Sunday, July 20, 2014

Year Four: Reflection and Readiness

July marks four years of our lives spent creating Soul Flower Farm. We have gone through many changes learning so much in a short amount of time. On good days there is no where we would rather be. We are certainly blessed to be surrounded by overwhelming serenity, beauty and an amazing view. Most of the time the sun is shining and the weather is sweet!  Of course we have our fair share of challenging days where we are questioning what the heck*#*!!, this is really hard work! But as in any aspect of life, hardship and ease come hand in hand. We wouldn't be strong  (or alive for that matter) if it were any different.  

So now that we know we can grow our own food, raise some livestock, put up stores for winter, and all the good stuff that comes with this lifestyle, it seems only logical the next step would be expansion.  With reflection on these last four years of exertion, production and growth, we stand with complete openness and readiness.  Readiness to give back, to be of service in a way that really matters, in a way that is tangible.  We don't know yet what it will look like but our intentions and the dreams in our hearts are waiting for the opportunity to manifest.  



"The best way to find yourself is to loose yourself in the service of others."
Mahatma Ghandi



Friday, July 11, 2014

Summer Babies!


Well, I'm finally getting around to posting these pics.  The summer kids arrived a few weeks ago.  All three are adorable as can be and that mischievous goat spirit runs through them all as we watch them run, jump, twist, play, and investigate this new world of theirs.


Maydaisy, our old timer, has had three sets of triplets in the past and this year gave birth to one enormous girl who we named Violet.  Willow, Maydaisy's daughter from last year, had twins Hemlock (boy) and Rue (girl).


My do they hey grow up fast!  They are already nibbling alfalfa and vegis along the Mamas.  The kids have had a great start getting 100% access to their Momma's milk for the first few weeks.  It's time to start the regular nightly separation and morning goat milking routine. 
 
 
Babies always add a special feeling of warmth to the farm.  It's great to have them back again!

 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Preserving With Instant Gratification


As we're moving into the summer season, the fruit is ripening and our preserving marathon begins. However this year, I recognize we don't really have whole days to commit to canning so I am starting out with small batches here and there.  It feels more sustainable this way and also more enjoyable.  Last weekend we stripped our apricot tree and canned the delicious sun ripened fruit (leaving the firmer fruit to ripen indoors saving it from the deer!). My favorite method of canning is the raw pack method; so simple and fast.  My neighbor brought over a beautiful bag of pluots from her tree last night. Here's how I canned them using the raw pack method.  


Set a large canning pot 3/4 full of water on the stove to boil. Wash and sterilize jars, I use quart jars and sterilize them in the oven at 250 degrees for 10 minutes.  Wash fruit and cut the flesh off the pit.  Pack jars tightly with fruit. You can add 1/2 tsp. of vitamin C powder or add a squeeze of lemon to prevent fruit from browning.  



Pour boiling water over fruit leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Some people like to use a sugar or honey syrup but I prefer plain fruit. Screw on canning lids and place into hot water bath making sure water level is an inch above jars. There are different canning times depending on the type of fruit. I can pluots for 20 minutes and in general I like to refer to the fruit canning chart in The Encyclopedia of Country Living.  

I love using this method because we are able to preserve alot of fruit in a short time.  There is no added sweetener yet the fruit becomes almost caramelized during the canning process leaving it sweeter than in it's raw state.  It's wonderfully convenient to pull out a quart of home grown plums. apricots, apples or peaches and whip up a  pie, crisp, or galette by simply spooning out the fruit into a pie shell or making a quick crumb topping. This is also amazing over waffles and pancakes, yogurt, or vanilla ice cream- Haagan Daz of course! 
Have fun preserving and happy summer!

Top picture from tinysorganic.com

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Around The Farm: May

Broccoli harvested from the garden in our son's handmade basket
Many beds still bursting with different varieties of kale
Snap peas make perfect garden nibbles


Food Forest beginnings: Artichokes, kale, chard, sunflowers, banana, and a young hawthorn tree


Cylindra beets
Dehydrated beet chips
Strawberry beet fruit leather- try it it's amazing!
Lots of fresh cheese
Ginger!
Turkeys poults are growing up

Young hands jarring up honey- a sweet chore!

Drying the garlic harvest before braiding

So much to fit into these long, hot days.  Spring is feeling more like summer as we put extra mulch on the beds and get all the tomatoes, corn, squash, peppers and eggplant into the ground.  I've been feeling way behind as there are a ton of vegis to harvest and process with very little time and only a few hands keeping up all the work.  Our trio of goats are fat and due to kid in less than a month.  The stalls need to be cleaned out and bedded with thick fresh straw in anticipation of the babies we so adore.  The chickens are steadily laying away and the turkeys are growing large before our eyes.  I think those seven funny poults may have imprinted on me because they follow me everywhere squawking, "Mammma!" in turkey language.  I have become quite attached to them which is going to be problematic come Thanksgiving.  We harvested a good portion of garlic yesterday.  I'm excited to experiment with braiding both the soft and hard neck varieties later this week.  We harvested it still a bit green so the stems will be flexible instead of brittle.  We've been eating mostly out of the garden these days and can't wait for the fruit in the orchard to ripen: citrus and apricots first, then plums, apples, pears, grapes, persimmons and more...We are really praying and planning for a big harvest this year so we can put up the summer goodness for winter.  Much depends on the drought/water supply and how much our grey water can keep the soil moist.  For now, we're feeling optimistic and always filled with gratitude!



God never sends us more than we can handle. -Mother Theresa

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Day At The Green Festival


Last weekend we spent our Sunday at the Albany Arts and Green Festival.  Blessed with beautiful weather and a large crowd, we sold almost all our local organic honey, as well as many of the products from our Handcrafted Herbalim CSA. 



There was a diverse grouping of  booths at the festival; everything from solar/renewable energy to The Sierra club to The Alameda County Beekeepers Association.  We spent some time promoting our classes, discussing our farm with interesting people, and benefiting from all the giveaways (fruit trees, environmental books, compost and organic vegi starts).  



Fire Cider, Herbal Body Cream, Gardener's Salve,
Eucalyptus Lavender Salt scrub for sale

Both our honey and the model Warre hive we set up drew plenty of attention.  It was a blast talking about bees with other beekeepers and hearing about many of the local apiaries in the area. The best part of the festival was networking with so many interesting, like minded people. Of course taking home peach, apricot, and cherry trees, comfrey, globe artichokes, mugwort, and a few more starts for the garden was pretty great too.  Hurrah for the Green Festival!


 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ramping Up


We've been busy bees lately.  On top of the explosion of spring planting, milking 2x a day, catching several swarms, classes and chores, we have expanded our hen operation.  Two rounds of chicks we recently raised are mature and beginning to lay.  We also adopted a large group of Brown Isos from an animal rescue.  These ladies are between 7-11 months old, prime production brown egg layers.  Their dwellings are three mobile chicken tractors built from scrap materials we had here on the farm.  As we are moving them across the hillside, they will eat all the bugs and grass while preparing and fertilizing new beds for us to plant.


Using the chicken tractor is nothing new to us.  About half of our beds were initially prepared by our original lightweight tractor made from PVC pipe. What's different about this set up is that these structures are sturdier and  predator proof.  The other big difference is that we are feeding the hens compost, or at least mostly.  Each day we dump into the tractors a load of manure, greens, straw and spent brewer's grain.  The hens eat, scratch, peck and break down the goods into a most lovely and fertile end product for us to plant right into. 


We were totally inspired by Geoff Lawton's Chicken Tractor on Steroids video and decided to try out the concept but wanted to tweak it to make it easier for us. (We are leaving the hens on the beds for 2-3 weeks. Instead of turning compost, we let them do the work for us).  


So far, a month into the experiment, we reached down under the straw bedding to test out the soil and it is loose, moist and full of worms!  Just what we are aiming for.  The true test will be seeing how our tomatoes do in the first bed.  


The hens have taken well to their new environment.  They have had a big adjustment to make as we have changed their diet drastically from layer pellet to compost.  We are trying to boost their immune systems with a splash of apple cider vinegar in their drinking H2O and giving them fermented milk with all the beneficial probiotic bacteria. Plus the spent grain they are getting contains hops which has bitter acids know to be potent anti-microbials. These anti-microbials control the pathogenic bacteria Clostridium in the hens' intestines.  

So all in all, these ladies are having to work a bit harder but they are looking healthy.  This coming week we will set up the electric fencing to give them a little wiggle room and allow them to forage through the tall grass a bit too.  They will be some pretty happy pastured chickens!

Check out this clip on the ramped up chicken tractor, well worth watching his whole video...Many spring blessings!



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Colors of Spring


"When the soul lies down in that grass, 
the world is too full to talk about."- Rumi


Onions blooming, artichokes reaching and stretching out their long leaves, technicolor poppies scattered over the hillside, a splash of chartreuse chalkboard paint on the milk fridge, kale-collards-mustard greens-broccoli-potatoes, grapes leaves unfurling, bees buzzing to and fro over the borage flowers, and a green grassy hillside that calms the mind and soul.  Spring has sprung, beauty hangs on every dew drop. All around us life is anew. 


Eight little bronze turkey poults entertain us while our chicks in the brooder get bigger by the minute.  Spring planting, lots of new laying hens, lazy pregnant goats and milk coming out of our ears.  The farm is bustling with activity keeping us sore, tired and so busy we can barely take a breath.  But somehow it's all worth it!  These times are unforgettable...the best times of our lives!

Happy Spring!