Sunday, December 30, 2012


As the year is coming to a close we take time to continue some seasonal family traditions.  Outside, collecting and foraging for items to decorate our mantel; pliable grapevines for wreaths, smooth shinny buckeyes, maple leaves, acorns and evergreens.  Inside we gather with friends for our annual gingerbread people fiesta.  The children look forward to making dough, shaping cutouts and slathering on a myriad of dried fruit, nuts, candy and icing for finishing touches.  (This year the addition of the gingerbread ninja was a hit!)  These are some of the sweet little things we cherish. And as the years go by and the children become teenagers there is something so special and wholesome to just being together to bake, laugh, eat, play games and maintain connections with the people we love. 
We are praying for everyone, many blessings in 2013.  
Happy New Year from the Soul Flower Farm crew!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tonic Treats For Livestock

I've been focusing a bit more of my attention on the animals this week.  I bred one of our does a couple of days ago and realized that I have not been giving any of the animals the extra supplements and treats they used to get so frequently.  After all, it is a lot of work to keep up with everyone's (human and animal) needs!  I thought I would share an easy recipe for these tonic balls I like to give to the goats and cow.  There are infinite ways and ingredients for this recipe. What you put in will depend on what extra supplements you want your animals to have and perhaps what time of year it is.  Or maybe it will just depend on what you have around the house. Since this is one of my ways of using food as medicine, it is important to me that all ingredients be organic.  

Garlic is the essential ingredient being a very effective natural wormer and generally increasing immunity, as well as, over all health.  Flax oil is high in omega 3 fatty acids, which does wonders for the animals appearance.  When fed to lactating animals, flax improves the fatty acid content of their milk.  (We also try to feed flax seeds to our chickens to get the omegas in the eggs.)  For this batch of tonic balls I started with a generous amount of peeled garlic cloves which I put into the blender and immersed in flax seed oil.  (You can also just crush the garlic with a mortar and pestle and add whole flax seeds.)  I then blended the garlic and flax oil until almost liquefied.  

Next I ground some steel cut oats into flour.  Other substitutes for oats could be rye, barley, wheat, or any grain you think your ruminant will enjoy.  The goal is just to have some flour to add into the mix, the fresher the better.  My animals tend to find oats the most palatable. (And in case you are wondering, the cast iron grain grinder attachment for the Kitchen Aid mixer is awesome!) 

So once you have the garlic mashed and the flour ground, combine these ingredients in a large bowl.  Add rolled oats and a good amount of black strap molasses, which holds the balls together, makes the whole thing sweet and yummy for the animal, and is very high in iron and calcium.   
Other additions I usually add are...
-Vitamin C powder
-Probiotics  for healthy digestion
-Nettles for iron and calcium
-Olive leaf extract for anti-bacterial and anti-microbial action

Mix well, adjusting wet and dry ingredients until you get a consistency that will stick together.  Shape into small balls (you may have to pat your hands into some extra flour to avoid the mixture sticking to them).  Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator.  I usually give 2 balls a day to each goat and several more to our cow.  Use your best judgement on the dosing depending on what ingredients you use and how potent the balls are.  If your animals are picky you might have to reduce the amount of garlic.  And be sure to use them up when they are fresh.  The longer they sit the more garlicky they get and the goats especially will turn their noses away.  

Welcome winter and happy tonic making!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

POTA Update

Some of you may have read a previous post about our attempts at finding sustainable home resources for feeding our livestock.  Well, the search is still on but here is the update on how it went with the Protein Out Of Thin Air method.

Overall the experiment worked great.  After about a week the bucket was teeming with life.  The chickens had a field day eating all the larvae.  Our ducks did not show any interest in the whole affair but the hens were in a frenzy when the maggots started dropping out of the holes.  The down side was that the whole experiment smelled 
p-r-e-t-t-y bad.  We were thinking that because it rained during the first few days and the bucket got really wet inside, the mulch that was supposed to be a dry buffer and cut down on the odor did not do it's job.  

One fellow flockster I read about hoists his buckets up above his chicken run, 20-30 feet high avoiding the smell which is carried away by the wind.  (I'm not sure how his neighbors appreciate that, but it does seem like it would work.)  I have also read that some people have multiple maggot buckets going in their chicken yard at once, which would be a more efficient way to conduct this method if you are really trying to feed the flock mostly from home resources.  In my opinion the summertime with the hot dry weather would be a more conducive time to use this method so that the smell could be more manageable.  I have not given up on producing protein out of thin air but I think we will wait for the dry season to do it again. It was definitely worth trying and with some tweaking could be a useful way to provide partial feed for free.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Makin' Some Compost Tea

All gardeners need a little inspiration now and then.  The rain has been very welcome here but we're feeling a bit of a winter lull with all the mud, busy-ness and and not as much time to get our hands dirty outside.  Making compost tea is a fast and simple way to increase soil fertility and do something extra special for the winter garden.  We got a bit carried away with ours as we were super excited and filled a 350 gallon IBC container (which is an extremely useful thing to have around by the way!). 

We've never been fully convinced that compost tea really works but after watching the video below about the guy who grows Guinness Record gigantic vegetables we thought it was worth a try.  

We started with homemade compost in a burlap sac, some microbial enzymes and about a quart of raw sugar.  Molasses is recommended to feed the bacteria and get the mixture going but we used sugar because it is cheaper and we had some on hand.  

Our container was already filled with rain water so we added the ingredients and submerged the burlap sac like a giant tea bag into the water and let the combination steep for a day or so.  The key step is to aerate the compost tea.  For this we used an air fish tank pump.  

Supposedly after 24 hours the compost tea is ready and thankfully we have a huge stock of it with a hose attached to play with and use in our garden at will.  Just one more experiment we are trying out over here.  

Check out this video.  We hope it inspires you the way it inspired us.  Although we had to wonder if this guys amazingly humongous vegis are due to his super fertile Alaskan tundra soil.  Only one way to find out...
Happy winter gardening everyone!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Wild Winter Feast

Post Thanksgiving, we felt that a wild feast was in order so we invited a group of friends, neighbors and family to join us in celebrating together over an enchanting spread of both homegrown and locally foraged wild edible delicacies.  On the menu...homegrown Cornish hens and rabbit roasted in the cob oven with butternut squash, wild green salad with miso vinaigrette, wild oyster mushroom soup, tomato-chard quiche, sauteed apples/sweet potatoes/onions-w/figs and walnuts, rabbit pot pie, braised parsnips and celery root, pumpkin bulgar pilaf, and cranberry onion relish.  (We still have yet to catch one of the wild turkeys so prolific in our area!)

For dessert; steamed persimmon pudding, pineapple guava sorbet, apple sauce cake, popping corn, and caramel apples.  Our beverages were hot yogi chai and pomegranate ginger water kefir.  Not bad for a spontaneous soiree.  We enjoyed and gave thanks for the bounty and good company.  As we approach the beginning of this winter season we are staying mindful of each and every blessing and the quiet simplicity of nature and family that we cherish so dearly. 

Be with those who help your being.  
Don't sit with indifferent people, 
whose breath comes cold out of their mouths.  
Not these visible forms, your work is deeper.

A chunk of dirt thrown in the air breaks to pieces.  
If you don't try to fly, and so break yourself apart,  
you will be broken open by death,
when it's too late for all you could become.  
Leaves get yellow. The tree puts out fresh roots 
and makes them green.

Why are you so content with a love that turns you yellow?