Monthly Archives: November 2008

Video of the Damage

Thank you to everyone who left kind thoughts for us on the last post. We do have insurance. We spoke with the adjusters today and one of them will be stopping by this evening to take some pictures. The insurance company will be sending a fire investigator out to confirm our suspicions that the cattle started the fire by chewing through the cord on their stock tank heater. Brian ran the cord through a thick metal pipe to prevent this problem but the cattle must have pulled on it enough and reached the end. It is heartbreaking to think that this could have been prevented, and we will be looking in to different methods of providing water in these freezing temperatures.
Our cattle are safely at a friends’ with his cattle. We’ll make long-term arrangements for them once we see how long it is going to take to rebuild. The building that burned was not ideal for our plans and so we may be redesigning it before we replace it. I feel that the threat of fire is just one more reason that raising animals on pasture is a far superior method.

Here’s some video I took yesterday after the firefighters got the flames out. It shows the damage inside as well as the lean-to that the cattle were in.

Disaster at the Farm

Don’t know where to start – there was a fire at the farm here today. Half of our big shed is ruined along with the big lean-to we added on last fall. Thank god for our dogs, we were trying to sleep in this morning and they saw the fire out the window and barked until we woke up. It was too late to stop the fire but we saved all the cattle, the tractors, and the hay. Losses include all of the corn and oats we had kept to feed and heat our house, plus our planter and multiple gravity wagons/corn wagons. Our friends and neighbors have already rallied around us and helped in every way possible. We are so grateful.
I took some video of the damage today so I’ll be posting that if I can get it to load properly. I figured this will be a part of the farm’s history and we might as well record it to show our kids someday. It just feels like I’ve been punched in the stomach. I’ll be posting updates in the coming days.

Homemade Laundry Soap: Liquid

My Mom & I have been using this recipe for years now so I thought I would share it. It came from our local paper, author unknown.

Liquid Laundry Soap Recipe:

3 pints water
1/3 bar Fels Naptha soap, grated
1/2 cup Super Washing Soda
1/2 cup borax
1 quart hot water
2 gallon bucket

Note: You may be able to get your local grocer to order the Fels Naptha for you, or you can find it online. The grocery store should have washing soda and borax, looks near the stain removers and other laundry aids.

Step #1: Mix grated soap in a large saucepan with 3 pints hot water. Heat on the stove over low heat until dissolved. Do not allow to boil.

Step #2: Stir in Super Washing Soda and 20 Mule Team Borax. Stir until thickened. Remove from heat.

Step #3: Add 1 quart hot water to 2 gallon bucket. Add soap mixture and mix well. Fill bucket with more hot water, leaving a few inches at the top, and mix well. Set aside for 24 hours or until mixture thickens. Use 1/2 cup of mixture per load.

I like this mixture a lot and find it to work well on my clothes. My husbands really dirty/greasy jeans don’t clean well in it but they didn’t respond well to store-bought detergents either. We have pretty hard water, my Mom has soft water, and it performs well for both of us. I like that it is a liquid and that it lacks dyes and perfumes, since they sometimes irritate my skin.

Let me know if you try it or if you have any other laundry tips/recipes! :)

(Note: I took pictures of this entire process but they won’t load right now so I’ll try again later!)

Today, as I sit and look at my list of errands to run, I am thankful that we have the funds and vehicles available to do these little everyday tasks. One of the things on my list today is to drop off recycling. I am so lucky to live in a place where we have a wonderful recycling company and great people working there. I was very disappointed in our roadside pickup service so I’m glad to have found an alternate drop-off point. If you’re local the place is Tuscola County Recycling.

Sunday Stroll

Here’s found I saw today as I walked around the yard.

The garden freshly mulched for winter:


Lots of hay ready to be fed:

The last of the new landscaping, until spring:

Chickens happily eating apple scraps:

And then later, it snowed!!:

Check out who else is stolling today over at Quiet Country House.

Today I’m thankful for the space we have here to call our own. It is so nice to relax at home on a weekend and take a break from the rest of the world. I love having the yard to decorate the way I like and the house that feels more like home every day.

How to Store Carrots, and Save them for Seed

Today it was supposed to starting raining/snowing at around noon. I was determined to get some work done outside before the bad weather hit so I headed outside about 10AM. First I finished landscaping a spot near our back door. Now I have lawn edging and stone around two sides of the house. I’ll do the other two sides in the spring. I’m still amazed at the difference – it looks so much nicer. I’ll have to post before and after pics sometime.

I really wanted to get the garden mulched today but that didn’t happen. Both of our wheelbarrows are full, one has a flat tire, and I really didn’t feel like opening up the big shed doors to lug out a bunch of hay for mulch.

So instead, I dug up all of our carrots. The book Root Cellaring by Mike and Nancy Bubel is a great one to study in regards to food storage. Since the book said carrots can be left in the ground all winter in milder climates, I figured mine were safe out there for awhile. However, with lots of freezing temps in the forecast I needed to get them out before the ground froze. I think they were on the verge of getting too big, not sure how that would work if you left them in the ground all year.

Here is a picture of this year’s crop:

After changing in to dry clothes (it did start raining on me) and warming up, I sorted and cleaned up the carrots. Any carrots that were affected by worms or too small to bother storing went in a bowl for the rabbits, along with all the green tops. I’ll feed them a handful a day along with their regular diet. Most of the carrots I just snapped the tops off of, wiped them down with a dry washcloth, and snapped the long, thin tip off the root. I picked out 10 exceptionally nice carrots to save for seed next year. I just wiped them down and trimmed the tops down to an inch or two, leaving the tips long
Here’s what I ended up with after sorting:


Seed carrots


Carrots to eat


Carrots and tops for the rabbits

According to the book, you can store the carrots by layering them in a box or can in damp sand, sawdust, or leaves. We have a lot of leaves but it seems like they would get very slimy and I don’t like the idea of reaching in to slimy leaves for dinner. I also worried sand that sand might introduce bugs or, around here, remnants of cat poop. I felt safest using sawdust and our friends gladly supplied me with a huge bag full. It was actually more like wood shavings, which I think will work fine.
My husband just mentioned one of our coolers had lost the drain plug and sprung the hinges so he was going to put it in the garbage. I found it in the garage and it turned out to be the perfect container for storing carrots.
I didn’t have a spray bottle to wet the sawdust with. Instead, I filled a pot with water and dumped in the shavings a little at a time. Then I could scoop out handfuls and squeeze them out. Per the book, I spread a 1 inch layer on the bottom, laid the carrots out in a single layer, covered them with another inch of shavings, and repeated. Like this:


Wetting the sawdust


One layer of carrots


Covering them with another inch of material


My workstation

When I was done I added another inch or two of sawdust and covered it all with a couple of layers of wet newspaper. The book says they should last until May or later if kept cool and moist. Specifically, they like 32-40 degrees F and 90-95 humidity. I’ll be moving the cooler to our upstairs where it is not heated and should stay quite cold. If it gets too warm there I’ll try the attic since that is not insulated. Frequent checks to keep the shavings and newspaper damp should help.
I stored the seed carrots with the rest and will pull them out and plant them again in the spring.

Feel free to share your storage techniques for carrots, or let me know if this helps you! :)

Again for the month, I’ll be adding a note about something I’m thankful for to each post. Today was easy – of course I’m grateful to have all this great food! It is such a wonderful feeling being able to set aside food to feed us throughout the year. I’m lucky to have a place to do it and the resources to learn how.

Bob Waldrop and Someday: A Tri-Cities Food Coop!?

So I attended a very interesting presentation Tuesday night titled, “Re-inventing the Family Farm”. I found the flyer at the Greenstone Farm Credit office of all places, which made me a little leery to attend. However, the presentation was by Robert Waldrop, President and General Manager of the Oklahoma Food Coop. The coop is incredibly successful, more so than I would have ever expected.

Mr. Waldrop was hosted by Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU), almost an hour away from where I live. I had no idea there was so much great work in progress at SVSU. They are working on everything from vermiculture and hydroponics to alternative energy development. For more information on the projects going on there check out the Green Cardinal (the cardinal is the school mascot) and the last few posts on Bob Waldrop’s blog. While you’re on Bob’s blog scroll down to the post about 20 Things to Do Now that the Election is Over. I found it very interesting and motivating.

So, back to the presentation. Really it was mostly practical advice and tips on how to start and operate a large food coop. I have considered in the past the idea of trying to start a small coop in my area but I decided my efforts would be better spent on producing the food and direct marketing on my own. Although I would love to help out with a big coop, I was really hoping for more information from the producer’s standpoint.

The excitement came at the end for me when I spoke with Dr. Christopher Schilling, he is one of the SVSU faculty heading up this initiative and the man doing most of the research I mentioned earlier. I described our situation to him, i.e. that we have 74 acres we are cash crop farming and we are looking for a way to make the land more productive. I also shared that we are starting out with some freezer beef and eggs and that I would be very interested in being a part of any future coop. My interest was welcomed and encouraged.

It was so thrilling to be around a group with so much positive energy towards this subject. It is easy to feel discouraged as we try to get the farm going. The presentation was exactly what I needed to get me looking on the bright side again.

On a side note, I’ve also been slowly making my way through You Can Farm by Joel Salatin. I was a little disappointed when I read his Salad Bar Beef but You Can Farm is wonderful! I’ll post a book review when I’m done. Between the book and the presentation I am feeling ΓΌber motivated.

If you’d like to share your thoughts, I’d love to hear them!

Oops – almost forgot. Today I am thankful for my ability to learn, and the freedom we have in the USA to do what we want with our lives and share information.

How to Buy Locally: 9 Easy Steps

I’ve been working on my post for the APLS Carnival for a couple days now and it turned in to me blabbing on about reasons why buying locally is good, etc.,etc. I decided to put together something quick and basic instead. I’ll leave the philosophical parts to someone else.

Assuming you support the idea of buying local products here are 9 easy steps to get you started:

1. Get yourself some reusable bags.
Ironically, you may not find these locally. You could always make them yourself, or the organizers of you local farmers’ market may have bags with their logo on them. My personal favorites are baggu bags, available on Amazon.com. There are several options out there so if you can’t find some locally look around online. It is still better than using plastic or taking new paper ones every time. Plus, a lot of vendors don’t even have bags.

2. Get organized! Find a spare little notebook in your desk or find a spot in your PDA for “local” contacts. When you find the one guy in 100 miles that grinds flour, you don’t want to lose his phone number! It helps if you have a place to store business cards.

3. Find out what’s in season when. Google the information for your area and print it off. If strawberries are only in for 2 weeks, you want to know about it. When they’re gone – they’re gone. This will help keep you from getting the call that your 2 bushels of peaches are ready the day before your wedding (like I did). If you’re really going to eat local, you’ve got to plan around the seasons.

4. Have a plan in place to preserve some foods for the off season.
This goes along with #3. Keep an eye out for recipes you like and store accordingly whether it be drying, freezing, or canning. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Someone’s Grandma would love to teach you to can. See my post about apples to get you started.

5. Check out sites like Local Harvest to find farmers’ markets and growers in your area. Most states have a website devoted to local companies and products. Search for “Michigan made” or “Michigan furniture”, etc. There are tons of sites devoted to finding local goods. Also scan your local newspaper and check store windows for signs that advertise “Local Products Here”.

6. Go Shopping! Seek out fair prices but remember that isn’t necessarily the most important thing. You’ll generally be saving on food anyway by buying raw goods and transforming them in to meals at home instead of buying processed meals at the grocery store. Remember to let the producers and artisans know how much you appreciate what they’re doing.

7. Expand your horizons. Pick a couple things off your shopping list each week and try to find a local source for them. Ask around. Chances are it is out there, it just may not be the most efficient option for you. For example, I would love to have local dairy products but right now I can’t stomach paying $7/gallon for milk. In those situations, just keep looking!

8. Consider making or growing your own of some things you use a lot.
You’d be amazed at how easy it is to grow potatoes. They are very forgiving. And so on.

9. Spread the word.
Give local products as gifts or share them at a special dinner. Chances are your friends didn’t know there were so many great things available locally. Plus, who doesn’t love pure maple syrup on Christmas morning pancakes.

I hope this helped get you started. If you’re already buying locally, I’d love to hear what works for you! Check out the APLS Carnival for more on local everything!

Update: Heather over at SGF has a great post up now about how to eat locally. Check it out!