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Posts Tagged ‘environment’

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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Lately I’ve been disappointed with my broomstick.  It just doesn’t glide like it used to, and I’m not even tempted to pick it up, much less accelerate it.  Therefore, when I had a chance to visit a superior broom maker at the Ozark Folk Center near Mountain View, Arkansas, this summer, I leapt at the chance.

Our day at the Ozark Folk Center began with a master carver who conjures the tiniest sculpture portraits you’ve ever seen, on toothpicks!

At the Ozark Folk Center you’ll find a chandler who makes wonderful beeswax candles, perfect for setting a magical mood without contaminating the atmosphere with petroleum products.

You’ll also find potters and weavers, complete with goats and sheep to help them weave.

The scents from the herb shop were enchanting.

Near the herb shop we found what we were seeking:  the broom maker. 

Everywhere we looked were brooms:  standard floor brooms, kids’ brooms, whisk brooms, and turkey wing brooms (do you see the red one hanging on the wall?).  All of the brooms are made of natural, sustainable materials.

Mr. Homesteader, despite knowing that he is the one most likely to pick up a broom around our house, asked if I could take a few for a test drive.

I only needed to try one.  I knew it was the right one.

It glided, it swept, it made me feel like flying.  I brought it home.

Check out the broom straw on this beauty.  I understand that the standard straw-colored broom straw is best, but the red broom straw adds such perfect color.

And I actually like to use it, so I do!

This broom also come with a remarkable 19-year warranty.  Why 19 years?  Because, as the broom maker told us, he has to retire some day.  That’s a phenomenal deal on a broom, making my new broom not just an effective and lovely choice but also a frugal one.

Oops–I just looked at the clock!  Time flies, and so must I!

Do you like my new broom?  I got the hearth (whisk broom) version for one of you!  I’ll be doing my second blog giveaway in late November or so, so be sure to check back then for your chance to enter.  The hearth broom will be ideal for holiday decorations or to keep your fireplace hearth nice and clean.  I planned this giveaway this summer, but now I have even more reason for doing it.  Wendy at A Wee Bit of Cooking just had a giveaway that my dear female cat, pictured above, helped me win.  See here for my silly cat’s antics that won me a new cookbook!

What’s your favorite household cleaning tool?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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Readers from the winter and earlier know that a herd of deer lives in the woods around our homestead and visit us regularly.  (If you haven’t met last year’s fawns yet, you really may enjoy clicking on the link above.) During the summer, they munch on our grapevine and whatever greens we let grow outside our deer fence as well as the green grass that grows over the septic outflow.  They really like our two old apple trees, which drop apples all summer long.  And they visit the creek.

A few days after we got back from our big Grand Canyon adventure, I looked outside and spotted a familiar doe–she has beige almond-shaped markings around her eyes and was the mother of the single fawn last year.  She has a new fawn!  This doe is not the one that lets me get close to her babies, but she did let me take a few pictures from a distance.  I hope she’ll let me get closer as the fawn grows, so you can see more of our dear deer.Yes, our yard and trees really need water!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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We raise a lot of our own food, but this year we’re growing less than usual, and I’m grateful that  we’ve now got a farmers market relatively close–Searcy–, where I can fill in the gaps.  It’s too far from my house for me to go regularly, but in my two visits I’ve been impressed with the produce at a this small but still excellent farmers market.  I have a good friend who goes weekly to this market who says she always gets great produce.

Several of the farmers grow chemical free produce, and  Kelly Carney (pictured here) has even gone through the process of getting his farm, North Pulaski Farms, certified organic.  

Kelly and a few others, such as Eddie Stuckey of Kellogg Valley Farms (not pictured) and the Latture Family of Freckle Face Farm, who come to this market on Wednesdays, are also part of the Locally Grown network I use some Fridays in another Arkansas community.

Mitchell Latture of Freckle Face, pictured below, specializes in chemical-free, pasture-raised poultry and meat.  I met two of his his kids on my most recent visit and discovered why the farm is called Freckle Face!

Some farmers here specialize in specific produce, like the shiitake mushroom man, who also grows darn good eggplants and other produce:

The market was hot, hot, hot–around 106 degrees F, so only a smattering of customers came the day I took these pictures, but the farmers hung in for the few like me who ventured out in the heat.  I hope that this market grows and grows.  It provides a great place to meet neighbors, find out how and where your food is grown, and get much better produce with different varieties than you can get at any of the local grocery stores.

Do you sell at a farmers market?  If you are a farmers market customer?  Do you have a favorite farmers market?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Hot:  the three letters should speak for themselves. Our thermometer was registering 103 degrees F in the shade by noon.  It showed 108 degrees F (again, in the shade) before the day was over.  I think it could be off a few degrees, but even if it is, temperatures have been running ten degrees F  or more over normal for days, with little relief in site.  We’ve had one measurable rain since mid June.  It’s miserable.  We’re losing trees.  We’re losing plants that are supposed to be able to take the heat.

I remember back in the 1970s when scientists said we were heading into a mini ice age.  Then came the acceleration of global warming, to nullify the effects of other cyclical climate change.  Does anyone else remember the summer of 1988?  I was in Boston, where we had week after week in the high 90s with no air conditioning for relief.  We ran from sprinkler to sprinkler, sought out fountains, and even, um, “borrowed” a crew van and skinny dipped in Walden Pond, all to try to cool down.  That year was one of more than a dozen record breakers since then, with each one signaling scientists to look more closely at climate data.  And despite a few bad apples among global warming scientists who complained about critics and tried to figure out over now-public email how to discredit them, the science that indicates global warming is real is now overwhelming.  It’s warming, and some of the blame can be found in our lifestyles.

Have you noticed higher temperatures, earlier springs, later falls, or other possible signs of climate change at your homes?  How are these changes impacting your family? your garden?  your animals?  your budget?  Do you see signs that seem to discredit global warming?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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The USDA has declared August 1-7 as National Farmers Market Week for 2010.  The USDA started charting farmers markets in 1994.  Since then, farmers markets nationwide have grown steadily.  The USDA will let you search for farmers markets in your area here.

The first farmers market I attended regularly was the huge one around the state square in Madison, Wisconsin.  My favorite vendor was a Quaker man and wife team who made muffins.  I’d buy a half dozen muffins a week and eat one each day except Saturday.  My favorite was pumpkin chocolate chip, which had a perfect blend of spices and used chocolate mini-chips before I saw them widely in stores.  I’d usually get 4 pumpkin chocolate chip and then two other different muffins for variety.  Of course, the Madison farmers market is also where I learned how to cook an acorn squash.  And I absolutely loved being able to sample my way around the capitol, trying cheese the whole way.  And being able to afford all the great vegetables, fruit, and dairy products was wonderful too, since I was a poor graduate student on a very tight budget.  With no offense to any other farmers markets where I’ve shopped, Madison remains my favorite because it was sooooooo huge!

Celebrate National Farmers Market Week by visiting a farmers market!  Where is your favorite farmers market?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Researchers learned years ago that one of the strongest triggers for memory is odor.  I remember once walking along in Boston and catching a whiff from a shop of something that smelled like my paternal grandmother’s house.  For the seconds I smelled the scent, I was transported to her place.

Seasonal fragrances are like that too.  I think spring odors are the most provocative for me, coming out of a seemingly scentless winter.  Here in the Ozarks we went from a cold, wet winter to the musty smell of damp leaves.  Then came the daffodils and jonquils, followed by apple blossoms and jasmine and then a warmer scent of pine straw mingled with azaleas.  Soon I know the heady fragrance of honeysuckle will follow.

I’ll never forget flying into Nashville and then driving home my first June after going north to college many, many years ago.  As we drove to my hometown, the scent of honeysuckle vines in bloom was almost overwhelming, even permeating the car.  It triggered memories of barefoot days of seemingly endless summers playing with friends through neighborhoods, woods, and fields.  It reminded me of dust between my toes.  The honeysuckle scent recalled puppy love and young summer romance . . . .

What memories do spring scents trigger for you?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Recently it occurred to me that while we generally do a good job of seeking organic, local food, we have a few major flaws in our consumption.  One is real parmesan cheese, which we use judiciously.  The other flaw has to do not with what we eat but what we drink.  Bottles of wine, after all, can come from all over the world, and they may not be produced under ideal environmental conditions.  Therefore, I went hunting for US-produced organic wines.  If you don’t have an incredibly sophisticated palate for wine (we don’t!–and neither do most people), the organic wines that are readily available to have with dinner and are affordable are just fine.  All are more than a few steps above Franzia.  All are appropriately priced for any wine with their attributes, organic or not.  As a matter of fact, one recent study indicates that they may be underpriced!

Have you tried organic wines?  Which are your favorites?

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Today apparently a reader found this blog by typing the question “tomato shoots have come up now what?”  into a search engine.  It’s a really good question, so I’ll answer it as a follow-up to my Little Green Shoots post.  My knowledge on planting tomatoes comes from learning from my grandfather, from reading, and from my own experience.  The summer that my grandparents had to give up their place, Granddaddy planted his tomatoes in April and then hurt his back in early May.  By early June, my grandparents were living out of state. I did the last clean-up on the house in late August.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Despite months of complete neglect, Granddaddy’s tomato plants were all full of big, juicy, ripe tomatoes, some of the biggest, most flavorful I’ve ever seen.  I’ve included some of his techniques here.

Once you’ve successfully started tomato plants, you’ll need to make sure that they have three–okay, maybe four–things:  strong light, room to grow, and adequate water (but not too much!).  They also need wind to make them strong.

Let’s start with your light source. If you live in a warmer climate (so that the temperatures are at least 70 degrees F during the day), you can put your seedlings first in dappled sunlight and then gradually in full sunlight during the day.  If your climate is a bit cooler, you’ll either need grow lights or a greenhouse or grow tent.  Grow lights should be full spectrum lights designed specifically for growing plants, and you need to make sure that the light source is no more than about 2 inches from the tops of the plants.  Otherwise the seedlings will be leggy–tall and spindly.  Grow tents or a greenhouses should be warm–around 75 to 80 degrees F but not much warmer than 90 degrees F–and should have southern exposure.

When I say tomatoes need room to grow, I mean their roots.  Tomatoes rely on big root systems to feed lots of fruits at once with lots of liquified nutrients.  The root system helps them do that.  As soon as your tomatoes get their real leaves (the second pair of leaves), plant them in a bigger container–at least the size of a pint milk carton.  I use old plant pots I got with nursery plants, plastic cups with holes cut in the bottom:  you name it.  If you can drain it, you can use it.  And every year I end up giving some plants more room than others.  The ones with more room always grow better.

Seedlings need constant but light moisture.  Too much water and you’ll get damping off, where the stem shrinks and withers and the seedling dies.  Too little water and, of course, the seedling will die.  Always water from the bottom to avoid leaf problems. I use old salad containers for my saucers.  Seedlings have everything they need to start, so you only need a tiny bit of light fertilizing (like fish emulsion) every two weeks or so after your seedlings are a few weeks old.  If you are using a potting soil with fertilizer already included (yes, you can get organic mixes this way), you won’t even need to add fertilizer with water.  Over-fertilizing can also kill your plants.

The only problem with using grow tents or green houses for seedlings is wind.  A light breeze pushing on the stem will help it grow sturdier.  If you don’t have wind available, make some using a fan.

What if you do get spindly, leggy seedlings?  Re-pot them deeper.  Tomatoes and other nightshade plants like peppers and eggplants have a remarkable ability to grow extra roots along their stem.  Some plants suffocate if you plant them deeper than they were originally, but not tomatoes and their close cousins.  Just be sure to gently strip off any leaves that will be under soil, as un-stripped leaves can rot and kill the plant ultimately.

Finally, when your daytime temperatures are in the 70s and nighttime temperatures are in the 50s, you can plant out your seedlings.  If you are able to plant now and live in warm area, by all means plant!  Dig a very deep hole–at least eighteen inches–and fill it with peat, organic compost, manure, blood and bone meal, and soil. (Your county extension agent most likely offers free soil analysis; he or she can tell you specifically what you need to add.) Now strip off all of the leaves except the top two splits of leaves. Plant your tomato so that only the top two splits of leaves are showing and everything else is underground.  Your plant will develop a very strong root system that will let it survive dry spells without your watering much.  Fashion a collar to go 2 inches above and 2 inches below the soil around the plant.  This collar will protect against cut worms. (I use half-gallon paper milk cartons cut in half.) Next, plant a marigold or two next to each tomato plant. Marigolds secrete a substance that confuses tomato parasites like cut worms–and the flowers are pretty!

Happy harvesting!

Do you have favorite methods for planting tomatoes?  Share!  Do you have questions?  Feel free to ask them here, and I’ll do my best to answer.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome. Please ask for permission to use photographs.

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I suppose I could have called this post “Someone Else’s Kids,” but that might have been misleading, since I’m thinking goats.  Our off homestead schedule prevents us from keeping animals other than the cats for now. In the meantime, we get our eggs, chickens, and milk from local, sustainable sources we know well, and I live vicariously through other bloggers who do keep animals.  Today I want to introduce you to Polly and Polly’s Path.  Polly, her husband, and her daughter live further south and east of here, several states away, but she can make her readers feel the rhythm of her farm as if they were there.  Recently, for example, she took us through milking her goat China for the first time.  Of course, before that, we got to be there for the birth of Tardy, whose late arrival is also available for you to enjoy.  (Seriously, I was on pins and needles waiting for that kid!) And between the birth and the good milking, Polly chronicled in several hilarious posts how she succeeded in milking China (finally).  Her goat photographs always make me smile.

We’ve also witnessed the arrivals of chickens, turkeys, bread from neighbors, and the area’s first strawberries along Polly’s Path.  We’ve seen bread baking, egg dying, and cheese making–oh, those red-wax covered cheese wheels are to die for!  You name it; it’s happening on Polly’s Path.

You may also want to visit Polly’s site this week for another thing. After Polly won great nesting boxes, she decided to pay it forward with her own giveaway.  Register here for some beautiful pottery bowls! (Yes, I know I’m decreasing my chances of winning by telling you about it, but it’s worth it to make sure you visit Polly.) Be sure to go there by April 14!

Polly’s is not the last blog I’ll be highlighting here.  In the near future, expect a posting on bloggers with greenhouses.  I promise it’ll be an adventure!

What are your favorite blogs that touch on homesteading, cooking, raising farm animals, gardening, and sustainable living?  Do share!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please use the comments section for permission to use photography.

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