Goats, rabbits, chickens (pages)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

HOW-TO-TUESDAY Rose Hip Honey



OK, I know. I should change this to How To Thursday since this is the second week in a row I've posted How To on Thursday. But, you see, I have reasons. And, I have goals. The reason: I taught class on Tuesday. And, I didn't have a How To ready to fly. The goal: post How To's on Tuesdays.

I'm all about Vitamin C. And, rose hips. And, honey. So here is a SIMPLE recipe anyone can do. And, I found one already written out so here you go:

Hip Syrup-Rosehip that is!

This is a terrific site for all kinds of recipes---enjoy!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

HOW-TO-TUESDAY - Healthy Pet Powder


Ok, so I'm running a couple days behind. Remember what I said yesterday about PLAN IT FORWARD!?

I spend a lot of time researching, thinking, planning and preparing food for my animals. Dogs, cats, chickens, goats, bunny and now a cow. Some folks feed the cheapest prepared food possible, and I understand the cost factor weighs in here. But, I think we come out ahead when it comes to the health (and consequently vet bills) of the animals. Not to mention (why do we say not to mention when we are mentioning it?) the animals need good health to do their work: varmint control, egg production, milk manufacturing, guard duty, round-up and look-out captain, and cuteness factor.


Charlie the Bunny and Sunny the Cat with FarmBoy.



You don't have to outspend your budget to start feeding healthy. Just remember, animals thrive on FRESH, WHOLE food just as we do. A modicum of thought and reading will yield ideas for food. Their are now scores of books for natural animal foods and the internet is crawling with information.

I use eggshells as one of the calcium sources for my cats and dogs: bake 'em (300 degrees for 10 minutes)and grind 'em (blender, food processor, mortar/pestle). (For eggshell calcium for YOU see blog post 3/22/11). One teaspoon equals 1800 milligrams of calcium carbonate and 6 milligrams of phosphorous. (You must keep calcium/phosphorous ratio 1 to 2 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorous.) Bone meal is another good source and already has balanced calcium/phosphorous levels. An EXCELLENT book on this is Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health For Dogs and Cats. I have several books on the subject and I like this one the best.

Here is a simple easy way to UP your pets nutrition: Healthy Powder (This is in Dr. Pitcairn's book--I tweaked it slightly). Just sprinkle it on commercial food or add it to your home made food.




2 cups nutritional yeast (or brewers yeast)
1 cup lecithin granules
1/4 cup alfalfa powder (or kelp powder)
2 T ground eggshell
1000 milligrams of Vitamin C (grind with mortar/pestle)



Sprinkle on food:
1-2 tsp per day per cat or small dog
2-3 tsp per day medium dog
1-2 tbl per day large dog

Cassie inspecting the cold frame.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Time Is A Slippery Slope

I've had my "Brain Box" for years,
















I keep a Planner,
(Yes, it's so full of IDEAS it won't zip.)



















and I keep a tiny white board in the kitchen with my weekly schedule in plain view.

To some this may appear annal. OCD. Controlling. To me it's sanity. I don't have to even try to remember what I want to do, what I need to do, what I have to do. This releases me from appointment anxiety. Sets me free from the trials of the dreaded What Did I Forget To Do. What time am I supposed to be in Braymer? I don't know but my planner does. When was the last time I checked for cobwebs in the corner? I don't know but my Brain Box does. Do I have time to play on Facebook? Check the whiteboard to see where I am on my list. I LOVE BEING SCHEDULED. Once a week or so I SYNC UP with those folks I interact with the most.

STUFF HAPPENS. Even in the best of circumstances stuff happens to derail the Plan. Take this morning. My Plan was to write articles as soon as the chores were done. But, Rocky had his own Plan.
Rocky in one of his most endearing moments.










He decided that being "outside" the barn-pasture was more fun than being inside. Never mind the electric fence. I saw him make the decision to get shocked. Three times. Afterall, chasing chickens is SO worth a second's worth of JOLT. By his third time out he had wised up and was no longer a breeze to catch. So, there went a good portion of my "planned time". Since I started this blog he got out twice more; FarmBoy is out there dealing with him. I'd better go.

No worries. I just PLAN IT FORWARD.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

When The Cow Comes Home

One moment it's all jack o' lanterns and pumpkins and turkeys and the next it's tinsel and shopping and reindeer. I've always said once Halloween arrives, the year is gone in a flash.

FarmBoy and I can't believe we have lived on our farm a year. Wow. We just put the gardens to bed and are already planning next year's crops; my shelves are filled with new and exciting seed catalogs.

I'm planning something new in the way of planting: WINTER SOWING. I'm pretty excited and am collecting "planters": cartons and containers of all kinds. Planting time will begin on Winter Solstice-- December 22.

Emma


Our miniature Jersey cow, Emma, is home. After a couple of delivery snafus she arrived before the turkey on Thanksgiving. What a difference in the barnyard dynamic. We knew Rocky, our Anatolian, would be all stressed and confused and that the goats would wonder what the heck?

We isolated Rocky in another pen so he wouldn't spook Emma. Sure enough he went hyper as soon as Emma stepped out of the trailer--barking and pacing the fence. Emma took advantage of her size and stature by intimidating the goats and promptly took over the barn and the barn yard.

Willie and Coco


FarmBoy built the goats--Belle, Coco & Willie--a ramp to the barn loft so they could get away from Emma when they chose to. They exercised that option immediately! Don't let the "miniature" fool you; Emma is hefty and round and knows how to throw her weight around.

Emma discovered the zap in the electric fence so we have not had to retrieve her from neighboring pastures but she has made a cow path parallel to the fence circling the entire enclosure. The grass is long and lush so she takes time out from her travels to munch.

Rocky and Cassie


Thanksgiving evening we left for a while and when we got back home we discovered Rocky had gone to the "rescue" of his goats. He had either jumped or climbed the fence in his isolation pen and joined his little darlings. I have no idea how he managed to get inside the electric fence as he has never tried to get out of it.
That night the goats went up to their loft and Emma promptly lay down in front of the doorway blocking Rocky outside to bark all night.

So now we have a 3 ring circus: Rocky and Emma barking and butting (Emma usually the instigator) and Belle, Coco and Willie just trying to stay out of the way. It really gets hectic when I go through the gate at feeding time. Since rain was in the forecast FarmBoy and I put up a hasty shelter for Rocky, but that night Rocky got into the barn first, so Emma spent the night outside. Ei yi yi.

It rained all day yesterday and it looked like everyone was dry so they must have worked it out to their mutual satisfaction. Emma has been home 3 and a half days and the barn seems to have quieted down somewhat. She is due to calve in April...FRESH MILK A COMIN'! The goats go up and down their ramp like it was the Himalayas, Rocky does his best to stay between Emma and his goats and Emma is still searching for a break in the fence. I am looking forward to the day when the lion (Rocky) lies down with the lamb (Emma). After all we have entered the season of PEACE; a FarmGirl can hope you know.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How To Tuesday Pumpkin Pie



Is this cheating? I posted how to cook a pumpkin about a month ago, but that was the cliff notes--this is the book. And, this one has a happy-ever-after ending: A PIE!


Start with a pumpkin...any pumpkin will do but I had this luscious, beautiful Galeuse D'Eysines. Or, as we say in Missouri, Peanut Pumpkin.


Clean the pumpkin with a good organic cleaner. I use Basic H from Shaklee.


Cut into average sized slices.


Remove the seeds. Roast 'em or save them to plant!


Add small amount of water to baking pan.


Arrange slices skin side up in pan, cover with lid or aluminum foil and bake at 325 until pumpkin is fork tender. The amount of baking time will depend on how large your pumpkin is; this one took 90 minutes.



Remove the pumpkin from the skin; this is a breeze, it comes right off.


Puree the pulp to remove the fibers. You can do this with a hand held crank type or an electric mixer.


Now you have a bowl full of beautiful, creamy pumpkin. This one made enough for four pies!

Recipe:
2 cups pureed pumpkin
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs
1/12 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg, cloves and cardamom
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Bake 425 for 15 minutes; reduce temp to 350 for 50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. The baking time will depend on the amount of water in your pumpkin.


Wala. The perfect Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.

CLASS ANNOUNCEMENTS

Herbal First Aid scheduled for Dec 13 is POSTPONED until January 17.

NEW UNSCHEDULED HERB CLASS: Winter Solstice Planting Dec 20 10 am to noon $20. This class is all about WINTER SEED PLANTING. Get a head start on spring!

FINAL KIDS CLASS: Plant Reproduction. Dec 6 Tues 10 to noon. $5. There will be NO KIDS CLASSES January thru May. The summer program will begin in June.

CRAFT CLASSES: Gift Boxes --charming paper boxes with matching cards or gift tags--November 29 10 am to noon $20 No craft class in December.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Fences and Roots

I hate, hate, hate to see animals penned up, cooped up or otherwise crammed into small spaces. I like them to be able to free range as much as possible. In the wild west, I would have been one of those fighting for no fences!




When we brought our goats home we separated and isolated them for a while until we managed the parasite situation. Then I moved them into the new barn and holding pen along with their guard, Rocky, and kept them there for a day. Then, I tested the new electric fence, held my breath and opened the gate. They love it. LOVE IT. There is lush pasture, thick brush, hanging limbs still filled with leaves. Goat heaven. I was afraid they might head for the hills, literally, as there is a LOT of land on the OTHER side of the fence. But, they graze and browse for awhile, then they always come back to the barn and holding pen to relax and hang out. The "browsing" ...eating tree leaves and brush adds so much to their natural diet and contributes to their over-all health.





In the evening, when they hear me calling the chickens in, they come flying into their pen for supper, Belle's bell clanging in the cold air. I lock them in the holding pen at night for safety. We have coyotes running out our ears and a couple of bobcats for good measure. Cougars, too. They nestle in their straw bed in the barn. I couldn't be happier with the fence. It only took a couple of little zaps for the goats and Rocky to learn to keep away from it. I test it every morning before I let them out to make sure it's working. One day a sycamore branch had blown across it but that was an easy fix. Now my beauties can roam to their little goat-hearts content.


Rocky (Anatolian puppy) is learning not to chase and nip at the goats hind legs. He has a log and chain attached to his collar for an anchor. It sounds awful, but it slows him down just enough that he tires easily and gives up the chase. We are on day four. The man where we bought him suggested this treatment. Rocky's mother also had the idea to chase and bite the goats and this remedy worked like a charm.

Tomorrow is HERB CLASS. The Herbalist is in....the field. Come on out and we'll DIG herbs! Increase your knowledge of herbalism. You can take the herbs you dig home and we will also make a remedy in class. FIRST FROST HERB CLASS. Tuesday 11-1 10 am to noon. $20

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Herbalist Is In...


It's here! FIRST FROST HERB CLASS. You've been waiting for this class, asking about this class and wondering what the heck is this class about. Herbs must not be harvested before their time! ROOTS are wonderous, marvelous sources of good juju but there is no need to harvest them if all the medicine is up in the leaves and flowers. As soon as it freezes all that good stuff hurries back down into the root for the winter. DIG NOW!
And, that's just what we are going to do: TUESDAY NOV 1 10 am to noon. First we'll dig, then we'll study and learn all the great things it can do for our bodies, minds and souls then we'll make a natural remedy for you to take home. We will work on two or three different herbal roots depending on the time we have. If you have a small shovel and gloves bring them along. Wear old clothes. Get ready to have fun and learn.

We will start with Dandelion-my all time fav and Burdock-my all time fav. OK, I can't choose between them! They are just so hated by conventional standards and I want to teach anyone who will listen about all their many super-duper qualities and all the GOOD they can do for you and your family. It's truly amazing.

Natural remedies have been around a long time for good reason. I've used them for myself and my family with excellent results. You will be able to choose between making a tincture or a salve to take home. Don't miss this once a year class.

TUESDAY NOVEMBER 1 10 AM TO NOON $20 CALL TO REGISTER. Bring a friend; it's a beautiful country drive, all paved roads except for the last block.

Elizabeth 816-853-0440 lizzy@rcvfarm.com

The last Farmers Market of the season is Saturday in Liberty, but not to worry. Rocky Creek free range eggs will be available at Mother Nature's in Liberty. 816-415-4638. Tell them I sent you! And, as always, they are available at the iFarm Country Store here at Rocky Creek.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Unmentionables

iHerbs

It's one of those undesirable facts of life; one of those things you don't like to think about let alone talk about. And, when you mention it to folks, and as an herbalist, I do mention it, they get that look in their eye. That look that says "eeeeew". That glazed look that says they wish they were anywhere discussing anything with anyone else but me.

That subject? Worms. Parasites. Trust me when I say they are everywhere and no one and no place is immune. And, yes, you most likely have a few. A few can be good. It helps make you immune to them. So, by the same token, a few can be good for your pets.

Farmers and multiple animal owners are the exception to the "eeeeew" factor. When dealing with animals it cannot be ignored, it must be managed or you and your animals will pay a heavy price.

Here at Rocky Creek Farm before we ever moved onto the property I decided to carry my herbalism philosophy over into the management of farm animals. Knowing next to nothing about how to control parasites in animals other than traditional chemical protocols, I set out to learn. I studied everything I could think of. My herbal training was great with how to get rid of them naturally in people, but not so much on the preventative and elimination side for animals.

After reading Juliette de Bairicli Levy's book for the Complete Herbal Handbook for Barn and Stable( available in the side bar) I was hooked on what this world-renown herbalist had to say about what she called natural rearing for animals. I got her book "The Complete Herbal Handbook for Dog and Cat" along with a pile of other natural method books and commenced to study. We already had our mini Auzzie dog, Cassie, a small array of cats for rodent control and a flock of chickens. I began my natural parasite regimen and crossed my fingers.

After taking in all the experts had to say I ultimately designed a protocol myself. I make my dogs meals and supplement a good commercial dog food. I made a dog and cat "Green Goodness" which is a vitamin/mineral/herbal supplement that I mix in their food. (I have one for people, too!) The parasite preventative also goes into their food, bedding and for the chickens wherever they "dust bathe".

Of the several cats we have, one came as a stray. A beautiful small calico queen (Katy Scarlett)...and you guessed it, she was full of worms. I was dismayed but at the same time anxious to see how my new protocol worked.

Goats were next on the agenda. We found two cute mixed breed (Coco and Willie) and a Boar doeling (Belle). Goats are notorious for getting parasites; all goat owners give a regimen of chemical vermicides rotating them so the worms do not become resistant. Before we brought them home I found a great resource: Natural Goat Care by Pat Coleby. I was satisfied with his credentials and experience so now I was armed with how to use the natural method for goats.

We isolated Coco and Willie upon their arrival. Then we added another dog; our future goat-guard. Rocky is just 9 weeks old and is a beautiful Anatolian/Akbash mix. I knew it was time to check the animals I already had to see if the parasite regimen was working and check the newcomers to see where we stand. I spent an hour collecting specimens: dogs, multiple cats, goats. Belle had not come home yet so I stopped by her farm to get her contribution and delivered them all to my vet.

I knew I wouldn't hear anything until the end of the day but I still jumped at the phone each time it rang. I'll admit I was nervous. I had been warned by several that I needed to use the chemical treatment if I didn't want serious infestation. I love my animals and this is a life or death situation for them so the outcome of the tests was important. I had been using the natural method for six months during the prime season . If we had infestation it would mean the natural protocol did not work. Was I ready to give it up?

When the vet's call came I ran for paper and pencil to write down all the info. Cassie: negative. All cats: negative. Coco and Willie: negative. Rocky: negative. Belle: positive. All of the animals who had been on the natural protocol were negative. Even Katy who without a doubt was infested. It was working.

Coco and Willie came from a farm where they had the run of a large forested area which helps to keep down infestation. We built an isolation area for Belle and will keep her there for 30 days. I've decided to give her a chemical dose to kill the worms in the beginning then put her on the natural protocol for the rest of the month. I know the natural protocol takes a little time and I want to kill the adult worms right away so I don't have to worry about that.

I am very excited about using the natural method. In fact, when I got off the phone with the vet I actually jumped up and down and did a happy dance. I plan to have tests done every in 4 weeks or so to keep an eye on things.

My entire protocol will be posted on my website in the articles section next week. If you have experience with this subject--good or bad-- I would love to hear from you.

iHerbs = intelligent, individual, integrative herbs

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How-To-Tuesday Pumpkins

OK, so it's officially after midnight and not Tuesday anymore. But, I wanted to post this How-To and How-To-Wednesday just doesn't cut it.

HOW TO COOK PUMPKIN. Ever see anyone try to wrangle a pumpkin? In our home school class this month we carved pumpkins. There's nothing quite so charming as kids hacking away at a pumpkin. And, over the years I've seen plenty of moms and a few dads wield and unwieldy knife at a pumpkin. It's really quite simple, like cutting up a chicken, once you have the basics down.

First, wash the pumpkin. Basic H is great for washing vegetables.
Get out your best SHARP knife and slice the pumpkin in half.
With a spoon, a serrated grapefruit spoon works best, (Sorry, kids, I didn't have enough of these to use in class) scrape out the punkin' innards. (Not unlike cleaning a chicken!)
Slice the pumpkin into smaller pieces; place skin side UP in a baking dish, add a little water and cover.
Bake at 325 degrees until the pumpkin is fork tender.
Let cool and scrape out pumpkin.
WaLa...you are ready to bake that pie...or cookies. FarmBoy Gary made delicious pumpkin cookies for class yesterday. I love autumn!

Monday, October 10, 2011

New Additions

We are gradually adding to our farm family. We've been looking for goats and a guard dog and finally found some. We purchased three goats, two of which are home on the farm. Two little mixed breeds for fun (Alpine/Toggenburg/Nigerian?), Coco, the little girl and Willie the whether. They were wild as March hares when they arrived via dog kennel in the pick-up but are taming down nicely. They actually let me touch the sides of their faces and yesterday when Coco escaped the goat pen (twice) she followed Farmboy Gary right back in through the gate. Guess they are loving their new diet!

Farmboy went to a conference and stopped en-route to check on some Anatolian/Akbash puppies I found on Craig's List. Sure enough, one male made the Rocky Creek standard! And, of course, his name is Rocky. I've never had a guard dog before...they are so different--in a good way. He made his escape twice his first night home and once the second night. At least he came right to the back door and woke me up. Both nights I put him in the dog kennel for the rest of the night until I could find the escape hole and fix it the next day. Now he seems content and is bonding nicely with Coco and Willie.

Tomorrow is class day for home schoolers. Life Science: PUMPKINS! We will be studying, carving, painting and tattooing! With a few games thrown in. It's $5 a kid, come on out and enjoy the fun. Call to register. 816-853-0440.

Monday, September 26, 2011

HOW-TO-TUESDAY - TURMERIC PASTE








Turmeric is one of the BEST anti-inflammatory herbs/spices. It is good for SO MANY health concerns. Here is an easy way to incorporate it into your busy lifestyle. This simple recipe for turmeric paste can be added to numerous dishes, made into a smoothie, used as a sandwich spread, eaten on crackers or veggies or added to warm milk.

1/4 cup turmeric powder
1/2 cup filtered water
1/4 tsp pepper (pepper makes the turmeric more bio-available)

Mix ingredients, heat on stove until thickened--this doesn't take long!


Store in frig--will keep forever. Well, maybe not forever.

Golden Milk
1 cup milk (for all of us dairy intolerant-use alternative milks: almond, rice etc)
1/4 tsp turmeric paste
Heat on stove, then add honey to taste. Can add cinnamon, too! This is a very warming and relaxing drink; afterall, Autumn is here!
When I have any inflammation, I drink 2 or 3 cups of this a day.


Smoothie
Use my smoothie matrix on my website for infinite possibilities! Or, short and easy: milk, turmeric paste, honey, cinnamon.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Autumn Comes

Autumn comes.

With cold breath
and changing colors.
Autumn comes.

With darkening moon
and paling sun
Autumn comes.

With slowing sap
and hoarding squirrels
Autumn comes.


With secret smiles
and glowing hope
Autumn comes.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Golden Rod

I spent all day yesterday harvesting this beautiful WILD herb. It grows abundantly all over our farm and all along the roadsides of Missouri and the U.S. Have you ever been blamed for something you didn't do? Golden Rod gets this all the time. He is blamed for allergies but is INNOCENT! Probably because he shows his golden plumes unabashedly while sneaky ragweed is less ostentatious--out of site, out of mind. Golden Rod pollen is much too heavy to be borne on the wind; it needs pollinators like our beautiful bees.

All parts of golden rod are used in traditional medicine making: the lovely tiny yellow flowers that form the plume, the long slender elegant leaves and the silent magic in the roots. Golden Rod offers us a plethora of healthy actions: anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic and vulnerary. That means you can use if for a HOST health concerns. The best part? He's absolutely FREE. Just give him a little bit of your time and he will give you a, well, a healthier you.

HERB CLASS: Golden Rod Tuesday September 27 10 am to noon $20 Bring a sack lunch and enjoy the country! We will be learning all about golden rod's good properties and making traditional remedies.

REGISTER TODAY: 816-853-0440 lizzie@rcvfarm.com

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Summer's End

Well, two more days of summer and I say make the most of it! It was in the 40's here in the valley this morning. Crisp. Bracing. Makes me think of bread fresh from the oven (ok, bread machine), steaming stew and hot chocolate.

Grilling time may be short for some of you (we grill all winter long, yes even in Missouri) so here's a delicious herbal marinade that's delicious on meat or vegetables.

THYME TO GRILL: 1/2 cup red wine vinegar or red wine, 1 small onion, 1 clove garlic, sea salt & fresh ground black pepper and 8 to 10 sprigs of thyme. (Throw caution to the wind and substitute different herbs). Place all ingredients in flat dish, add meat (ribeye's are great), cover and chill about 3 hours. Remove meat from marinade (discard marinade), salt & pepper and pop on hot grill (400-450 degrees). Be sure grill is on HIGH HEAT and close the grill lid when cooking. For ribeye about 4 minutes each side. Or, you can broil them about 5 inches from heat. Ummmm, I can smell it now.

Jumpin' Jack Flash put up a valiant fight living several weeks after his dog and coyote attacks but he finally gave it up. I buried him with his Mables.

I LOVE IT when Rocky Creek classes start in the Fall. We've already had such a good turn out. This year we have added KIDS classes for homeschoolers and CRAFT classes for, well anyone to our regular line up of HERB classes. Next up is Herbal Antibiotics October 18. And, as soon as it frosts FIRST FROST herb class will be scheduled so be on the look out! The next KIDS class is October 11: Life Science-Pumpkin carving and painting--WHAT FUN. CRAFT class is bead weaving October 4. You will be making a beautiful bracelet in what I call 3-D! Check our website or facebook page for a full schedule. Don't be disappointed: register today. I encourage participants to bring a sack lunch and eat at the farm after class.

I will be putting the garden to bed very soon. It has been QUITE an experience in the garden this summer...good and bad. I will share all of it with you on a future blog.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wiley Coyote

Poor little Jack cannot catch a break. A few weeks ago his beautiful plumage and his ability to walk were greatly diminished when a dog attacked him and killed several of his Mables. He hobbles around on one leg resolutely maintaining his top of the pecking order status. My heart goes out to him.

Two days ago I glanced out the window in response to the "chicken alarm" and a brazen HUGE coyote was in the barn lot. Earlier it had been storming so I had kept an eye on Jack to make sure he got in out of the weather and had watched him go into the barn... now ten feet from the coyote. I ran toward the back door, slipped on my shoes and grabbed my gun; Cassie hot on my heels. She now jumps up and looks out the window anytime she hears the chicken alarm. I flew out the door yelling like a crazy person. Wiley Coyote had grabbed Jack but upon seeing a deranged and demented farmgirl brandishing a weapon he dropped Jack and took off toward the woods. Jack furiously flapped his wings and hopped as fast as his one leg could carry him into the yard toward me. I fired a shot for good measure knowing there was no hope of hitting the would-be chicken killer but wanting to send a message. Chicken thieves shot on sight; questions later.

The next morning Jack wouldn't come out for breakfast until mid-day; I expect he was feeling the pain of the mauling. But, this morning he hopped out to eat with the others. He's short a few (ok a lot) more feathers, but seems to be ok. I've opened up the brooder house so he can bed down easier and his three remaining Mables and one Tilly sleep with him at night; the rest of the chickens go into the big chicken house.

Yesterday Wiley came out of the gardens which is quite a ways from the main chicken hang-out area around the chicken houses and pens. Again, I fired a warning shot to keep him his distance. As I have mentioned before, this is one of the perils of true free ranging so I will continue to stand guard over my flock. Farmboy Gary built a great pen for them around the chicken houses, so when I leave I put them in their pen; otherwise they are out catching worms, bugs and foraging herbs and other greens. It's the stuff good, no GREAT eggs are made of.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Classes - HERB, KIDS & CRAFT

I am very excited about this season's line up. Not only are we offering our HERB classes, but have added KID and CRAFT classes. The schedules are posted on our website HERE and on our Facebook page discussion board.

The scheduled herb classes are our most popular and we will add even more great classes to the line up after the first of the year--after farmers markets and shows. First herb class- 3 ROOTS- is Sep 13 Tues 10 to noon. Cost $20. We will be studying dandelion, burdock and yellow dock, digging them up and making traditional remedies.

Kids classes are great for home schoolers and are designed to be of interest to all ages. The worksheets and tests are age-specific, but the subject matter, activities and “labs” are appropriate for a wide age range. The science is presented both in understandable, simple language and demonstrations for the young students and also in more technical terms for advanced students. Vocabulary and spelling words are age appropriate.

The Life Science Course-Plants is presented once a month over a four month period this fall, assignments will be given for follow-up at the next class. However, assignment follow-up can be done at home if you elect not to take all classes. Students will make a Life Science-Plants notebook which will contain all their worksheets and projects. The first class- Plant Anatomy- is Sept 6 Tuesday 10 am to noon. Cost is $5 per child. Multiple children discount. Bring sack lunch and enjoy the farm. Moms can sip herb tea and relax during class!

Class specimens and examples will be related to plants and herbs growing at Rocky Creek Valley Farm.

Craft classes are scheduled through December. Our first one on Sept 20 at 10 am to 12:30 pm "Introduction to Milled Soap Making" is being taught by guest instructor Shonna Hilliard from Red Shed Soap. Cost is $20. Sign up early as it is a popular class.

We just moved the kiln and molds to Rocky Creek and will be having ceramic classes after the first of the year. Hoorah!

We will have one craft class a month and the 2012 schedule will be posted at a later date.


Injured Chicken

After chores I sit outside just to soak up the farm. It's so peaceful, sipping my yerba mate tea, cuddling Cassie (Miniature Australian Shepherd), watching the chickens and trying to make room on my lap for various cats and either my computer or a book. Of late the mornings have been so chilly I need to wrap up a bit. Then when the chickens finish feeding they stop by my chair for a visit on their way to free-ranging. Even now they are all around me. Randy, our young Araucana rooster is practicing the art of being a gentleman by calling hens to him so he can share some tidbit found in the grass. All of my young roosters are beginning to behave like men instead of adolescent boys. The hens are grateful.

My main rooster, Jack (half Cochin) no longer has his beautiful long tail and is crippled from the dog attack. I kept waiting for him to get better but he has gotten worse. Upon examination I cannot see anything wrong, no open wounds, no apparent dislocations. It breaks my heart to see him try to keep up. But, he still crows, eats well and mates, so his spirit is strong. I decided to isolate him in the brooder house/pen. I put his three remaining Mables (Red Sex Link/Red Star) in with him to ease the pain of confinement. I'm giving him comfrey/nettle tea--he actually loves it--and soaking the offending leg/foot in comfrey. I put herb salve all over his leg and foot but he promptly removed it. I'm hoping he gets better before the weather turns cold. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Beware of Pretty As A Picture Produce

I see perfect produce all the time...large perfectly round perfectly colored cantaloupes, unblemished perfect same-sized tomatoes, corn laid out in neat little rows exposing blonde silks and little yellow rows of kernels so perfect it looks like they've been to an orthodontist. Don't get me wrong, I love it when my garden produces picture perfect veggies. But, for every perfect tomato there are 6 with a little spot, varied color permutations or unique shapes. They look REAL.

Our society is so visual--we want everything we see to look manufactured to perfection. And, chances are, if your veggies look perfect, that's just what they are: manufactured produce. Unfortunately our agricultural commerce is GMO'd and gene-spliced until little is left of Grandma's produce. Give me a tomato with a spot on it--to me it's proof of NO CHEMICAL POISONOUS SPRAYS OR POWDERS. Show me a tomato that has funny little dips and ridges and I'll know it has not been bio-engineered to be just like its million other sisters.

I am an advocate of heirloom seed/plants. I have several varieties in my garden. I love the taste, the irregular look, the smell. They remind me of the garden I had as a kid. Favoring traditional produce is not just nostalgic; it's healthier. I found this great "infograph" that illustrates the loss of nutrition in today's produce.
Check out this link. I love this nifty graphic interactive chart!

Compare 1999 nutritive values to 1955: Corn has 78% less calcium, 26% less phosphorus, 50% less riboflavin and 43% less vitamin C. The chart shows several vegetables that have declined in these nutrients. It's a little scary and just brings home the fact that we must take charge of our health, take charge of our food, take charge of our lives.

Thank goodness we still have choices. Shop your farmers markets for heirloom vegetables (never be afraid to ASK farmers about their produce. Just because they are at a market doesn't mean they grew them!). Grow your own. Join CSAs. Make friends with a farmer! Ask questions. Eat nutritious food. Life is Good. :) e

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Presto Chango: Pesto!




We LOVE basil. And, my customers are pretty fond of it as well. So, I decided I was going to have plenty of basil this year. I planted it by the tomatoes in two different gardens, in the raised beds, in a flower bed and have three jars "rooting" in the green house.

Traditionally, basil--Ocimum basilicum--Treats fevers, cold and flu. Alleviates stomach cramps, vomiting and indigestion. Basil has many reputed medicinal properties, such as the ability to draw out poison from insect bites, as a sedative, for treating digestive disorders, soothing pain, promoting perspiration, and promoting production of breast milk in nursing mothers.

As a food basil is delicious whole leaf--top it on sandwiches, salads and summer soups. And, the world renown Genoa sauce famous for it's versatility, it's rich, wonderful, flavor-packed greeny goodness: pesto. It can be a sauce, a condiment, a topping or an ingredient for other recipes. Although it's quick and easy from a food processor, many folks still like the hands-on, tactile earthyness of using a mortar & pestle.

I do love a good matrix. (check out the Smoothie Matrix HERE)
It puts a lot of info in a birds eye view. I made a new one for pesto that will be on the website ( www.rockycreekvalley.com ) but here is the basics for now.

Pesto's three main ingredients are herbs, cheese and nuts. These three can be switched and swapped to suit your taste or recipe.

Herbs- 2 cups: basil, cilantro, spinach, arugula, parsley, mint, broccoli rabe
Cheese- 1/4 cup: Parmesan, Asiago, Romano, Grana Padano, Manchego
Nuts- 1/2 cup: pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, Brazil nuts, pistachios

Other stuff: 1/4 cup olive oil-extra virgin, 2 Rocky Creek garlic cloves, 1/2 t sea salt, 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper, 2 tsp lemon juice

Put all ingredients except EVOO & cheese in food processor add EVOO in a streat and pulse to desired consistency. Add cheese & pulse. Serves 8.
TIPS: Toasted nuts will UP the WOW factor. Spread on baking sheet for 7-9 minutes at 350 degrees, stir occasionally.
Freeze pesto in ice cube trays to pop into soup this winter.
Walnuts add that extra Omega-3 we all need.

For Chef Gary's more detailed description of making pesto check our website: www.rockycreekvalley.com

MMMMMmmmmm...I can taste it now. Life is good. :) e

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

GAP

Today I begin the GAP course for product safety--Good Agricultural Practices-- offered by Cornell University. GAP Certification is not yet a requirement and is still only a suggestion from the USDA but many restaurants/grocers require it. In all probability it will become the standard and trickle down to the farmers' markets and individual farm sales. I am being proactive here and trying to stay ahead of government mandates. I hope it proves helpful and informative instead of boring and useless. After all, I am sacrificing quality garden time!

Mable is so much better today. She is perky and gobbling food right in there with her sisters. I may let them out of their confinement later today...test them to see if they remain on our own property instead of meandering over into the great abyss where the chicken-eating dragon lives-- aka the neighbors yard and German Shepherd.

All of the young Mables (20), Millies (22), Tillies (10) and Lillies (4) have reached egg-laying maturity--20 weeks. I am confident that when this hot weather breaks (yesterday we registered 111) I will have eggs to eat and share. My customers are getting restless and I fear they may wander over to other chicken havens to sample their offerings. However, there are NO eggs like Rocky Creek eggs and my customers have attested to this on numerous occasions. Perhaps it would be a good thing for them to try other chickens eggs; it will make them appreciate Mable's all the more.

And, I have had nothing but rave reviews on our garlic. This is the first time I've ever grown it and am so happy folks love it. It is a robust garlic and not for the feint of heart and just full of healthy nutrition. Life is Good.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hot Heat

Convalescing Mable walked out of the coop this morning of her own accord. She is obviously still not well, but getting much better. The other two Mables are keeping her company and cheering her up which, I'm convinced, speeds her healing process. Jack mopes around outside their pen...at least he is not going over to the neighbors without them. The fence is not up yet...still waiting on the phone company to mark their lines...we all know what waiting on a utility company is like.

It is 105 in the henhouse. They are sprawled all over; dug down into the ground like little half-buried feather-covered melons. We spray the henhouse to settle the dust and make it somewhat cooler; we pray for evening and a reprieve from the heat.

Hubs took my first load of recycled water to the garden from my vegetable washing station. The beans and tomatoes were grateful.

I got good news from the doctor today about the sunspot on my arm...benign. Plus, my blood pressure was perfect (their words) and they said I could stand to gain a few pounds and that I had a happy face. Wow...Christmas in August. Life is good.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mable Saga- Day Three

It has been three days since the Great Chicken Massacre. The next day after the fiasco Hubs rescued a Mable literally from the clutches of the domestic predator. She appeared to be in bad shape: wing drooping, limping, lethargy, pale. I gave her some Rescue Remedy, some nettles and comfrey in her feed and isolated her in what is now the bunny pen/chicken brooderhouse (a tiny shed with roosts and hay connected to a good sized chicken wire pen with a rabbit hutch). Charlie, the rabbit, looks on with casual interest.

Recuperation Mable was pretty out of it the first day and come evening I lifted her into the brooder house and set her on a soft pile of hay for the night. Yesterday morning I lifted her outside and put her food and water beside her. She pecked at her food (oats and herbs) and drank a little water, but was still totally uninterested in her surroundings. By bedtime she hadn't changed much. Today we went thru our morning routine. She wasn't as pale (her comb was pink instead pale pink) and although she wouldn't get off her bed until I picked her up, she seemed a little stronger.

Everyday since the incident we have watched the remaining three Mables and Jack closely; sure enough two of them meander around until they finally get over to the neighbors house with the offending dog. We go over and round them up, Cassie's herding instincts kicking in and heading them home. After numerous times our frustration level has risen dangerously. Finally, this morning Hubs says we have to pen them up.

So, the only place to do that is in bunny/chicken pen where Recuperation Mable is convalescing. I'm afraid they will peck her and interfere with her healing at best and possibly kill her at worst, but decide to give it a try. I pick up the troublesome two and as soon as their little chicken feet hit the ground they begin to gobble up Recuperation Mable's special diet. The moment she sees them she limps over to them, gets between them and half-heartedly pecks at the food. She's happy to see them! They ignore her, but at least they weren't picking on her.

The third Mable had been busy laying an egg while her two trespassing sisters were on their adventure. After I collected the egg Hubs and I agreed that she should be shut up with the others as well just as a preventative measure. She was just in time to get in on the last of the gobble-fest; their little crops are stuffed and puffed out like a balloon. They also seem to love the nettle/comfrey tea that replaced their water.

I waited to see what the dynamic would be after the food was gone and they got bored. Recuperation Mable started grooming one of the newbies. I think she's definitely glad her sisters are in there with her. But, Egg-layer Mable was stressed. She was fast-pacing along the fence wall and working herself into quite a dither. After watching a few minutes I elected to let her out rather than allow her to make herself sick. The second I opened that door she raced outside and into the chicken house and up on a nest. What? She's already laid one egg today. I just checked on her a few minutes ago and she's still on the nest. I have no idea what she thinks she's doing, but she seems happy so I'm going to leave her to it. As long as she stays home and away from the neighbors, I'll be happy, too.

Hubs has the fence all marked but now we have to wait on the utility company to come out and do their thing. Hurry up and wait. Yes, in spite of it all, Life is good. :)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Perils of Free Range

It is so heartwarming to see hens pecking and scratching for worms and bugs; roosters flying up on the gate to crow; the wild, ungainly walk-run when they suddenly decide to get to the other side of the yard for no apparent reason. The freedom to roam across wide expanses of grass and herbs, to take a "spa" day and roll around in the dust, turn on their side and expose their underwing to the sun. They sing the most adorable little songs when they are happy, make a little grunting sounds then a loud cackle when they lay eggs. When I take a tea break in one of the little lounging areas around the farm, they always find me and just hang out for a while.

I had eleven of my original Mables left. They had been excellent layers until the weather reached triple digits for days on end. They were good little wives to Jack,their Banty Cochin Rooster. They came when he called; they groomed him every day; they usually acquiesced to his amorous advances and they cuddled next to him on the roost. He returned their devotion by warning if something flew overhead, a cat walked by or an innocent leaf floated down from a tree. He scratched up bugs, located new food scraps in the compost heap and defended their honor from the new adolescent roosters coming of age. I loved those little red hens.

Today, after having been out of town all day, I came home, changed clothes and when I fed the chickens I started counting, as always. Eight of my Red Star (Red Sex Link) hens were missing. Eight of my sweet Mables. Eight out of eleven. Hubs and I started looking and found three dead; obviously killed.

Free range has its drawbacks. We've always been around to drive off predators--scaring hawks by pounding on buckets (yes it works!) Trapping racoons and reprimanding neighbors dogs. The evidence points to the dogs which makes matters worse because they are sweet dogs.

So, it's a sad day here at the farm. But, the circle of life goes on and we have lots of little Mables (New Hampshire Reds), Millies (Jersey Giants), Lillies (Cochins) and Tillies (Aruacanas) who are almost ready to start laying. And, there are still three older Mables (Red Star) left.

So, tomorrow Hubs is taking some extra precautions with more fencing. But, we are still going to free-range...after-all, they are the best eggs in the world.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Good Morning

Without a doubt, my favorite time of day: early morning. There's just something about the quiet, the solitude, the feeling of having alone time with God. I make my herb tea in my ever-ready go cup, slip on my shoes and head outside. It's still dark with a hint of sunshine. The birds stir and rustle in the trees. The cats yawn and stretch. The breeze sweeps past my face and the rooster crows; I can usually tell which one it is.

I'm trying to train my chickens to scrounge for bugs IN the garden so I entice them with their breakfast in a bucket. CHICK-CHICK-CHICK. My calls are softer than they are at night when I call them home from their free-ranging. It's further to the gardens than they are used to going; some of them are real "chickens" and won't embark on the new venture.

The first morning I reached the gardens with about a third of the flock. Yesterday a few more brave souls followed and this morning I actually have a good sized bug-patrol. Cassie (my dog) and I sit down there with them for a while as they are used to being with me and I thought it may encourage them to stay. HUBS sat me up a canopy complete with chair for my garden breaks. It is so peaceful; the sunflowers look toward the sunrise, new tassels flow down the embryo corn like Rapunzel's hair; the cosmos are just beginning to bloom.

My efforts are rewarded when after collecting all the feed I had thrown out a few of my "Millies" (Jersey Giants) head into the strawberry patch and scratch around the weeds I pulled yesterday. I smile. Success comes in small increments. Life is good.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

So, what have I been doing for two months?

The gardens are my new BFF. They talk nonstop (I can relate). Sometimes they whisper......"psst...it's time to get up...yes I know it's only 5 a.m.". Other times they yell.."Are you gonna WEED today?" They tell me what to eat..(kale)and when.."stop looking at the tomatoes..they are not ready." Time to water? Without a doubt. Need to replant... now. The squash bugs are coming...The Squash Bugs are coming...THE SQUASH BUGS ARE HERE.

I have learned a bucket-ful of vegetable trivia this summer. Cucumbers don't like climbing on wire. The tomatoes want more elbow room. Pumpkins don't take well to transplanting after they are so big. Deer love beet tops. The lettuce just isn't going to germinate regardless of how many times I replant. Zucchini appear ready-to-eat overnight.

I have learned garden do's and DON'T UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES DO. Like mulch. I thought (and this was confirmed by others) that year-old hay would have composted the life out of hay seeds. Wrong. So, in addition to the weeds that naturally grow in gardens (I understand it's their mission), I PLANTED weeds under the guise of mulch. Woe.

But, I have had my triumphs. The satisfaction that wells up inside when I look down a row freshly freed of weeds. It's like looking at a clean kitchen or an empty laundry basket. That little beam of bliss that comes when my harvest buckets are full of produce. The secret smile of gratitude when my plate is full of home-grown greens. The thank-you on my lips when a farmers market customer loves my veggies as much as I do.

Yes, I get muddy from head to toe every day. Yes, my muscles ache, under my hat, my hair is plastered to my head and I scrub my nails with hydrogen peroxide to get them clean (correction..TRY to get them clean). But, I am having the time of my life. I love my gardens and am so glad I am at home on the farm. Life is good.

Monday, May 9, 2011

It's Here!

Planting time that is. OMGSH...I'm not reading, writing, blogging, networking or How-To-ing; I'm barely eating...I'm only PLANTING, DIGGING and aligning rows! Come on out and see our gardens in progress. Farmer Gary just completed our 9 raised beds and they are so beautiful...all full of compost and looking good. The six 30x72 beds are partially planted and marked for rows. Gary and Bob (the tractor) are hauling seasoned hay to the garden sites and I am laying it down in rows...later more will go around the plants on top of newspaper.

My LAST HERB CLASS of the season is tomorrow from 10 to noon. Stop by, learn some herb stuff and have some herb fun! Be sure to wear old clothes, this class is outside. We will be in the gardens and in the wild herbing to our hearts content.

The chicks are 7 and 8 weeks old; we have had such cold (freezing) nights we've kept on the heat lamps. Last night was finally warm enough to leave it off but the chicks were afraid of the dark! They were trampling over one another with life-threatning clamor. It took me awhile to figure out what was wrong with them so I finally put in a small wattage bulb for a night light. They settled right down and went to sleep.

I am an advocate of natural rearing for dogs/cats; check out the link on my facebook page from a vet who also recommends it. And, the Amazon widget over to the right will lead you directly to Juliette Levy's books; she is a pioneer in herbal usage and natural animal rearing.

We got our first bunny; she belonged to our grandaughter and they are moving so "Charlie" came to the farm. She's adorable and getting acquainted with the other farm inhabitants.

Our YouTube channel is growing--check it out.

Well, gotta get ready for class tomorrow then back to planting. Life is Good.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rocky Creek Valley Farm YouTube Channel

Well, we've been working hard to get our YouTube Channel up so here it is! Only two videos so far, but we have a lot in the "editing" room so stay tuned.
Go here to view

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How-To-Tuesday Natural Dying of Easter Eggs



I know I promised Brain Box Part 2 but since Easter is in a few days I thought this post would be appropriate. So, BB II (subtitled: how I keep my sanity) is slated for next week.

Dying with plants is a time-honored, tried-and-true, safe and natural method of coloring eggs.

First choose a mordant (fancy name for something that "sets" the color): alum, cream of tartar or white vinegar. You can proceed without one, but you will have far better success with deeper richer color.

Next, select your herbs and spices. There are hundreds of plants to dye with but this will get you started.
Blue: woad or red cabbage
Lavender/blue: hibiscus, red grape juice
Gold: tumeric
Yellow: safflower, safron, carrot tops, marigold, goldenrod, cosmos, chamomile, plantain, agrimony
Lt. Orange: curry, carrots, tansy shoots, paprika
Red: St. Johns Wort, dandelion root
Red brown: chili powder
Tan yellow: yarrow
Green: coltsfoot, rosemary, spinach, hyssop, tansy, marjoram, golden delicious apple peel
Pink: beets, sorrel, pickery, madder, raspberries, cranberries
Purple/lavender: blueberries, violets
Brown: onion skins, coffee, 4 black tea bags, comfrey, rosehips, fennel, juniper berries, burdock
Black: black walnut, alder

And, here is the basic recipe:

1 Tbls mordant
4 cups water
2-4 Tbls ground or finely chopped herb or spice
or 1 cup whole, cut, sifted herb
non-aluminum pan

OK, one more choice to make: hot process or cold process.

COLD: Bring your mordant, dyestuff and water to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 1/2 hr to 3 hrs with the lid on depending on the depth of color you are looking for. Strain and cool. Add egg; soak until desired color is reached. You can even refrigerate overnight. In fact BE SURE to refrigerate if you plan to eat the eggs. We always eat them, but I know so many folks who don't. Especially after kids have played hide/find, hide/find for two days.

HOT: Bring mordant, dyestuff and water to a boil, add eggs. Simmer 15 minutes then remove from heat. Cover and let sit 15 minutes more. Remove eggs. Rinse. This process gives you better color, but your eggs are usually overcooked; a moot point if the kids play crochet or bowl with them.

Special effects: vegetable oil adds a glossy sheen. Prior to coloring make patterns by wrapping egg in rubber bands, masking tape or leaves & nylon stocking. Dab with a sponge while egg is still wet from dye. Drop oil into dye for a marble effect.

Perfect eggs: Allow eggs to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Put into pan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, then cover with cold water. Let eggs sit until cool, drain and refrigerate.

Plant dyed eggs are generally beautiful pastels. It's so much fun to play around with and sometimes the color is a total surprise from what you were expecting. It's a learning experience with children and you have the added peace of mind that you aren't putting yet one more chemical into your family.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

THIS is why I slap my hands if I even think about putting some serious seed into the ground...it was 29 this morning in the Valley. Every time I woke up last night I thought about my baby plants and chicks.

The chicks are in their new diggs-- a brooder house complete with a completely enclosed yard. Farmer Gary took our old brooder house (after we moved Jack and his Mables to their new diggs)and outfitted it for the new little babes. He used broom handles for tiny little roosts...it is so stinkin' cute.

They just love it. They scratched around in their yard just like they'd been doing it forever.

Gary designed the outside enclosure in panels so we can take it apart and REuse it for other things. We tried our best to varmint-proof it; time will tell.

They have been in it for several days and have only had one incident. I had to build an "isolation" pen for one Little Mable; the others had pecked her 'till she bled. So, I cleaned her all up and applied some handy, dandy Herbal Aid Salve that I made from dandylions grown here at Rocky Creek! It stopped the bleeding immediately and the next day she was ready to join her sisters in the main pen. So far, they have left her alone.

Gary installed two heat lights but it had been so warm I only needed one. Until last night. Jeepers. Really? 29 degrees? And, the wind whipped around like a crazy person. Since the main structure of the brooder is old it has a lot of cracks. True to farmer-mentality, I stuffed it all around where the top meets the sides with straw, then after the door was closed, I stuffed around the door with straw. It looks like a square-pants-straw-house. Odd looking but effective. Inside there is about 6 inches of straw on the wooden floor and "leaves" of straw around the walls. Actually, very cozy. But, still, it got 58 degrees in there last night...too cold for the age of the chicks. They should have 70-75 degrees.

But, they seemed chipper and ready for breakfast this morning. They always clean out their feed bins during the night and when I fill them Cassie is right there wanting her share of chicken starter! I didn't open the door to their yard and they weren't too happy about that, but it needs to warm up considerably before I let them out.

As you know, our Red Star laying hens are, well, red and we named them Mable. So, our little New Hampshire Reds are, you know, red, too, so we named them Mable as well. We call them Little Mable now, but that is changing fast! Our black Jersey Giants are Milly. For giants they sure aren't giant. The Little Mables are much larger. The Aracana's are Tilly..can't wait to see their colored eggs. And, the Cochins are Lilly. They are incredibly cute with their little feathered leggings!

Mable and Jack love their new big chicken house. It took a couple of days before they could "give up" their little brooder house. Every time the door was open (Gary was working inside) one of them would sneak in and lay an egg on the floor as the nests had already been removed. But, now, they are all aclimated and appear to love their new condo. They have room to spare--little do they know that they will be invaded by all the Little Mables, Millys, Tillys and Lillys when they grow up!

On the garden front...as you can see by my count down ticker at the top of the page, the BIG planting day is fast approaching. My herb refrigerator, cold frames, future herb kitchen and garden room are full of seedlings, seeds and bare-root plants waiting for the day.

Since we REplotted our garden sizes (what a job that was) I transplanted a third of my garlic so it wouldn't be in the "path", over a hundred plants. Whew. I hate DO-OVERS.

So, I'd better get crackin'. But, before I go a word about GMO's. You know how much I loathe them. HERE is a template letter to send or give your grocery store(s) requesting the LABELING of GMO food. I want to know what's in my food and so should you.

In spite of GMO's....hey, Life Is Good. :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How-To-Tuesday Brain Box Part I



BRAIN BOX

.

Next week I will eleaborate on what's in my Brain. And, that's scaryBefore Outlook, before DayTimers and Franklin and fancy planner binders, before talking cars (GPS), before the world wide web there was the Brain Box. Don't let its unassuming posture, its mild manner, its low-key attitude fool you: it's a power house of information. I'm not sure how many gigabytes a 3x5 file box holds, but it suits me.

I couldn't and wouldn't live without it. It has been my faithful companion and had an honored place on the counter for years. It knows the birthdays I celebrate with family and friends, it knows when I will clean the toliet and it knows the new recipes I am adding to my FOOD FILE. It knows my prized and priceless herbal formulas; for that alone, it's a shining star.

Yes, I use Outlook. Yes, I use a planner. But, the Brain Box quietly contains my life. Not the hectic, changeable schedule of meetings and mileage tracking, but the core repeatable activities like housekeeping, meal planning and seasonal clothing.




Choose any box, they come in several sizes and material. Although, I'm not sure how decoupage adheres to plastic. My Brain Box is metal. Glue on cutouts of your favorite things; mine are WORDS (of course). Then give it a good top coat; it will last for years. Then, if you tire of it, just sand off the old pics and glue on new ones.

My little box has served me well and has undergone many transformations. (When my kids were young it was "Moms Brain".) And, will probably have many more.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Smooth Move

I think a lot about good food. Not in the culinary-taste-testing-dinner out kind of way, but in the what's-in-it and what's-it-doing-to-my-body way. This morning I read an article to read it go HERE describing the affects of aspertame and MSG on our bodies and I have to tell you, I no longer want to say put down that diet soda. Instead, at the risk of being arrested for assault, I want to knock it out of your hand. (And, MONSANTO, just keeps on showing up everytime there is an attack on your health).

Your choice is this: guzzle a drink that "excites" your brain cells to the point of cell death or drink a smoothie. Continue to drink and eat aspertame(Nutra Sweet, Equal, Spoonful, Equal Measure) proven to cause depression, brain lessions, fatigue, anxiety, heart palpatations and memory loss (just to name a few) or take five minutes and fix a smoothie. OMGSH..does that decision even require thought? At least adults have a measure of protection with the blood-brain barrier. But, in children this "fence" is not fully built yet, so their vulnerability to brain damage is exponentially higher. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not take my word for this. There is ample evidence. Multitudes of studies. Scores of trusted researchers have presented a clear message: Aspertame is dangerous. Let me repeat: ASPERTAME IS DANGEROUS. Stop ingesting it. Stop giving it to your kids. Read labels. Do some research. Start here. This article lists doctors and scientists and studies and symptoms and actions and in-actions by the FDA.

Making smoothies is a natural alternative to unhealthy drinks. It is SO easy. And, it's quick. And, there is an unlimited variety. Check out my smoothie matirix HERE. It's a quick-to-read chart on smoothie possibilites. If the words "chart" and "matrix" turn you off, think of it as a Smoothie Super Recipe. The Mother of all Smoothie Recipes.

Once you start making smoothies, there will be no stopping you! They are quick, easy and kids love them. They not only like drinking them, they like making them and deciding what goes in them. So, come on Mom, get crackin'. Take charge of your health and your kids' health. HAVE A SMOOTHIE!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How-To-Tuesday -Taking Herbs

One of the most frequent questions/comments I get is: I really want (honest) to use herbs, but I don't know how. I'm going to show you one way to take herbs...if fact, it's one of the BEST ways to actually get the good stuff from herbs into your body. It's called

HERBAL INFUSION.

Making an infusion is so stinkin' simple you'll wonder why you haven't been doing it all along.

You will need:

a quart jar complete with lid
herb of choice (more on that later)
boiling water

That's it. See how simple?

Fill the quart jar about 2/3s full of dried herb
Pour on just-under boiling water
Screw on lid.

Wow, Elizabeth, didn't know it was THAT easy! I hear that a lot, too.

Let it sit on your kitchen counter a minimum of four hours--overnight is ideal. Think of it as a really REALLY strong tea. You want to get all those juicy, healthy consituents, all those vitamins and minerals out of the herb and into the water. (Actually, you are not geting ALL of the good stuff out. We'll do that another day.)

After what I call the "stewing" time (4-8 hrs), strain the herb off, throw it in your compost pile (what? you don't compost? Well do that another day, too). Now, you have several helpings of all that nice herby liquid. Green goodness. Refrigerate your quart jar of liquid health, keep the lid on. It will keep around 36+ hours in the frig.

At this point you have several options.

You can drink a glass now, but most folks want it either hot or cold, not somewhere in between! A cup a day trumps a synthetic vitamin in any universe. You can add honey and/or lemon to up the "palatableness". You can add it to other juices you drink (oj, tomato, grape, etc). Be creative!

You can pour it into ice cube trays and freeze. This is great to pop into smoothies or any cold drink; you can even throw the cubes into soups/broths while cooking. Or, freeze into "herb pops" for the kids. Sneaky mom.

Which herb to use? Today, let's start with oatstraw (same as oatgrass). I love this herb. It is a wonderful restorative NERVE tonic. It gently works with stress, exhaustion, grief, any nervous condition. With regular use it reduces inflammation. It's a great balancing herb for female cycles and strong bones.

It is VERY high in chromium (a great blood sugar balancer), magnesium (you need this for your calcium to work & oatstraw is the BEST source of it) and silicon (good nails, ladies! It is high in calcium, fiber, niacin & vitamin A. It has average amounts of iron, phosphorus, riboflavin, selenium, thiamine and vitamin C. Plus oatstraw has trace amounts of many other nutrients.

I love infusions because they are so ABSORBALE and USABLE by our bodies. Plants know where to go inside our bodies and what to do when they get there. Hmmm, just the way the Creator intended! Plus, herb infusions give us BALANCED nutrients which is so much healthier than taking them singly.

Oatstraw is fairly common; you should be able to find it at any herb store. I also have it HERE

Green Blessings, and if you have any questions...ask away! :)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Gardens Galore

Yesterday it was hot hot hot and today it's blustery frigid. Mable is saying hey, what's up here? In spite of Mother's Nature's spring show of I-can-do-it-all-in-one-day weather (yesterday: hot/cold/rain/wind/hail) egg production is at an all time high: 9-10 a day. And, the chicks are getting so big. I may have to put a "no-fly" guard above their cardboard corral as the outside brooder is not quite ready for them.

Take a peek at this great little book: The Backyard Homestead. All the how-to's you'll need to grow your own food. If you don't have a garden yet, come on, you can do it. Even if it's just one pot...BEGIN. You cn also click on my Amazon widget on the right side of this blog.

We have been working on (paper plotting) Rocky Creek's gardens FOR MONTHS. We are planning gardens with the intention of getting high tunnels. Gary attended a working seminar and learned some valuable info about installing them. And, as is true to our nature, we decided to change the size of the gardens from 42 feet long to 72 feet long. So, instead of nine gardens we will have six that will accomodate three moveable high tunnels. (We missed out on the high-tunnel grant this year-- DRAT) Plus, we moved our raised garden (which has nine 8x4 beds) out of the high tunnel configuration. I am updating my Garden Planner--GROW VEG
today...that will take several hours. But, then I think we are good to go! I have boxes of seeds waiting quietly in the dark to be planted.

If you are thinking about gardens, try out GROW VEG It's an on-line garden planner--I love it. Plant to your heart's content and change your mind as often as you like! It tells you all the pertinent info about plants and even has where you can buy them.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Yo Yo Weather

It's bad enough for the plants to have to cope with up and down temperatures. My neighbor said her lilacs have frozen for three years running. I enjoy warm spring temps as much as the next person, but mid 80's? Really. And, it's always April Fool because the temps always drop to freezing or below a few days later. We had near 90 degrees a few days ago then we had 29 last night. My 1-3 week old chicks have heat lights in their little brooder area, but when the temp rises outside, the temp rises inside. They get too hot so I raise the heat light further from them then they get too chilly. Ei yi yi. Where is that mother hen when you need her?!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How-To-Tuesday

Really, it'sTuesday already? The farm gobbles up my week!
Today I'm sharing something from my husband. I like cooking; he LOVES cooking. And, as some of you know, he's excellent at it. One of the great mysteries of the kitchen is PIE CRUST. I've seen Chef Gary make this countless times; it NEVER fails. NEVER. And, it's so easy, honest.

Into the ol' food processor put:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt (sea, of course) a little less for a sweet pie (dessert); a little more for a savory pie (quiche, pot)
5 Tablespoons butter
5 Tablespoons cold water

Pulse it until a dough ball forms and waalaa: piecrust. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface and you are on your way to the perfect pie.
Use the extra dough to make slices of "crust" sprinkled with cinnamon and honey/sugar and bake 10-12 minutes..the kids love this part. It's a litte extra treat for helping you in the kitchen!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

HOW-TO-TUESDAY - Calcium



It's that time again....

You can probably see a pattern to my posts lately: chickens and eggs. Maybe it's spring, maybe it's the farm speaking to me, maybe it's all my new chicks arriving, maybe it's because I adore Mable (my 12 laying hens) or maybe I just like eggs. Today's HOW-TO is about calcium and how to actually get it inside so your body can use it. So many of the calcium supplements cannot be utilized, broken-down or put to good use inside you. As an herbalist, I have a couple, three actually, good ways to get calcium. Good usable calcium. Calcium that will actually affect your bones by making them stronger and yes, even help to relieve that old-fashioned aching in your bones.

Chances are you have been throwing yours in the trash or grinding it down the garbage disposal, or, if you are really "green", you are tossing your calcium on the compost pile. What the heck am I talking about?

E G G S H E L L S

This first tip is so stinkin' easy your first thought will be that it can't possibly work. Well, it does! When making your next recipe that calls for eggs (please use local farm-pasture-raised eggs!) just follow these simple rules:
1) Save your eggshells.
2) Wash your eggshells.
3) Pour boiling water over your eggshells.
4) Let them cool.
5) Add some lemon. (1/2 tsp per 6 shells)
6) Strain.
7 Use or freeze. Ice trays work wonderfully.

How easy was that? A "dose" is about 1/4 cup of eggshell water. You can just drink it, add it your favorite juice or fruit smoothy. (I have great recipes for smoothies on my website)

Second tip: Instead of water, cover the eggshells with apple cider vinegar DO NOT USE WHITE VINEGAR or I'll have to come out there and get cha! (that's "farm" for get you), organic is BEST. Let it sit at least 2 weeks, 6 weeks is better. Dose is 1 tsp per day.

Third tip: Calcium Tea. If you want to make it yourself the directions are on my website HERE in the Library section under Calcium Tea (Also called Calcium Tisane-I'll explain THAT another day!. It has delightful herbs that are chock full of a lot of minerals, not just calcium. Or, if you want it "ready-made" I also have it for sale in my on-line store HERE

Just in case those "HERE" links don't work (I did just learn how to do it) here's my website: http://www.rockycreekvalley.com

Monday, March 21, 2011

National Poultry Day

How appropo! National Poultry Day is this week and I am surrounded with new chicks. My New Hampshire Reds (red chickens/med. brown eggs) and the Cochins (some buff, some black) are six days old and nestled in their cardboard coop inside the Herb Cottage where they will stay for a couple of weeks. My other new chicks are coming Wednesday. Ameracanas (white chickens/med-small Easter eggs!) and Giant Jerseys (black chickens/LARGE brown eggs). Their peep-peep-peeps are just adorable. I love the shape of their little bodies. I have two heat lamps on them and keep a thermometer on the floor so I always know the temp. It should stay between 95 and 105. When they are big enough I will move them to the brooder house, then to the BIG chicken coop which we are in the process of remodeling.

I drew a chart that shows when they will begin laying, how long they will lay and how many eggs I should get. I combined it with my Mables' chart so I hope I can tell how many dozen will be available to sell at Farmer's Markets each week this summer. Mables are Red Sex Link chickens, also called Red Star (red chickens/ med brown eggs). They get their name from being able to tell their sex when they are hatched. Jumpin' Jack Flash, my rooster, is a Cochin Banty. He loves his Mables and takes such good care of them. This morning he started crowing just before dawn...I love to listen to him. He is so enthusiastic and ready for his day. Life is Good.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

35 Days and Counting...

Our last frost date--according to the powers that be--is May 1. That may or may not hold true but I have to start someplace! Although some things are going in the ground now like peas, onions some salad greens, most of the herbs and veggies won't go under 'till frost is over. In order to have a graphic representation on my not-so-patient waiting period I put this "counter" on the blogpage. I'm all giddy about planting...it's been a long cold winter.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Dream

A friend of mine sent me this video and it spoke to me with a powerful simple message. There have been many things in my life that I've wanted to do, places I wanted to go. Some of them have been accomplished, some have not. But, all of my life there was one overriding thing, one desire that stayed with me through all my addresses, all my jobs, all my life choices. I always dreamed of having a farm. Always. Then when the opportunity came, despite health and age, despite nay-sayers, despite my own misgivings, I acquired my farm. I have never been healthier. I have never been happier. I am living my dream with a husband who shares it. Life is good.

That's what this blog is about. Won't you join me on this adventure?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Weather To Clean

It's clean up time at the farm. Gary, Bob (the tractor) and the new/old farm wagon are picking up limbs, brush and nature's miscellaneous contributions to the general chaos of stuff clogging the fence rows. The 7 new gardens are plowed and tilled; Jack and Mable have been having a scratching good time in them. They are so happy, I'd call it the chicken version of Disney World. We are up to 7 eggs a day now--lovin' it. Tomorrow is a BIG day: 1st day of Spring (always a cause for cartwheels -yes, I can still do them) and some of my new chicks are coming. The New Hampshire Reds. I'm giddy with anticipation.

Hope you enjoyed yesterday's How To Tuesday....next week I'll show you two ways to actually get that needed calcium INTO your bones! Life Is Good.

Monday, March 14, 2011

HOW TO TUESDAY

It's my first How-To-Tuesday ...

How to find the proverbial "good egg". Run a good size bowl full of cold water. Add your egg (DON'T CRACK IT!). If the egg lays on the bottom, it's fresh. If the large end of the egg floats a little higher, it's 7 to 10 days old. If the egg stands straight with the large end up, it's at least a month old. If it floats, don't eat it!

Potato - PotAHto

Today is National Potato Chip Day. Now you may think that is NOT a dish for a farmgirl-herbalist. NAY. Not so fast. It is our neo-antifry culture that thinks of fried foods as a mud puddle...to be avoided at all costs. For most of us "Politically Correct Nutrition" has infiltrated our psyches to the point of excluding any possibility of an alternate view. Just this week a grocery store clerk looked at the shopping basket full of lard and coconut oil and with a horrified expression said, "What in the world are you going to do with this?
This post is not a treatise on good fat/bad fat but if you are willing to THINK about it beg, borrow or buy Nourishing Traditions. Beginning on page 4 Sally Fallon gives you all the info you would ever want complete with research. (You can buy this book by clicking on it in my Book widget in the sidebar.)
This year I am planting Superior potatoes--an early variety and Kennebec potatoes--a late variety and of course, sweet potatoes--which also make good fries and chips.

Back to potato chips. This is good just plain, but if you want to change it up a little just sprinkle on cayenne, BBQ seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder..well you get the idea. Let your potato muse run wild!

4 medium potatoes - thin slices are great, but if you don't have a food processor they're still good. Slice potatoes into a large bowl of cold water. Drain, rinse then refill bowl with more cold water and 3 tablespoons of SEA salt. Soak for at least 30 minutes, then drain. One more time rinse and drain. You could add vinegar at this stage if you want that tartness.
Heat oil(olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil) or lard (if you use Crisco, I will hunt you down and tweak your nose) to 365 and fry potatoes in small batches. Once they are golden, remove, drain and season.
Enjoy the Day of the Potato. Life is Good.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sharing

I found this wonderful idea on a friend's blog: How-To-Tuesday. At the risk of redundancy -- well, it's all about sharing ideas and other stuff! So, tune in Tuesday and learn to do something...I have no idea what yet. The originator of this sharing idea is here: http://www.stiesthoughts.blogspot.com/
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