rain with immense force. Listened to the rumble of thunder die away into ethereal nothingness. And for the first time in my life, I felt no fear. No dread. No anxiety at the thought of more thunder and lightning. All I felt was a contented tiredness after an hour of physical activity; let the storm come, I've already been out in it for sixty minutes.

And with that, I walked inside. Soaked to the bone, dripping wet, mud on my arrows... And I was happy. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Count Those Eggs Before They Hatch

If you've ever tried hatching your own chicken eggs, then you probably know what an annoying thing it is to not know how many males are going to end up being in that batch when they hatch. And what's worse, is that you usually still don't know who's who until the chickens are mature enough (6-8 weeks on average; some folks can guess sooner, others later) that you can tell by looks as to who's a male and who's a female. A place only needs so many roosters, you know...

A couple days ago I learned two neat tricks to telling the difference betwixt male and female chicks not only when they're 2-week old youngsters, but possibly even when they're just an egg. I can't claim that these are fool proof since I have yet to try this (dying to, now though! My curiosity is killing me!), but so far I've heard a lot of positive results from other folks about these. And hey, it can't hurt right? If you're about to let a hen go broody, or if you want one last batch of eggs in that incubator, then it sure wouldn't hurt to pay a bit more attention to those eggs, right? 

So without further ado...

Below is a diagram of the difference between "pullet eggs" and "cockerel eggs". And should you care for the link to the original article on this (to prove that I'm not going nuts and making this up), you can find that by clicking HERE. It's a Mother Earth News article, so it may take a few moments to load (or it does for me anyway).

Aaaand the second trick: Sexing chicks by their wing feathers. Okay, I personally think this is the coolest thing. The bees knees, if you will. ;) This looks so simple that I'm practically foaming at the mouth to get my hands on some tiny chicks and see for myself that this holds true. I mean, seriously, do you know how handy that would be if I knew how many pullets vs. cockerels I was looking at, so early in the game!?!? Or what if I was buying 2-3 week old chicks from a breeder and wanted to get as many females as possible!? Yep, I'm pretty excited to learn this trick. So, the handy dandy link to this new knowledge can be found by clicking HERE! The link leads to a fun looking homesteading/homeschooling/homemaking/family oriented type blog.

Have any of y'all tried either of these tricks before? How'd they work??