Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Maple Syrup Restocked in the Store!

This season's REAL maple syrup is in stock now at the Farm Store. If you've never tried real maple syrup on your pancakes or as a sweetener in recipes you are in for a treat.

Don't miss these posts on maple syrup from the archives:

A discussion of maple syrup versus store-bought fake syrup

How maple syrup is made

The difference between Grade A and Grade B maple syrup

Recipes for Maple Syrup Viniagarette and Maple Syrup Ice Cream

Health benefits from maple syrup

What is your favorite way to use maple syrup? If you don't use maple syrup now, what is holding you back?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Small Changes Matter

They say that it's important to always be learning and growing as you go about your life. Sometimes this takes the form of huge leaps forward, but more often people take small incremental steps. You may not be able to make a comprehensive shift to a completely local, natural, sustainable lifestyle all in one fell swoop, but the small changes are no less important. Even little things like planting a new vegetable in your garden can give you momentum and be an encouragement.

Now that we're about a quarter of the way through 2010 (that was fast, wasn't it?), what have you learned about health? How have you changed your lifestyle to be simpler, more natural, or more in tune with the seasons? Do you have any plans to take other steps this spring and summer?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Planting Peas

When it comes to fresh-from-the-garden vegetables that cause you swear off grocery store knock-offs, peas are at the top of the list. Fresh from the pod, peas are exquisite! They are easy to grow, easy to pick and if you have never eaten a fresh pea still in the pod, you are in for a great treat. Now is the time to plant peas.

Peas don't require much in the way of fussiness. Good, well drained soil and a good sturdy trellis or fence to climb on are the components of good pea-keeping. Well rotted compost will ensure loads of thick pods but don't fertilize much more than that or you will get more vines and less pods.
Here is a bed that begged to be a pea bed; long, straight and thin. I opened up the soil with a U-bar so no tilling was necessary and set a good straight trench in the middle of the bed. I plant my peas in single rows on each side of the proposed space for the fence. I have tried the double rows in the past with less than desirable results each time so I stick with the tried and true single row.

I filled the trench with compost and planted the peas 4" apart with my two rows a mere 8 inches apart. Once the peas were spaced in the row I covered with the loosened dirt and began the work of putting up the trellis.

Peas can and will climb so be sure to set up a fence or trellis. In the past I have tried fence posts with string - don't try it - it doesn't work. I have tried utilizing coral panels from the co-op and they were great for shorter beds. They come in 16 foot lengths and they are inexpensive and last forever. For a longer bed though I felt that I had to use actual fencing. We strung it tight with two t-posts which is very important for picking time. You don't want the weight of the peas to pull the trellis over.

Once that hard work was over we transplanted spinach on one side and planted lettuce seeds on the other. As long as you keep the peas twining up the trellis you can keep weeds out of the bed by planting another crop on each side. Remember that mother nature will try to cover the soil if you don't. Also the lettuce and spinach will shade the soil and I will need much less water to maintain the growth of peas. As we get closer to picking I will post several recipes for fresh peas!

For your own garden we still have few different varieties of pea seeds for sale in the store. You will even find some varieties that thrive in pots for those who want the delicious taste of fresh peas but lack the space. So, there's a pea for everyone.

Have Fun!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Traders Point Dairy Products

When I was in the throes of starting a new farm I met a couple from Indiana, Fritz and Jane Kunz, who had an idea to start an organic dairy on inherited land in Zionsville, Indiana. They planned to bottle their own milk and yogurt for sale from the farm. For those of us who were lucky enough to watch the growth of this company it was a sight to behold. The lessons we learned from this adventurous couple will remain with me and guide my farming principles for years to come.

Trader's Point Creamery bottles their own 100% grass fed, certified organic whole milk, chocolate milk and yogurt. We now have their award winning chocolate milk and yogurt available in the store.

Only the highest quality organic ingredients are used and the awards received speak volumes for the small company. All of their yogurt products are flavored and colored with 100% certified organic fruit puree even though only 6% is the industry standard. Try Traders Point wild berry or raspberry yogurt poured over granola for a quick, nutrition breakfast. Yummy.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Fine Art of Letter Writing

Most of those closest to me know of my utter and vehement dislike for Facebook. Unless you have nothing planned for the afternoon you shouldn't ask me if I have a Facebook page.
I have many, many good reasons for shunning this newest form of "socializing" but at the top of that list is the fact that it has changed the face of true, deep and honest friendship and the form of communication that occurs between friends and acquaintances. For that matter Facebook doesn't even differentiate between true friends and acquaintances, oops, you almost got me started!

I am a true lover of the letter and the written word (on paper, can you guess where this is going?). When a good friend came to spend a few days at the farm she mentioned a poem called Elegy for the Personal letter. After reading this mournful poem I felt that it conveyed all of my passion for the letter with my soapboxing.

To help you make the transition from half-hearted, half-sentence, virtual "friend"-rich, relationship-poor, non-conversations back to the elegant, thoughtful art of letter writing we are proud to announce our newest section in the The Farm Shop, The tools of Writing. We now carry many beautiful card sets with fountains pens and a wide selection of scented inks on the way.

Elegy for the Personal Letter

by Allison Joseph
I miss the rumpled corners of correspondence,
the ink blots and crossouts that show

someone lives on the other end, a person
whose hands make errors, leave traces.
I miss fine stationary, its raised elegant
lettering prominent on creamy shades of ivory
or pearl grey. I even miss hasty notes
dashed off on notebook paper, edges
ragged as their scribbled messages—
can’t much write now—thinking of you.

When letters come now, they are formatted
by some distant computer, addressed
to Occupant or To the family living at
meager greetings at best,
salutations made by committee.
Among the glossy catalogs
and one time only offers
the bills and invoices,
letters arrive so rarely now that I drop
all other mail to the floor when
an envelope arrives and the handwriting

is actual handwriting, the return address
somewhere I can locate on any map.
So seldom is it that letters come
That I stop everything else
to identify the scrawl that has come this far—
the twist and the whirl of the letters,
the loops of the numerals. I open
those envelopes first, forgetting
the claim of any other mail,
hoping for news I could not read in any other way but this.

PS Teach your children to write before they can type. It will serve them well. These three letters came in the mail for my daughter when she was under the weather.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Beaverdam Creek Farm CSA Comes to Windy Acres Farm Shop

At my advanced age I have finally realized that I can only do so much! Beef, lamb, chicken, dairy, homeschooling, opening and running a farm shop, running a household, gardening, canning, spinning, knitting, etc., etc. It makes me tired just listing it all. Well I have finally drawn the line at trying to grow all of the produce my family consumes. I decided that I will still grow a garden but I want it to be fun and I need to take a bit of pressure off this year. So after searching high and low for a farm we could trust, with the strong values and purist tendencies of all of us at Windy Acres we have turned to our friends, the Lingos at Beaverdam Creek Farm to provide us with the bulk of our vegetables. In the course of our conversations we realized that this would be the perfect situation for many of our customers looking for a CSA for themselves.

What is CSA?

CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture”. It’s simply an agreement in which you purchase a ‘share’ in our garden. Your share provides a portion of the farm expenses, including labor and the purchase of seeds and supplies (soil amendments, equipment, etc.). In return, as a “shareholder”, you receive a basket of whatever produce is harvested from our garden each week along with our newsletter updating you about farm happenings and giving you storage hints and recipes for cooking our delicious veggies and herbs. Think of it as owning a garden, but not having to pull the weeds!
General Share Info

CSA Shares will be distributed for approximately 26 weeks May-October. A share is a half-bushel basket containing enough produce for approximately 4 people, depending on your eating and cooking habits. Half shares are also available. Along with your produce, you will receive a weekly newsletter with recipes, farm news and tips on how to use and store your produce. You can pick up your share at our farm after 2:30 pm on your scheduled day. We also deliver to the Franklin Farmer’s Market on Saturdays 8:00am until noon. Other delivery locations may be scheduled as we receive sufficient requests.
  • You’ll receive a basket of fresh, tasty produce every week of the growing season.
  • You will be buying from us, a family that you know and trust.
  • Your veggies will be chemical–free and clean; no worries about salmonella-contaminated tomatoes!
  • You will have a say in what your farmer grows.
  • You will be helping to boost your local economy.
  • You will have the fun and anticipation of seeing what new and different treats are in your basket each week.
  • You will be motivated to try some new and different meals using your seasonal produce and the recipes we provide.
  • Weather-All farming endeavors are at the mercy of the weather. There might be an early frost that kills the strawberry blossoms, so we have to wait until next year to enjoy them.
  • Pests/Disease-There’s always a chance that pests or blight might do damage to a certain crop. What happens then? We just do as our grandparents would have done. For example, if Colorado Potato Beetles destroy our potato harvest, then we eat more sweet potatoes instead! If we lose some summer squash to powdery mildew, then we add more zucchini to the menu!
What We Grow
Early season baskets include spinach, lettuce, radishes, scallions, kale, broccoli, sugar snap peas, bunched beets, salad greens, and more…
Mid season baskets include zucchini, garlic, yellow squash, cucumbers, carrots, sweet onions, beans, corn, potatoes, herbs, flowers and more...
Late season baskets include salad greens, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, leeks, peppers, hot peppers, eggplant, broccoli, kale, spinach, pumpkins, turnips and more…
All produce, freshly picked, will be delivered to Windy Acres Farm Shop every Saturday by 3:00pm.
So if you are a customer of Windy Acres Farm Shop and are interested in participating with us in the Beaverdam Creek CSA please contact us as soon as possible to reserve a basket with your family's name on it!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Soaked Grain Pancakes

Pancake breakfasts are a solid staple in our home and have been for years. I think that of all the meals I love to share, breakfast is the fast winner. I just love to invite people over for breakfast. I will squeeze fresh orange juice, make toast from homemade bread, roast a great blend of coffee beans, make pancakes, homemade veal sausage and fried eggs fresh from the henhouse and we will sit in the garden and talk for hours.

Ever since we gave up boxed cereals breakfasts have fascinated me. What a difference between tearing open a cardboard box and pouring hard, lifeless flakes into a bowl and getting the family together to make a wholesome, delicious breakfast together. In our house, Brayden was always the orange juice squeezer and Rhayna learned to get the pancakes ready at the age of 8.

Most people believe that a made from scratch breakfast is impossible on the weekends let alone every day of the week. Thanks to Sue Gregg, this is no longer the case, even in our frenzied world.

Sue discovered the secret to soaking grains in the blender many, many years ago. I remember purchasing her extensive collection of cookbooks over 15 years ago but at that time she, along with many others, were promoting the use of soy, fructose and a few other unhealthy foods. Then one year at a homeschool convention in Indianapolis Sue's husband approached me and we struck up a conversation. He proceeded to tell me a tale of a woman who wrote cookbooks for 25 years and then read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and it turned her cooking on its head. "After 25 years and finally thinking we were finished writing cookbooks, she wants to start all over and switch the recipes to fall in line with Weston A. Price's recommendations."

This conversation caused me to take another look at Sue's work and indeed she was on a new road. Her work with soaking grains is the best anywhere. She is truly an innovator and her website is full of wonderful lessons in cooking with whole grains.

Make sure you try the pancakes!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Shear Surprise

Last Tuesday a surprise call at 6:00 am changed my plans for the rest of the week. A shepherdess friend was on the other end of the line with an unusual question, "How would you like your sheep sheared today?" Her shearer had made the trek down from Missouri but her sheep were wet from rain and snow so the shearer was sitting around with nothing to do (waiting for wet sheep to get dry is like watching paint dry!). A quick glance outside assured me that the precipitation had not yet reached my sheep so all I needed was a truck, a trailer, some hired help, a barn to shear in and some co-operative sheep! Most days those things don't align at once, but on Tuesday they did!

Thanks to Brayden, Rhayna, Sam, Dennis, Alfred, Jose and Molly (our sheep herding border collie) everything fell into place.

The girls waited patiently in line for a new 'do. We sheared 39 sheep for almost 6 hours, but the results were well worth the hard work. Despite the burrs in some fleeces from dog attacks and neighborhood roaming, we were able to save 20 of the fleeces and have great hopes for even better numbers in the fall.
Don't laugh! They will look beautiful again in a week!
Since they don't have mirrors, the sheep just know they can scratch their backs again!
Now the real work begins. We will go through each fleece to pick out burrs and other unpleasant things, then wash the fleeces. Once they are sparkling clean we will card and spin the fleeces to make them available for sale as roving (wool for spinning), yarn, and knitted garments. Each skein has a picture attached of the sheep responsible for the wool so you can put a face with a fleece!

Over all the years of farming, I have learned that I am merely the helper. Just as I help my chickens get their eggs in the cartons and my cows get their milk in the jugs, I help my sheep get their wool to you, their friends and fans!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Soaking Grains

Here is a cereal I could eat everyday. It is quick, nutritious, filling and a very healthy alternative to boxed cereals. I first tried this super granola in Italy and then feasted on it again in Switzerland and I have been hooked ever since.

It is always so interesting to me when I learn a concept, such as that all grains should be soaked to remove phytic acid before eating, then I open a German cookbook and viola! a cereal that is soaked. The concept behind this healthy breakfast is best described by Sally Fallon in her wonderful cookbook/ traditional eating encyclopedia Nourishing Traditions:
Phosphorus in the bran of whole grains is tied up in a substance called phytic acid. Phytic acid combines with iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc in the intestinal tract, clocking their absorption. Whole grains also contain enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion. Traditional societies usually soak or ferment their grains before eating them, processes that neutralize phytates and enzyme inhibitors and in effect, predigest grains so that all their nutrients are more available. Sprouting, overnight soaking, and old-fashioned sour leavening can accomplish this important predigestive process in our own kitchens. Many people who are allergic to grains will tolerate them well when they are prepared according to these procedures. Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon, Pg 25
I learned about the benefit of soaking grains when I began to develop symptoms of diabetes, which runs in my family. I realized that each time I ate grain, even my own milled grains, I steadily began to feel sluggish and tired. I finally came to the point when after eating grains I needed to lie down and rest. After a bit of research I found that certain people (especially those predisposed to diabetes) can be affected by the insulin inhibitors that are released from the pancreas after eating grains. Once I began to soak my grains the symptoms went away.

Wonderful Soaked Grain Breakfast Cereal

1 2/3 cup Windy Acres Farm Shop Muesli Mix (try some from the Farm Shop!)


1 2/3 cup your choice of grains

2-4 apples
2 tb buckwheat
2 tb sesame seeds
2 tb sunflower seeds
4 tb raw honey or maple syrup
2 ts vanilla
2 ts cinnamon
2 tb raisins or dried cranberries
Seasonal fruit

Grind the grains and oats coursely the night before and the barley and barely cover with water (and two tablespoons cultured dairy product or whey if available). Leave overnight.

The next morning grate the apples and but the fruit into small pieces and mix with the grain mixture. Lightly toast the buckwheat and sesame seeds and sunflower seeds and mix into grains. Season with honey or maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla. Pour cream or milk over cereal and garnish with raisins and nuts.

Serves 6

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March Chores - Pruning

Before the month of March is over I plan to get all of my pruning finished. February is usually just too darn cold to get out with my pruners and my handy dandy folding saw so I have made a deal with myself that I can feel good about: March is pruning month. Once we see the longer warmer days of April the trees and shrubs have started to send out new shoots and the sap begins to flow making it harder to heal the cuts.

Before you head out to your unsuspecting trees and shrubs armed with saws and pruners you need to know what you are pruning and when it flowers to understand how it responds to pruning. The reason we go to all the trouble of pruning is to keep our trees and shrubs healthy by removing dead and diseased limbs, opening the plant for better circulation or just plain old shaping to keep it looking great.

Hardwood trees and shrubs without flowers: if you prune these trees and shrubs while they are dormant it is easier to see the main structure and it makes it easier to see how the tree wants to be pruned. Usually, the best time to prune in this case is during the late fall through early spring since leaving wounds here can cause severe problems with insects that are actually attracted to the scent put out by these trees and shrubs.

Trees and shrubs that flower in early spring (redbud, dogwood, etc.) should be pruned immediately after flowering (flower buds arise the year before they flush, and will form on the new growth). I learned the hard way that lilacs need to be pruned right after they flower to give the plant time to rest otherwise they put all of their energy into the seeds and you will have no flowers the following year.

Here are some examples of trees and shrubs to prune in late spring/summer, after they bloom:
  • Azalea
  • Bridal Wreath Spirea
  • Forsythia
  • Hydrangea
  • Magnolia
  • Mockorange
  • Rhododendron
  • Weigela
Trees and shrubs that flower in the summer or fall always should be pruned during the dormant season (flower buds will form on new twigs during the next growing season, and the flowers will flush normally).

Here are some examples of trees and shrubs to prune in the dormant periods between winter and early spring:
  • Bradford Pear
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Crape Myrtle
  • Flowering Dogwood
  • Flowering Plum
  • Honeysuckle
  • Hydrangea
  • Redbud
  • Spirea
  • Wisteria
Prune dead branches any time of the year. This ensures safety year round. I take out a bucket with chlorine and water to dip my pruners between cuts on anything that looks diseased. I don’t want o spread anything nasty. In order to keep disease to a minimum in the tree or shrub I take out any branches that are crossed or toughing. Just cut these back to a bud that is facing outward. Once that is done I can look at the tree objectively and see what else it needs. I never take out more than 1/3 of a plant at a time so as not to put undue stress on it.

So, take a look at what you have in the yard and start to make a pruning guide for the yard. Document the type of plant and how it should be treated. Mark the dates on a planting calendar so that you can start to make your own garden guide. It really helps to keep it all in one notebook.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Reduce Breast Cancer Risk With Grass-Fed Meat and Milk

A little over 10 years ago while traveling in Europe I came across a study that found that women who consumed 100% grass fed animal products could lower their chance of developing breast cancer by 74%.

Why do 100% grass fed animal products protect women from breast cancer? Grass fed meat, milk and eggs contain a much higher concentration of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) than do products from grain fed animals. Studies show that CLA offers many health benefits, including reducing the risk of breast cancer and tumor reduction. You can read more about the benefits of CLA from Eat Wild, The Townsend Letter, and The California Breast Cancer Research Project.

Reading the European study a decade ago changed the way I farmed and made me a purist when it comes to grass versus grain for my animals. For me, this means no grain fed to ruminants at all: not to get them to love me, not to get them to come into the barn or to stand still while milking or any of the other excuses I have heard for feeding grain. None of these reasons seem very important when I weigh them against the faces of friends who suffer with cancer, or women I know who have predispositions toward breast cancer. How can I imagine feeding grain if there is even the slightest possibility that my food could help them to avoid this horrible disease? Even the slightest chance is worth not having a little more milk to sell or an animal that goes to the butcher a few months sooner. The possibility is just too great to cut any corners here.

So please, if you purchase meat or milk from a farmer that you can actually speak with, ask them to stop feeding grain and let them know that you are willing to pay more to help them with the extra expenses. And if you don't buy milk or meat from someone you can persuade to go grass fed - you should.