Saturday, August 31, 2013

Go Glean!

When your tomato plants look as sad as mine do right now, and your father-in-law calls and offers you the rest of the ripe tomatoes he's got on his plants, you high-tail it up there and glean away, baby.  It doesn't matter that you're leaving town the next day and really need to pack, or that you've got a bazillion things still left on the all-important list-of-things-to-do-today, or that it's pretty much the hottest afternoon we've had all year. You drop it all, and you go.

Blinded by your own sweat, you pick about 60 pounds of ripe tomatoes. And, then, all hot and sweaty, you stop by the store for some more canning jars, mushrooms, and a bottle of wine.  And, once the kids are in bed, you bring that pot to a boil and have a spaghetti-sauce-making party with your sweetie -- skinning and coring and chopping and boiling and filling and sealing -- as you enjoy one another's company.   . . .   Or, that's what I did anyway!

Thanks, Sam!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Follow-up Friday: The Road is Complete!

The road on the new farm is complete. . .

 . . . and completely beautiful, if you ask me!  Mike Hatfield and crew did a phenomenal job, and we were so pleased to get to work with such great local people sourcing local materials.  

Once you turn off Cypress Lane, it winds around for about 1/2 mile and dead ends about 20-40 yards from where we think the house will eventually sit. 

So, we can check Step 1 off the list -- road is complete!  Now, it's on to the next couple of steps, which we'll be working on simultaneously:  have power and water run out to the house site and get some fencing and housing up for animals.  Once these are complete, we'll list the house and hope for the best.  (Know anyone who may be interested?)

We've had an initial meeting with the architects we intend to use and are so very excited to be working with them.  They really seem to have a feel for the kind of living space we hope to create.  We will meet with them (with all our ideas, Pinterest boards, and post-it-noted pages in hand) in a week or so to talk in greater detail.  I just cannot wait to see how they will combine all the elements we bring them!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Growing Lettuce in Extreme Heat

Despite countless gardening defeats this season (i.e. the wilted cucumber vine in the photo), there have been some exciting successes.  

For example,  notice the lettuce growing at left in the photo.  This particular variety, like most lettuce varieties shouldn't really be able to grow right now in this extreme heat.  But, it's going strong!  What's the secret?

The leaning vine-covered trellis on its south side provides the tender lettuce good shade during the hottest parts of the day.  

Since this pic was taken, the cucumber vine has shriveled up entirely.  I don't plan to uproot it, though, until the temperatures cool enough for the lettuce to survive without the shade that wilted vine is offering.  Talk about multi-purposing -- that cucumber vine is still working for me, long after it's produced its last fruit.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Seed Ticks Suck

Now, don't get all put off by my language in the title.  They do.  Literally.

In our backyard, the chickens do a great job of keeping ticks at bay, but the new farm is teeming with them.  So, I love the farm.  The farm is beautiful.  What is not beautiful are John's feet right now.  They are a nasty mess of seed tick bites.  (Sorry, honey, but it's true.  Normally, your feet are very attractive, of course.)

I was pretty much raised a city gal, and while I'd heard of and had a run-in or two with ticks, the first time I remember encountering a tiny seed tick was when Girl 1 was a teeny, tiny one-month-old.
We were living in New Orleans, but had made the long trek back to Arkansas to introduce our little bundle to all of her relatives who weren't able to make it to NOLA for her birth.  Here, she is pictured with MeeMee, her great-grandmother on John's side.  

Later that day, we were at John's parents' house when Amanda, my sister-in-law, came upstairs and nonchalantly asked me whether I had any tweezers.  I didn't really think much of it until I walked down the stairs and found my 1-month-old daughter naked and splayed out on the kitchen island, surrounded by 4 adults who all appeared to be performing some type of surgical procedure on her!  Apparently someone had spotted ALL the ticks, and they were trying to get them removed without causing me too much alarm.  Ahhhh!  It turned out that MeeMee had come in off the farm just before we arrived at her house to introduce her to her newest great-granddaughter.  Later that night, MeeMee discovered that she, too, had been tick bombed!  If we could magnify the picture above enough, we'd probably be able to see the little devils traveling between the two of them!

These ticks, that are in their larval stage are particularly awful because they are just hanging out there on the blade of grass en masse, waiting for something to latch onto.  Once they climb aboard, they pretty much look like dirt that is moving up your body.  They're so tiny, you have to look closer to even be able to tell what they are.  And, that's when you FREAK OUT!

So, I have some history with these crazy ticks, and John is definitely in some pain because of them right now, but I refuse to let them keep us from enjoying the farm, so I did a little research.

As for prevention, try to keep things covered up.  Tuck pants into your socks (it may not be on-trend for fall, but neither are red, itchy ankles) and spray your body with a deterrent.  If you'd rather not douse your body and clothes in products containing DEET, Mother Earth News suggests lemon eucalyptus oil, which can apparently be found in some Repel and Cutter products.

But, when you do look down and discover that your elbow has been tick bombed, don't just start swatting and scratching.  Reach, instead, for your holster and pull out your #1 weapon -- a lint roller.  Scratching and tweezing at these tiny insects will likely result in breaking off only part of the tick.  I know this is disgusting, but if that happens, it's likely that if they've latched on, the contents of their stomachs may be yucked out into your skin as the tick is torn apart.  This leads to serious itchiness and infection.

If you're already to the itchy or infected stage, try taking an oatmeal bath or treating bites with ChiggerX.  Antibiotic cream can help also prevent infection from setting in.

Anyone have any other ideas they can share for prevention or treatment of seed ticks bites?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Skip the Fast Food: DIY Ched 'R' Peppers

So, last week, I made some Ched Pepper Quiche that was amazing!  And, it got me to thinking that there had to be a more grown-up/whole-foodsie way to make those good 'ole Ched Peppers.  And, it turns out, I was right!

So, instead of sidling up to the stall at Sonic, give these a go.  They'd be a hit at a party, but also hit the spot when you just happen to be craving something spicy and cheesy.

12 jalapenos, halved and seeds removed
1 box puff pastry (2 sheets)
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 c. bacon pieces
1 c. cheddar, shredded
garlic, minced
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Unfold thawed pastry sheet and roll into a  rectangle.  Slice each sheet into twelve squares, making a total of 24 squares with both sheets.  In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese, bacon, cheddar, garlic, and a pinch of salt.  Spoon filling into jalapeno halves.

Wrap pastry squares around stuffed jalapenos and arrange on a baking sheet.  Whisk together egg and 3 Tbs. water and brush over poppers.  Bake for 20 minutes or until puffy and golden.

This recipe is a modified version of the original, which can be viewed here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dust Buster Victory

See this sad little squash plant?
I've fought a valiant fight against those mighty squash bugs, but, alas, they will defeat me.

I mean, just look at this.  I ought to just wave the white flag of surrender and cut my losses.  But, I couldn't resist the urge to get in one more good fight.  So, last night, I charged up my weapon as I slept, plotting a morning sneak attack.

Then, before they knew what was going on, I dusted-busted up TONS of those suckers!  The soil was just damp enough that the suction pulled in the bugs but not the soil.  And, when the dust settled on the battlefield, I'd collected well over a hundred bugs.  I emptied the canister into some soapy water and watched them all drown. 

The squash bugs will definitely win this war.  I'm gracious enough to admit that.  But, in today's battle, my friends, I was the victor!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Use Less

There are lots of more labor-intensive ways to go green and reduce your household carbon footprint, but perhaps the easiest way to reduce is to, ummm, just use less.

This may sound so obvious that it's not worth discussing, but even I need reminding sometimes that a little less will still get the job done.

The companies that bottle the products we use would love for use to use more than we need -- that just means they get to sell more!  A few months back, I had to buy some laundry detergent (I had some particularly foul athletic gear that needed a scented soap).  I was reading the directions and saw that I should fill to Line 1 of the cap for a regular load and Line 2 for a large or heavily-soiled load. So, what the heck was Line 3 for?  It's like they were trying to fool me into using more than is necessary to get the job done. ;)

And, what about shampoo?  Or hand soap?  Or anything else that we pump or pour.  I tried to limit myself to single pump of the shampoo bottle, but it just felt weird.  We're a two or three pump society, at least.

So, how can we overcome the tendency to use more than is necessary?  At our house, we like to water things down. Ever looked at the ingredient list on your shampoo, soap, conditioner, detergent, etc.?  The first ingredient is most likely water.  So, what's a little more?  I promise you, your hair/skin/clothes will still get clean, and you'll still get to do the double-pump, like you're used to.

When I buy John new face wash (pictured at right above), I pour about half of it into the old, empty bottle and fill both bottles the rest of the way with water.  Guess what?  The face wash still gets the job done.  And, I've gotten two bottles for the price of one!

What are some other simple ways to reduce our use of household and cleaning products?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Follow-up Friday: Star Loves Me!

My favorite little girl continues to get bigger all the time!  Star is handling being a part from her mother much better now and has quit bawling.  In fact, she seems to be enjoying her time in the big field.
Oh, and she likes my hair.

Despite the expression on her face, she really does love me. :)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Becoming Family

For the entirety of the summer, our family has been blessed to partake in our church's new breakfast ministry.  Our church is small, and the only time we meet together is at 11:00 on Sunday morning.  As you can imagine, that makes it difficult to fellowship as a body.  To change all that, we decided to share breakfast every Sunday morning.  There's no agenda.  It's not a Bible study, Sunday school, or prayer meeting.  And, it's not for just the women or just a specific age group.  ALL are invited.   Anyone can come to help prepare the food, and anyone can show up to eat it.
Girl 1 making her famous gravy.

We gather, make coffee, flip some pancakes, and partake in one another's lives as we share a meal at a common table.  

The first Sunday, I realized how big a need this breakfast was going to fill when I found myself at a loss for topics of conversation.  I'd worshiped next to these people for years now, but I didn't know my supposed family members well enough to carry on a conversation.  That has changed by now, though, as I look forward to each Sunday and can't wait to hear how the baby shower went, how the trip to Florida was, how Mrs. B is feeling, what we will plan to cook next week.  We've brought each other eggs, traded vegetables, given out laundry soap samples, and just generally become a part of one another's lives.

Girl 2 lends a hand with clean-up.
As I've considered the many ways this has changed our experience of church for the better, some of the quotes I encountered in my reading of Eat with Joy by Rachel Marie Stone come to mind:

"Eating with others  is more than just a symbol of friendship, of belonging, of mutual trust -- it is a living metaphor for our connection with other human beings as well as our dependence on the God who feeds us."

Nora Ephron tells us that "A family is a group of people who eat the same thing for dinner."

When Jesus tells us to "do this in remembrance of [Him],"  He surely meant for us to take the cup and bread, but I don't think He meant for us to leave the table with it.  Most churches today observe Communion facing the altar or "table" or the front of the church.  Certainly, we are intended to partake with a heart toward God.  But, Communion need not feel so inward; the earliest believers had hearts toward Christ and eyes toward each other as they gathered around the table.  By the time we've got the last dishes washed up and put away, I feel we've already had the Lord's Supper, the bread and grape juice we'll have during the service just mean we get to Remember again.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Eating in Season: Ched Pepper Quiche

If you read this blog from a PC, you'll see the cute little gadget in the right-hand column that indicates what's in season now in Arkansas.  For late August, it suggests that nothing is in season.  My garden begs to differ. And, my peppers find the notion absolutely hilarious.  In fact, I've never had larger or more plentiful jalapeno plants.
In honor of my old high school friend Kim Lankford Bice, I'm calling this recipe Ched Pepper Quiche.  Even Kim may not recall the reference, so allow me to fill everyone in.

"Back in the day" when Ched 'R' Peppers were first introduced at Sonic, on the menu board, they put the "R" in this (as I recall) upside down triangle/decorative thingy between the words ched and peppers.  Kim and I would roll into Sonic after basketball practice (or pretty much anytime) and, not noticing the "R" at all, order us up some Ched Peppers.  They were delicious.  And we called them that for a REALLY LONG TIME . . . or at least that's the way the story goes in my memory. 

Anyway, this delicious quiche is basically a whole-foods version of the Ched Pepper.  And it, too, is absolutely delicious.  We ate an embarrassing amount of it the night I served it for dinner and then finished off the leftovers at the very next meal. 

For the complete recipe (they call it "Jalapeno Popper Quiche, but I like my name for it better), click here.    Whether you're looking for a way to make use of your show-off-y jalapenos or would just like to give something new a chance at being a hit at your dinner table, I'd highly recommend giving this one a try!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Over the Creek and Through the Woods

It's not entirely finished, but there is now a road where once there was none!

Here's a look at the giant culverts used to create the creek crossing.

And the giant dump trucks used to haul the fill and road materials.

We can now cross the creek! 
Though it's not completely finished, the land is now accessible by vehicle.  I could probably even get my mom van up there!  :)  Progress!

Monday, August 19, 2013

It's Officially Summer -- I Canned Some Tomatoes

Finally, I had enough tomatoes ready at once to justify pulling out the canner.  I can't help but be reminded of this great tomato-canning quote I came across a few months ago:

"The only preserving I'm serious about is canning tomatoes.  I can tomatoes like a grandmother staking her hopes on fermenting vegetables and pots of boiling fruit.  I can enough to eat tomatoes grown nearby all through the icy northeastern winter, and give a jar to anyone who shows up looking peaked.  I do it as though my doing it will stop the summer from ending, and in a way it does."

from Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Cheese is God Going Over and Above

For those who don't know much about where cheese comes from or how it's made, here are some contemplations on cheese from my lunch today.  

The very first cheese was an accident-- it happened when milk being stored in an animal stomach began to coagulate and separate into curds and whey.  Rennet, an enzyme found in the stomach of some animals, is the magic-maker that starts the process that eventually makes cheese out of milk.  And, don't you know those first people who stumbled upon this knowledge must have been beside themselves with happiness!  They'd just discovered a way to preserve milk.

We currently have one goat producing milk in our backyard.  That's one goat providing all the milk for our family of five.  Some days it seems Razz produces for us just enough.  In fact, milk seems to come to us like our daily bread, or our manna.  God is always so good to provide us with enough for the day.

Cheese, though, is what happens when God is truly blessing us with an over-abundance!  Cheese gets made when it's hard for me to fit any more jars of milk into the refrigerator.  And, when that happens, it's cause for celebration and for thankfulness.

Friday, August 16, 2013

DIY Organic Root Feed

In my research related to homemade organic animal feed, I came across a few references to root feed.  Apparently, this is actually a very old method that predates hay balers.  Before the technology existed to preserve grass in large quantities for winter feeding, farmers would sow a big plot of root vegetables that would basically remain preserved underground until the roots were needed.  Carrots, beets, radishes, and turnips were all favorites.  John tells me that turnips are also great for pig farmers, who can run other grazing animals on a field growing turnips and then turn pigs out to "root" up the roots once they're ripe for harvest.
We happened to have an excess of carrots and beets still in the refrigerator, so I decided to see whether our goats showed any interest in this fare.

Large scale operations would use a food grinder to make the feed more manageable.  I used my food processor.

Razz is a fan!

I'll make a note of this successful experiment and possibly plant a fall root bed with an eye toward winter harvest.  We couldn't grow enough to cover all our feed needs, but we could supplement the goats' diets and perhaps cut back on our conventional grain use.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Beautiful Morning on the New Farmland

It's hard to think of a better way to start the day than the way today began.  John and I got to go traipsing through the new farm, talking with the gentlemen who are working on our road about how exactly it'll wind through the fields and woods and arrive at the house site. The cool, crisp morning air, the scent of wild, the sunlight streaming through the leaves, and the promise of all our farm will be -- it's almost just too exciting to describe!

I've had several people ask me where exactly it's located.  It's a little hard to describe, but it's basically behind the high school football field.  We'll access it from Cypress Lane (when, at the end of Johnson you're forced to turn right, you're turning onto Cypress).  This land is basically perfect for us.  It's essentially in town, but when you're out there, you feel like you're in the middle of the boonies.  We'll still be able to get to the bank or school in 5 minutes' time.  With John working a full-time gig and trying to farm a bit on the side, he doesn't need to spend too much of his day commuting.  Plus, our proximity to town will be great for ballgames, practices, and dance-- something I'm sure we'll come to appreciate even more in the coming years as the kids get increasingly involved in after-school activities.  I guess, for us, it's like the best of both worlds -- the convenience of living in town and the peacefulness of living out.

The road to the house site will end up being about a 1/2 mile long.  Our hope is that it's construction will be as low-impact as possible.  We don't mind for it to wind around a bit if it helps save trees, and the fewer materials used to build the road, the better.  Based on our drive through today, it's looking like we may only have to take down 3-5 trees over the course of the 1/2 mile.  That's pretty good!  The ones that do go down will be put to good use, though -- either milled for lumber or cut for firewood.

We're still not sure how long the road will take to complete.  The rainy weather has definitely slowed things down, there are several low spots that will need some extra attention, and it'll take a lot of dump-truck beds full of materials to build a road of this length.  But, we are loving every step of this process.  And, I'm excited to get to share it all with you!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Sweetest Cantaloupe I've Ever Tasted!

Please don't tell Girl 1.  Her cantaloupe are great, really.  But they don't even compare to this.  In fact, no cantaloupe I've ever tasted can compare to this.

I hadn't planned on planting any cantaloupe in my portion of the garden this year, but then Baker Creek sent me this free gift.  How could I not try them?  Their description:  "This wonderful variety has become very rare.  The fruit have netted skin and light green flesh that is firm, sweet and highly perfumed. Productive plants can be trained up a trellis."

I'd never even tasted a green-fleshed cantaloupe.  Apparently, Thomas Jefferson grew this very heirloom variety in his 1794 garden!

It's French name means "green fleshed pineapple."  If you order from Baker Creek (and you should), make a note of this variety for next year.  You won't be sorry!

To purchase, check this out!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pickled Watermelon Rind

Though I've never seen or heard of them before, pickled melon rind is apparently an old southern delicacy.  I realize these may not be for everyone, but they are actually pretty good.  AND, they make use of a part of the melon that even the goats don't want to eat, so that's super homestead-y (yes, that' s my new made-up word).  

To make them, you'll need . . . 
about 6 lbs. of watermelon rind
3/4 c. salt
3 qt. water
about 2 trays of ice cubes
9 c. sugar (yes, you read that right)
3 c. white vinegar
3 c. water
1 Tbs. whole cloves
6 cinnamon sticks, 1" pieces
1 lemon, thinly sliced with seeds removed

Day 1:  Using a vegetable peeler, remove the hard, green, outermost part of the rind.  Also, remove all the pink from the innermost part of the rind.  Cut into whatever shape you prefer (I cut mine into long, thin strips).  Cover with brine made by mixing the salt with 3 quarts cold water.  Add ice cubes.  Let stand 3-4 hours.  

Drain; rinse in cold water.  Cover with cold water and cook until fork tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain.

Combine sugar, vinegar, water, and spices (tied in a clean, thin, white cloth -- I used butter muslin).  Boil 5 minutes and pour over the watermelon;  add lemon slices. Let stand overnight in the refrigerator.

Day 2:  Heat watermelon in syrup to boiling and cook slowly 1 hour.  Pack hot pickles loosely into clean, hot pint jars.  To each jar add 1 piece of stick cinnamon from spice bag;  cover with boiling syrup to 1/2 inch from the top.  Remove air bubbles.  Wipe jar rims.  Adjust lids.  Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Girl 2's Got Melons

All that thumping has finally paid off!  

Several weeks ago, we asked one our favorite melon growers for some tips for first-timers on knowing when our melons would be ready.  Girl 2 listened carefully as he explained about how the curly-cue near the melon would shrivel up and how we should listen to the sound of the melon when we thump it.  

Once home, she immediately ran into the backyard to inspect curly-cues and commence thumping.  And that thumping has continued pretty much everyday.  Finally, yesterday, we declared one "ready" and cut it from the vine!

She really was more excited about it than she looks in this photo.  

It was pretty good -- definitely better than a store-bought melon.  But, since we live in the home of the world's sweetest watermelons, I can't say it was the sweetest one we've ever tasted.  What was super sweet about it, though, was that Girl 2 grew it herself, right in our own backyard!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Oh, Yea, Green Tomatoes!

Just look at that smile!  Girl 2 was so stinkin' proud of herself as she presented me with this basket full of her hard work in the garden.  Yep, that's a giant basket full of GREEN tomatoes!
I asked John what I was to do with all these green tomatoes.  He suggested I make lemonade.  Haha.  My Facebook buddies suggested fried green tomatoes or pickled tomatoes.  I've honestly never had either.  For a couple different reasons, I've basically not cooked all week, so the opportunity for fried green tomatoes never presented itself. I decided to pickle them according to a recipe I found in my trusty recipe book from Canning Club.

In fact, I went a little crazy with the canning today.  Here's a sampling:  green beans, cucumber pickles, pickled tomatoes, and tomato sauce.  Also, I completed the Day 1 portion of the recipe for Watermelon Rind Pickles.  Stay tuned . . . .

Friday, August 9, 2013

Follow-up Friday: Avoiding GMO's

As referenced earlier this week, GMO's are a highly controversial topic in the food industry right now.  Unfortunately for those of us who wish to avoid them, the US doesn't yet require foods containing GMO's to be labeled.  This chart, though, can help you in figuring out which foods in your pantry contain them and which are clean.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Girl 1's Got Cantaloupe!

At the outset of the growing season, each girl got to choose two types of seeds to plant in her individual garden patch (Little Boy was my general helper this year).  Girl 1 chose carrots (which we've been enjoying for quite some time) and cantaloupe.  The pic at left is actually of one we picked a little too early (what can I say, we were excited!  It turned out to be green inside and smelled and tasted a lot like cucumber).  The pic at right, though, is of a happy little girl, taking a bite of her very own, super-sweet, backyard-grown cantaloupe!

Girl 2 chose to grow green beans (which are now canned and stacked in the pantry) and watermelon.  We're pretty close to harvest on a few of her melons, so stay tuned.  ;)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

There's Nothing Like the Smell of Freshly-Baked Bread

If your family, like ours, feels like it's constantly running a million different directions, may I suggest you bake a loaf of bread.

If you feel like your conversations with your spouse are harried and more filled with times and schedules than with dreaming and hoping together, may I suggest you bake a loaf of bread.

If you feel like your kids have spent so much time watching TV or glued to their hand-held devices that they may not remember how to exist in a 3-D world, may I suggest you bake a loaf of bread.

If your experience in the kitchen lately has been a mad-dash to get something edible to the table (or just in-hand, while mad-dashing to the car), may I suggest you bake a loaf of bread.

If you've forgotten what it is to taste real food, may I suggest you bake a loaf of bread.

And, bake it at such a time as to come out of the oven (or bread machine, whatever the case may be) at about 9:00 pm or whenever everyone is assured to be home.  You won't even have to tell them to gather 'round.  There will be no timer or all-call needed.  They'll smell when it's ready, and they will come.  Pour a few glugs of olive oil into a dish, grind some fresh pepper into it, and tear it off in warm, soft hunks, offering it up to those you love most in the world.  
As you huddle 'round the kitchen bar in your pajamas, reveling in the warm comfort of the bread and rehashing your day and laughing together, don't forget to whisper a little prayer of thanks to the One who provides us moments like these, families to huddle with, and bread to share.  

And once you've sent the little ones back to bed with their "just-one-more-piece-please" piece in-hand, fill a couple of glasses with wine (or milk, or whatever you prefer) and move the bread loaf to the living room and get so wrapped up in the kind of conversation you would have when you were first discovering that you wanted to break bread with this person forever that you don't even notice when the cups run dry and the last crumb's been eaten.  And, as you turn out the lights on this evening, may you count yourself full -- full of bread, full of life, full of blessings.

Don't know where to begin?  Here's a recipe that works for me every time.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

My Conversation with Feed Guy

As we consider ways we may want to grow our farm in the future, one of the ideas we've batted around is trying to market our backyard eggs and meat chickens.  We'd be able to market them as local and grass-fed.  Since our feed isn't organic, though, we can't claim that the meat or eggs are "organic."  

With all the fuss about GMO corn lately, I suspect that there will be a greater demand for organic meats in the not-to-distant future.  The only sources we currently know of for organic feed would cost us about triple what we currently pay for feed -- and that doesn't even include the enormous shipping costs involved in getting that feed to our doorstep.  So, I set out to do a little research and find out whether any of our local feed stores could get it for us if we promised to buy it all up in bulk.

I made a few calls that basically all dead-ended with "no, we don't carry it, and we can't get it."  Frustrated, I tried yet another supplier.  "Hang on, let me get my feed guy on the line," they tell me.  My conversation with Feed Guy went basically like this:

Me:  Hi. I'm checking into my options for organic chicken feed and wondered whether you carry it or could order it?
Feed Guy:  We don't have anything organic here.  I do have a chicken feed labeled "All-Natural."  I figure that's about the same thing.
Me:  Well, do you know what they mean by all-natural?
Feed Guy (with plenty of sarcasm):  Well, what do people even mean by organic?  Isn't it all the same stuff?
Me (with plenty of exasperation):  Sir, organic is a label certified and regulated by the USDA.  Organic feed can't contain GMO's, antibiotics, pesticides, or animal by-products.  All-natural isn't a regulated term.  Anyone could slap that label on their product and the consumer would be none the wiser.

The conversation pretty much devolved from there.  And, I'm pretty sure he meant his what-do-people-mean-by-organic question to be rhetorical, but he asked the question and he got the answer.  I really am not a rude person.  I think I was bringing with me to the conversation my exasperation from the previous phone calls I'd made and how I always feel like I'm treated differently by these places just because I'm a woman.  Add to that that I'm asking about organic feed, and I could nearly hear this guy's eyes roll through the phone as he probably pictured the granola-crunching, tree-hugging, hippy lady on the other end of the line.
I felt kind of bad about the attitude I had with Feed Guy, but I consoled myself by thinking that, thanks to me, he's now a more informed Feed Guy.  If he actually listened to my answer, he may now be better at his job.  The next time someone asks him about all-natural vs. organic feed, maybe he'll know the answer.
And, I suspect that as people get more interested in knowing where their food comes from and what kind of life it's led, Feed Guy may get more and more phone calls like mine.  

For now, we are left without answers and without many leads for sourcing affordable organic feeds.  I've seen some recipes online for mixing your own.  That may be where we're headed.  

Does anyone else have a lead on reasonably priced organic feed?