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Archive for the ‘Ozark Mountains’ Category

Whisk Broom

Today in the Ozarks the skies are dark, pouring an icy rain that makes me wish we had a fireplace.  If I had a fireplace, I’d have an even harder time carrying through with my holiday giveaway.  Earlier this fall, I wrote about my summer visit to the Ozark Folk Center, near my home in Arkansas.  I purchased two beautiful handmade brooms.  One is a standing broom for my own home.  The broom works so well and glides so easily that I genuinely do more of my share of sweeping than I did before I got this household treasure.  I also bought a gift for one of you, my dear readers, a whisk broom made in the same historic style as my standing broom.

As with the standing broom, every detail on this whisk or hearth broom is natural.  The broom measures a foot long and 8 inches wide at the base.  It retails for $25.  This broom also works as well as the standing broom, whether you decide to use it to sweep your hearth or whether it becomes your whisk broom to tidy up the end of a sweeping session.  Of course, it can also just be a decorative feature that might fit your country holiday or year-round decor, hanging next to your fireplace or in your kitchen.

If you are interested in winning this hearth broom, please post here with a special holiday memory or tradition, even if it’s just a sentence. It doesn’t have to be long or eloquent; just share a little.  If you’d like two entries, please post about this giveaway on your own blog or tweet it, and then indicate here in a separate comment that you’ve shared it.  Entries close Sunday, December 5, at noon Central Standard Time.  I’ll announce the winner, selected randomly, by Dec. 6 at noon, so that I can get your address and get your gift in the mail to you in time for holiday decorating.  Regardless of which winter holidays you celebrate, I wish you a happy, healthy season!

Legal stuff:  I am not a spammer and will keep your information private.  Readers from outside the US are welcome to post and enter, but you are responsible for any customs charges.

Entries are officially closed.  I’ll post the winner by noon on Monday.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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A few weeks ago I had a chance to meet part of my Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  I don’t want to offend the vegetarians, but this picture very well may include that bird.  I snapped a shot of these birds at Falling Sky Farm, now of Chime, Arkansas.  Mr. Homesteader was so impressed with the operations that for a week afterwards, no one could say chicken without him launching into an explanation of Falling Sky Farm’s operations and attributes.  The things that make Falling Sky Farm stand out include the freshness of the graze, the complete lack of odor, and the cleanliness.  Falling Sky Farm, naturally producing healthier food, stands in stark contrast to the factory farms that resulted in the recall of billions of eggs.

All of the animals at Falling Sky Farm graze on pasture.  What is most remarkable is that they get moved to fresh pasture either once or twice a day, depending on the animal.  Look at how rich this light grazing technique leaves the pasture, even after Arkansas’s extraordinarily hot summer and drought.

Frequent moving of the animals lets the manure composts easily on its own, in place, never leaving a strong smell like you find on factory farms.  The lack of concentrated manure also means that flies aren’t attracted in large numbers. With this system, animals never rest in their own waste, reducing disease.  Here you can see the chicken “tractors” in the distance and the rectangles indicating where they were in the past few days.

overlooking the chicken "tractors"

Pasture raising also eliminates bad bacteria from animals’ guts; the bacteria just don’t grow on pasture feed.  Finally, pasture raising increases the good Omega-3 fatty acids, helping you balance out the cholesterol that can come with eating animal products.  This hen promises she’ll produce better eggs!

Happy Laying Hen

As Congress debates a new food safety law, the Senate concluded that small farms with less than $500k in annual business that direct market within 275 miles of the farm should be exempt from tighter regulation unless they’re found guilty of distributing tainted food.  I think the amendment exempting small farms makes sense both for supporting local, diverse food sources and for saving tax payers’ money.  Well-run small farms are naturally healthier.

Have recent food recalls changed the food that you buy and how you shop and eat?

(edited Nov. 19, after the Senate included the exemption.)

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There is no question that fall has come.  Actually, we had our first frost about two weeks ahead of schedule, at the beginning of October.  

I am extremely resistant to yielding to winter in the garden.  In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re still picking summer crops.  I used an old king-sized mattress cover for moving to protect my teepee, this year laden with trombetta squash and armenian cucumbers.  We picked several pounds after the first frost.

Sadly, a wind storm last week ripped off the plastic and collapsed the teepee.  I haven’t given up on everything else, though.  Last weekend was the real test, when temperatures plunged into the lower twenties.  Everything that stayed covered survived.  Tomorrow night, we’re expecting more freezing temperatures, but I’ve tucked in the garden and hope that it stays that way.  If so, we’ll keep harvesting for a few more weeks.

How do you let go of your garden as winter comes?  Do you have a ritual of putting the garden in hibernation?  Are you like me, trying to get that last tomato to ripen?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Three nights ago I had seen our two cats hanging around and didn’t worry too much about bringing them in because I still needed to be working in my office (also known as their bedroom) and they aren’t terribly helpful when I’m typing.  I walked past the back porch door, where my big male cat was seemingly relaxing.  He caught a glimpse of me out of the corner of his eye and jumped up, running over to put his paws on the door.  That’s not like him, so I opened the door quickly.  As he dashed in, I heard what he was fleeing.  From the woods, just beyond the cleared area of the property came a howl, then another, then another, then a cascade of answering howls and yips.  Coyotes.

My breath caught.  Where was Tucker’s sister?  She had been here a little while ago–had she strayed too close to where the coyotes were hiding?  Had they caught her, and I was hearing their frenzy over their excitement at a meal?  They do that: signal when they’ve caught something.

I grabbed the flashlight and tore around the exterior of the house, looking all around for her and calling, with the coyotes yipping every time I called and whistled.  I said a quick prayer that my girl was okay and paused under the big oak next to our back porch.  As I stood there, trying to figure out what I should do next, I felt bark bits falling on me and then heard scrambling claws.  My girl was up the tree, waiting until I was directly below it to scoop her up before she would come down.  Was it one of the fawns that the pack captured and would devour?  I hoped not, but they certainly were onto something.

As you probably know, I like most of the wildlife around here, but I can do without the ‘coons and coyotes.  I’m not the kind of person who wants every coyote dead, but I sure as heck don’t like it when they’re on my doorstep.  My girl is usually too much of a homebody to get caught out by the coyotes unless they get really close, but on several occasions my big boy has gotten caught behind enemy lines.  He’ll come home in the wee hours of the morning, a hunted look in his eyes, bark and twigs all over his belly, as if he spent a lot of time in trees.  Typically too on those nights he’ll come from what I think of as the “wrong” direction, as if he had to circumvent what we call around here “the mean dogs” and the “evil yippers.”

I’ve listened each of the past nights since the pack was so close and heard nothing, not even an answering cry to my attempt at a howl.  This morning, though, a gray canine that looked too big to be a fox but too small to be a full-grown coyote stood at the back of the cleared area of the property.  If it’s a fox, no big deal; my cats chase those.  If it’s a coyote pup, it’s a a big problem, because the pack can’t be far away.

I often read about how people should never let their pets outside, how they are happier and healthier inside.  I also read about how neutering a male cat will stop him from wandering.  Tucker is “fixed,” but he still has an amazing sense of adventure.  A couple of years ago we put a pet camera on Tucker’s collar.  He’s big enough that he can wear the device, which was basically designed for a good-sized dog.  Seeing the pictures he took–every 15 minutes for more than 8 hours–was fascinating.  We’re surrounded by about 400 acres of undeveloped space, and I’m betting that Tucker knows a good portion of that acreage.  On the average day wearing the pet cam, Tucker ranged about two miles, climbing hills with an increase of 800 feet in elevation, crossing creeks, and visiting at least one cat about a mile from here, who peered into the camera as it flashed below Tucker’s neck.  We can’t protect him when he roams, but I can imagine how unhappy he would be without his range.  And he turns himself in every night–except for those when he gets trapped behind enemy lines.  All I can do those nights is pray that he’s found himself a safe spot and that he’ll hang tight until the pack loses interest. I don’t sleep well until both of my babies are inside.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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Arkansas is back into the triple digits with summer heat, after a couple of days of reprieve.  At least it finally rained here, after all measurable rainfall detoured around the homestead from July 13 until yesterday.  Today we actually got close to half an inch of rain, if the gauge is correct.  That rain was followed by air so thick with moisture that it fogged up our windows from the outside.  It’s easy for me to long for cooler days.  But then I remember how long and dark winter was for us in early 2010.  It was cold.  The garden wouldn’t grow.  We got cabin fever.  Maybe I can deal with a few more triple-digit days if it means the days of summer can continue just a bit longer.

Which is your favorite season?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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I got a much later start on my garden this year, thanks to surgery that kept me from picking up a shovel for several weeks.  I’m shovel-ready now, and, my stars! is it hot out there!  Still, with a break every hour or so (I’m on one now) I know that I’ll get the garden set in no time.  I also am removing the weeds that choked the garden in my absence, one section at a time with black tarp.  That too is sweat inducing as the heat radiates off the tarp, but it hurts the weeds more than me.

In a twisted way, I love the heat of a Southern summer.  I love getting in a car that’s been closed up, to feel the heat hit me like I’m climbing into an oven.  I guess it’s our version of a sauna, only we sweat everything out in the summer, not the winter.  I also know that the sweat of my brow will get me what I want:  homegrown, organic vegetables that are so fresh they go from garden to table in minutes.  And I take a shot of pickle juice when I get overheated, miraculously perking me up.

Right now while I am digging for summer, we’re savoring the harvest from our winter gardening.  We’ve been feasting on English peas, snow peas, cabbage, carrots, beets, radishes, broccoli, turnips, lettuce, mustard, and lots of over-wintered herbs.  It’s wonderful to sit down to a meal where all the veggies in the cole slaw came from a few feet from the kitchen window.  Unfortunately, all this digging means less time for writing here . . . .

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We went from unusually cool weather to dramatically (and unseasonally) hot weather in the second half of last week.  As a result, I found myself doing emergency harvesting of lettuce and other cool season crops, but I also got to see this lily burst into bloom.  I couldn’t resist sharing it with you.With this early heat has come a lot of humidity, like a giant’s warm, moist breath very time you walk outside.  That brought us critters, though, that might stay closer to the creek ordinarily, like this baby Ozark Zigzag salamander.  No, really, that’s what it’s called.  The photos are blurry because it was so tiny and I was so close.Can you see the little salamander on the big thumb?  Maybe that’s the giant whose breath I keep feeling.

No, that’s my husband’s hand.  The salamander must be really tiny.

Don’t worry; we set him free in a safe location near where my husband found the little guy.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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