Thursday, May 2, 2013
In 2005, wild-simulated ginseng expert, Scott Persons, and I published the book "Growing and Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal and Other Woodland Medicinals. It sold out fairly quickly and so we did a minor revision and another printing in 2007. All those copies are gone now, too. Unfortunately, our publisher Cynthia Bright of Bright Mountain Books, is retiring and we have to look for a new publisher. In the meantime, she arranged to have our book released in an ebook version so it is still available (thank you, Cynthia!). You can now download the book to your Nook, Kindle, computer, smartphone, or tablet. Instant gratification!!! I love it. It is the complete book for only $15. It is available through the links above and through a number of other online ebook retailers. Be careful, we have already found two illegal download offerings for pdf versions but Trend Micro gives a "dangerous" warning if you click on the links.
In addition, Scott and I are negotiating with a new publisher to produce an expanded new version of our book. We will update all the information in the current book AND I will add a chapter just for home gardeners. The demand for me to give workshops and presentations to home gardeners has exploded, so it's time to put that information in print. We expect that book to be available in spring 2014.
Happy spring, everyone!
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Pearson Falls-a local treasureThere just are not enough hours in the day and I'm afraid that the farm blog has suffered as a result. Yes, Our Tiny Farm is alive and well, but due to circumstances outside our control, we did not sell at the tailgate market as we had planned. We did, however, grow lots of great food that we are enjoying immensely and we will have some items for sale shortly, such as garlic and honey. Here is a brief update on our season. Oh, we I included a picture of the waterfall because we took a trip down to Pearson Falls one summer morning. So beautiful and peaceful there. You should check it out!)
We are in the process of getting more young steers this fall. So if you are interested in buying a quarter or a half let us know so you will be the first we contact when the meat is ready.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
A portion of our vegetable gardens in early July.
Just wanted to give you a quick update on the farm. The vegetable gardens are growing well, for the most part. Hubby has been dealing with a vole problem this year that has been quite aggravating. The voles seem to have a real taste for young beans. I can't count how many times we have reseeded them. The young white cat that has adopted us and is living under the workshop has been snacking on some, but we either need more barn cats (not!) or hubby has to create a bait and trap system.
We had an excellent garlic year and there are several varieties curing in the barn right now. Most of the potatoes have been dug and the summer squash is just starting to come in. We are also enjoying fresh basil and cilantro. Yum!
The Davis bees are happily producing honey.
We had a good honey year in 2011 and hope to have another good one this year. There is still 2011 honey available. Just give us a call if you want to purchase any. We will be selling it at the Mills River Farmers' Market when we have a few more items to sell along with it.
We need to decide if we want to expand our poultry production.
Our chickens are in their fourth season of production and providing us with a surprising number of eggs. That's one of the many benefits to raising heritage breeds; they don't "burn out" as quickly as the newer commercial breeds. But, we are at the stage where we need to decide if we want to expand production and start selling eggs. I see some folks selling pasture raised eggs for $2 a dozen and cannot figure how they are making any money doing so. I haven't crunched all the numbers yet, but I think we would have to charge at least twice that much to make any money on them. How much are you willing to pay for locally grown, pasture raised eggs?
One of our girls lost her tail! I really don't know what happened to it.
Some folks have asked why we don't let our chickens roam freely around the farm. There are several reasons. The biggest one is predators. We have very healthy hawk, fox, coyote, and dog populations in our area. Our neighboring farms have all shared stories about hawks and coyotes taking off with their chickens. And several times when we have had the electric fence turned off, dogs have entered the field and thrown themselves at the chicken tractor. I'm sure we would have lost a few if we didn't have them so well protected. We just visited a farm in Transylvania county last weekend and the farmer shared that he had lost three chickens in recent weeks. Keeping our chickens semi-confined also prevents their interaction with other birds which keeps them healthier and reduces the risk of spreading avian diseases to us. So our girls are moved daily and get lots of sunshine and fresh grass. If we expand production, I would like a bigger run, but they can't roam free here.
There are three equines in our pastures; two of our own and a boarder.
We have a wonderful "mature" companion horse. He is a Tennessee Walker and he is a sweetheart. Then we have my donkey, Hagar. He is a guard donkey, my good friend, and a real character. And we also board an older, small Belgian horse. The three of them get along just great and share the pasture with the chickens. We are currently looking for two young steers. We enjoyed raising our first two Black Angus and our customers loved the beef they produced. So hopefully we will have two new ones shortly.
We try to go to the Mills River Farmers' Market every Saturday morning.
As I mentioned earlier, we intend to sell at the Mills River Farmers' Market off Hwy 280 later in the season. This has grown into a wonderful little market with about 28 vendors and a great diversity of products. Come check it out next Saturday morning from 8 am till noon.
Oyster mushrooms that I bought from Deep Woods Mushrooms at the Mills River Farmers' Market.
I was very excited to see Greg Carter from Deep Woods Mushrooms selling his mushrooms at the Mills River Farmers' Market! He is a great person and grows yummy mushrooms.
The creamy oyster mushroom sauce on fettucine and fresh local tomatoes in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
There are few activities that give me as much pleasure as creating a meal using all fresh, locally grown ingredients. The weekends are the best time to do this. Hubby harvests fresh produce and herbs from our gardens; I run to the farmers' market and buy fresh lettuce, fancy breads, and duck eggs; and we have a freezer full of our beef and my friend's pork. It is a delight to cook with all this wonderful food!
Sunday, June 24, 2012
A view of the gardens from the porch of the educational buildingLate yesterday afternoon, my husband and I partook in a delightful learning experience at the Mills River Educational Farm. This is a little known treasure right in our midst here in the southern mountains of western North Carolina. It is located in Mills River, just about a ten minute drive from the Asheville airport. What a gem! This is a very small farm dedicated to finding the most sustainable methods for growing food. Run by a non-profit, some of our local farming experts are part of the team.
Yesterday they offered a class called "Soil Fertility Part 2" and it was dedicated to compost, cover crops, and understanding soil and organic waste reports. I have known all the speakers for twenty plus years, Jon Nilsson, Mark Schonbeck, and Pat Battle, so it was fun reconnecting. Jon Nilsson, our local compost expert, spoke first on understanding waste analysis reports. This is important information if you are making compost. That was followed by a presentation by Dr. Mark Schonbeck, Virginia based consultant on soil fertility, cover crops, and all things organic. Mark spent several hours talking about the pros and cons of a very long list of cover crops.
Rocco explaining the buckwheat cover crop in one of the greenhouses. That's Lisa Soledad Almaraz filming.Then we took a short tour of the greenhouses and the gardens. We munched on some 'Vortex' beans and 'Sungold' tomatoes while Rocco Sinicrope explained what they were trying to accomplish in the greenhouses, how they were using buckwheat as a cover crop in one greenhouse, and using organic mulches topped by landscape fabric to grow squash in the field.
Pat (in the hat) and Mark (scratching his head) in front of the pizza oven.Then Pat Battle treated us to wood-fire oven baked pizza. No one makes a pizza like Pat's! All were topped with veggies from the gardens and some with sausage from pigs Rocco grew. Then we headed back inside for a discussion about soil test reports by Mark. It was a good way to spend a warm Saturday evening, expanding our knowledge about growing our own food in a manner that is good for the land and for us. It was also a joy to spend five hours with a small group of like-minded people.
There will be more classes in the coming months. To learn about them and the Educational Farm, visit their website at Living Web Farms. And this is all just ten minutes from our farm! Now, to address the way we are making our compost! I think hubby is out on the tractor doing something about it already.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Our first venture into raising pasture fed Black Angus was a success in terms of the quality and quantity of the beef we produced and our ability to sell it. We have someone driving over to pick up a quarter this afternoon which leaves one more that we plan to sell. Two of our customers asked to be notified when we were down to the last quarter; so that one might be gone soon, too. **BEEF IS GONE UNTIL THE NEXT TWO STEERS ARE GROWN** The beef is so tasty that we are keeping a side all for ourselves. Many people have asked when we will have beef for sale again. First we have to finish "crunching all the numbers" to determine if we made any kind of profit from it. If we did, we will raise more. Because we are such a small farm and we don't want to put too much pressure on our pastures, we can only raise two or three steers at a time. That means it will be another 18 months before we would have beef for sale again. We are also considering raising meat goats. Please let us know if you would be interested in goat meat.
Our beef and honey customers usually come to the farm to pick up their orders and so many of them say "we want to do what you are doing" and "you are living an idyllic life" and "it would be fun to have a few cows, chickens, and horses". My husband and I DO think we are living "an idyllic life" on a little farm just like one of those highlighted in Mother Earth News magazine. But before you get your chickens and try to do this for yourselves, I urge you to spend some time visiting with some folks who are already doing it. It's a great life, but there is more work to it than most people realize. Remember, a farm is not a part-time effort; it is something you have to tend to every single day.
It was a cold morning today, so I gave the girls some hot oatmeal in that little black trayLet's just use our morning chores as an example. Every morning, 365 days of the year, regardless of the weather, we have to venture outside shortly after daybreak, or earlier if our schedules demand it. We move the chicken tractor, open the coop, check the nests, and give the girls food and water. Then we clean (muck) the barn, give the equines their morning rations, fill the mangers with hay, top off the water trough, and take a wheelbarrow load of manure to the compost pile. When we had cows in the pasture, we had to check on them, too. All this has to get done every morning in addition to all the other morning chores we all have to do, e.g., feeding cats and dogs, showering, dressing, eating breakfast, etc. Usually I love doing the outside morning chores. It's my quiet time with my husband and the animals, it's good exercise, and I get to see many beautiful sunrises. But when it is pouring down rain, or sleeting, or 9 degrees outside, it's not much fun. So, just think about that before you get your own chickens and horses. Most small farmers like to show people what they are doing and we are no exception. If you would like to schedule a farm visit, just drop us an email.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
To all our family, friends, customers, and blog readers, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We look forward to seeing you in 2012.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Chicken coop, barn, and portable fencing (for rotational grazing).
Note the shade cloth on the chicken coop run.
Many people started raising a few chickens in chicken tractors (portable coops) this year. We had quite a few of them stop by and take pictures of our portable coop and use those as a basis for coming up with their own designs (that were hopefully much lighter than the one we built!). Now we are getting questions about how to get chickens through the winter without them freezing. Chickens are pretty hardy, especially most of the heritage breeds that people are choosing to raise this way, but there are things you can to to help ensure that your birds remain safe, healthy, and comfortable this winter.
- They should have a draft-free coop. Not air-tight, because they need ventilation, but not drafty. Our coop has louvered doors next to the nests and two vents, one at the top and one at the bottom of the coop. When the weather gets below about 25 degrees F, we have cardboard inserts that we install to cover the louvres and an aluminum sliding door that we slide in to cover the upper vent. The birds huddle together and stay quite toasty. The coop actually feels warm when I open it in the morning and the birds appeared quite comfortable even when outside temperatures got down into the single digits.
- Make sure the coop is dry. Be diligent about checking nests and bedding to make sure they are dry. We line our nests with hay and I clean the nests daily to make sure they aren't damp.
- Make sure they have free flowing water. This is a real problem for some people and I hear stories of taking fresh water to their birds several times a day or building all kinds of insulated water holders. We bring the plastic waterer in every night and refill it and replace it each morning. But because of our "greenhouse run", the water does not freeze during the day. Never has.
- What is a "greenhouse run"? See the pictures below. We have a standard A-frame run, but we cover ours with greenhouse grade plastic and it has "wings" on both sides that can be raised or lowered for protection from wind and rain and for ventilation. During the summer we usually keep one side down and have a piece of shade cloth on that side to provide shade (see picture at top of post). When it is brutally hot and humid, we raise both sides. In the winter we usually keep both sides down all the time. Solar heating keeps the run comfortably warm and dry and protects the birds from the wind. Throughout most of the winter, the end door is open to the annex (see the photos) so they can get fresh air and sunshine. When it is REALLY nasty out, we keep the end door shut.
- Make sure they have plenty of high energy feed. Our birds are on fresh ground everyday because we move the coop every morning. They get scraps from our kitchen and garden and have access to commercial crumble, too. But when it is really, really cold and nasty out, we also give them a dish of scratch and a morning bowl of hot oatmeal. Oh, they love the oatmeal. I know. That is really spoiling them and they probably don't need it, but they sure do love it!