Saturday, February 25, 2017

Hügelkultur

...In continuing with the assignments that could double as blog posts...

Hügelkultur

Meaning

“Hügelkultur is a composting process employing raised beds constructed from decaying wood debris and other compostable biomass plant materials. The process helps improve soil fertility, water retention, and soil warming, thus benefiting plants growing near or on such mounds”(3).

Diving Deeper

Hügelkultur is a raised garden bed design that is utilized by many permaculture gardeners. This system mimics the natural systems in the forests where fallen trees and branches become nutrients and humus to support new, emerging life. Humans learned from what nature was doing and recreated it in their own gardens and farms. To create a hügelkultur bed, you stack logs, sticks, and twigs to form a hill where you want your garden bed. You then add in sources of nitrogen rich material such as kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, and leaves and cover the mound with growing medium. This design retains moisture throughout the hot season, extends the growing season because decaying wood generates heat, and supplies nutrients to the growing plants. Anyone could benefit from using hügelkultur techniques, but growers that benefit most from this are producers that are working with compacted soils, drought situations, or in heavily developed areas where the native soils have been destroyed.
 History

Literally translated from German, hügelkultur means ‘hill culture.’ The inspiration for this particular growing system came from Eastern Europe and Germany, and it was later developed and expounded upon by Sepp Holzer and Paul Wheaton who are both permaculture experts.


PS, or not included in the original assignment:

I'd like to conclude with some problems that I see with this system.
1. All the nitrogen that you apply to this system will be bound up for a very long time by the bacteria decomposing the wood because they need the carbon in the wood as well as nitrogen to survive. The nitrogen hierarchy states that bacteria get dibs on nitrogen before plants before consumers. Law of nature, sorry. All that nitrogen will eventually become available to the plants through the soil, but until then, you'll need to apply more nitrogen if you don't want sad looking plants.
2. Erosion could potentially become a problem the wood is piled up as high as recommended. If you live in a rainy climate, you might want to consider a shorter hill.

Resources:



Until next time!
SG

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

January Recap

 January could be summed up with snow and cold. It really forced us to slow down, hunker down, and wait until things thawed. Actually, it was a much needed breather even if it all was quite the hassle to do anything in 12-18" of snow: barn chores, haul water out to the animals, and taking longer to bundle up to head outside. It was frigid, but it was gorgeous. 
 Of course, Jubilee loved every moment of it. ;) 
 Through the years and as I've been outside more and more, I've found that I love all the seasons for different reasons and how they create a rhythm to life. Winter is a time of rest to brace for the hectic pace of spring, the dragging through summer, and a reprieve after the scurrying through autumn. There is always something to complain about with each season, but each season also has a beauty that the other seasons don't have. I recently discovered 'Winter Song' by Emily Smith, and the lyrics are rather fitting. It encompasses hygge (hue-gah) - embracing each season for what it is. 
"So we'll stoke the fire and light the lamp
Turn our backs in from the damp
Settle down beneath the starry sky
Endure the winter passing by"
 "With carols sung, the trees been taken down
We've passed a dram and the bells no longer sound
Snowdrops rise with promise of the spring
There's talk and wonder
At what the year might bring"
 "The blackbird starts to thicken up her nest
While the early lamb, he takes a snowy step
But the north wind's grip it tightens with his chill
And holds the buds closed against their will"
  "So we'll stoke the fire and light the lamp
Turn our backs in from the damp
Settle down beneath the starry sky
Endure the winter passing by"

Until next time!
SG

Making Chevre

This school term certainly got off to a rocky start, but now that I'm getting into the swing of things, I wanted to share some of what I've been working on. In my writing class, I've been trying to do papers on farm stuffs so that I could share it with you as well! (and get double usage out of each writing session :P). Last week's assignment was to guide someone through a procedure. I scribbled out some ideas, but they were all much more involved than a two page ordeal. Then, in the sanctum of idea generation - the shower, I thought of cheese. One, because I'm totally addicted to cheese. Two, because why not? So here you go. 

Making Your Own Cheese

To some, the thought of fermenting and culturing dairy products is daunting if not dangerous. While some cheeses are more difficult to make, many simple ‘farm house’ cheese can be made at home with just a handful of ingredients, some basic equipment, and patience. This is going to focus on chevre: a soft, goat’s milk cheese.
To get started, you will need to gather the following:
Ingredients
-          1 gallon of goat milk
-          1 packet of chevre starter cultures (resources listed below).
o    Note: If you purchase more than you are going to use for just one recipe, then you will need to put the extra packets in the freezer to put the cultures into a cold-induced stasis.
o   Another note: Different cheeses are made from different cultures, so you will want to make sure that the starter is for chevre cheese specifically.
Equipment
-          Stainless steel stockpot with lid
-          A non-reactive whisk (stainless steel or silicon are fine, plastic is not recommended)
-          A large towel
-          Candy thermometer (make sure that it is calibrated correctly!)
-          Plastic strainer large enough to hold a gallon of milk
-          Giant bowl
-          Cheese cloth (can be purchased at most health food stores, online, or homesteading stores)
To get things started, you want to make sure that your cooking equipment is sterilized. When culturing any food, you only want the beneficial bacteria to be present in the product and not harmful pathogens. You can do this by simply putting your stockpot and whisk in the dishwasher and using the ‘sterilizing’ setting. After doing this, you can put the towel into the dryer to warm it up if you want (this is not necessary unless it is chilly in the house; you will see how the towel is used later).
                Once the dishes are retrieved from the dishwasher, you put the milk into the stockpot and slowly warm it up on the stove and slowly stir it constantly. If you raise the temperature too fast, the milk will curdle. Use the thermometer to keep an eye on how warm the milk is; the goal temperature is 85-86°F. After the milk reaches the desired temperature, turn off the stove heat and add in the packet of starter cultures. Whisk gently for approximately two minutes to allow the cultures to become rehydrated and incorporated throughout the milk.
Next, place the lid on the stockpot, wrap the entire thing with the towel, and place it on a quiet corner of the counter where it will not be in the way of your other culinary activities. By wrapping the stockpot with a towel, it will keep the milk at a temperature where the cultures can be active and doing their job: fermenting the milk. Let the milk sit in its miniature sauna for 12-18 hours. The next day, you can tell if the cheese is ready by slightly tilting the stockpot to reveal the solid, fatty mass of white (curds) and a yellow fluid (whey). The longer you allow the cultures to do their work, the more strongly flavored the cheese will be. 
You have almost accomplished your cheese-making task! You just need to get the actual cheese out of its protein whey bath. To separate the two parts of the cheese, you can do this in two different ways.
1.       If you want to save the whey for another use (chickens love whey), then you strain the whey into a very large bowl. To do this, place an inverted Tupperware container inside the bowl, prop the colander on top of the Tupperware, line the strainer with cheesecloth, and then gently pour in the cheese (curds and whey).
2.       If whey is of no importance to you at the moment, you can line your giant bowl with cheesecloth, gently dump the cheese into it, pull up the sides of the cheesecloth and tie them into a knot, and hang it bag over the sink to let the liquid separate. You can hang it over the sink faucet if you would like.
Let the cheese strain for another 12 hours. The longer the cheese is allowed to hang, the drier the cheese will be. Any longer than 12 hours, the cheese will be crumbly. You can experiment by adding in different herbs and seasonings to flavor your creation if you so desire (or if the cheese even lasts that long). You can also try milk from different breeds of goats; the flavor and pungent qualities of the milk varies from breed to breed.
You now have the tools to get you started on cheese-making adventures. After getting comfortable with this process, you just might become addicted to the process as this Amazon reviewer discovered.

Resources
Starter cultures:
https://www.amazon.com/Garden-Outdoor-Chevre-C20G-5-Packets/dp/B0064OLRH6/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1484686169&sr=8-3&keywords=cheese+cultures

https://www.azurestandard.com/shop/product/real-cheese-starter-culture-chevre/19938

Monday, August 15, 2016

Homesteading with Health Issues

We all have our own reasons that drive our homesteading passion. Some to become self-sufficient. Some want to have that glorious moment of storing up their own bounty. Some want the higher quality product that can't be found in the store. Some seek the freedom (I use that term loosely) from society's daily grind.  Some night have even just happened upon the lifestyle. Others do so because they have health issues.

Many that I've talked to (or stalked on blogs) have used their land and garden as a place to grow their own food because it's the cheapest option. Food can be used to find health (or at least a lessening of symptoms). The problem, though, is that fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and herbs are not cheap, but if you have the space, you can do it yourself for less than it would cost at the store (in theory anyway). As someone with a chronic illness, the lure of being able to do something for yourself can be thrilling to say the least. There's something that's within your control, right? Wrong. Anyone that has spent any time on a farm or in a garden will tell you that there is always something running amok or it's one problem after another. But you really want to do this. And do it successfully. So here's a quick list of some suggestions that can help you when you're homesteading with health problems.

1. Only take on as much as you can handle

I know that you feel like you want to do everything. I'm in the same boat. I want to have a lush garden, a productive orchard, prolific berries, buzzing honeybees, all the meat animals to supply us for all our meat-y needs, dairy goats, sheep for wool (and to be able to spin all that!), soap making, cheese making, meat processing, all the herbs I could ever need just outside the door, raising elk, a u-pick flower farm, and more. Hey, a girl can dream, right? Ooh, throw in a livestock guardian dog in there too!
Please pace yourself (I'm preaching to myself here too).
Whenever you add a new aspect to the farm, you inevitably have a learning curve to go with it. If you have a chronic illness, there's only so much your brain and body can handle. Instead of diving in full force, try just a trial run at a small scale. This way, you don't invest as much time, money, or energy into something that might not be for you. Another option would be to tag along and learn from a mentor who's entrenched in your interest. You can get a feel for what is to be expected and decide if it will fit with your limitations.

2. Set yourself up for success

Learn as much as you can from other sources before throwing yourself into the fire. Make sure that you have all the supplies you need before you dive into the project (I guarantee you will need to make an emergency run to the farm store though - it's how life works). Or really think through the entire process and where the hangups might be.
For our family garden, we've never been all that proficient. Yeah, we've had plants that survived in spite of our best attempts to kill them, but at the end of the year, you look at how much effort you put into something and see what you got out of it... Not the best use of energy, resources, or time. This year after spending hours pulling up the morning glory that appeared (that was a frustrating discovery), we finally threw in the towel, laid out weed block, made cedar raised beds, and installed drip irrigation with a timer. The summer garden was for naught this year, but the fall garden is right on schedule. With the raised beds, we have a limited space that requires weeding and can be weeded easily. The timer and drip means we don't have to spend all day watering (okay, I might be exaggerating the time requirements there just a little). It's taken us years to get to this point, but I'm really excited about what all we can do with the space now.

3. Organize like your life depends on it

You might only have a certain amount of time before your body says, 'Enough for today.' Instead of running around getting all your materials assembled or animal feed pulled together or whatever you might have going on, set up systems that make everything easily accessible and found. Keep animal feed in bins or barrels. Have tools all lined up in the same spot nearby where you will be using them. Have files in your desk for each category that your farm needs be it equipment/tractor, veterinary contact info and notes, garden plans and resources, animal information, etc. It will take some time to get this all set up, but in the end, your brain and body will thank you. And you won't have to spend all the your time scrounging around looking for that one piece of paper. ;)

4. Many hands make light work

Do you have friends that want to experience the farm life but don't have the land? Bring 'em on board. You can host volunteer work days in exchange for some product or produce from your farm (many folks would be just fine with a hearty meal). Get the whole family involved in whatever capacity that they are capable. If chicken dander kick off asthma or allergies for some, they can be on the watering crew.

5. Make things easier for your body

Use those tools ergonomically correct. You don't have to prove to yourself that you can lift those heavy bags - let the wheel barrow do the work for you. Use a work bench. Make sure that you stay hydrated. Electrolytes are your friend. Keep your skin protected. Pace yourself and take breaks as needed. This ties into #2.

6. Do things at your own pace

Don't over do it. This speaks for itself, and I can't stress that enough. If your body is screaming at you to stop, then stop. You'll pay for it later if you push your body beyond the limits. If that means only getting a couple of trees pruned or only a single bed planted or only one goat's hooves trimmed, then so be it. You can just keep chipping away at things as you can.

7. Don't kick yourself for not doing everything

As much as I wish I was Wonderwoman, I'm not. You might wish you could be doing more or think that you're not doing enough. Silence those negative thoughts right now; shove them out the door, and don't let them back in. I know that to-do list is every increasing and changing in priority, but you're doing the best you can with the time and energy that you have. You're juggling doctor appointments, family and social life, and all the crazy farm adventures. You've got a lot on your plate, and you're taking things as they come. Everyone is on their own unique path towards health and in their homesteading journey.

8. Let something go

You have a very full plate on your hands, and something new comes up. Be it a new symptom, a new phase of life, a family emergency, you just can't handle juggle anything anymore and something's got to give. Now this one is super hard because it's so closely tied into #1 and #7. You want to do everything but you hold yourself back. When holding yourself back, you feel like you should be doing more. But there are times when even holding yourself back is still too much. Even maintaining the status quo might be too much and make you reach your breaking point. Some friends of mine just had to sell some of their dairy goats because the family's health was needing more attention than they could give. I hurts and it's hard to say goodbye to furry friends that you've bonded with for so long, but making sure that the new home is perfect and maybe nearby so you could pop in every now and again to say 'hi' could help ease some of the sadness.

Do you have any other ideas to add to the list? If so, comment below! We all could use tips and tricks to help us along the road.

Until next time!
SG

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Catching up from Spring Term


Where to begin? It certainly has felt like another looong term, but I survived. ;) Here's some shots to get you up to speed. This is a text and picture heavy post, so here we go. 
Special dance for a guest caller that came to the area

Practicum harvest

Turkey poult
This picture has a bit of a story with it... It all started with my car not starting when I was running late to class. Phooey. Thankfully, I had another car option to get to class. I didn't have time to deal with the problem until the next day after classes.  
It took all afternoon, but I finally managed to orchestrate a tow truck that was 'approved' by the insurance company to get my car to the mechanic. They took one look at it, and said that the only problem was some corrosion on the battery terminal. Seriously?! I looked at that and didn't think that it was that bad. Apparently so. $40, a bunch of phone calls, and an afternoon later, my car was doing just fine. Thankfully, everything worked out well, but it was still a hassle. My classmate the next day asked what was wrong with my car, and after explaining my tale of woe, she said 'Well, was the mechanic cute at least?' 'Uh... yeah...' '!!! When's the next time you get to see him?' "I don't know; next oil change maybe?' The next week, apparently word got around about the 'cute mechanic' and some others were asking if I had asked him out yet. 'Nope.' 'Well, when's your next oil change?' 'A long while.' And this is after I was already convinced that my car was playing match maker because she kept coming up with all these random little things that needed to be checked. :face palm:  


Anyway! Continuing on! My fun class for the term was kitchen herbs. I honestly didn't fully know what to expect from the class, but I knew I wanted to take it. I walk into class to find out that it was a cooking class! Booyah! We've been learning how to grow all this fantastic food, now it's time to learn how to use it! From mocktail sangria, branch dressing, melon mint salad, green bean radish and basil salad, warm maple rosemary sundaes, and much more. Can we have more classes where we eat our way through to earn credits? I guess that would involve going to cooking school. Never mind.



Even with work and classes, my sister, a friend, and I still managed to squeeze in a fun concert one evening. Djangophiles were fantastic, and they have my sister convinced that I need to learn to play the upright bass. To humor her, I looked up the prices for a bass... Yeah, not going to be doing that anytime soon. 
 
I brought in the peonies before it started raining. Love the giant, luscious blooms!

I can't resist the words: free plants


Moving meat chickens out to pasture

Needless to say, these shoes look like something you would find in an archaeological dig after I was through with them.

My red legion poppies started blooming on Memorial Day weekend. Rather fitting, I thought. 

After her yearly adventure where we don't see her for a couple of weeks, she showed up at the back door, wanted food and water, and then curled up in the nearby basket and slept. You crazy kitty. 
A local farm had early ripening blueberries. Nomnomnom! 
That's all for now! I'll post some pictures from work later.
Until next time! 
SG

Monday, May 30, 2016

Somber Thanks

In Flanders Fields 
By Lietenant Colonel John McCrae
May 3, 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields


Red Legion Poppies in the garden that started blooming on Memorial Day weekend

Many thanks to those that gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom.

Until next time, 
SG

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Another Bee Swarm

Two weeks ago, I had my first experience with catching a swarm
So we had Hive 1 (the original) and Hive 2 (the caught swarm). We were excited that our colony collection had doubled. Yay! 

Then, 2 weeks later (to the day) Hive 1 swarmed (seriously?!). Apparently the new, virgin queen is rebellious because she promptly left home after she hatched with all her besties to go on a road trip. 

Anna and I had just finished getting the shade cloth on the hoop house to protect the tender greens from the blazing sun that was going to make an appearance over the weekend, and I was getting things watered in and Anna got a text from the kitchen asking for more mustard greens stat. Friday afternoons in a kitchen with big events scheduled for the weekend needs a lot of produce, and they needed more than we had brought in earlier that morning. She headed off to fetch them their produce when she popped her head back in the greenhouse asking me for my opinion on the bees.  

We walked up to Hive 1, and sure enough they were pouring out of every nook and cranny of the hive and circling around. Deja vu anyone? Granted, the swarm was significantly smaller this time because the previous swarm had taken over half of Hive 1 with them.  
This time, Anna watched the bees to see where they went while I quickly harvested mustard greens and ran them into the kitchen. On my way back, it must have been apparent that I was in a hurry because it felt like everyone wanted to talk (since when did anyone want to talk to me?) Once back in the garden, Anna had already pulled together the equipment, suited up, and had the swarm in the blue bin. All my rushing for naught. 
This time, the sillies alighted on a branch just out of reach. Thankfully they weren't 40 feet up in the Doug firs, just a ladder's height in a wild fruit tree. ;) 

Welcome to your new home! :dump:
With how flighty this new queen is, we're going to commit regicide (gasp!) and bring in a new queen once one is available. Bee colony politics are certainly something else. 
Now we have Hive 1, Hive 2, and Hive 3. 
Little did I realize how much I'd be working with bees when I got the job. :P 

Until next time! 
And hopefully it won't be about catching :another: swarm. 
Sarah G

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Honey Bee Adventures

The day started off as any normal day. Except that the kitchen needed a lot of produce for an event over the weekend. But besides that, nothing new in the chef's garden on Friday. 
(Isn't that how most adventures start? The protagonist is doing her own thing and something flanks her with a surprise?) 
And so is the tale of Friday, April 1st. 

We were pruning back the raspberries next to the hive. Now, mind you, the hive had been rather loud that morning, but I thought that it was all because it had been exceptionally warm and dry the past week and that the bees were just doing their normal thing. Well, it was and wasn't a normal thing. 
As we were working nearby, the buzzing got noticeably louder; we glanced over to the hive just as bees began pouring out of the entrance and any nook and cranny that they could fit through. That certainly isn't part of a bee's every day existence. That many bees making a mass exodus from their home? I guess they got tired of all the traffic, noise, and population density in town; it was time to move on to uncharted territory.
Soon enough, the entire area was abuzz (see what I did there?) with almost half of the hive's residents. It was quite like a Disney princess moment with all those small creatures swirling around you, except they were honey bees with a stinger on the other end that you don't want to mess with. (But apparently bees gorge themselves on honey before moving out and so taken with the scent of the queen leaving that they really don't care if you're standing right there.) 10-15,000 bees leaving home is quite the sight. 

By this point, it was obvious to both of us that the bees were swarming, and neither of us had any experience catching a swarm. Anna, my coworker, has been working through the master beekeepers program, but everything she knew was book knowledge. Me? I've only donned the bee suit once and that was to observe a hive inspection. That is the extent of my beekeeping experience. 
So we pulled out the books (because head knowledge suddenly disappears when you're actually in the heat of the moment - almost like helping with a goat kidding), zipped up the bee suits, set up the new hive with empty combs (sorry for my lack of a technical term there), grabbed a plastic bin (with a handy lid), and waited for the queen bee to alight on some spot and surround herself with her dedicated followers. 

So we stood there and waited.
And waited.
And waited some more. 

All the while, still very unsure of ourselves in what we were about to do. 
I can only imagine what we looked like standing there in our bee suits looking into the Doug firs near the garden with our tote.
Those bees were not in a hurry to settle down around the queen, but we didn't want them to end up in some mystery location lost forever on Chehalem Mountain. 
The swarm finally congregated on a branch that was within reach (Yay!), and we set to work getting the bees into the bin. One of us held the bin up to the branch while the other whacked the branch to knock the renegades into the tote. We had ourselves a box of bees. 
So.many.bees.
It was the strangest sensation to carry the box back into the garden; the whole thing was vibrating in my hands. We then emptied the bin into the new hive and repeated the process with the stragglers that hadn't yet figured out that their queen went somewhere else. 
With most everyone in the new hive, we then added a feeder to encourage them to stay in the new place. Who wants to leave a place with great food? ;) 
All in all, the process took several hours from the time they left the hive to when we got them settled into their new home. 

And that is how we wrapped up our warm week in the garden. It was quite the change of pace from harvesting, watering, seeding, watering, transplanting, and harvesting some more. Usually days aren't this exciting. ;) 

PS - God's timing in all of this was absolutely perfect. My coworker and I were both in that day, we 'happened' to be working next to the hive instead of transplanting and seeding in the greenhouse, and we weren't running back and forth to the kitchen. 

Until next time!
Sarah G. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Winter Term - A Much Needed Update

This term at school has been a long-haul and a whirlwind. Even though I only signed up for 10 credits, the homework load seemed bigger, days longer, and really in depth projects. 
Just a few of the resources that I listed for one of my projects
It also didn't help that one of the classes, which was required for my certificate, had long-winded curriculum, an indifferent instructor, could have been entirely online without the unnecessary class lectures, and didn't have any material applicable to actually doing anything in horticulture or agriculture. (/rant) It's almost done, and I won't have it hanging over my head.  
Sunrise on my commute to class
My fun class of the term was herbal products. The instructor sure packed in a lot of material in the three week span of the class! 
Snippet of the syllabus
Distillation and essential oil demo using Douglas Fir 
 On top of classes, I started a new job. Yep. I'm crazy. The beginning of the year involved my last day of my job at the farm store (that I couldn't get to because we had freezing rain), training for the new job, and classes starting. That was quite the week. . 
The new job is at a chef's garden, and I'm loving it. 
Here's just a few of my pictures from the garden
That's a lot of micros.

Celeriac floats

Romanesco Cauliflower

Mustard Micros
 I only had about 4 days on the new job before I was left to fend for myself for a week and a half. My coworker/supervisor went on vacation while I held down the fort praying that nothing in the garden died on my watch. The kitchen would make requests, and I was supposed to get what they needed. My coworker also left a list of things to work on weather-permitting. Nothing out of the ordinary, just routine. But it was all new ground for me. I'm glad to report that everything survived (including yours truly). My coworker says that she left things in good hands, but I was feeling woefully awkward and unsure of myself. It took me longer than it should have to find that tatsoi to harvest the raabs. ;) In my defense, it was hiding in the tubs on the other side of the greenhouse. 
Even with all that going on, I was still able to get to the OSU small farm conference, a few concerts, a dance, and a soap making class.  
Honey and goat milk soap! 
 Looking at all that, it's no wonder I'm so tired. 
Until next time!
SG

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Snowy Surprise

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! We had a much needed, super low-key day that included naps. Ah yes, glorious napping. 

Today we woke up to smooth gray skies and a chill in the air. The forecast called for snow, but they really down played the whole ordeal. Then, just before noon, it started snowing, and it didn't stop. 
Just as it started to stick
And it kept snowing!
All in all, we got, 2 inches tops. But it was enough to make everything pretty. 

Happy new year!
SG