Wednesday, October 10, 2012

And Now We Introduce: FOLK WISDOM




Alrighty, Folks, here's the deal:


               We've been working on bringing you farming goodness for the better part of almost 4 years. It's been a fun, insightful, madcapped rush, and our writers have been diligently sending in articles of all sorts of farming, for your benefit.

However, recently, we've gotten a LOT of interest in non-farming DIY of old-ways living. It doesn't hurt that yours truly, the founder of this thing, has always thought that these fast fading skills should be revived for the younger (and older!) set who have found interest in preserving and continuing a simple life.

To that end, we have started a new venture called FOLK WISDOM and it is a two part endeavor that includes YOU!

We are excited that we will be launching an actual hard-copy MAGAZINE in 2013. In a few short months, this magazine can be delivered to you and it is STRICT DIY projects from another era--how to create a stone mason wall, decant herbal teas, make an heirloom garden, take care of vintage linens, create old-time fence posts, play a dulcimer...etc, etc...

We also have an online component where you can send in your old stories, nostalgia, historical pictures, poems, sayings, and other sorts of old fashioned memorabilia!

For all the folk fun, CLICK here, follow us, and JOIN US!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Is Fish Farming For You? Guest Post By Bridget Sandorford


               How to Choose Quality and Sustainable Fish by Bridget Sandorford


While you are unlikely to be growing fish on your farm (or what could pass as your own personal "farm" in your backyard endeavors), thinking about how to choose and source quality and sustainable fish is also an important part of a sustainable and organic lifestyle.
Fish farms use the same deplorable techniques that are used to grow traditional livestock, such as feeding them corn and growth hormones. Overfishing has led to the threat of destruction of vast quantities of fish in their natural environment. Choosing sources of fish that have been procured in an ethical and sustainable way is important to ensure the continued population of these fish and the quality of the meat.
Here are just a few ways you can choose quality and sustainable sources of fish:


Choose Species that Proliferate Quickly
Some species of fish grow more quickly than others, meaning that their numbers are less likely to be diminished in a short period of time. Some examples include mahi mahi, tilapia, and barramundi. Species that take longer to grow include Chilean seabass, grouper, and orange roughy.
Choose Fish and Seafood Lower on the Food Chain
Large fish like swordfish and tuna require more resources to grow (and tend to have higher mercury levels). It is better to choose fish and seafood that is lower on the food chain and that requires fewer resources. Some examples include catfish, sardines, and mussels.

Know the Source of Your Fish
Salmon that is caught in one region won't have the same qualities as salmon that is caught in another region. Your fish should be labeled, but if it's not, you can ask the people working at the store or the fish market where you are purchasing it. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide (http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx) provides more information to help you learn about the qualities of fish caught by region.

Know How It is Caught

Wild-caught fish is almost always better than farm-raised fish. In general, farm-raised fish is grown using questionable practices, such as the use of growth hormone. You should also learn how the fish was caught, as some methods are more hazardous to the environment. Fish caught with a hook and line is usually better than fish captured through trawling. The Marine Stewardship Council offers certification for fish that is caught or raised in sustainable ways. Look for the logo.

Buy Local
Buying local means that you can reduce environmental impact by eliminating transportation costs, and you can talk to the fisherman responsible for catching the fish and ask questions about practices. If you live in Omaha, there may not be many sources of local fish. However, you can still buy American ("local" in the larger sense), as the U.S. has stricter standards for fishing and farming fish than some other countries.
Choosing sustainable sources of fish and seafood is important part of supporting quality food sources that do not harm your health or the environment. Anyone who is interested in sustainable and organic farming should also understand how to find sustainable sources of fish and seafood.

How do you select quality and sustainable sources of fish and seafood? Share your tips in the comments!

Bridget Sandorford is a freelance writer and researcher for Culinaryschools.org, where recently she’s been researching top culinary colleges and chef career outlook. In her spare time, she enjoys biking, painting and working on her first cookbook.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Time to put the garden to bed - or not ?

Time to think about putting the garden to bed. The days are getting shorter and cooler and fall is the time to start dreaming of sleepy evenings by the fire and hot chocolate – right?
Not….so…..fast. Where I live in the U.S. zone 7b and 8a are getting ready to rock n’ roll in the garden.
Did you know that THE best time to plant carrots is NOW? Carrots grown and harvested in cold/cooler weather will be sweet whereas carrots grown and harvested in our sweltering hot spring and summer will be spit-it-out bitter. More root crops that LOVE cold weather (or at least our version of cold weather) are turnips, rutabagas, some potatoes and radishes. I have grown some Daikon radishes that were hot enough to hurt your feelings. Onions can be planted to harvest the green tops all winter long – so good in soups and salads.
Greens, greens, greens! I love to juice my vegetables and it is my winter garden that keeps me loaded with greens all winter long. Spinach, Bok Choi, Tat Soi, cabbage, lettuce and more. Oh – Kale – how could I forget Kale? For my raw foodie friends, the Kale chips that you make from Kale out of your own garden taste soooo much better and they are a LOT cheaper too.  Mustard is my workhorse; love to saute it lightly and have it with eggs, or mince into cassaroles.   In the spring , after giving me a bounty of greens all winter, it sprays the garden with yellow gold flowers,  feeding the bees, and then, finally, the seed pods containing next winters crop.
In my area we do get some frosts here and there and some hard freezes. Most of the plants listed so far actually benefit from this but my tender lettuces I like to keep protected during a hard freeze. A blanket or plastic cover could work; I’ve seen some neat arrangements where straw bales are a used as walls around a small bed and a window is laid on top for a little mini greenhouse.
The three veggies that, I’m told, are the very best when grown in fall and winter in the south are Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Brussels Sprouts. I would LOVE to be successful at growing these but there are always little friends in the garden that want them more than I do. I don’t use any type of pesticide and, I’m told, that there is less damage from insects to these plants when grown in the winter. So if you have any a chemical free tips on growing these plants I sure would love to hear them.
And last but not least is my favorite food of all ----- Garlic. I am mighty proud of my Garlic. It is only planted during the last part of September or the first part of October when the moon is just right. The ‘real’ garlic and the elephant garlic are kept in separate beds as sometimes my ‘real’ garlic can get so big I almost can’t tell it from the elephant garlic. It is NEVER given supplemental watering. The very best (that means so-strong-you-can-see-the-fumes) garlic is mulched heavily to retain moisture and suppress weeds but is only watered by Mother Nature. I plant winter rye for my birds to munch on and I also mow it and pile green grass clippings around the base of all of the garlic plants two to three times over the winter.
Oh, I could just go on and on and on! I keep thinking of more winter plants for those of us who shovel sunshine in the winter – but the bottom line is this: It’s time to WAKE UP in the garden, succession planting every couple of weeks – or even every week – should give you some tasty young plants to harvest all winter long. 
For a lively discussion about winter gardening and lots of other neat growing stuff check out this thread at Permies.com :  



Friday, September 7, 2012

Farmhouse Friday Post!






Alrighty Friends!

We're at it again. Every Friday, YOU get to write about any subject regarding farming, urban farming, beekeeping, farm crafts, farm cooking, livestock, gardening....and we'll post it up as a big blog hop (you can include your website).  It's a great way to get others to read about you, meet new people, and promote your farm, farm business, or personal page!

Find out MORE HERE


Until Then, Enjoy!:

BEYOND VAGABOND

THE MIDLIFE FARMWIFE

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Can I can? Do I even WANT to can? - that is the question.

Hey! Who want to spend the day canning tomatoes? Show of hands – Anybody? Yeah right, sweating over vats of boiling water, clouds of steam, hot jars and piles of food everywhere. Uh, well No – that sounds like a lot of work to me.
Despite this I still have this fascination with the idea that sourcing, or growing, and canning my own fresh food is the most reliable way to ensure that I have a good supply of healthy affordable food. Sure I can freeze it but what if the power goes out? That has happened here. During Hugo our power was out for almost two weeks and a few years ago an ice storm took it out for a few days. Can I keep my year’s supply of food in the freezer running on a generator for that long? Probably not.
I have bought all of the books, watched the videos and had partial success with jam but ‘partial’ success doesn’t give me the confidence to jump in and spend entire DAYS of my time and possibly waste pounds and pounds of food. And what if I screw it up? The articles I read say you CAN DIE from eating that stuff!! Of course those same articles don’t mention that we are already dying from eating that stuff in the grocery store too.
Well I just happen to know a canning expert – and in my opinion – probably THE canning expert and she just spent two days in my kitchen guiding me through my first canning session.
My Aunt Reta grew up eating the food that was prepared exactly as she taught me to prepare it and it certainly didn’t kill her, or my mother or other aunts – or me for that matter since I ate from the same pantries that they did when I was a little girl. I think the worst thing that ever happened was my mother eating an ENTIRE jar of pickled beets and peeing red – kind of scary, gross and fun all at the same time.
So Aunt Reta gave me the supply list and I had it ready when she arrived. The she started driving. “Fill this”, “Measure that”, “Boil these”, “Cut those”, and before I even knew what had happened we had a beautiful sparkling jar of Bread n’ Butter pickles cooling on the counter – several as a matter of fact.
Next came the beets and then the tomatoes. And it wasn’t hot and sweaty, it wasn’t messy, and it wasn’t even the tiniest bit hard. As a matter of fact……….it was fun. 
There were also a few that didn’t process as planned which was great – ‘cause I had the Pro there to tell me what to do. If I had been by myself I would just have thrown up my hands and it would have been a loss.
The tips, tricks and organization can make all of the difference in the world. I have scalded tomatoes before to peel them and it is just a pain in the butt. Who knew (not me) that a simple X cut on the bottom of the tomato before you scald it makes for zippity quick peeling?
  Leaving the tops and tails on the beets when cooking keeps in beautiful red color, just cut them afterwards and it also seems to make peeling easier. Put the cukes in ice water to chill before packing makes for a crunchier pickle and turmeric in the sweet pickle solution is not only good for you but looks absolutely beautiful – art in a jar.
So, while am certainly no pro, I’m ready to get canning. Oh and that ‘spending-the-day-canning’ thing? It didn’t take all day; we started around 8:30 and by 1pm ish we had jars on the counter cooling then off to sightseeing and restaurant eating. And to my friends that know me well - you know that the best part is? You can drink wine WHILE you are canning.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Frankenveggies?

I am no stranger to veggies. I grow them. I eat them. I sometimes talk to them. But this week brought a new experience. I have been, for the last couple of weeks, harvesting a few zucchini from the garden. I like them when they are little and tender, so I have been picking them as early as I can. I recently went out of town for a week, and naturally, when I returned, things were rather overgrown. The raspberries were well over my head, and had scooched their way several feet into the garden. The cucumbers, pumpkins and zucchini were also obviously rather enthusiastic at their new found freedom and had spread their wings (vines) as well. After some pruning and digging, we got things back in order, and I brought in a few rather large zucchini.

I noticed that these zucchini were unusually hard to cut into, but didn't think much of it until I began to shred them. There was decidedly pumpkin-like smell to these zucchini. Then I noticed the more pumpkin-like flesh. Oop, and huge pumpkin seeds! I had inadvertently grown a little hybrid. A Pumpcchini if you will. I know that people hybridize veggies. I myself have even grafted into our apple tree, but I was not expecting this. What helpful and busy little bees I have in my yard!

I did a little research on this phenomenon, and found that it is a fairly common occurrence. Folks who are really serious about their pumpkin growing, and want to ensure the purity of their breeding even use little pumpkin condoms so to speak, covering the blossoms with stockings and fertilizing the blooms by hand. I also learned that with the help of hand fertilization, a zucchini plant with only female blooms can be "saved" by using male pumpkin blossoms to produce fruit that otherwise would not come. Interesting, no? I have not yet taken the time to check the gender of the remaining blossoms on the plant, but in the future, I may.



I have harvested a couple more that I have not cut into yet, and there are several more still on the vine. I do not know what I am going to get when I open them up. So fun. The first pumpcchini did have a pumpkiny taste to it and was made rather delicious muffins. Now, I know I have a great deal to learn about gardening and I will continue to have successes and failures year in and year out, but this was just a happy accident that made me smile. How about you? Any happy accidents or purposeful hybrids?

Quote of the Day: "When the world wearies, and society ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden."~ Minnie Aumonier

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Buying your First Mount; Not a good Time to Horse Around.




By Donna OShaughnessy  AKA  The Midlife Farmwife



The first time I bought a horse went like this. I witness some kids throwing rocks at a large pony in order to make him run. Each time he stopped the stoning started again. It mad me angry, so I marched up to the kids father, standing by watching the abuse and told him to stop. He told me I should mind my own business unless I wanted to buy the pony from him. So I emptied out my bank account, thrust $25 into the fiends hand and walked my first equine home.

I was 12.

My mother was none too pleased with my impulse buy, especially since we lived in town,  with a tiny yard, but with my equally impulsive fathers help, we convinced her to let me keep him.

Since then I've learned a little more about how to buy the first horse of your dreams and in this decreased economy there is sadly a glut of horses on the market. It is both a great time and a horrible time to buy your first horse. There are deals to be made but there are also dealers out there made to to part fools with their money.

But by following a few self-learned tips you can still come home with a decent riding horse bound to give you pleasure for years to come.

1. If you've never owned a horse before take a horseman with you. Note I said "horseman" not a horse trainer or plain horse owner but someone who really knows and understands horses and preferably is well versed in Natural Horsemanship.

2. Learn the Lingo. Some common phrases and their real meanings follow.

 "Bombproof"  There is no such thing. Horses are animals of prey. If they perceive danger they   will run. A blowing leaf become a ferocious panther. The backfiring of a car equates to a war zone. Instead look for terms like "Has been ridden on many trail miles" or "Lots of groundwork done" and /or a Temperament rating of 1-2 on a 0-10 scale. 
 
 " In your pocket kind of horse" meant to describe a horse that follows you everywhere, can also mean a horse that doesn't respect your space. It may seem cute to have a horse rub all over you with his face but this habit is disrespectful and dangerous. A horse who does this to a child or small adult can knock them over. A well trained horse will quickly back up out of your space with a well aimed look or gentle jiggle of the lead rope.
         
 "Easy Keeper" could mean he maintains his weight well or simply that he is too fat.
         
 " Needs a job" often means the horse has not been ridden much lately. Ask for specifics such as number of times the animal has been ridden each week and for how long.
         
 "Green-broke" Most overused term in the horse world. Could mean the horse has been under professional training for the last 6 months and is well prepared for the next step or it could mean the neighbors kid threw a saddle on him three times two years ago. Again ask for specifics. Rule of thumb for a novice horse owner  never buy a horse that is less well trained than you are. Green plus green equals trouble.

3. Ask the owner (or someone else in their family) to ride their horse in your presence. If they won't then you don't want to either. Instead of watching the horse watch the owner. Are they nervous around their animal? Do they start making excuses for the animals behavior? Ask them to walk behind their horse and pick up and clean all four feet. You can learn more about a animal by watching their owner than by riding the horse yourself.

4. Look for the obvious. Does the horse limp? Are its eyes, ears and nostrils clear and without discharge? Are there any open wounds?  Does he paw at the ground when tied? Does he refuse to move from one gait to the next?

5. Look for the not so obvious. Feel its front legs for any hot spots or tender areas. Could be an injury or infection. Ask the owner to feel its back legs in your presence. Does the horse swish his tail or throw its head when asked to do a task. This is often a sign of impatience, disobedience or the warning of a soon to follow buck or rear.

6. Ask for written proof that the horse is up to date on all vaccinations and Coggins test.

7. Ask the owner to refund your money within a mutually agreed amount of time if after getting the horse home you discover it is not the horse you thought it was or hoped it would be or simply is not a good match for you.

8. Finally, take a good hard look at your prospective new horse. Does she make your heart sing? Then go ahead and buy her.You know you were going to anyway.


          "