Tuesday, January 28, 2014

When The Snow Blows...

We are solidly in the midst of an Arctic blast.  It is cold, icy, snowy and windy.  It is not fit for humans outside.  Luckily for Creek Cottage Homestead (and me) we only have chickens to take care of as far as farm chores. The chickens get fed and watered, eggs collected, and checked on twice a day.  Other than that I get to hunker down inside and keep warm.

Besides schooling the kids and general household chores I've been staying busy by browsing seed catalogs and coming up with a must read list for the remaining months of winter.  The list is long but I've found every book but one through the local library system!  I love libraries!  So tomorrow I going to venture out and have my trusty librarian order me some books.

1. Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte (Companion Planting)
2. Gardening When It Counts by Steve Solomon (Survival Gardening)
3. Market Farming Success by Lynn Bycznski (Farming Biz)
4. Flower Farming by Lynn Bycznski (Cut Flower Biz)
5. Great Herb Mixes You Can Make by Jim Long (This is the only book I may have to purchase!)
6. Making Bentwood Furniture by Jim Long (Craft)
7. Making Dream Pillows by Jim Long (Herbal Craft)
8. From the Ground Up by Jeanne Nolan (Memoir and Gardening Advice)
9. Backyard Market Gardening by Andrew Lee (Farming Biz)
10. Chicken Tractors by Andrew Lee (Chicken Housing)
11. Pastured Poultry Profits by Joel Salatin (Chicken Biz)
12. Dairy Goats by Gregory, Diana (Goat Education)
13. Goats, Rabbits & Chickens by Hollis Lee (Animal Education)
14. How To Raise Dairy Goats by Martha Maeda (Goat Education)
15. Raising Goats: The Backyard Dairy Alternative by David Weems (Goat Education)
16. Gathering: Memoir Of A Seed Saver by Diane Ott Whealy (Memoir & Seed Saving)
17. Homegrown Herbs by Tammi Hartung (Herbs)
18. The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips (Fruit Trees)

What do you think?  Think it will keep me busy into spring?

You can see from the list what my priorities are for the coming year: Growing and selling produce, growing and selling flowers and herbs, crafting and selling what we can, increasing our egg laying flock and adding broilers, raising a small milk goat herd (after we get fencing accomplished- the actual animals may have to wait until the spring after this coming one), and starting our fruit orchard.  We plan on adding a couple of Heirloom/Heritage fruit trees per year.  This year will be apple trees.

That's not too much to chew off is it?  We shall see!  What have you all been doing this winter?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Pursuing A Family Economy

The Lewis Family learning to butcher chickens last summer

Farmer John and I went on a lunch date earlier this week and I told him I was serious about earning money from our land this year.  Nothing grand- just keeping on top of the garden so I have excess to sell, adding another dozen laying chickens and trying our hand at some broilers for ourselves and a few to sell to friends.

Then, to my surprise, my husband said he really desires to leave his corporate job and come home to make a living on the land. This is the first time he said it as a definite goal not just a pipe dream.  We both shared our desire for a lifestyle of "needing" less and in the process freeing ourselves from modern consumerism and economics.

I laugh because we are both admittedly middle aged (44) and for our mid-life crisis we don't want to go buy hot rods or take early retirement to a tropical island.  We want to need less and provide healthy food and knowledge to our community.  It is a dream different from most.

Now, I don't think it will be easy.  We will probably have to work harder then we ever have. But I do think (if it is within God's will) that it is obtainable.  If we build our customer base slow without incurring debt and let God open doors then I do believe John could come home in three years or less and we'd be working for ourselves not somebody else.

Herrick Kimball over at The Deliberate Agrarian has been doing a series on Family Economies and his last post really captures our desires.  You can read it here.

We will be writing a proper business plan soon but our plans include: selling eggs, broilers, veges, herbs, flowers, bread, jams, and crafts this year.  Michigan has a great cottage food law that allows us to sell up to $25,000 worth of product from a home kitchen without needing any sort of license and because we don't want to be the next "Tyson" and want to keep things on a micro level we also weed out a lot of other government regulation. 

In the future we want to add animal fiber and goods, goat milk caramels and soaps, bramble fruits, and an orchard.  We aren't sure if we want to CSA or Herbal CSA but we will want to add educational classes and a green house for annual flowers and potted veges/herbs.  (The latter will require at least a $40 yearly micro grower state license.)  We want this to be a venture that our kids can add to with their own ideas and talents and I've always wanted to do a magazine and write agrarian non-fiction. (As well as the fiction I have in the works.)  But we aren't doing any of this with a get rich mentality or desire.  Our desire is to be closer as a family, closer to God, closer to the land and the rich, healthy heritage of agrarianism and be blessed with an opportunity to share it with others.

I'd love to hear the stories of others doing the same!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Off Grid Legend Of Washington State

I have a confession to make. A little secret if you will...

I really enjoy watching The Legend of Mick Dodge on NatGeo. (The National Geographic Channel)

Farmer John saw the advertisement for it and set it up to record.  I, in all my high and mightiness, laughed at him.  "You're really going to watch that?"  I thought it looked silly. 

But despite the quirkiness (and earth worshipping world view) of the "star" of the show, Mick Dodge.  I found myself strangely drawn to his lifestyle.

He lives in the Hoh rainforest of Washington's Olympic peninsula. But he lives a bit more than off-grid.  He makes his home in trees and stumps and eats off the land, bartering for what little of the "real" world he needs.

Now I don't for a moment believe that what I'm shown on the show is the total "reality" and a little internet research proves me right. But I like the concept of his life.  It has a freedom to it that so many of us tied to the grid and slave-wage jobs don't have. (Though I also confess that I have no intention of crawling into stumps to sleep if I have a choice.)

I have watched two episodes so far.  In the first show we met Dodge and a leather working off-grid friend.  I was in awe of the handcrafted goods this man makes.  In the second show, Dodge finds one of his hidden bows (for defense against bears and cougars) stolen and needs a replacement.  We then see him in barter action.  A burl he finds in a clear cut and some juice made from wild berries is traded (with the leather worker from the first show) for a pair of buckskins and then the buckskins are traded to a master bow maker for the needed bow, which we get to seen made.  No money! Just work and ingenuity! I am inspired to see what I can find or produce that I can barter with.

It will be interesting to see what else he does and who else they introduce on the show and what crazy ideas I get from it. 

Has anyone else seen the show? What do you all think?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I'm Thinking Of Planting A Tea Garden This Year!

My first guest blog post is up over at the Heirloom Girl blog.  It's about planting tea herbs and making your own teas. Check it out!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Plant Organic Potatoes!

For Christmas Farmer John gave me a subscription to the Magazine Mary Jane's Farm.  In the December/January 2014 issue there is a very enlightening article on potatoes: The Real Dirt on Spuds.

What stood out most to me was a quote by Wendy Gordon of The Wedge Natural Foods Co-op in Minnesota. "Growing potatoes... implies a clockwork schedule of pesticide application."

The article goes on to say that before potatoes are planted, insecticides are spread over the field. Tubers are then covered in fungicide. More poison is applied at "hilling" time and sink into the plant. During the entire growing time more insecticide and fungicides are applied and when harvest comes more chemicals are used. Once in storage the taters are treated to prevent sprouting. Gordon points out that potato farmers wear protective gear to keep them safe from the chemicals.

Really?  How much of that are we digesting?  That is just gross!

And then on top of all that... our wonderful USDA (U.S.Duh as Joel Salatin refers to them as) wants to approve a new GMO potato.  There is even a petition you can sign at www.FoodAndWaterWatch.org telling McDonald's (the U.S.'s largest buyer of spuds) not to go that route.

So while I've been chewing on that info, this video popped up on Facebook.  This lovely, little, third-grade girl experimented with non-organic, supermarket chain organic and health food store organic potatoes. It doesn't get more simple to see which one I prefer to consume. Eye opening!

Good thing I already perused Territorial Seeds new catalog and found that they offer at least 10 organic tuber options (not including sweets).  I plan on purchasing their kitchen garden collection of three different types. Yumminess awaits!

Besides not having to consume gallons of pesticide there is one more good reason to grow your own, which you can read about here.

Anyway you think about it, growing your own organic potatoes is a good investment!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

It's Amazing What One Can Do With A Toilet Paper Tube

We are toilet paper users.  I applaud others who have retired their dependence on said item but as for me and my family, until our budget can no longer justify it, we will be users of the paper.  My laundry doing daughter thanks me for this decision. We have stopped with paper towels and napkins but for bathroom necessities we will stand firm.

What this does leave us with is a lot of empty tubes. Rather then just throw them out we use them in a few different ways.

1. Kid's craft projects and play toys.  They are free to build, cut, tape, color and be creative with these to their heart's content.  They are only limited to their imagination. Bowling is a common game.

2. Re-purposing into useful items.

Two tubes taped together make a perfect storage tube for ponytail bands.  My daughter created this on her own.  She plans to color it to make it prettier but it could also be papered, decopodged or painted.

3. Fire starters: I got this one from watching an episode of Extreme Cheapskates.  Toilet paper tubes plus dryer lint!

What things do you use your paper tubes for?  What about dryer lint.  I've thought about trying to craft with the lint.  Am I crazy?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Friday Read & Write: Some Good Reads For Cold Weather!

New on the library magazine rack!

Also from the library...

 Before Cheryl Strayed's Wild there was Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis.  I enjoyed Wild but I'm enjoying this book much better. Just as Ms. Strayed made me want to hike the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) Ms. Davis makes me want to head off onto the Appalachian Trail(AT). Someday, someday!

I have read all of the other Duck Dynasty books (all enjoyable and interesting) so I'm about to embark on Si's. He by far is the most eccentric character of the bunch. I think it will be fun to learn what makes him tick.

Also doing some studying on herbs for some blog articles and future herb gardening. Love my local library system!

Anyone reading or writing anything they want to share?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Homestead What Is It?


Can you all guess what this is a picture of?

It gave me great joy to see.

Here is another shot to help you guess.

Comment with your guess.  Enjoy your day and the new year!