Friday, April 22, 2011

Hobby Farm? Hmmmm....

I just read a post from a blogger and author that I follow, Cold Antler Farm's Jenna Woginrich (  Some of my long time followers may have heard me mention her before on here.  She's a young woman making her way in the world homesteading a 6 acre farm in northern New York.  Her escapades are sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes scary and always intelligently put as she writes about her solo life running this farm and also working full time off the farm at a desk job.  If you've time, grab a cup of tea, put on some music and go check her out.  You'll be hooked.

In any case, her latest post is about how she's growing to detest the term "hobby farmer".  Her contention is that what she does really can never be considered a hobby.  She is feeding herself from her land and growing animals that nourish and in some cases clothe herself and others.  It's a very interesting point of view.  It got me to thinking about my life and what I want to achieve for it.  I have had a vegetable garden, and in my youth rode and showed horses, have always wanted a way to be more connected to the earth and the things that matter to me. 

I began my intense knowledge gathering when I became pregnant with my first child.  I don't know if every mother is like me, but I became almost obsessed with how to provide him with the best start in life.  So, I learned about what to eat to develop his little body growing in mine.  I would only eat organic food (that's a budget buster when you don't grow your own), and in that obsession began to learn about our food system in this country.  Honestly, it scared the hell out of me.  Before I was pregnant, I never gave much thought to where the food that hit my plate came from, only that I was getting enough fruits and veggies and whole grains to keep my body nourished.  Never thought about how genetically modified organisms (GMO's) affected my body...the USDA says they are safe, so they must be right (wrong)?  Never thought about how there is now on average 712 calories added to our diets every day that were not there in the 1970's-80's in processed food via high fructose corn syrup.  That it was changing  the way I tasted food by lending me to expect food should be sweet.  That's very basic, think about that.  The way it changes how you taste the food...and it's all to benefit the corn growers and the subsidies that exist to fund them.  Yes, your tax dollars go to that subsidy along with so many others it would shock you to know about.  And, no, HFCS is not the same as sugar, your body does not process it the same as sugar and it is one of the things that is killing the health of our nation and children. 

I also never gave much thought to where the meat that sat on my plate came from.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I was a vegetarian in my teens because I read Diet for New America.  The way the animals are treated in these places is horrendous.  I have to draw a fine line about not wanting to offend those with delicate sensibilities and wanting people to know the truth of where their food comes from and how that food was forced to survive prior to it hitting their plates.  Let me just say this.  Animals are living beings.  Yes, we eat animals, we are omnivores and I don't have a problem with that.  But there is a certain amount of respect that should be afforded to them in just being living creations of God. Living an honorable life, well cared for and respected should matter.  It just should.  They are not creations we made in a factory (though that is what this type of farming is called, Factory Farming), they are not inanimate objects.  They are living beings.   My personal belief is that all animals have souls.  If you've owned a dog or cat in your life, you also know this to be true.  That being said, it matters to me how these animals are raised and treated prior to them nourishing my body.  They should receive the dignity and respect afforded the huge sacrifice they make to nourish us, though it is not even their choice.  I feel it's the least we can do.

So, I began searching for food that was more in line with my personal beliefs.  I started with deciding that I wanted to buy as much of that food locally as was possible given the crisis the planet is in daily from shipping things like apples from New Zealand, or grapes from Chile in January in New Hampshire.  Yes, we go without those things that time of the year, but I feel better just leaving things in their intended season when I can.  It just makes sense to me.  I find it astonishing that some folks don't have a clue what is in season when and where.  If you read the label on where your produce comes from, if it's coming from Peru to New Hampshire, it's a good bet, it ain't in season.  Or better yet, shop farmer's markets because if it isn't in season, it won't be there. 

This also lead me to want to grow as much of that food in as healthy a manner as I could for myself and my family.  So began my adventures in gardening and growing organically.  Now, I guess the thing that I find interesting is that with the first seed sowed in the first raised bed, my life was changed forever.  I didn't know it at the time, but it most certainly was.  I have been without a garden for 2 years now since we've been renting and this year, I am returning to the dirt.  And I felt the unease of buying all our food from others who worked hard to provide it and I felt how disingenuous that felt for me.  So this year, I will feel the dirt in my fingers and clean it from under my nails once again.  It makes my soul sigh with contentment. 

I also made the choice to cook as much food as possible from scratch.  This way, I could identify what exactly is going into the food we eat.  I now buy very little processed food compared to where I was even three years ago.  Organic chicken nuggets...just because they are organic, doesn't mean they are made in a healthy manner, you know what I mean?  So, I just came up with the alternatives for the convenient way of eating.  I make my own bread, but I got a breadmaker to do it with.  I can my own food, not all of it, but I do the best I can with what I have, we eat a lot of eggs because they are easy on a night I need something on the table quickly, I make big batches of soup or chili and freeze them to use for other meals.  You get the point, it's all about the skill to cook these things, and organizing my life so that I'm able to do it when I need to.  But, I had to learn those skills.  My wonderful mother did teach me the basics of cooking, she's a great cook in her own right.  But I did grow those skills beyond my childhood teachings.  And I'm a fair cook now, I'd say. I don't get too many complaints from my brood.  Well, Little Red dislikes most things that aren't a carb, but even he will usually eat what's put in front of him without too much fuss.  In any case, it all boils down the learning the skills to put the food on the table.  Skills that came to me as I practiced the processes, read about new techniques and adopted what works for me.  There's no right or wrong way to learn, you just set your mind to it, and do it up.

As  you know, I also decided to add raising chickens to my skill set.  The six chicks now rapidly outgrowing their brooder are a foray into something big for me.  Producing protein for my family in the form of eggs.  Wow, if you take pause and think about this, it's pretty amazing.  With the addition of those chickens, we are now able to grow not only fruits and vegetables but also protein for our sustenance.  To sustain our life.  Sustain.  And I don't need anyone else (save the chickens, of course) to provide that because I'm gaining the skills to do that for myself and teaching my children how to do the same.  To be responsible for where our food comes from and not relying on anyone else is the place I'm trying to get my family to.  Because without the sustaining of life, where are you really?  All the money or prestige in the world won't help you survive if you don't have access to food.  Now, I don't want to be some kind of survivalist fanatic here, but the world is changing folks.  And that being said, and knowing we aren't financially able to buy our way out of that kind of jam, well, the skills to growing our own food is the most important thing in my eyes.  And even if we never need those skills, well, it is still an incredibly humbling and peaceful feeling to know I can do it if I need to.  I have the skills and the knowledge.  I am a farmer in that sense of the word. 

So, do I consider my little farm here (it's what we're developing, someday hoping direly to have it be on our own land) to be very important to the survival of my family.  Is that a hobby?  Hmmmm...I think not.  There's so much more that's going on here then playing golf or painting.  And don't get me wrong, there is inherent value in those things, and I love my hobbies, but I don't consider farming to be a hobby.  Way too much blood, sweat and tears goes into farming for anyone to ever think of it as a hobby.  It's a very valuable way of life, what I'm growing here is life sustaining.  Life.  Sustaining.  No, not a hobby.

Wishing you the courage to find the peace these skills provide, ~Peacemom

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Father of Our Country

Oh my goodness, I just have to post this because I can't stand how flippin' cute my kid is.  Yesterday, the second grade at his school performed a very fun play about the history of our country.  My little Maestro was chosen to be George Washington (that's Martha sitting next to him). 

He made quite an impression as he is pretty comfortable speaking in front of people on stage.  He's a total ham bone, actually.  Always has been, and so is Little Red.  I'm not sure where they get that from as neither Music Man and I are all that comfortable doing the same, and I did a bit of theater in my youth.  In any case, the kids worked so hard on this play and God bless the teachers that organized it and made it so enjoyable.  They get their saint medals for this production as I'm sure it was pretty interesting keeping almost 40 kids focused and on que.

Earlier this month Maestro and Little Red played band members in the school's portrayal of Music Man, Jr.  And yes, I do believe that's twice in one month I had to pretend I had something in my eye so I didn't look like a sap while my kids were on stage.  But, as you live these things as a mom, you remember to pack the tissues and eye drops in the purse so no one can tell what's REALLY going on...Crying?  Who, me?  No, that's just some dust...

Wishing you some proud parent moments of your own, ~Peacemom

Friday, April 15, 2011

Is This A Baby Hawk?

You may be wondering if this is a baby hawk stopped by to chat with my chicks...but no.  In fact, it's ONE of the chicks!  This is the now teenage gangly Victoria.  She's an Americauna pullet.  We can't get over how much she looks like a baby hawk, though!

And, remember this picture just a couple of posts ago?  Here's Betty now!  Look how her red feathers are coming in.  Isn't she just beautiful?
And the tails on these girls!  Everyone but Rose is getting a beautiful set of tail feathers.  Her's are a bit stumpy, but I believe her breed does not have long tails, she's an Anacona.  But she's got the biggest comb coming in.  See her in the picture above?  She's the one on the left.  You can't see her comb so well in that shot, but it's much bigger then the other girls.  What are combs for anyways?  Does anyone know?

You can also see in the photo above that Betty has mastered the perch I put in for them to learn on.  She had a tough go of it at first.  She would get up there and lose her balance and flap and flap, but still end up upside down, hanging on with her toes.  To be honest, though I'm sure she was a bit embarrassed, it was highly entertaining for me.  The one bad thing about the girls is the amount of DUST they have imparted upon my home.  I have them out in the sunroom during the day now, but they still come in at night, where they dust bathe and just generally get their fun on.  It makes a serious dust issue in there and as a person with asthma, that's just not a good thing.  Ah well, what's perfect, right?

They have just been a blast so far.  I really am having a good time with the girls, they make me smile every day. 

Wishing you some chick dust of your own, ~Peacemom


This morning was rare for me.  Not the morning itself mind you, because luckily, that comes every day.  What was rare was the chance to just be and do the things I wanted to do because I had time to do them.  I should tell you, I'm a morning person.  Normally, my day begins at about 4:50 when I get up and hop into some sort of clothes and head to the kitchen for a tea and glass of water.  Then I fire up the ol' computer and sit down for what is then the next 5 hours of my work life.  In between there, yes, I do take two breaks to get the kids breakfast and when needed drive them to school.  We are fortunate enough to live very close to the school, so I'm able to do that quite quickly in my 10 minute break in my 5 hour shift.  In the afternoon, I go back to working for a couple of hours after the boys are home from school. 

I will usually grab the kids something quick for breakfast.  Perhaps it's cereal, or a bagel or fried eggs and and english muffin.  Yes, Eggo waffles would be easier, or just nuking some sort of frozen breakfast product or toasting a pop tart (all of which they'd eat, but I can't bring myself to do it!), but of course the slow food is paramount here.   Then, it's back to the computer and my work life.  My mornings are definitely not my own.  I should preface this by saying I am VERY thankful to have a job I can do from home so that I'm able to do this for the boys and be here when they come home from school.  However, for the folks that think that's all sunny and great, I will say there are sacrifices that are made so that I can do that for them.  Any kind of social life is one, another being there's no separation of work life and home life.  It's all taking place in these four walls every day and some days, it's cabin fever city around here.  It's also incredibly hard to work with two very active, loud boys in the house.  Imagine trying to concentrate in a cacophony of noise constantly.  I have taught myself to tune most of it out, but it's a challenge sometimes, really, a very big challenge.

But this morning was different.  As I worked more hours earlier in the week due to an intense workload, I only had 2.5 hours to work today.  I got to sleep until 5:15.  Then I got up, checked my email, surfed a blog or two and then went to the kitchen.  On the counter sits the score from our winter CSA that arrives every Thursday.  In this batch is collard greens (even though I'm originally from the south and that's a key food source there, I never know what to do with these!) and parsnips.  I have a bag in the bottom of the crisper drawer that contains 4 other parsnips.  The last time I made them, no one ate them but me, so I've kept them stored in there from the last three deliveries and planned to look up a recipe for them.  When I found the time.  Which never seems to happen.  But this morning, I had time to check out my favorite recipe site and found a wonderful sounding recipe that I'm going to try that entails maple syrup and balsamic vinegar and slow roasting.  Sounds good, right?  I also had time to give the chicks waterer a good scrubbing, make breakfast for the boys, made their lunches and get the dishes done and the kitchen cleaned up.  And sit down here to write my blog.  I watched the sunrise and really listened to the rooster crowing and enjoyed the quiet of my sleeping household.  Just took some time to do things at my own pace instead of my employer's pace.  It was really a very nice morning to just take the time to do things that I found important to me this morning. A rare occasion, this.

Now, I sit down to begin my work day.  The rest of the day will entail spending some of it outside.  There's much to be done around here with the girls outgrowing their brooder at a very rapid pace and the garden beds to get the sod removed and the soil turned.  Yes, so much to do in not nearly enough hours to do it in.  It's all on the list, right there waiting for me to have the time to give it all the attention it needs. Until then, you'll find me working at my computer, thinking wistfully of things I'd rather be doing.

Wishing you your own rare moment of calm, ~Peacemom

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Decorah Eagles

If you've not heard of this, please go check it out.  It's 7 day old baby eaglets on live cam.  Amazing!

There is a great link of them hatching the first egg.  I can't get over how careful the parents are maneuvering around the babies and eggs.  And it's great how the "snuggle" in over them with little tiny steps up and pulling the bedding in the nest to their chests using the pointed part of their beaks. 

Fascinating!  Go, enjoy some nature!

Enamored bird watcher,  ~Peacemom

Monday, April 4, 2011

What A Difference A Week Makes!

Remember this little peep a mere week ago?  This is Tulip, the Red Star one week ago.

She looked just like her sister Betty, this is Betty now!!  Only one week and look at how they've changed.  She's getting her big girl feathers in, her comb is beginning to show and she's got a tail now.  So adorable!  Pretty soon, she'll be at the gangly teenager look.  I'll miss my little peeps, but it's exciting to see them growing so much, too.

Lavender Cookies

For Christmas one of my coworkers gifted me with a lovely bag of dried lavender buds.  I have always wanted to make Lavender Cookies, but around here, we've got to have more manly cookies.  There are three boys here after all.  I'm totally and completely outnumbered (though now that I have the 6 ladies peeping in the brooder, things are evening out just a little bit!).  Lavender cookies do sound a little bit girly after all, but I just loved the thought of using something that smells so wonderful in a cookie. 

This bag of dried buds offered me the opportunity to try them!  I thought a spring cookie with lavender would be a nice idea to share with my coworkers.  We are an office of all women.  I only work in the office one day a week, but thought it would be a nice treat for all of us on my next day on location.

They smelled utterly delicioso baking.  One of my coworkers has a sensitivity to vanilla extract, so I thought a nice spring flavor would be lemon, so I added lemon juice in place of the vanilla extract.  They are very light and airy, not too sweet and a really delightful touch of spring.  I had one with a nice glass of ice tea, and plan on having another with my hot tea at work tomorrow.  If you're looking for a light and airy tea cookie, give this recipe a try.  They taste like lavender smells!  Enjoy!

(oh, and for the record, all three guys gobbled them up with an OH, these are AWESOME!...not so girly after all!)

Lavender Tea Cookie

1/2 cup butter (use the real deal, this cookie deserves it)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or lemon juice which make a great flavor addition)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried lavender flowers, crushed
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2.  In medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
3.  Beat in eggs, vanilla or lemon juice and lavender and mix well.
4.  Combine flour and baking powder and add to lavender mixture, stirring until well blended
5.  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet
6.  Bake 7-9 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges.
7.  Cook on baking sheet for a minute or two, then transfer to cooling rack.
8.  When cool, glaze with mixture of powdered sugar and milk, mixed until smooth or sprinkle with colored sugar or lavender sugar.

Makes about 3 dozen