Blackberry Time!

Blackberries are ready.

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The blackberries have been bright red for what feels like forever. They grow in the fence line which I climb over on my way to the barn so every morning the bright red berries stand out on the green leaves, saying, “Not yet, not yet”. But finally some of the red have turned dark and they are sweet to eat.

We did not plant these berries. We have not watered them. We have not done much for them. It is like free food. Until you start picking them and you are reminded that NOTHING is free. These plants don’t give up their fruit so easily, they bite as I pluck the sweet berries. They have thorns which seem to snag and sink into the skin and hang on.

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But thorns or no thorns, we pick berries, usually as a family. The kids start out with great enthusiasm. But after the first few buckets it starts to get hot, fingers and arms get a little scratched (remember these are biting berry bushes), and there may be a pesky deer fly or two. But Chris and I cheer them on, “We only have to fill our containers, then we can go home.” The younger two might not make it. They often disappear to explore the nearby pond or go sit in the shade of the truck.

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Finally our buckets are full. A drink of cold water, a shower and thoughts of blackberry cobbler with ice cream fill our heads as we pile into the farm truck.

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The cobbler recipe I use comes from The Pioneer Woman. I love her site!

Pioneer Woman’s Blackberry Cobbler #1:

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1-1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups blackberries (frozen or fresh, even better if you had to pick them yourself)

Preparation:

Melt butter in a microwavable dish. (We do not have a microwave, so we just melted the butter in a sauce pan on the stove top). Pour 1 cup of sugar and flour into a mixing bowl, whisking in milk. Mix well. Then, pour in melted butter and whisk it all well together. Butter a baking dish.

Now rinse and pat dry the blackberries. Pour the batter into the buttered baking dish. Sprinkle blackberries over the top of the batter: distributing evenly. Sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar over the top.

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until golden and bubbly.

Serves 8

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What is your favorite thing to do with blackberries?

 

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August Farm Photos

Hello everyone! This is Julie. I love to take pictures and I am going to start sharing some of them here on Chris’ blog. I hope you enjoy! You can also follow me on Instagram.0726150755~2~2

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Chris taking over…You know I can’t let a post go up with so few words. Comments in order of pictures:

  1. Somebody photoshop me into the Abbey Road cover. And remind me to stand up straight.
  2. Reserve your turkey now. Now.
  3. How did he turn 11? What happened?
  4. Swallows have about a week left before they go away for the winter. Dragonflies are coming through now. Hawks will start soon. Less than a month until we light the wood stove. That picture is a reminder of how little time we have.

Reading Journal 2015 Week 7

Malabar Farm by Louis Bromfield

What a great book. Special thanks to SailorsSmallFarm for sending it to me. I would not have gotten to it so quickly otherwise. In fact, SSF has suggested a number of books I have enjoyed and may be my favorite librarian.

I’m going to have some fun with this book because I really am enjoying it. But I also think the author was a bit windy here and there. Please don’t mistake my humor for a lack of respect. I will revisit this book soon and encourage you to do the same.

I am currently at the halfway point of this book. My goal is to read a book each week but I just couldn’t muscle through this book in a week. There is too much to think about.

What is the book about?

That should give you the basic idea. There was a certain tone expressed in the book…that of a wealthy intellectual out to set some things straight, addressing his adoring public. Maybe that was just a style of the time. Let me give you an example. As you read this, contrast it to Oliver from Green Acres puffing out his chest and pontificating on the virtues and values of the brotherhood of American farmers.

…our own philosophy that the good farmer is a man who knows as much as possible, never stops learning, and has the intelligence to apply his knowledge and information to the conditions and the program of his own piece of land. It is the kind of farmer we must have in the nation and in this world; it is the kind of farmer we will have inevitably because the other kind is certain to be liquidated economically, despite bribes, subsidies and price floors and their land will be taken over eventually by those who cherish it and can make it productive and maintain that productivity. In the world and even in this country, where there was once so much good land that we believed it inexhaustible both in fertility and in area, mankind, if he is to survive, cannot permit agricultural land to be owned and managed by the lazy, the indifferent and the ignorant.

I don’t know that I disagree. It’s a fair summary of capitalism too. But there’s something in the tone. Oliver sounds naive but entirely lovable. At times, Bromfield is just preachy.

I would also like to add that this book is a follow-up to another of his titles, Pleasant Valley. I haven’t read Pleasant Valley but I think I would like to.

Is it a classic?
Yes. Published in 1947 and affecting my farm today. For large portions of the book I felt he was dragging it out but every so often, in unexpected ways, he would cut to the quick. I would stop and read aloud to Julie.

Will you read it again?
I almost can’t wait. Reading this in a week is like trying to go to seven family Thanksgiving dinners in a single weekend. Too much. Even spread over two weeks it’s a lot to digest.

Does it belong on your bookshelf?
I think I always say “Yes” to this question. Yes.

Can you relate a favorite passage?
Brace yourself.

Mrs. Johnson appeared and turned out to be very intelligent having had many years of experience working along dietary and nutrition lines. She was very interesting about her experiences with the dreary Okie camps in California during the bad years. She agreed that after the post-war boom dies down, we shall have the armies of migratory workers, dispossessed from poor, worn-out land, back on our hands, a liability, not only in relief and taxes but a moral, physical, and spiritual liability to the nation. The economic-human problem of the “poor whites” and “Okies” is an extremely complex one which in the end can be solved only be dealing with fundamentals – soil, diet and education in that order. Poor, worn-out soil produces specimens handicapped physically, mentally and morally from the very beginning. Food grown on such soil from which calcium, phosphorus, and other vital minerals and elements are exhausted can only produce sickly specimens, both humans and livestock. Wretched diet aggravates sickliness, and poor, under-nourished, stupid people make bad farmers who only destroy the soil still further. Education comes third because it is useless to attempt education with people sick physically and mentally from deficiencies of vital minerals. It is no good trying to solve the problem by taxes, WPA, charity and relief, although these may be necessary in time of acute crisis.

From Chapter 4, he is often lamenting large cities and industry…though he is also pushing for more efficient, industrial farm production…away from generalist farming. (Cue the fife!)

It is remarkable how people are becoming interested in these things – a very hopeful sign. If we can overcome the evils, economic and social, which industry and great cities have brought us, we shall be making progress. That is the frightening element in the recent elections. A growing urban proletariat without economic security can wreck everything that America has been in the past and darken the whole of her future.

Going back in time to chapter 2 we can see what he wants for the regular family (as inspired by The Have-More Plan). Farmers should specialize. But everybody else?

The general, widely diversified, and self-sufficient program is, however, admirably suited to the small-scale enterprise of industrial, white-collar and middle-bracket-income citizens with a few acres in the suburbs or in the country itself. This category of small, largely self-sufficient holdings is increasing constantly in numbers and it provides not only a bulwark of security for the individual but a source of strength for the nation as well. A well-managed small place with vegetables, fruit trees, chickens, perhaps a pig or two and a cow provides not only a source of large saving in the family food budget, but it also is a source of health, recreation, outdoor life, and general contentment for the whole family.

At this point, I have to hand the reins to Oliver again.

On the topic of The Have-More Plan, I just want to point out that farms don’t solve problems. Relationships are hard. Business is hard. Work is hard. Life is hard. But harvest comes in due season…if you can survive that long.

When Ed asked for a divorce, Carolyn told Judge House, “I felt like a work horse being turned out to pasture.”

There is a chapter titled, “Malthus was Right”. I think Malthus was right. At some point, it is theoretically possible that we could breed beyond the population we can feed. But I think he is also wrong. The chapter is in support of the notion that we should scream in terror as we approach the Earth’s human carrying capacity. He points to inefficient agricultural methods as some of the reason but, really, proposes no solution. In earlier chapters he bragged that he could keep a cow on every acre of his land. There are 2 billion acres of agricultural land in the US. But there is no proposal to raise cattle and sheep instead of corn, corn, corn…though he does complain about the practice of raising corn, corn, corn and hogs, hogs, hogs and, worst of all sins, of feeding corn to cattle…though he feeds corn silage to cattle. All of Africa. Australia. Russia covers 12 time zones. What do you mean we can’t feed ourselves? We have not yet begun to graze! There were two chapters about what a great healer of the Earth grass is…and anecdote after anecdote supporting the idea that the Earth is better for our management than it would be without it…and yet, he suffers from hysteria and despair that there are too many people. Let’s not be hysterical. Let’s start doing. And while you take a break from all the doing, do a little writing, make a video…find some way to share what you are doing with others to help them get started. Then they can do the same. And on it goes. Like network marketing of global agriculture.

Who should read this book?
There are portions of this book that I thought were fluff. Whole chapters of journal entries that I thought I should skim. A chapter about dealing with bluegill populations (by catching them and dumping them in a stream or neighbor’s pond) and another on his love of his pack of boxers. But overall I think this is a great book…a book you should read to further your understanding of “modern” agriculture.

But there is a lot of fluff…or what struck me as fluff. Let’s talk about growing grass for two chapters, shall we? OK. Here’s the low down. Lime your soils with two tons to the acre then rip the hardpan. If you have weeds and poverty grasses, rip those out and cover the soil with them. Now, add in chemical fertilizer, barn compost, 9 pounds of alfalfa, 5 pounds of brome grass and one pound of ladino clover. Focus, over time, on increasing your soil organic matter so the land can sponge up more moisture. That’s it. Sure, it won’t work just anywhere but it worked great here.

I summarized two chapters in that paragraph above. Two whole chapters. However, Bromfield was writing to help change the future. I live in the future.

Take home messages:
I’ll wrap this up next week when I finish the book.


Can you believe that’s the only book I worked on this week? No links to articles about space. No lecture on the positive virtues of Minecraft. Just keeping busy and staying warm.

Hope you are doing the same.

Cold weather this week. I plan to spend a fair amount of time by the fire reading a book. I need to do some recreational reading this week too. Maybe another book by Wodehouse or a book in the Dune series.

Please discuss this book with me. I hope you are reading it too. Share your favorite quotes or let me know if I have missed the point. Please don’t let me remain ignorant. Help me explore these ideas.

Click here to see all entries in my reading journal.

Drill and Tap it’s Time for Sap

We had an inch of snow last night but daytime temps have been above freezing for at least a week now.  That means I’m late to the party.  Oh well.  Trees are tapped now.  And here I planned on tapping trees on Valentines day.  Silly me.

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Let me know if you are tapping your trees this year.  Have you collected any sap yet?

 

Cheesy Potato Soup

Cheesy Potato Soup is one of our family’s favorites.  With our plethora of potatoes right now we have this soup at least once a week.

Start with homemade chicken broth made from Chism Heritage Farm Chicken backs and necks.

While the broth is finishing up fry a pound of ground pork.

Next add about a 1/4 cup of sausage seasoning.  (You could just use a pound of breakfast sausage.)

Filter about 8 cups of the chicken broth.

Use the broth to cook 8 large diced potatoes.

While the potatoes are cooking, saute 1 onion and 1 pressed garlic clove.

When the potatoes are tender (usually takes about 20 minutes), mash the potatoes.

Add your spices.  This time I used about a handful of herbs I pulled from our garden.  I chopped up the basil, oregano, and thyme and added it to the soup.

Next, add about 2 cups shredded mozzarella.

and 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese.

Pour in about 2 1/2 cups of milk.

Stir soup consistently till cheese is melted.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

This makes a large batch of soup.  It fed my family of 6 last night, today for lunch and there is enough to send in Farm Steward’s lunch tomorrow.

Not a Domestic Engineer

There are no slippers on my feet.  I don’t eat bonbons.  I work.  I work a lot.

A friend was visiting and shared that she had recently stopped working, choosing to stay home instead.  She said people comment that if they stayed home they would be bored.  It’s as if people assume we wear pajamas all day, sitting around watching TV.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

This season of my life is about creating a home.  I know we house wives have fun with the term “Domestic Engineer”, but I personally don’t like the sound of it.  We use it in an attempt to sound professional but it sounds impersonal.  Creating a home isn’t like taking a blueprint of a house, building walls and putting in fixtures and ta-da you have a home.  Creating a home is more like creating a piece of art.   There is no formula for an inviting, warm, welcoming, secure home but I can tell you that it takes time purposefully spent.  Our home is not just a place we sleep and keep our stuff.  For many in my generation that is their idea of a home.  When we lived in the suburbs, our neighbors were never home.  Their homes were where they slept and watched TV.  Their lives happened other places.  So when people comment that staying at home would be boring they think that is what happens at home, we sleep and watch TV.  That sounds boring to me too.

I choose to stay home.  Our lives happen here and we love it.  I am not saying we never leave and never see other people.  But our lives are grounded here with our family.  I am not a “soccer mom”.  I am not my children’s chauffer.  I will not spend my parenthood on the sidelines as a cheerleader.   Parenting is not a spectator sport.  Is it wrong to put your kids in sports?  No.  But if running your kids around and watching them do stuff is the magority of the time you spend with your kids you may need to rethink your activities.  When we evaluate what our kids do with thier time, can we say that those activities meet our goals as a family?

Our family goals are to steward the resources God has given us with the gifts God has blessed us  with.  God put my kids with my husband and me on purpose.  Their gifts and personalities are a blessing and a help to our gifts and personalities.  It takes time and energy working together to learn and develop the children’s talents.  I would not have that time and strength to get to know my kids in such a way if I was working outside the home and if I was running our kids to 10 different extracurricular activities.

This is not an attack on working moms.  I know for some it is not a choice.  For us living on one income is a financial sacrifice .  We have one car, no cable TV, I do not have a cell phone, our kids are not in gymnastics, karate, or anything right now, we shop at thrift stores for clothes, I cook our food from scratch, our furniture is a little used, my house would never be seen in Better Homes and Gardens.  Those things don’t help our family meet our family’s purpose.  Are you filling your life with purpose or business and stuff?  What are you willing to give up to gain a home?

Creating a home isn’t about a physical place.  For example, I follow Discover. Share. Inspire.  This family has no house in the normal sense.  But as I read their blog and read their interactions with their kids I can see a home there.  God has given them a different canvas to create their family’s purpose on.  Our family’s canvas for right now is our 20 acres.  Our work and interactions on this farm are creating a beautiful home.  At the end of my day I am exhausted but I can look back on it with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.

What are some of your family goals?  What is your canvas?  I know as my kids get older and my life’s seasons change my idea of what makes a home will change too.  I am curious what you as an empty nester or single feel makes a home.  How do you create your home?

This was a guest post from my lovely bride.  If you like this sort of thing, check our her blog, The 20 Acre Academy.  She promises to update it as soon as she gets the time….lol.

I Can’t Afford to Eat Well…and Other Lame Excuses

Eating healthy food doesn’t cost more money.  It costs more time but gives you more time…time to live…past your 60’s.  As food prices have fallen, health care costs have risen.  Correlation does not equal causation but I think the two are linked. Here is my lovely bride with more to say on this topic.

“It’s just too expensive to eat healthy.”

My reply was that in the long term eating cheap is very expensive – it costs you your health and medical care is only getting more expensive.

As I thought about that conversion I wish I had taken it a different direction.  I don’t believe it does cost more to eat healthy food, even in the short term.  What are some of the items in your shopping cart this week?  A bag of chips usually will cost $3/lb, Cheerios – $4/lb, Oreo’s – $5/lb, candy bars  – $8/lb.  Compare that to a Chism Heritage Pasture Raised Chicken – $3/lb or raw milk from grass feed dairy cows – .75c/lb.  How much money do you spend on food that isn’t nurishing you? Cheap and easy food is not real and sustainable food.  Just because you can chew it, swallow it, digest it and maybe even like it does not make it real food.

In America we spend less on food than any country in the world.  This cheap food is not only causing people to be malnursihed but it also effects our soil.  Joel Salatin in Folks, This Ain’t Normal says, “Don’t people understand that a cheap food policy will create a cheap farmer policy?  And a cheap farmer policy will create a cheap landscape policy?  And a cheap landscape policy with create a cheap soil policy?  No civilization can be any healthier environmentally or economically that it’s soil.  No health care system and no bank bailout program can compensate for a bankrupt soil policy, which is exactly what a cheap food policy creates.”

Our family is still developing good eating habits.  We certainly have some issues we need to work on but we have come a long way.  Eight years ago a typical day’s menu for my children looked something like this:
Breakfast:  cold cereal (absolutely nutritionless and full of sugar) with pasturized 2% milk (from who knows what farm)
Lunch:   peanut butter and jelly on cheap bread
Dinner:  hamburger helper with canned refridgerated rolls and a can of green beans

Today there is no boxed cold cereal in my house.  Breakfast is usually eggs and bacon, fruit salad with cottage cheese or oatmeal.  My kids still love peanut butter and jelly but I make the bread and jelly.  Dinner is usually a meat with vegetables but no bread.  We do buy different food but eating healthy is not just about going to the store and buying different groceries or just shopping the perimeter.  Healthy eating starts with a different approach to food.  You don’t just buy pre-packaged food that is labeled “healthy”, you buy quality ingredients and cook them.  There is no way around it, if you want to eat healthy you have to cook.  If you don’t have the time or desire then you have to pay someone the cook for you.  That sounds very expensive to me.  The great thing about this approach is that it can lower your food budget while giving you more time with your family in the kitchen.  Go to the library and read Nourishing Traditions The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats and Folks, This Ain’t Normal.  Both books will give you a desire and a direction toward real food.  Then get into your kitchen and help your farmer make the world better with just your plate and fork.  Stop watching TV and cook something!

I’m still learning, but I’m learning with my kids and it’s great.  Old habits die hard but we can form better habits in ourselves and our children.  Chime in below and let us know where you have found the most success in your healthy kitchen efforts.

Update
Here are a few sites we rely on to help us in our efforts.  Expect this list to grow.
The Healthy Home Economist
Nourished Kitchen
The Nourishing Home