Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Where did the summer go?

Pearson Falls-a local treasure
There 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,  I included a picture of the waterfall because I took a trip down to Pearson Falls one summer morning. So beautiful and peaceful there. You should check it out!)

The county we are located in was part of Cherokee nation for thousands of years. We live in the community of Etowah, which is Cherokee name. We have found some artifacts over the years, but this spring my husband found this large, complete, well-tooled arrowhead in our vegetable garden.

This was the season of the cat. Why do people think it is okay to dump cats off at farms? This little sweetheart showed up early in the season. She was so scrawny, but so friendly. We started to feed her and she quickly adopted us. Since we already have four cats, we could not take her into our home. Cats don't seem to last long in the outdoors around us because of predators, so we didn't feel comfortable making her a "barn cat". Fortunately, a friend from work adopted her.

The garden was highly productive this season. The potato, garlic, and pepper crops in particular were quite bountiful!  We grew kohlrabi for the first time in many years and I really enjoyed cooking with it. Cut into match sticks and sauteed in butter with salt and pepper--yum!

We still have horses and a donkey, too. Maybe a few too many for the size of our pastures. Using portable electric fencing to rotate the animals around and let parts of the pasture recover has been a great management practice for us.

To have healthy pastures, you have to take care of them. One of our maintenance items this fall was to lime the field. Southern States showed up with a larger truck than usual and it just fit between the gate posts!

This was the first evening when that golden fall light was evident. The seasons were starting to change and signaled us that it was time to think about stocking up on firewood, hay, and cover crop seed.

This was the third cat to show up this season (the second one didn't stay around long). I was cooking a pot roast on Saturday and had the kitchen window open. I think the smell of the roast attracted her and she hasn't left since. She was SOOOO skinny and disheveled on Saturday; didn't know if she would make it. But we gave her food and water and put the old dog igloo shelter out there for her with a blanket and she is filling out and grooming herself. We would love to have someone adopt her! The no-kill shelters are full, we can't take in another cat, and I don't think she will survive the winter outside.

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

What's happening on the farm in early July

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. We have 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 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. We harvest 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

Mills River Educational Farm-a local treasure

A view of the gardens from the porch of the educational building
Late 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

The New Year and Running a Tiny Farm

I just had to share this picture.  This is the scene that awaited me when I walked out the door on New Year's Day morning.  I took this as an omen that 2012 is going to be a good year for my family.  We are looking forward to sharing our year with you and yours!

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 SOLD** 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. 
What do we have for sale right now?  We have honey from our 2010 and 2011 harvests.  This is 100% real, natural, raw, unfiltered, mixed wildflower honey.  Glen describes the taste as "a rich floral".  We are selling it in one pint mason jars.  They weigh over a pound (most beekeepers sell their honey in one pound jars).  The 2011 harvest is $8 a jar and the 2010 harvest is $7 a jar.  We have happy bees on Our Tiny Farm and plan to increase the number of hives this year.
We also have a few ristras (strings) of dried cayenne peppers for sale.  The peppers are from the 2011 harvest.  The strings are approximately two feet long and have more than 40 peppers each.  You can eat these or use them for decorations.  We use them for both.  These are for sale for $12 per string.

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".  We 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 tray
Let'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 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.