Thursday, April 10, 2014

Springtime on Our Tiny Farm, plus "the Book" and "See me at the Fair!"


2013 was a trying year on Our Tiny Farm. The rain wouldn't stop, so we had few vegetables for sale; we lost most of our hives, and a family member was dealing with serious health issues. But, 2014 has started out well and we are optimistic that this will be a great year! We are happy to report that with much love and attention, our bee hives are rebounding nicely and we expect to have honey for sale this year. The garlic and shallots look fantastic, so plan to try both this year. We will sell some fresh and some dried. Leeks and potatoes are being planted now. All our beef quarters are sold. Sorry if you missed out on them; the meat is excellent! But our two young Black Angus steers came through the winter looking great. They are enjoying the new spring grass very much.

You can see that our mini-donkeys are all grown up now. We are starting to train them so they can eventually pull a small cart. I have a dream for them to be therapy donkeys, too, but that might have to wait until I have more time. We have a new pony coming to board with us this month; we are excited for that. This spring we will fence in the new pasture area. Haven't decided just what will go in there yet. Could be more cattle, more boarders, a chicken coop, goats...the family needs to make that decision.
My new book, written with coauthor Scott Persons, is scheduled for publication in May! Technically it is a major revision and expansion of our first book, Growing and Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal, and Other Woodland Medicinals. But with a new publisher, many new chapters--including ones for home gardeners, and a beautiful new layout, photos, and cover--I consider it a new book. You can preorder it now through various on-line booksellers.

I welcome you to hear my presentation on Growing Woodland Botanicals at the Mother Earth News Fair at the WNC Agricultural Center in Asheville (across the street from the airport) this weekend. I will give that presentation on Saturday at 5:30. On Sunday I will speak on hops production at 2:30. And other times you can visit with me at the All About Herbs booths (7010-7015) near the Mother Earth News Stage. Hope to see you there. It will be a beautiful spring weekend.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Our Tiny Farm Grass-Pasture Raised Beef For Sale Now!

 A delicious smelling beef roast simmering in the crockpot with potatoes, onions, and carrots

We have grass-pastured raised Black Angus beef for sale. These two steers were gently raised on Our Tiny Farm in Etowah, NC. They lived on our pasture eating the fresh grass growing there. In the winter we also fed them locally grown hay, carefully selected to not contain persistent herbicides. The meat was aged for several weeks, butchered, vacuumed packed, and frozen at a USDA inspected facility in Forest City, NC. The beef is boxed in quarters and being held in deep freezers ready for you to purchase at $7.25 per pound plus tax, packaged weight. If you are interested in buying or want to learn more, use the contact form on the right sidebar. We only raise two steers at a time, so the beef sells quickly.


These are the two Black Angus steers in our pasture in November
Upon customer request, we harvested these steers at a smaller size then the ones we raised previously. So each quarter weighs approximately 85-88 pounds. That is finished, packaged weight; just like you would buy meat in a butcher shop or supermarket. (Many farmers sell their beef as "hanging weight" which includes the bone and excess fat. The way we sell it, you know exactly how much meat you are getting). An average quarter contains approximately 3 sirloin steaks, 2 ribeye steaks, 2 round steaks, 7 t-bone steaks, 2 cube steaks, 1 arm roast, 2 sirloin tip roasts, 3 chuck roasts, 11 one-pound packages of stew beef, 3 packages of ribs, and 34 one-pound packages of ground beef (this will, of course, vary some from quarter to quarter).
Our daughter reaching out to pet one of the steers
One of our customers just told us how much her family enjoyed the first roast they cooked. If 87 pounds of beef sounds like a lot, you can always split it with another family, but it also holds in a freezer for a very long time. We held a few steaks and roasts from the steers we harvested in fall 2011 to see how long they retain their quality. We keep them in a standard chest freezer. We recently had several of the 2011 t-bone steaks and they were just as tasty and fresh tasting as they were in the beginning. The vacuum packaging is what does it. We also like the vacuum packaging because you can quickly thaw ground beef, stew beef, ribs, and steaks by putting them in a sink full of water for 20 to 30 minutes. It is not recommended to thaw pasture raised or grass-fed beef in the microwave.
Why don't we call our beef "grass-fed"?  The term "grass-fed" is actually a federal designation for beef that has ONLY been fed fresh grass and hay. Fresh grass and locally grown hay make up more than 99% of our steers' diet, but we do give them a cupful of sweet feed (grain and molasses) frequently to keep them "trained to a bucket". That means they will come running to us whenever they see us with the buckets or hear us shake the buckets with feed in them. We do that so that if they ever get out of their pasture, we can entice them to come home. It also allows us to give them some minerals once in a while, and if they were ever to get sick, we could give them medicine. These two steers were never ill, so they never did receive any antibiotics. But, because we give them that tiny bit of sweet feed, we cannot legally call our cattle "grass-fed". And of course, our cattle never received any hormones. We have not fertilized or sprayed herbicide on the pasture. We use fly predators as the basis for our fly control program. We are NC licensed meat handlers and are certified Appalachian Grown by ASAP.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pastured Raised Black Angus Beef Aging Now-You Can Place Your Orders

The two Black Angus cattle we raised on our pastures are ready for market. Our daughter thanked them for sharing their lives with us and providing us sustenance.

The meat is aging now. You can pre-order, by the quarter, at this time. We don't have final weights or prices yet. Our meat is priced and sold by the final packaged weight. Most farmers sell by "hanging weight" which includes fat and bones that won't be included in your box. So keep that in mind when you order.


Yesterday, two new Black Angus steers joined us on Our Tiny Farm. They were just weaned. They settled in quickly and seem to like their new home.


This pretty, 11 year old Paint joined us on the farm on Wednesday. So it has been a busy week with animals on Our Tiny Farm!

Friday, October 18, 2013

New Ginseng & Goldenseal Book is Available for Preorder!


I am pleased to announce the newly revised and updated version of our book on ginseng, goldenseal, and other woodland medicinals is now available for pre-order through the publisher and some on-line book retailers. For goldenseal, ramps, and other woodland medicinals, I added a home gardener section with some simple recipes for products to make from the herbs you grow, chapters about wild-harvesting and new regulations affecting the industry, new and updated grower stories, an expanded price list with historical information, and new photographs. Scott revised his ginseng sections and added a chapter on ginseng growing for the home gardener section. This book now provides something for everyone interested in these native woodland plants.

You can preorder the book now directly through the publisher New Society. You can also look for it through your favorite on-line retailer. It was just announced, so that might take a few weeks, although WalMart posted it this week.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

There have been lots of changes on Our Tiny Farm

Our Tiny Farm in early summer
I hardly know where to start because it has been so long since I've posted an update here. Sorry about that. My job with NC State University seems to consume more and more of my time as the years go by. Fortunately, I love my job, but I would like to have more time to spend on the homeplace, too.

So, let me do a quick chronological update starting in fall 2012.
Our new steers
The pasture raised beef we produced and sold in late fall 2011 was OUTSTANDING!  So in October 2012 we got two young steers to raise the same way. Good pasture, clean mountain water, lots of fresh air and sunshine, and daily attention and a cookie; that's how we do it. The meat we harvested in fall of 2011 was vacuum packed and frozen. We are still eating some of that meat now (only have a few roasts and steaks left) and it is still just as fresh tasting and delicious as it was when we first brought it home. The vacuum packaging and storage at below 0 degrees F really maintains the quality.  We will probably harvest these two in October or November when we have two new ones arriving.  Because we only raise two at a time, if you are interested in buying a quarter or half, you should contact us and reserve it now.

The last market day on the Mills River Farmers Market in 2012

We finished out the 2012 selling season at the special holiday market day in November at the Mills River Farmers Market on Hwy 280 in Mills River.  It was cold but sunny and with carolers right next to our booth, very festive. We sold lots of honey, potatoes, garlic, popcorn, and some of my hand-knit and crocheted hats, scarves, capes, and bags.  It was a great way to finish the season.

Hagar, the world's greatest donkey. May he rest in peace.
Seven months have passed and it is still difficult for me to write about this without tearing up. If you follow any of my social media outlets you know that Hagar, my donkey, was my best pal. I loved this donkey the way many other people love their dogs. He was so smart and affectionate, and mischievous. Unfortunately, in early December he suddenly became quite ill. We raced him down to the horse clinic in Tryon but they could not save him. An autopsy revealed that something had poisoned his liver.  We worked with three vets, our neighbors, our feed supplier, and other local experts to figure what he could have eaten that poisoned him. We had the feed and hay tested. We walked the pasture looking for toxic weeds. Nothing was obvious.  We will never know what took dear Hagar's life, but I suspect it was chicken feed.  When we moved the chicken tractor each day, there were always a few chicken pellets on the ground. Hagar would gobble those up right away.  I know those pellets wouldn't hurt him when fresh because we made sure to buy chicken feed that did not contain any antibiotics or hormones that could harm him (and there are brands that contain those, so read the labels).  But, I suspect that sometimes he missed a few pieces and came back to get them later. And if wet, chicken feed goes bad very quickly.  From what I learned about mold toxins, if he was consuming a little of it frequently over time it could have been slowly damaging his liver for a long time until it finally reached a critical stage.  Like I said, we will never know for sure, but from what I have learned, having damp chicken pellets where your horses or donkeys could possibly eat them is not a good idea.  We have since sectioned off a portion of the pasture with temporary fencing just for the chicken tractor so the equines cannot access any spilled feed.  Also, did you know that some cattle feed and mineral blocks are also toxic to horses and donkeys?  Watch for rumensin. If that is added to the cattle feed it is highly toxic to horses.  Again, the feed we buy does not have rumensin, but many brands contain it.  I am shocked that we did not even know to be watching out for these things until this incident.
Bee hives
Honey is a major crop for us. It has great flavor and our customers love it. Unfortunately, we lost all but one of our hives this winter. We have spent a good deal of time, effort, and money rebuilding our hives this summer. As of July, the new hives look good except for one which is missing a queen. We are going to try a new method we learned to remedy that.  The loss of bees was great in our region this year, so expect honey to be in short supply and more costly than last year.

The sweet gentle giant we boarded, Sir Big 
It was an emotionally draining winter on Our Tiny Farm. We had been boarding this beautiful Belgian horse for about 18 months. He was a very sweet old guy and his owner loved him dearly. He had arthritis and had been limping for months, but he seemed to be managing okay. Very suddenly, however, his hip got so bad he could no longer support himself. He also had to be put down very quickly. It was a shock for all of us. Rest in Peace, Sir Big.
Our new baby mini-donkeys. Are they cute or what?
Our farm just seemed so empty without Hagar and Sir Big, so we began thinking about getting another donkey. Our vet and farrier both suggested that we get a mini-donkey. Well, it just so happens that the farm behind us raises mini-donkeys. Our neighbor told us he had some young ones for sale and on Easter weekend, Chester and Meadow came to live with us. They were both about six months old when we got them. Chester appears to be a true miniature donkey (will be under 36 inches tall) and has a short kinked tail. Meadow is a little bigger and might top out as a small standard (36 to 48 inches tall). They are both super cute, loving, curious, and fun.
Duchess, the new boarder
We missed the income from our boarder, so this spring we brought on a new boarder. Her name was Duchess and she was a five year old Tennessee Walker. Tall, beautiful, proud, and a mare. We had never had a mare on the farm before and didn't quite know what to expect. Well, Duchess was going to be the boss of the farm. She harrassed Little Man, our 27 year old Tennessee Walker gelding, and chased the little donkeys all over the pasture.  Within a short time, we had the barn, the paddock and the pasture divided in two.  Little Man and the mini-donkeys were on one side and Duchess on the other.  Little Man became very protective of the mini-donkeys, like a mother hen and her biddies, but he clearly wasn't happy. It was sad to see our old horse looking depressed, so on July 1 Duchess moved to a new home.  We are now looking for another boarder.  Preferably a mature gelding who gets along well with other horses.
Little Man and his charges. This was taken in spring when everyone still had their big heavy coats on.
Chester in his fly mask
We are strong believers in fly masks for our equine friends, so when fly season started, in addition to using fly predators we purchased two little fly masks with ears for the mini-donkeys. The velcro sound freaked them out at first, but they quickly learned how helpful they are. Now every morning after they have had a little grain, they hold up their heads and let us slip on their masks.  Okay, maybe they aren't that cooperative every day, but Little Man is.

We had a healthy harvest of snap peas.
The market garden was doing great this spring and we had wonderful snap peas, kale, garlic, elephant garlic, shallots, and new potatoes. And then the rains came...and they have never left. As of July 20 we have had more than 23 inches of rain over the average for this time of year. That combined with late blight has devastated the tomatoes and we don't know if we can get the rest of the potatoes dug before they rot. The corn and eggplant still look good and if the rain will slow down, we will put in a fall garden.





Foamhenge near Natural Bridge, VA
We made a trip up to Pennsylvania at the end of June and decided to stop and visit fun places along I-81 in Virginia. Just had to share this picture with you.  This is "Foamhenge". A full-size replica of Stonehenge done in styrofoam. Unfortunately, weather, time, and vandals have done a great deal of damage to it, but it is still impressive and fun.
Chicken tractor for sale
So now what are we up to?  We are putting in a new pasture this summer and designing a permanent chicken coop with multiple runs so we can rotate the birds on the land. This chicken tractor was a great learning tool, but with the size farm we have, we think a permanent coop will be more practical and efficient. Since we can't mix these six old ladies with a new young flock, we put up ads on Craigs List and Facebook today offering this chicken tractor and the hens to a good home for $10. The response has been overwhelming! So, next spring we might have eggs for sale for you.
Beautiful summer sunset over Our Tiny Farm
So, that completes the quick update on Our Tiny Farm. I will try not to go so long without posting, but I can't promise anything. My job is keeping me very busy, there is always something to do on the farm and in the house, and I'm going to start revising my book in August.  But, come out and see us at the Mills River Farmers Market later this summer. We plan to have honey, garlic, and popcorn again.  And there will be beef in time for Thanksgiving (those are the plans, anyway).


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Five year old Tennessee Walker horse for sale


Duchess is a beautiful all black mare with a sweet disposition. She has been boarded on our farm for a month and a half, but the owner needs to sell her. She has not been ridden or worked much for the past year, so she would benefit from a firm hand initially. She recently had all her vaccinations and passed her Coggins test. She has new shoes on her fronts and she comes with her saddle and some other tack.  Price: best offer. Contact the owner directly at 937-707-7334. The horse is on our farm in Etowah, NC near Hendersonville.



Thursday, May 2, 2013

My ginseng and goldenseal book is now available as an ebook!


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.

UPDATE July 2013: Scott and I signed a contract with New Society Publishers in Canada and plan to release the new book next summer.  Until then, the ebook version of the current book is good. There will be some broken links on some URLs, but you can search for updated ones and the prices shown for some herbs will be out of date, but still give you a good idea of what herbs are selling for.