Saturday, June 29, 2013

"I Got Da Peas!"

Little Boy loves to harvest peas.  Nearly every trip to the backyard (and there are lots of them) ends with two grubby fistfuls of peas mounded on the kitchen counter.  
One of my favorite ways to eat them is in pasta.  And, while I try not to promote a lot of packaged products, I've got to admit I am loving this store-bought pasta.
First of all, check out that price.  This Parmesan-filled tortellini is shelf-stable and and be found right next to spaghetti and other pasta.
To prep, just toss the tortellini into a pot of well-salted, boiling water.  Once it's boiled for 10 minutes, go ahead and throw in your fresh veggies.  I call this particular meal Summer Solstice Pasta because sugar snap peas (a spring veggie) will only overlap with squash (a summer veggie) for a couple weeks right at the beginning of summer, if you're lucky.  
Once the pasta has cooked for 10 minutes, add the bite-sized veggies and boil another 5 minutes or until fork-tender.   

Once strained, I added a couple glugs of olive oil, a dash of lemon juice,  freshly-ground pepper, salt, and toasted almonds to create a dish that allows the veggies to taste like veggies and really speaks to the bounty of summer!

The beauty of this pasta, though, is its flexibility.  We made it another time with zucchini and green beans, and it, too, was delicious.  I'm already drooling over the tomato/basil combination I'm hoping to throw together later this summer!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Follow-up Friday: Pasteurization Debate

The debate surrounding pasteurized vs. raw milk is far reaching.  It has even made its way into our home.  Last season, we pasteurized all our milk.  It was our first time dealing with milk, and we wanted to play it safe.  This year, though, we discussed "going raw."

As this is a follow-up on a previous post, you may already know that we decided to go ahead and pasteurize again this year.  Ultimately, John was not entirely on board with giving the kids raw milk.  The risks, he pointed out, are great, and while it's one thing for us as adults to choose raw milk for ourselves, it seems a different thing to choose it for our kids.

I recently finished (and greatly enjoyed) Goat Song by Brad Kessler and wanted to share with you some of his notes on the history of pasteurization:

Milk comes out of a mammal alive with microorganisms.  The microbes exist to nourish and help the survival of the  mammal's offspring.  Some organisms, like the macrophages and T lymphocytes, aid the infant's immune system; others, like lactoferrin and lysozyme, kill harmful bacteria.  The enzymes-- peroxidase, catalase, phosphotase, amylase, lipase, galactase -- help digestion, while the oligosaccharides are indigestible and seem to exist solely to feed beneficial bacteria living inside the infant's stomach.  All these compounds are found in raw milk -- whether the milk of a cow, goat, horse, human, or whale.  Pasteurization kills them all and turns the milk into a dead thing.

For thousands of years people believed fresh raw milk was a panacea. . . . .What all these lactic enthusiasts shared was the belief in the powers of unpasteurized milk from a healthy animal fed what she was meant to eat -- namely grass.

Yet things didn't always work out so well for the cow.  As a way of cleaning up the wastes from beer and whiskey making (and turning an extra dime), American distillery owners in the nineteenth century crammed dairy cows into cellars and bricked enclosures and fed them hot fermented distillery waste.  The resulting milk, called swill or slop milk, was notably blue and often deadly and sold on the cheap to the poor.  Some dairies added chalk or plaster of Paris to their milk.  Once milk became transportable by train and then truck, milk traveled from farther afield, and city dwellers could no longer verify the cleanliness of the place their milk came from.  Unsafe milk caused outbreaks of diphtheria, scarlet fever, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, brucellosis.  It's no wonder that at the turn of the twentieth century the cry for clean milk was considered a moral cause.

Pasteurization was one method of assuring safe milk;  another was strict inspection and certification of dairies.  Each method had its advocates.  But certification -- a process of making sure the animals were healthy and the dairies spotless -- lost out to the quicker fix:  pasteurization.  Pasteurization worked.  People no longer died from drinking milk.  Yet pasteurization often became an excuse for dairies to sell, not clean milk from healthy animals, but filthy milk from sick animals whose milk had been cooked clean of its impurities.  Rather than rigorously certify raw-milk dairies -- as is done in Europe today -- it was less costly for the American dairy industry to simply zap their milk.  Throughout the twentieth century, compulsory pasteurization laws in the United States expanded state by state, until it became nearly impossible for Americans to find anything but pasteurized -- and effectively dead -- milk.

In a tiny operation like our own, there's no need to pasteurize the milk.  We know beforehand if a doe is sick, and the quality of the milk is obvious because it sits right beneath our noses.

 . . . The debate over raw versus pasteurized gets a lot of people up in arms.  Unpasteurized milk is the birthright of most Europeans, and when you tell someone from France that in the States you can't buy a fresh raw-milk cheese, they look at you as if you've just profaned the Madonna.  It confirms everything they suspected about American culture: that there is none -- especially when it comes to the cultures inherent in milk.

Interesting stuff, huh?  Anyway, I guess for now we'll continue to top the kids' cereal with the dead stuff.    Our soft cheeses, though, will be a different story this year.  The kids generally won't touch my herbed cheeses, so I feel safe using unpasteurized milk for adult consumption.  After all, "the simple truth is that you can't make a top-quality cheese from pasteurized milk. "  The process destroys the "aromatic esters . . . from the plants the animal's been eating, which give raw-milk cheese its unique herbal flavors."

"Every raw-milk cheese is an artifact of the land; it carries the imprint of the earth from which it came.  A cheese -- even a fresh chevre -- is never just a thing to put in your mouth.  It's a living piece of geography.  A sense of place."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

DIY Lead-Free Lipstick

Guess what?  I've got yet another guest post for you today.  Man!  I feel like I'm on vacation!

According to her mom, Bethany, today's guest blogger, "is currently a sixth-grader at Hallsville Jr. High School in Hallsville, Texas, and is anticipating her eleventh birthday in August.  She enjoys singing, acting, writing, and pretty much any activity that gives her the opportunity to demonstrate her creativity."

I saw on Facebook what this crafty little gal was up to with this DIY lipstick and just had to ask her to blog about it for me!  I know I can't wait to try out this project!  Enjoy!

It all started when I found out that most lipsticks contain lead. Since lead is poisonous to the body, why would I put it on my lips every day? A few days later, I found a video on YouTube for how to make lipstick out of Crayons. Being my curious self, I had to click it. This simple trick saves money, helps you mix and match to find your own style, and is completely safe.

First, you're going to need Castor Oil. You can find it at a local pharmacy. We found it at Walgreens. Then, you're going to need pure Shea Butter. We found it at our local Drug Emporium. Last but not least, crayons! Pick whatever color or combination of colors you want; there are hundreds to choose from!

Next, you need a double boiler, or improvise one like we did with a stainless bowl. Then, depending on how big your containers are, you'll need to put the unwrapped crayon, Castor Oil and Shea Butter in. Here, we are using half a crayon, half a teaspoon of Castor Oil, and half a teaspoon of Shea Butter. It doesn't matter what order you put them into the double boiler. Then, turn the stove to medium high and start stirring. It might take a while to warm up, but in only a short matter of time, you'll have a lipstick liquid. Make sure there are no lumps of crayon left.
Then, you're going to turn your heat off and immediately spoon the liquid into your container. We used a small container from the travel section at Target, but an old lipstick tube will work as well. Then, stick it into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes.

In this picture, we quadrupled the recipe to better fit these containers. After 10 minutes or so in the refrigerator, you just take it out and boom: you have your own lead free, low priced, quality lipstick.

These are some of the colors that we made. We prefer lighter colors, but the darker colors show up well and may suit your taste. Here, I am wearing the "Poppin Pink" and my mother is wearing "Mamacita Mango." It's optional to name your colors, but I think it's a ton of fun and enhances the experience. I hope you had fun making your lipstick.
You can find out here if your lipsticks contain lead.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Living with Perspective

One day, I was running a loop through town and found myself running past Eric and Bethany Richardson's house here in town.  At first glance, it may resemble other houses on the block, but the lives they live, bouncing between their home here and their work in Haiti are anything but ordinary.  I follow their work on the mission field through their website and pray for the work they are doing there.   I remember from my own experiences with missions how my short time spent in another culture changed the way I approached life back at home and wondered how Eric and Bethany navigate the divide between time spent on the third world mission field and time spent here in small town Arkansas. 

So, once I got home from my run, I decided to just ask her.  :)  Her response is absolutely touching.  Enjoy! 

When Eric and I wait to board our plane back in the United States, the butterflies won't go away. The thought of going back to our family, friends and home always makes me giddy. Unfortunately, the butterflies disappear as we step into the air conditioned airport in Miami and the culture shock sets in. Consumerism, impatience, technology, processed food in a minute or less... it always seems too much too soon

I'm thankful that when we're in the States we call the tiny town of Cave City, Arkansas home. Where the hills are soft, the air is clean and people are friendly. But even still, the culture shock of the country can even be unnerving after a few months in Haiti.

A lot of people ask us, "What's it like to transition back?"

It's not what you would think. We don't get home and continue eating rice and beans for every meal, riding around in a beat up rental car, living out of a suitcase and sweating without A/C. Not at all in fact. We love to go to our favorite restaurants and cook our favorite meals together at the house. We love riding around in Eric's hand-restored 1966 Mustang. We love to go out on dates, hang out with our friends, go to the movies. There are days where we barely leave the house because its so nice to sit in the A/C!

In truth, within the tangible realm of living simply, we consistently keep only a few practices that might qualify, including buying local veggies, supporting local businesses, cooking the majority of our own meals, repurposing items, and taking care of our land.

That's why when I asked Eric how he feels Haiti has changed our lives and it had nothing to do with the things above, I knew where he was coming from. "It's like the idea of living simply can come in many forms. For us, I think it's in our attitude, priorities and most of all, perspective. Haiti has given us a new way of looking at the world--a new paradigm." He is so right.

When our food is late at a restaurant, we don't yell at the waiter or ask for a refund. I can assure you the longest we've ever waited in America isn't half the time we typically wait for food in Haiti. - Patience.

When there is a rain-storm that ruins our bathroom due to a leaky ceiling, we renovate with gladness. The simple fact that we own a roof over our heads is stark in contrast to the needs we see in Haiti. - Gratitude.
When I look in the pantry and am tempted to say, "we have nothing to eat!" I try to still my tongue and get creative. I've seen the face of starvation and it is not a partially full pantry or a pant size 14. - Truth.

When we have been waiting at the airport for hours only to find out our plane has been cancelled, we try to stay patient and positive to those around us. There is no point in going through life angry, it could always be worse. - Kindness.
Our 1,000 sq. ft.  house seems more like a luxury apartment than the quaint, "small" home we first purchased almost 4 years ago. When we get home, we always purge the house of items we don't really need. Too much clutter around you brings about a cluttered life, right? - Giving.

When the electricity goes out, we laugh. For the majority of the time in Haiti, we live without power. Instead of getting angry, we enjoy the silence that it brings. - Joy.

Haiti has changed us in the simplest of ways, but also maybe in the deepest. Haiti continually gives us a new lens to view the world with each day. When facing challenging moments with a new world-perspective, the right decision is often made very clear. Sometimes it just takes looking through a lens of patience, gratitude or truth. Of kindness, giving, or joy. Other times it requires a lens of simple reality.
Living "simply" can mean different things to different people. For some people, its growing a garden and canning food for the winter. For others, it is sewing your own clothing or buying local. But sometimes, as it is with us, living simply can come from a change in attitude. It can mean focusing on the good things and looking for joy in every situation. Or, it can mean striving to live patiently, lovingly and with a lens of compassion.

We aren't perfect people, and some days we fail miserably. Some days I honk my horn a little too long at the person on their cell phone. Some days I want to pull my hair out when my "vegetarian" meal has fish in it. Other days it just seems too much of a bother to mess with being polite. But, we know that every day is a choice. We can either double down and root deeper into what we know is right and true, or give up completely.
And so I choose the harder path, that ultimately leads to a healthier life.

I choose to live with perspective.
So with that, I ask you : What do you choose? What does living simply mean to you?

Bethany, thank you, thank you for your beautifully crafted response and for your willingness to share this piece with me and the readers of this blog.  I've long wanted to introduce the concept of guest posts, and I can't imagine a better place to start than here.  Your perspective is both touching and challenging. Thank you.
To follow and/or support Bethany and Eric in their ministry, check out their website at  

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bean Snapping, Front-Porch Style

"What you preserve is the cheeriest momento mori.  It is a way to say and mean: of everything that passes, this is what I choose to keep.  It is a clear reminder, there for the tasting, or where and when and how you lived."
                                                            from Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal

Girl 2's green bean patch is loving life right now.  We prefer our squash, zucchini, and sugar snap peas fresh rather than preserved for later use, so while those are filling our dinner plates, we're mostly saving our beans for later.

We snapped all of our beans together on the the front porch.  It just seems right to keep up the old tradition of front porch snapping.  When I tried to explain to Girl 2 that we were keeping an old tradition by snapping beans on the porch, she said, "oh, so that you can watch the cars go by while you're working, I guess."  

Of course, I love the fresh veggies that our garden provides us.  Yesterday, I snapped a cucumber off the vine, rinsed it with the garden hose, then munched on it while I walked the back field with the goats, sharing the stumpy end of it with a very thankful Razz.  That type of experience is hard to beat.

But, seeing all the jars of preserved food lined up neatly in the pantry runs a close second.  Just knowing that long after the garden beds have returned to their winter slumber, we'll still be enjoying the bounty of the harvest is comforting in a way that I'm sure we can only imagine today.  Back in the days when people weren't watching cars whizz past as they snapped their beans, I'm sure those beautiful jars brought a sense of security -- an ability to rest in knowing that as the days once again shortened, the table would not be empty.

Now, for a little teaser.  Don't miss tomorrow's post!  I'm so very excited to be featuring my first ever guest blogger.  I don't want to give too much away, but be sure to check back in tomorrow and read a touching column title "Living with Perspective."  And, speaking from experience, remember that the best way to show your appreciation of a blogger is to leave a comment!  Let's show our guest some love tomorrow.  If you enjoy the post, let her know!  :)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Another Budget-Friendly Bash

Girl 1 is turning 9 this week!  Seriously, where does the time go?
For her party, she wanted to host a backyard camping party.

(Budget friendly sidenote:  When your child casually throws out a party theme idea that you instantly realize you can do on the cheap, jump on it with all the enthusiasm you can muster.  After all, a big, fun backyard, we do have.)

So, let's start with the invitation.
I wanted to fancy it up a bit, but when the birthday girl has other ideas and is willing to construct them herself, you just roll with it.  All I had to do was print up the little bits with the party info, and she did the rest with paper from our craft cabinet.

Our Homemade Campfire Cake is just a round cake topped with Twix and on-hand craft paper cut-outs.
Girl 1's response when she saw it for the first time:  "Mom, it's just perfect!"  -- magical words, truly.

Party time!

As guests arrived, we decorated paper lunch sacks with paint and glitter then hung them from the clothesline to dry.  These would be their goody bags. 

Backyard fun!

Wheelbarrow and 3-legged races are timeless fun!  For only the cost of a 4-pack of jumpropes, we added hula hoop competition, jump rope contest, water balloon battle, and scavenger hunt with supplies we already had on hand.  If you haven't picked up on it yet, Girl 1 loves to play games!  We stocked the prize bucket with items from the dollar bin, and you should've seen how excited the girls were about their choices!

Here the kids are searching for caterpillars as part of the scavenger hunt (talk about killing two birds with one stone!).

Our firepit made a great campsite kitchen for hotdogs and s'mores.

The tent made the camping experience complete!  We rented a movie that they watched on the laptop in their tent at bedtime. 

Morning pancakes and lots more playtime rounded out a fun time.  We sent the guests home with their decorated goody bags full of the prizes they'd won and a S'mores Kit to go.

Talk about budget-friendly fun!  Based on my calculations, we pulled this one off for about $30, but I'd bet if you asked Girl 1 about it, she'd tell you it was the best party she's ever had!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Out with the Old and in with the New-Fangled

My old washer died.  I knew it was about to happen.  For the past week or so, I'd been having to run the final spin cycle several times per load to get the water out of clothes.  But, I was willing to work with the inconvenience.

Then, however, it just died.  And, I went into full crisis mode.  You've got to understand.  I do A LOT of laundry.  Obviously, we're a family of five, so that involves a certain amount of laundry anyway.  But, add to that the softball uniforms, dance tights, and farm work clothes, and it really piles up.  The fact that we've basically done away with disposables adds cloth napkins and lots of dishtowels to the heap as well.  On a usual day, I'd do 3 loads of wash and (if it's a good day to use the laundry line) 1 load of drying. 

So, I messaged John who was at the bank --  "the washer is dead" -- and anxiously awaited his response, a little fearful that it might be "I'll bring home some quarters for the laundromat."  What he did, though, was call to tell me that he was taking off early to take me shopping for a new one. 
(Sidenote:  We've been reading the Harry Potter series to the kids, so I guess I have it on the brain, but I can't help but want to award John with Hubby Points toward winning the House Cup.  For example, he came home with 3 gallons of blackberries for me -- 5 Hubby Points!  He recognized the immediate need for a new washer -- 10 Hubby Points!)

My days of washing 3 or 4 loads of laundry are over, though.
Meet my new ENORMOUS washing machine.   

Because we plan to move in the not-so-distant future and wanted the option of stacking, I went to the store expecting to shop for a front loader.  While there were lots of great options, the key feature I was looking for was a large washtub.  The largest front-loader we could find that cost less than 4-digits (seriously?  for a washing machine?!)  was 4.1 cu. ft.  While that's a good deal larger than the maybe 3.5 cu. ft. I'm used to, I really wanted to prioritize size and wasn't that interested in some of the other bells and whistles involved in the front loaders I was looking at. 

Then, we discovered this beauty.  She's 5 cu. ft.!  Seriously.  The wash drum is like a bottomless pit.  To run the first load, I dropped in all the colored clothing from the laundry basket . . . then a set of sheets . . . then a few towels.  Finally, it felt like I'd filled it full enough to justify running a load. 

In our current setup, the washer and dryer have to both fit in this small hall closet.  We measured the washer in the store and John let me know that "it will probably fit."
Ummm.  Okay.

We removed both old washer and dryer, put new washer into place, pushed dryer close enough to reconnect the dryer vent hose (is that the right technical term?), dropped Girl 2 into the hole, handed her a screwdriver, and had her reattach the hose.  Pretty good for a 6-year-old, if you ask me! (5 Daughter Points for her!)

Then, we tried to get the dryer in place.  It was a no go.  It seemed the new washer was 1/8" too big.  You've got to be kidding me!

While I promptly relaunched crisis mode, John very level-headedly began prying away the baseboard on the side of the closet.  And, voila -- just the wiggle room we needed!  Isn't he something? (10 more  Hubby Points for him!)

The kids love the clear top.  "Haha, now it's your undies on top!"  Apparently, watching to see which article of clothing comes swishing up to the top is endlessly entertaining.  (Obviously, we don't have a gaming system at our house.)

So, I may not spend all day peering down into the wash basin, but I am just as excited about how the increased capacity will revolutionize my laundry routine. I do love an efficiently-run household!

Speaking of efficiency, since the new washer is Energy Star Certified at Tier-3, it will use about 80% less water than our old washer and at least 50% less electricity.  Wow! 

I told John that it feels very "mid-life" to be this excited about a new appliance.  His response: "Well, ummmm."  :(       (Even if I subtract 5 Hubby Points for that one, he still comes out on top with this whole new-washer thing!)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Follow-up Friday: Bucky Boys

Seriously, aren't they cute? 

Unfortunately, the three bucklings have been acting increasingly buck-like lately.  I'll spare you the graphic details, but suffice it to say they were doing horrendous things to Star, our little doeling who is still a year and a half from being ready for breeding. 

The twins (center and right, above) are now old enough to be weaned from their momma, and Oreo (left)  has long been big enough for weaning from his bottle, so it's off to the buck pen for the three of them.

You may recall that about 8 weeks ago we had to administer a wormer to our milkers that had mixed reviews for lactating animals.  Though there's disagreement, some vets claim it makes the milk unsafe for human consumption for a period of time.  We decided to play it safe and only used the milk to feed our bottle buckling during that recommended 8 week period.

But, as seen above, the wait is over!  The buckling is now being weaned and no longer needs the milk, and we've made it past our 8-week waiting period.  This jar is our first batch of pasteurized milk this season!

(More on the debate over raw vs. pasteurized milk in a later post.  It's been a debate even here at our household.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Organic Pest Control

The garden is in full swing!

This means, of course that it's prime season for my arch enemies, the squash bugs, and other garden pests. 

Luckily, though, we've got the organic gardener's best friend -- a chicken tractor!

Pictured at left, the chicken tractor gets moved daily from one 4'x8' plot of land to the next.  Currently, John has it slowly circling the garden.  The chickens love to eat any type of bug they can get their beaks on, so they are doing a pretty good job of keeping garden pests to a minimum. 

Last year, we kept the goats in the pen inside the yard quite a bit. We saw a couple of ticks on the goats, so John started moving the chicken tractor around the goat pen, and we never saw another one.

We quit using pesticides on our lawn several years ago.  Since then, the front yard has become basically overgrown with weeds.  The backyard, however, is mostly lush, green grass.  That's because not only are the chickens great at munching pests, they also love most weeds.  So, with each new patch of ground they encounter, they are munching weeds and fertilizing the grass -- not a bad deal at all!

Lots of folks keep chickens in a stationary pen.  I'm sure this has lots of benefits.  But, we love our chicken tractor because it always keeps the hens on fresh grass and does wonders for the yard and garden all at the same time!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

This Man Knows the Way to My Heart!

Earlier this week, John came home from work carrying 3 GALLONS OF FRESH BLACKBERRIES!!!

Clearly, this man knows the way to my heart!  We'd recently run out of all our homemade jThus, it was a jelly famine around here.  So, these berries were far better than if he'd come home bearing flowers or jewelry (he knows I'm not a big fan of either of those, anyway).

And, just when I thought things couldn't get better, he suggested a jelly-making party once we'd put the kids to bed!  What could be better than jelly-making with my best friend over a little wine and lot of conversation?

(Girl 2 grabbed my phone on her way to bed and snapped the above pic because she thought we looked funny in our aprons.  :)
We decided to try out both jam and jelly.  Here, the juice is straining out of a butter muslin cloth in preparation for jelly-making.

Since this was John's first time with making jelly, he wanted me to give directions and walk him through each step -- so I got to essentially teach him as we went.  Seriously, I was in heaven in my hot, sweaty kitchen!

This ought to last us awhile!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Real Men Eat Veggies

There are a few men in my life (I'll not name names) who think a meal is not a meal unless it involves meat.  Luckily my husband is not one of them.  Men like that would hardly get a real meal around here these days. 

There is one slice of bacon on this plate, so maybe it could pass as a meal.  ;)

With the garden in full swing right now, we're up to our ears in veggies.  It almost feels wasteful to dive into the deep freeze for a chicken when there's almost more than we can eat ripe for the pickin' in the backyard.  Clockwise from top left . . .

Toasted homemade sun-dried tomato/mozzarella bread topped with sauteed beet greens
Bacon-wrapped green beans in brown-sugar glaze
Fresh, raw carrots (if you've never had one straight from a garden, you're missing out.  No need to cook these; they're perfect as is)
Olive-oil fried squash
Sugar snap peas with red pepper

Sounds like a pretty yummy meal to me!

Monday, June 17, 2013

DIY Microdermabrasion

Years ago, I attended my first ever Mary Kay party and absolutely fell for the microdermabrasion product.  I loved the feel of those tiny granules in my palm and couldn't believe how smooth my skin felt afterward.  Flash forward a few years to the present.  In my efforts to live a more frugal and natural life, it's hard to justify the price tag for such beauty products.  Luckily, I only have to look as far as the kitchen cabinet for a nice substitute for the Mary Kay product I loved.
Baking soda's texture is just abrasive enough to make it a great microdermabrasion alternative.  I use it in the shower where I keep a small sour-cream-sized tub of baking soda.  I suds up my face with my normal face wash and while it's still on, I dip my wet fingertips into the baking soda.  It sticks, of course, and in just the right amount for one use.  In a circular motion, I then buff away dead skin by adding the baking soda to the water and cleanser that are already on my skin.  There's no need to scrub vigorously, just keep the granules moving for 30 seconds or so, and they'll have done their job.  Rinse thoroughly (otherwise BS can be pretty drying), pat dry (when you get out of the shower) and follow by your favorite moisturizer. 

Beauty treatments don't get much easier or cheaper than this!  Give it a try, and I'll bet you'll fall for that smooth-skin feel, too. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Ever Seen a Goat Walk on Two Legs?

I hope this entertains you as much as it did us!
We have a Mimosa tree that overhangs the back field, and it seems that Dallas (who, I say this lovingly, is usually as dumb as a brick) has figured out how to balance well enough to enjoy a snack.  :)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Follow-up Friday: The Cock Has Crowed

Remember these little guys?

They're not so little anymore.  In fact, this morning, we heard their first adolescent, squeaky-voiced crows.  John says we're within a couple weeks of slaughter.

In the meantime, we have a decision to make.  Our house is set up so that our guest room and master bedroom are on opposite ends of the house.  We have neighbors on our guest room side.  In the past, we've moved crowing birds to the neighborless/master bedroom side of the house to prevent ill will, but the 4:30am crowing just outside our bedroom window sent us toting our pillows to the guestroom.  I suspect, we'll be moving our bedside books to the guestroom for the next couple of weeks as we spare both ourselves and our neighbors the annoyance of early morning crowing. 
Thankfully, the arrangement won't last more than a couple of weeks, since we're that close to slaughter. 

 I was amazed on our last slaughter day to hear a chicken crow with its head detached, but I've never heard one crow from the freezer, so it'll be all good in no time!  :)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Show-off-y Squash

This is one big plant.  The garden box it's planted in is 4 feet wide, so that gives you a bit of perspective.

The cute little squash it's producing are only about 5 inches across.  That's a whole lot of showy leaves for very little table-ready produce.  When you're using the square-foot method, like we are, big plants had better produce big yields or they're not worth their space.  I suppose we'll just have to wait and see how prolific these giant plants will turn out to be.

When my Mamaw was here this past weekend, she remarked that she hadn't seen this type of squash in quite awhile, but that it brought back memories for her of her family's garden years ago. 
That's one of the special things about heirloom varieties -- they're not the varieties you might find in the Garden Center of your big box store, but they are varieties that seed savers have been keeping in the family for generations.  This Yellow Scallop squash seed came to us via Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and is a good example of what heirloom gardening is all about.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tour of Five Acre Farms

Tuesday morning, Little Boy, Girl 1, and I joined some Mom Group friends for a tour of Five Acre Farms in Pleasant Plains.  Five Acre Farms was founded 4 years ago by Brandon Gordon and is now operated by he and his wife Catherine.  Just off Hwy. 167, they're in a prime location for selling to locals, but their biggest earner is the Searcy farmer's market.  Additionally, they arrange through email for Wednesday drop-offs in Batesville, providing a range of items from not only their farm but also other vendors who sell at the Searcy market.  They've begun sourcing a Searcy restaurant and are looking into doing more of that in the future.

While not certified organic, Five Acre Farms does use organic methods and is a great option for local shoppers.  I love being able to walk through a garden and sample its contents as you go;  no need to wash off the pesticide residues first.

A roadside stand offers a shaded place for displaying today's goods: some yellow squash.  A large hoop house can be seen in the background of this shot.

They use permaculture, which is a no-till method, so their one big rule for visitors is not to step into the beds, which would compact the soil and potentially disrupt the microbial life beneath its surface.  Despite not having been tilled, the soil is surprisingly loose.  They top beds with what Gordon referred to as silage, his version of which is cast-off already-decomposing hay that has been chopped up into small pieces.  It seems to make a great mulch.

This is a look inside one of their large hoop houses.  In the winter, it's used as a cold frame and grew lettuce and other greens all winter long.  This summer, they've lifted the sides to provide airflow and added a shade cloth in hopes of warding off the blistering some of their peppers and tomatoes suffered last growing season.

They use several different methods of trellising.  Here is an interesting trellis used to keep their heirloom tomatoes upright.

They had a couple varieties of kale, which they say is in pretty high demand at market right now.  This variety was new to me and is a red leaf that is both cold and heat tolerant.

They get a lot of customers at market who are seeking out more local foods, which is great.  However, they noted, that those shoppers come with a  shopping list of items including tomatoes in April.  It seems we've become so conditioned to shopping our grocery stores that we've forgotten what it is to eat seasonally.  We need to reconnect with the ground and with what it provides us in each season.  If you're buying a tomato at a farmer's market in Arkansas in April, you'd better be suspicious.  Rather than let our menu dictate our shopping lists, we ought to generate our menus based on what's fresh and in season at the market.  Like in the chicken-or-egg riddle, it's the in-season food that should come first, not the menu. 

 I greatly enjoyed getting to meet these two and tour their farm.  Though I'm sure they had tons of work that needed to be done, they were very gracious hosts and their enthusiasm for their work was evident. 

  Contact Gordon at to be added to the Sunday/Monday mail-out related to Batesville delivery.