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Monday, July 20, 2009

A Goat Treadmill and The Grangers

This weekend we visited Old World Wisconsin in Eagle WI. It is a living history museum run by a non profit which depicts rural life in the 19th century. We have been there once before but I was looking at the displays with a different perspective this time around. I was completely dismayed by the skills we have lost in the past 200 years. I feel we have become fat, lazy and complacent; completely unable to take care of our everyday needs without running to the store to BUY something. (Hmm, or maybe it's just ME who is lazy and complacent?) It makes me really mad. I am slowly learning how to take care of my family without whipping out the checkbook. I saw so many great things this weekend. I think my favorite was one of the german homesteads with the summer kitchen and brick oven (think 2 doz loaves of bread at a time-and they fired it up 2 times each week to feed their 11 children!), I also saw a goat treadmill which could be hooked up to a small thresher or a stone for sharpening. Two years ago we attended farm power days there and saw a '2 horse power' treadmill in use.

Another interesting display I missed last time was about the Grangers or the Patrons of Husbandry, in the late 1800's farmers banded together against the monopoly of railroads to effect political change. It left me wondering if farm families have any political clout. I'm talking about power for the people working the fields, not agribusiness, not Monsanto, not the Beef Counsel. Does anyone speak for them? Or are people (farmers AND consumers) just tools for big business. Approximately $0.04 worth of corn goes into the average box of cornflakes. Where does the rest go? We all have to eat, why can't farmers organize another Granger style revolution? They deserve to make a living wage.

Then I read about the crazy stupid regulations being enforced at farmers markets in Ohio-no you cannot wash the lettuce-sell it dirty or get a fine. If a deer walks across your spinach field-destroy a 30 foot path of vegetation to prevent E coli. Read more at The Food Renegade. These are our tax dollars at work! Where do I go with all this stupidity. Burke's quote 'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.' has me going, I am a good person but have been doing nothing-I need to DO SOMETHING.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mmmm, Rabbit Stew

We returned from the farm this weekend with turnips and a couple onions and decided this would be the perfect opportunity for rabbit stew. Very gratifying to create a meal from our own hands. Just the beginning for us I think.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Blowing off Responsibilities

Thursdays are a day off of work. I am so uncomfortable with NOT working that I seem to fill this day up with things like: grocery shopping, work meetings, errands, appointments, until it would be better for all if I WAS at work. Tomorrow I had a bunch of stuff on my list. I am cancelling the list. I am taking my girls to see a newly released movie which my DH not so affectionately calls 'Hairy Pooper'. I will sleep late and we will make pancakes and walk to the library. I can't wait!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lipstick on a Pig

The girls and I picked strawberries last week. I was disappointed with the berries-but what should I expect when I wait until the LAST day of picking for this particular farm? They were small, and just average flavor. I guess these berries will be mixed with peaches or rhubarb for jam. I picked up my first hot water canner and funnel, etc. No excuses now!
We processed our 12 week old Florida White meat rabbits. We were down to 2 from 4 in the litter. The tiny runt was given to a neighbor girl for a pet, but it died in our hot spell ( it was truly tiny had a different hair coat and drank ALOT of water-pituitary problems-diabetes insipitus- I'm not sure ). She of course was heart broken and i agreed to let her have a replacement rabbit. Sigh -next time I will know better!
The butchering was not awful- for me it was an anatomy refresher and a chance to look at livers, lungs for signs of disease. There are certainly things we will do differently next time (like skin BEFORE gutting and not using a stump riddled with ants as the execution site) but all in all I thought we did all right. My daughter backed out of the tanning process so I am now in the process of tanning with a kit we bought at gander. I will have pictures to share for anyone who promises not to ridicule me :) If I am going to eat meat, I will use all that animal has to give to me and not be wasteful. Can you say fur lined mittens?
The old farmstead which had such promise from across the lot line is not such a great deal. She has put on a new roof and siding on the house and has really done some nice work on the interior, but the old stone walls in the basement have caved in in one location, and frankly this old farmstead needs someone with either more money or more construction skills than we have right now. You can put lipstick (or siding) on the pig... On to plan B. More about that when I have details nailed down!
Our home is beginning to feel foreign to us, the girls even brought it up. We have been spending so much time on the farm that being at the house doesn't feel like home anymore.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Clearing Hurdles

My 'chicks' and nephew Theo collecting eggs at ArkWork Farm

After a few months of feeling stuck and not being ready to commit to the big move, we have made a breakthrough. We have been going back and forth-old farm vs build new and (maybe) off the grid. I would vote for build, but we are both hearing the tick-tock of our oldest daughters biological clock. She is 11 and still very much our little girl, but we are seeing tween behaviors popping up. We are afraid if we stay in town for much longer the move to the country will become a battle. I don't want a battle, I want this to an adventure for the whole family.

Anyway today I am talking to a loan officer at the local Farm Credit Services, if she has good news for us we will talk numbers and move in dates with the farm owners. We can afford both mortgages if I continue to work as I have been. It IS a risk but right now letting this dream sit on the shelf and fade away through inactivity and frustration is the bigger risk. Money is money but my hopes and dreams...I won't put those on hold.

We have a big weekend. Finish the chicken tractor and move the hens, process bunnies, start the tanning process (Erin wants to learn how to do this!) and the girls have a horseshow on Saturday. I will also move a chair into the garden :)

Warning: Gratuitous Kid Pictures Below

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Good Morning! Today I am posting at Homemakers Who Work. See you there!

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Sorry for the erratic posting schedule--lots of things on my mind, I haven't felt composed enough to put together a coherent post.
We just returned from another long weekend in the country. I have to say -hot running water is one of the seven wonders of the man made world!
The time we spend at the camper/ArkWork Farms has been changing us. Externally we are browner from the sun and the dirt which has become ground in-but not leaner yet (too many steaks and brats-not enough homegrown veggies-but that is changing). Internally we are changing as well-more thoughtful and less reactive-its hard to put a finger on but I like it. It has been so cool to see my DH return to the man I remember-creative, resourceful, (and sweaty!). He has spent too much time behind a desk it the past 10 years.
This weekend we (mostly he) built the second chicken tractor. The banties in the apple orchard need a new home-the apple are growing on the baby trees and I don't want them to eat those precious apples. The plan all along was to get them into a tractor so they can fertilize the grass. Once the second batch of meat chickens (the Nuggets as we like to call them) are done the hens can go back to the coop. (Or we will be living next door and we will take them)

The garden is looking great! I had no idea I could create something so beautiful! we are currently harvesting radishes, lettuce, some bolting spinach, swiss chard and peas. The pepper plants are struggling a bit-they are puny but starting flowers, the turnips continue to be eaten by a tiny iridescent bugs which eat holes in the greens-but they continue to grow and I can see nice purple skinned tubers in the ground. The show stopper in my garden are the four rows of potatoes. They have such beautiful flowers! I should have planted them further apart, we were not able to hill them very well, so i just filled the trench between the rows with old leaves-it's all an adventure!

I was very disappointed on the 4th, I discovered my children do not know how to spit watermelon seeds--I mean really, what is the world coming to? They have never had a watermelon with seeds-it was fun to see them try to spit those buggers out.

I will leave you with a view from our (camper) front door: ArkWork Farm on the right and the adjacent old farm (future home??) on the left.