Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sharing Knowledge Among Women

"Don't ever take more from a plant than what you need,
they enjoy having life as much as we do."
-Gypsy Wisdom

Sunday we spent our afternoon in class creating the beginnings of an herbal apothecary. The class was full and we celebrated many useful medicinal plants for boosting immunity and supporting the respiratory system.  Fresh locally wildcrafted elderberries stole the show with their juicy blue lusciousness.  

'Tis a special and important thing to have time for women to gather, share age old knowledge, and create holistic remedies for ourselves and our loved ones.  From generation to generation it has always been the women who held this task.  

Together we offer information, support, and community.  Our baskets at the end of class were full of immunity adaptogen tincture, mullein thyme lung tea, elderberry glycerite, herbal vapor rub, and our famous fire cider.  A wonderful collection of remedies to strengthen and encourage fall and winter health.  Definitely a day well spent.  

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Sometimes when life becomes more work than play and the balance is out of whack, we need to escape somewhere beautiful for inspiration.  My recent destination of choice was the Regenerative Design Institute in Bolinas.

A day trip up the coast to visit this 17 acre permaculture farm was a perfect afternoon getaway.  I participated in a three hour tour of the grounds and gardens.  From orchards to medicinal food forest there was much to see. My overall impression - quiet, peaceful, wild, weedy and everywhere I turned I saw an overwhelming abundance of food growing and thriving.

A cottage house tucked away in the garden, artful signs waiting to be hung, comfrey growing EVERYWHERE!  There was the largest comfrey plant I have ever seen-probably eight feet tall.  A straw bale house, an interesting chicken coop set-up, and a beautiful herd of dairy goats roaming the hillside.

I sat on a warm cob bench in the sun by this tranquil pond after the tour to do some journaling and a thoughtful host brought this beautiful cup of tea with fresh borage leaves and lemon.  A perfect ending to a lovely afternoon.  Gratitude and blessings abound.  

What we see and what we don't see
What we know and what we can't know
The mighty and the small, The Father and the Mother
The creatures that prowl the forests
and the growing things in the fields
The young ones that tread the ground
and the old ones that sleep under it
The birthing and the dying
The laughing and the crying and the bearing up
All creation breathes with one breath.
-Johnathon Odell, The Healing

Monday, July 28, 2014

Aquaponics: Take One!

Our plans for fish farming have been in the works for a very long time now.  We've been dreaming, studying and gathering information for a couple of years.  We are really excited to be finally taking steps to bring our visions of this project into action. 

In the four years we have been working this land we have dabbled in all sorts of endeavors; natural beekeeping, goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, varieties of perennials, drought tolerant edibles, the standard fruit and vegis, and our family cow.  With a little bit of experience behind us, we are refining our efforts to grow specifically what WE love to eat, which happens to include a good amount of fish!

In this set-up we used standard food grade IBC containers which had been functioning on the farm as containers for rainwater catchment. We are also using a large sump tank on the bottom as a water reservoir. There is a ton to be said about researching aquaponics set-ups. In a nutshell, our main source for a "how to" guide was Murray Hallam's Aquaponics Made Easy.   

As of this week the system we've been working on is ready. We just added about fifty fish, some babies and some breeders.  The fish are being fed a combination of what we have on hand; spent grain, garden vegis, insects and mosquito larvae.  

Tilapia are our fish of choice. They are warm water fish which grow to a large size quickly and they are adaptable and tasty.  The babies, called fry, take anywhere from six months to a year to mature.  The breeders are sexually mature and if all goes as planned, should  mate and produce more fry keeping the system functioning in a closed loop.

Adding our own fresh fish to equation feels like it might just make our homegrown diet complete. Exciting and lots of potential!  We will be reporting back to you all with the results including successes and failures, so stay tuned for more about this project.

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
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!