Walking The Plank

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The water was still and unmoved.  No life or death disturbed its surface.  I had ordered them all to walk the plank yesterday after setting up buckets with a few inches of water and a plank.  Doug threw in a little sweet feed for enticement.  I peered over the edge sadistically, with trepidation, and found that no one had taken the bait.

Our friend at the feed store had told us about this method of mice extermination.  Her friend simply sets up a bucket in the chicken coop with a plank and everyone falls in and drowns.  The vision of piles of dead mice in their watery grave did not sound enticing.  But neither does poison.  Or traps.  I will inevitably poison the neighborhood cat and snap my toe.  Guaranteed.

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And I never thought myself a worrisome person, but I have found that I do indeed worry about the moral implications of mass genocide on another living creature.  I do not want them to suffer, by means of drowning, decapitation, or poison.  Do I even have a right to decide?  If I look through a different lens, I can see that the mice playing gleefully in the front yard, dancing on the porch, and raiding the chicken coop could be deemed, by Disney or Beatrix Potter standards as, dare I say, cute.  However, on closer inspection of reality, I see them and hear them racing in the garage.  Hundreds of them.  They are not even scared of us anymore.  They run across my feet as we milk.  They burrow into the photographs I treasure, the Christmas boxes of memories, and Andrew’s things that he will take when Megan becomes his bride.  Hopefully they will not all be destroyed.  But that is what hundreds of mice do.  They infiltrate and destroy.

They are graciously not in the house, which is surprising since they are under the porch and swarming the outbuildings.  The occasional straggler makes it in.  Yesterday, Eliza brought us a deceased mouse which she had no moral dilemma with, and left it for me in the bathroom.  Thanks.  However, if they were to get into the walls and decide to storm the castle, eight indoor cats would have little effect.  We have experienced this before in prior houses.  Cleanliness has nothing to do with it.  Mice are persistent little buggers.  I had read in our last house to put out cotton balls doused in peppermint essential oil.  I did so, and I kid you not, I found a nest made of the cotton balls.  It was lovely and aromatic and the mouse practically flipped me off.  I am so done with mice.

So, I set up watery graves and ordered them in Captain Hook style to kindly walk the plank and be done with it.  They have refused.  I lean on you, my farming and fighting friends out there, how, pray, does one rid the farm of mice?

 

Farmer’s Markets (behind the scenes)

Farmer’s markets have increasingly grown in popularity over the past several years.  It is hip to go to the farmer’s market and to support local farms.  But most folks have no idea what goes on behind the scenes.

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Here’s a look at the problems with markets but also why it is even more important for you to support them!

Problem #1- Overall, the success of the farmer is not the first goal of the market.  Farmer’s markets are set up to make money for the person organizing it.  Oftentimes, this is not a farm.  It is expensive to get into farmer’s markets.  Application fees, daily fees, plus taxes take a large chunk from a farmer’s income.  One can only sell so many carrots!  Farm run markets are often less expensive for the vendors and some markets really do care about the vendors.  Customers are often surprised that we pay so much to be involved in farmer’s markets.

Problem #2- Folks think the products should be cheaper.  I respond when people ask if I will cut a deal, “What?  I am already working for 50 cents an hour.  You think I should make less?”  They laugh and hand over the full amount.  The whole $4.25, people.  I stood out there tilling, amending, I spend money on seeds, I planted, I tended, I prayed, I weeded, I watered, I harvested, I made pretty, I am selling it for $2 a pound.  I have six pounds.  Now, next time y’all go to the farmer’s market, kindly refrain from trying to give the farmer any less than what they ask.  Believe me, no one is trying to get rich.  It is hard enough to keep afloat as a farmer.

Problem #3- Because folks want cheap, quick, and lots of vegetables at all times of the year, almost all farms around, from Pueblo to Boulder, ship in produce.  This turns a lot of people off.  But, if a farmer were to bring only what was growing, customers would be turned off by the sight of only greens and radishes until the end of June!  They want corn, dang it!  Red peppers and glowing aisles of richly colored vegetables like in Europe.  The prairie gives us bountiful vegetables, but not until late June.  Be patient, eat seasonally, and if you really want corn and tomatoes, don’t scoff at the farmer’s selection of shipped in vegetables, support them.  It seems silly to turn around and head to the grocery store to buy the same thing.  Get a farmer through until the goods start rolling in!

I do not intend to bring in any produce.  What I have is what I got.  The first market opens on Mother’s day and I am really hoping to bring lots of radishes, kale, spinach, lettuce, and Swiss chard.  I have some early onions and spring garlic to add in and a few herbs.  I have eggs and milk shares.  That alone certainly could not support me but I have my herbal medicines, yarn, and other farm items to sell that we made.  Diversity can help keep a farm in business.

Problem #4- In my opinion, there are way too many multi-marketing items at the farmer’s market.  There are people there that sell something new every year and even pass it off as their own.  Ask questions.  Just because it is at the farmer’s market doesn’t mean that it is fresh, from a farm, or even made in this country!  We hand make everything we bring to the market.  We are truly a local company.  If we go into a store we lose the integrity of our products because we have to make more for cheap and work twice as hard for less.  The farmer’s market provides us a place to sell our items.

Which brings me to why, despite the problems, everyone should still support their local market.

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Reason #1- The farmer’s market provides a place to sell produce and other handmade goods without having to go into or own a store.  It provides a community of like-minded people that can get together, enjoy a beautiful day, and support each other.  We keep the money in the community, making all of our lives and livelihoods stronger.

Reason #2- You can get really fresh, really nutritious food for less than the grocery store.  Straight out of the dirt, a few bugs still on it fresh.  It hasn’t been trucked from Chile.  It is environmentally smarter.  And the rows are just brimming with culinary inspiration!

Reason #3- Meet your farmer.  Food has become so faceless these days.  Where did that strawberry come from?  That chicken?  The lettuce?  We have no idea where anything is grown.  This way, you can see the person that was up at dawn harvesting it so that you can feed the kids great food.  The smile behind the table cares about what you eat.  I wonder if the reason the farming profession is way down is because people my generation and younger have no clue where their food comes from.  If children saw the farmer, saw the results, and was inspired to become a farmer themselves, that would be fantastic!

Reason #4- Get out of the cold, fluorescent lighted grocery store and get out into the great outdoors!  Enjoy the sounds of summer and the feel of the warm sun on your skin.  Choose from brightly colored radishes and early fruits and talk to the people around you.  Go home with bags of delicious new items.

One of our first markets in 2009.

One of our first markets in 2009.

Remember that we farmer’s market vendors have been there since before dawn setting up, even earlier harvesting and packing our cars.  We will be there into the heat of the day, long after you have left.  We are there in the pouring rain, the first frost, and are there so that you have sustenance and in return we have homes to go to.  Bring your bags and cash and we’ll see you at the first market!  And thank you for supporting your local farm.

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Face to the Sun (early crops and prayers)

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This is my favorite sculpture.  It was created by Roxanne Swentzell.  I could not bring the statue home but I was able to obtain this greeting card from her gallery in New Mexico and I keep it on my secretary.  It emanates my favorite feeling.  Face upturned, worries decreasing as I feel the warm sun on my face.  Even the pumpkins speak to me as my farm’s name is Pumpkin Hollow Farm!

Today will be seventy degrees here in Kiowa, Colorado and I intend to do just this.  To lift my face to the heavens whispering prayers of thanks and soaking up that beautiful sunshine and warmth.  I will plant the early crops today.  Radishes, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, and lettuces I will give extra fervent prayers to as I need them in three weeks for our first farmer’s market.  The bok choy, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli will take a bit longer.  Spring peas, snap peas, snow peas will go in buckets up against the house with a makeshift trellis behind them to give them something to play on.

With my hands once again in the dirt, the worries and sorrows of winter will be past and the present power of nature and new beginnings will pour forth as the water showers the awakening soil.  I will breathe deep, be thankful, and infuse life into the soil as it infuses life into my soul.

Happy Easter everyone.  This was my favorite song as a child sitting in church in my hat and beautiful Easter dress, content.

“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it…..”

Homemade Toothpaste (and the problem with fluoride)

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When I was on a witch hunt for poisonous chemical products in the house when the kids were younger, I was surprised to find toothpaste on the list.  Artificial sweeteners are undoubtedly toxic for us, there were some other pretty sketchy ingredients listed, but the surprising toxin?  Fluoride. But, fluoride is a natural occurring mineral  in the soil, right?  That is called Calcium Fluoride.  It is found in small trace minerals in the ground and water and these small amounts are good for the teeth.  The added synthetic parading as fluoride in water and toothpaste and dental products?  Sodium fluoride, a byproduct of the aluminum industry, illegal in every other country.  Big dollars are paid to cities to dump it in our water supplies.  This chemical is added to dental products and big marketing dollars go into telling us how our teeth will fall out without it.  Even the dental schools are under the influence of big business.  Fluoride actually causes tooth decay and even cancer.

Our teeth have never been cleaner since we started making our own toothpaste.  It is so easy.  I stopped selling it and started telling folks how to make it ’cause it’s  just too easy.  This recipe is so versatile but for a good general start I have given you measurements.  Feel free to do what you want!

Lime Mint Toothpaste

1/2 cup of baking soda

1 teaspoon of lime essential oil

1 teaspoon of mint essential oil

Shake well.  Wet toothbrush and touch toothpaste, the perfect amount will stick.

Orange, Vanilla, Mint, and Clove Toothpaste

1/2 cup of baking soda

1 teaspoon of orange essential oil

1 teaspoon of mint essential oil

2 drops (hot, not too much!) clove essential oil

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Steamed Easter Eggs (and Seder Eggs and Egg Soup)

The higher in altitude I move the harder it is to get perfect boiled eggs.  Add in fresh, pastured eggs and forget it.  Last year I posted the Perfect Boiled Egg but that only worked with Ethel’s eggs.  I know, weird, but for some reason her white eggs just peeled perfectly every time.  We would like to have more than two eggs to hard boil though.  Easter is coming up, you know, and I have these fabulous colored eggs to work with!  Browns, some dark chocolate and some light tan, spring pink, crisp white, and sky blue…these eggs don’t even need dyeing!  But no matter how pretty they are, when I go to peel them and they are either slimy inside or by the time I take the shell off there is nothing left but the yolk, I start to get a little steamed.

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I read in Countryside magazine where a reader had written in that she steams her eggs.  I remember steaming my eggs when we lived in our first house in Parker.  The old steamer that my grandma had bought me for graduation stood on the counter with it’s timer letting us know when our eggs were done.  They were perfect every time.  When we moved to Elizabeth and then Kiowa, the altitude threw it for enough of a loop that I had to adjust the settings.  But no matter what I did, the eggs never turned out quite right.  The steamer found a new home at the Goodwill.

But here was a homesteading type gal saying to put them in a steamer basket attachment in a pot.  Which I happen to have.  So I gave it a shot.  The reader/writer had recommended thirty minutes until the perfect egg.  They came out undone and rather slimy.  I upped it to forty minutes and most of them cracked and peeled perfectly with only a few stragglers.  This week, as I prepare for Easter brunch and Maryjane’s first Easter egg hunt, I will steam them for forty-five minutes.  Perfect?  I do hope so!  I have deviled eggs, and egg salad, and egg soup in my future!  (More on that in a moment.)

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Shyanne works at a tea shop and how they peel their eggs quickly is by tapping the hollow part on top with a spoon.  Then they slide the spoon under the skin and peel it off effortlessly.  I tried and loved this.  My fingers always get a bit raw after several eggs.

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Now what the sam hill is egg soup?  My husband grew up calling it Egg in Saltwater, but somehow over the years the kids and I started referring to it as egg soup.  It is one of the first courses at his family’s Seder.  Steam and peel with a spoon a perfect farm fresh egg and place in a bowl.  Lightly cut it up with a spoon and add a half a cup to a cup of warm water and top with salt or smoked salt and pepper if you’d like.  We eat this for breakfast often.

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There are many ways to dye Easter eggs.  I am afraid that we have always used the box from the grocery store of dyes.  How very uncreative of me.  How will you dye your eggs this year?

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The Boy That Stole My Heart

I cannot believe that it was twenty one years ago when I fell in love.  He had curly brown hair and sweet blue eyes that would later turn to green.  He stole my heart instantly.

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He was a playful little guy, always up for fun and adventure.  A twinkle in his eye and a wide smile always greeted me in the mornings.  He adored animals.  I had a wolf hybrid at the time that took him in as his own pack.  Andrew was a modern day Mowgli.  He ran about the back yard on all fours, never really learning to crawl, howling at sirens, and yes, peeing on trees.  He would sit on the large dog and jump through windows to get outside with him.  He didn’t care for clothing much and for a stint, while he was two, would only wear a karate belt.  He would mimic Bruce Lee in the living room and then would love to be snuggled and kissed.

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He loved his new little sister when she joined the household and then his other sister the following year.  He was extremely protective, and still is, and kind to them.  He certainly had his moments of being a rough and tumble big brother, but that is to be expected.  He was the ring leader of their trio and kept the girls busy outdoors for years until he went off to college.  He developed board games, and hideouts, and hours and hours of make believe fun.

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When he was in fifth grade, he thought himself to be a pirate.  A real one.  He got his ear pierced on his upper ear and had a gold hoop.  He wore a bandana.  He was adorable.  He wasn’t trying to be adorable, he was trying to be a pirate.  Andy would get in trouble in school for not reading the required age level books.  He preferred the high school level because that’s where all the pirate books were at.  Treasure Island was his favorite.  When he loves something, he learns everything about it.  So when we went to St. Thomas on a family vacation he had to correct the tour guide respectfully a few times.   This child knew everything about Blackbeard and pirates.  What a great time that was.

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As he got older he was interested in youth group, girls (except he was too shy), and writing.  He started making music, and learned eight instruments.  He would walk around town playing his banjo for city workers.  He and the girls were homeschooled and spent a lot of time playing music, writing books, and playing in the park.  He and his future wife would meet when she was six and he eight in the neighborhood, and when she was thirteen and he fifteen they became a couple.  Being the only daughter, her parents did not want her to date so they were off and on for five years until she turned eighteen.  We had moved to a neighboring city four years before and then he moved to Denver for school.  Time nor city could keep them apart.  They are getting married July 5th.

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Andrew often calls or texts me.  At 6’1″ he is still my little boy.  He is a talented musician, writer, and performer.  He is still a kind person with a big heart.  I cannot believe the time that has passed since a very tired, barely nineteen year old, caught glimpse of her true love.  A little boy named Andrew.  Happy Birthday Sunshine!

Andrew