Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Winter and Spring 2020 review

On the Farm and In the Wetzel Home

I like to give an update at the end of each season.  This is usually just random information about what we are doing on the farm that does not really fit into a "regular" blog post.  I never did a Winter 2020 update in March.  This is when the COVID-19 was starting to happen and I think I must have just been busy trying to figure out our new normal and forgot to do a post.  So, here is my attempt to remember what has happened this past winter and spring...

New Strawberry and Raspberry Beds
This project was started last fall when we made the new raised beds.  Then, the strawberry plants came this spring.  Hopefully, we will have strawberries next year!  One bed is an everbearing variety and one is a june bearing strawberry.  I took this pic a couple of weeks ago and the plants have already doubled in size so I feel like they are off to a good start!
We also started some Golden and Black Raspberry areas on the farm.  I didn't bother to take a pic of them because there is literally not much to see there.  I just planted the black raspberries last week so they are super small but they all look good.

Cage to Protect Seed Producing Plants in Chicken Run
Planted some broom corn, amaranth and borage (side note - borage is not really a seed producing plant but I had some extra plants so I just put them in there and the plant is super nutritious for chickens and the flowers are beautiful and edible!) in a "cage" within the chicken/duck run...I also put some sunflower seeds in there.  Why did I do this?  I am hoping the broom corn, amaranth and sunflowers will grow up and then drop seeds into the run for the girls.  Just something fun for them to look forward to.  Also, it will provides a little "green" in the dirt run area.

Indoor Home Improvement Project
A little home improvement project in the basement area...painted the walls and trim and had new curtains made!  This is a before pic...
Here is the after pic...it really helped to lighten it up down there.  
We also lightened up the red brick fireplace by "distressing it" and adding the white to it.  Again, it really helped to lighten it up in there.  Now, I am just trying to decide about what to do with the wood paneling on two walls.  Initially, I was going to have it painted too but now I am having second thoughts...

Outdoor Home Improvement Project
Cooper had to find a new place to sleep...
Put in a little mini pond in front of the house.  We are going to have to re-do this area because the animals like to drink from the pond and the vegetation is all dying.  It's a bit of a challenging area too...mostly shade except for hot afternoon sun.
Once I got the pond "established", we put in some water plants and tried to plant some flowers right around the base of the pond.  Here is a pic of Dumpling getting a drink!

More Cages to Protect Plants!
I know this is a bit hard to see.  The rabbits are a complete nuisance and eat down my trees and blueberry bushes!  So, I had to buy these wire cloches to protect them (these cloches are 20 inches high).  This is an oak tree that I am trying to get started in the future pig pen...I also have a ring of hardware cloth around it to protect it from the voles but this doesn't always work.  I lost 2 of the 5 oak trees to voles already.
Here is a cheaper plant protecting hack.  I bought this "metal" trash can at the DollarTree for $1!  Just place it upside down over plants you want to protect.  It is about 10 inches deep/tall so it is good for smaller plants.  
I guess I am going to try and figure out a way to build a big cage over the blueberry raised bed this fall.  The rabbits don't seem to bother the blueberries during the growing season but really go to town and eat them down to the ground in the winter (when there is not much else to eat).

So, that is it for now.  I did plant 4 more fruit trees this spring - a cherry, apricot, asian pear and honeycrisp apple.  I had planted some nice size walnut trees last fall and they did not make it.  BUT the hazelnut and chestnuts that I had planted last fall are doing good...so far...

Have an eggcellent day!
~Denise




Sunday, June 14, 2020

Joshua Update

In Salt Lake...

Our youngest son, Joshua, is currently at a residential treatment center (Benchmark) in Salt Lake City, Utah.  (If you are not familiar with the situation, you can read all about it in this previous blog post.)  We were planning a trip to visit him the end of March.  However, with the COVID-19 happening, we had to cancel our plans.  The facility where Joshua is staying is still in lockdown.  We are waiting for the facility to allow "passes" again for family visits and then we will go down and see him again in person.  Can't wait!

I had always suspected that Joshua had some depression and anxiety.  He also has pretty severe mood swings.  In January, Joshua was assessed by the psychiatrist at Benchmark.  He was given a bipolar diagnosis.  I had also suspected this.  If  you did not know, Joshua also has an autism diagnosis.  Autism is a developmental disability.  Bipolar is a mental health diagnosis.  So now, Joshua has a dual diagnosis. 

Some good news...

The good news is that Joshua had made some great progress with his treatment.  There are 4 phases to the treatment at Benchmark.  Joshua has been in Phase 1 since he started there in April 2019.  It has been going really slow.  Joshua does not seem to be in any hurry to complete his treatment.  He worries about coming home and hurting us.  Last week, we finally got some good news that he completed Phase 1.  FINALLY!!! 

We have been told that Phase 2 is much quicker to complete.  Then, Phase 3 is a little longer again.  Phase 4 is basically getting everything put in place for Joshua to come back home.  Right now, that is the plan...for him to come back home.  Some kids go to a type of Group home before being assimilated back in to the family but we are fairly certain that he will be coming back home.  As a side note, his release date is October 2020 but I don't believe he is going to have his treatment completed by that time so this will likely be extended.

More good news...

Last week, Joshua began our family therapy session by asking if the Principal had called us.  I was really confused (and started feeling a little dread - usually a call from the Principal is not good news).  However, it appears that Joshua is doing so well in school that they need permission for him to take some extra classes.  This could lead to him graduating early.  My feeling of dread then disappeared and turned to elation.  The Principal needed our permission to allow for this.  Joshua is REALLY excited at the prospect of finishing high school early.

To give some perspective, when Joshua was 14, before he went to Benchmark, he was perseverating and obsessing about the fact that he could drop out of high school when he turned 16.  Joshua just turned 16 on May 14th.  Obviously, school is going well for him at Benchmark.  I am pretty sure that we will try the alternative high school when/if he gets back home before he graduates.  Moscow High was just too much for him.
Overall, he does sound really good when we talk with him on the phone.  It is great to hear him talking positively about school.  This is something I never thought would be possible.  We can't wait to be able to see him again!
~Denise





Sunday, May 31, 2020

Poultry nutrition and Omega 3's

Feeding the girls...

I was nervous about feeding the chickens and ducks when we first got them.  If you Google something like "make your own chicken feed," you will get a LOT of opinions about how to make a balanced feed ration.  Here are a couple of things we learned:

1.  Growing ducks need niacin
If ducklings do not get enough niacin, they will have leg abnormalities, failure to thrive, lack of weight gain, seizures, and eventually death.  Luckily, it is easy to make sure ducklings get enough niacin by feeding specially made waterfowl starter and grower feed.  You can also put niacin in their water or add brewers yeast to their feed.


2. Growing chicks do not need too much calcium
Calcium is needed in adult chickens so the egg shells are nice and strong.  BUT growing chicks can have kidney problems if they get too much calcium.  Also, they can get rickets if they have too much calcium.  Again, these problems are easy to avoid if the correct starter and growing feeds are used for growing chicks.

3.  Protein requirements change for growing poultry.
Chicks need a high level of protein so they can get a good start.  As the birds age, they need less protein and that is adjusted in the type of feed they eat (starter vs. grower. vs. layer feeds).

4. Supplementing...

Black Oil Sunflower seeds

We also give sunflower seeds as a treat.  I have read that you can feed 15-30% of their daily ration in black oil sunflower seeds.  We don't feed quite that much...more like 10%.  We bring it out to them in the afternoon and they LOVE them.

Benefits to feeding black oil sunflowers to laying hens include:
The oil in the sunflower seeds is good for their feathers
An increase in egg production
Vitamin E to protect immune system 
Great source of protein
Rich in antioxidants

Flaxseeds

Our birds are all out on pasture right now so they are getting green grass each day.  In the winter, we are going to start adding some flaxseed to the chickens to keep the omega 3 fatty acid level up in the eggs.  Flax seed is high in protein, oil and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids

Omega 3's

Let me go down the Omega 3 rabbit hole here for a minute...I am going to try to keep this simple (click on any underlined text for more information)...

Omega 3's are good for you and most people do not get enough of them. 
You have probably heard of Omega 6's.  Most people get plenty of Omega 6.  The problem is that omega 3 and omega 6 are metabolised by the same enzymes, so if there is a flood of omega 6 in the body, omega 3 may not be available to the body in the required levels, even if sufficient quantities are consumed.

Grass fed animals have more omega 3 in their bodies.  For example, animals being outside and feeding on grass and plants has a big impact on the fat composition and may increase the amount of omega-3s in meat by as much as 25% while lowering harmful saturated fats.  The same is true with eggs from chickens that are out on pasture!  More omega 3's!

Take home message: eating eggs from pastured hens are good for you because they have more omega 3!

We purchased feed from the feed store at the beginning.  Now, we get our feed from a local grower and supplier.  It is non-GMO and does not have soybean in it.  I think it is mostly barley and peas. 

Not the most eggciting topic but this is something that we think about a lot as poultry egg farmers...have a great day!
~Denise





Sunday, May 17, 2020

Gifted a family heirloom!

The Wetzel side

Maybe egg farming and delivery is in our blood.  Mark's great grandfather (Henry Charles Wetzel, Sr.) was a farmer and sold eggs!  He also had dairy cows and delivered milk/eggs.  Recently, Mark's great aunt Louise sent us the egg scale that he used on his farm.  What a great piece of family history!  
Mark's great grandfather's egg scale that he used on his farm from 1935-1955
Here is a picture of Louise and Butch (Mark's grandfather aka Henry Charles Wetzel, Jr.) on the farm as kids.  They say they remember their father sitting at the kitchen table with fine sandpaper, cleaning the straw and "chicken dirt" off of each egg.  Then he would place them in the egg cartons and deliver them to his customers.

Henry Charles Wetzel Sr. (Mark's great grandfather) bought a farm in 1935 and married in 1943.  They left the farm in 1955.  Before becoming a farmer, Henry Wetzel Sr. was a professional golfer.  We even have a trophy of his that has been made into a lamp!
Trophy says "Henry Wetzel North British Annual Trophy Won By"
FYI: Henry Charles Wetzel Jr. (aka Butch) was a golf course superintendent for over 38 years.  Mark's dad (Henry Charles Wetzel III) has a degree in plant pathology and specializes in turf pathology (as in golf course diseases).  So, it seems that farming and golfing run in the Wetzel blood!  What an interesting combination...

Mark's maternal grandfather was a milk delivery man!

The Klenda side

My maiden name is Klenda.  I grew up in Kansas on a small diversified farm.  Our family had a farrow to finish hog operation and raise beef cattle.  My dad also grows wheat and other grains.  

My great uncle Paul and great aunt Dorthy (on my mom's side), had an industrial chicken egg operation.  They did not live far from us.  As a child, I remember going to their egg barn, sitting down at a desk, pushing a button, and a little conveyor belt would just bring all the eggs down to the desk area.  Then, you worked like crazy to pick up all the eggs and put them into big flats.  We loved finding the squishy eggs that had not developed a hard shell.  

After I left home and went to college, my Aunt Julie (on my dad's side) started a free range chicken egg business.  She also lives really close to my parents.  Every summer, I remember going to her house for chicken butchering day.  It was truly a family affair and everyone had their job (scalding, picking, eviscerating, etc...).  In the summer of 2015, I took Mark and Joshua to visit her when we were trying to determine if an egg business might be a good fit for Mark.  
Aunt Julie's free range egg farm
Aunt Julie's egg business is truly free range, there are no fences anywhere.  There are shelters for the chickens to go into at night but other than that, they just roam all over their farm.  I think the name of her egg business is Cackleberry Eggs.

Mark's egg business will probably not get to the scale of these other egg businesses.  BUT we are only in phase 1 of the business.  We plan on growing and adding more egg laying chickens/ducks this fall and next year (phase 2 and phase 3 expansions).

I have relatives with egg businesses on both ends of the spectrum...industrial and free range.  Henry's grandfather used to farm and sell eggs/milk.  Does everyone else have egg farming in their families?  

Have an Eggcellent Day!
~Denise







Sunday, May 3, 2020

Raw Honey - How Sweet It Is!

Bees and Honey

We have 2 beehives on the farm.  Years ago, Joshua, our youngest, was interested in keeping bees for 4-H.  We bought and put together a top-bar hive in 2016.  Top-bar hives are considered a more natural way of keeping bees.  Here is a pic from 2016 with Joshua holding a bar from our top-bar hive.  
The bees draw their honeycomb from the bar at top of the hive and move horizontally through the hive.  When the honey is harvested, the honeycomb must be cut off the bar and then crushed and strained. 

After moving to the farm, our bees did well and grew so large that they split and swarmed.  We caught the swarm and I ran out and bought a Lansgstroth hive.  These are the more traditional hives that you see that look like boxes on top of each other.  
In the Lansgstroth hive, the bees live in the lower boxes and put honey in the upper, super boxes.  One of the benefits of the Lansgstroth hive is that you can add more boxes onto the hive, encouraging the bees to store more honey.  In comparison, the top-bar hive cannot be added on to.

Last fall (2019), I felt that the top-bar hive seemed pretty weak and did not have much honey stored.  The Lansgstroth hive seemed much more prepared (i.e. had lots of honey).   In February, I found that the top-bar hive was actually still alive!  I looked closer at the Lansgstroth hive and the bees had died.  I ordered new bees.  Then, in March, I found that the top-bar hive was also dead.  Shoot!  I ordered more bees...
Package of bees headed to the top-bar hive
The top-bar hive did not have much honey to begin with so I cleaned it out and put new bees in on April 18.  The Lansgstroth hive had a LOT of honey in it.  It was almost like the bees did not even touch any of it.  I took all the honey out.  I don't have a spinner so I had to use the crush and strain method.  I cut the combs out of the frames and crushed it.  The honey drips through a strainer from the top bucket into the bottom bucket.  

We never heat the honey so it is unpasteurized, raw honey.  I was also able to collect a bunch of wax!
There are lots of benefits of raw honey:
  • Raw honey is full of disease fighting antioxidants and phytonutrients
  • Raw honey is antibacterial and can be used on burns and wounds
  • Raw honey contains natural sugars, minerals, vitamins, and pollen (and little pieces of wax)
  • Raw honey can be used to sooth a sore throat and cough
I use honey in a lot of my baking and I love to just put butter and honey on fresh baked bread.  Fortunately, we have way more than we can use so I have bottled some honey into 1 pound jars.  They are available for $10 each.  Let us know if you are interested!
As the growing season progresses, we will also have various jams/jellies available.  Right now, we have some Roasted Rhubarb jam.  Soon, there will be raspberry jam.  Then, blackberry, huckleberry, elderberry, apple, plum, pear and so on, just to name a few.  I think you get the idea.  We only make jam or jelly from plants that we grow or can forage from. 
~Denise

If you are interested in honey, email me at remarkablefarms@gmail.com  

For some reason, I cannot seem to comment on my own posts!  I'm sure there is a button somewhere I need to push to make this possible but I can't seem to figure it out!




Sunday, April 19, 2020

ReMARKable Eggs will not be at the Moscow Farmer's Market this year...

Decisions, decisions...

First, let me say that we hope everyone is coping well with the coronavirus pandemic.  Since the pandemic has begun, daily life has not been too different for us.  Mark definitely misses his extra curricular activities and has asked for "swimming", "church", and "gym".  Overall, we are pretty fortunate, we have our chores to do each day and we can still get out for walks, hikes and bike rides.

Starting a new business during a pandemic is not something that can be planned out.  Of course, life doesn't always happen as planned. 

The original plan went something like this:

  • Mark graduates high school in June 2019.  ✔
  • We apply and receive funding to start the egg business.  Continuing...
  • The coops are built in the fall 2019.  Continuing...
  • Chicks and ducks arrive the first part of November 2019.  ✔
  • Poultry start laying eggs in the spring 2020.  ✔
  • In May 2020, we start selling eggs at the Moscow Farmers Market.  Delayed...
As all of you know, a global pandemic started to brew in winter 2020 forcing most people to now stay at home.  Businesses are closed and public gatherings are off limits.  We learned that the opening of the Moscow Farmers Market would be delayed.  This got us thinking about how we could start to sell some of our product.  It seemed that since most people were being told to stay at home, that a delivery system might be a great way to get our product into people's homes.  Since we can't go bowling on Friday afternoons, why not deliver eggs!  We are still working out the kinks on this system but, overall, I would say the delivery system is going well.
Denise and Mark at the 2019 Farmers Market
This past week, the Moscow Farmers Market has released more information about the downtown Market.  It will open on June 6 and allow only agricultural vendors.  Of course, this means that ReMARKable Eggs will be allowed to participate in the Farmer's Market.  BUT...the downtown Market is going to look very different this year.  Socializing will be discouraged and each vendor will have 2 employees.  One to take money and one to hand out product.  Let me first explain that Remarkable Farms understands the precautions that are being put in place and agrees with them.  However, we usually do not have 2 people available to be at our booth.  So...

The Moscow Farmers Market is also setting up an online market place through Local Line.  This involves customers placing an order online and then coming to the Moscow City Hall parking lot and picking up their orders.  

Therefore, we have decided to continue with the egg delivery system and to participate in the Local Line Online Market Place.

Keeping this post short today!  I think Mark just woke up and we have lots to do on the farm today...

Stay safe and have an eggcellent day!
~Denise


Saturday, April 4, 2020

Find Your Local Farmer

Find Your Farmer

With the COVID-19 pandemic happening, there is lots of uncertainty.  It's hard to find toilet paper, kleenex, paper towels and hand sanitizer.  We ran out of brown sugar last week and I have not been able to replace it.  Luckily, we have lots of honey from the beehive that did not make it through the winter.

Last week, I had a friend from Boise text me and ask if I could mail her some eggs.  The stores were out of bread, milk, eggs, onion, and potatoes.  The other day, I saw this sign at our local Winco:
This might be a good time to find your local farmer!  Here are a few options to help you get started:

Local Hens

I recently registered with Local Hens.  If you go to Localhens.com and click on Find a Farmer, you can put in what products you are looking for and your zip code to find local farms selling that item.  Whether you are in need of eggs, seafood, produce, meat, dairy, or honey, Local Hens believes you will feel better when you know where your food comes from.

Local Harvest

LocalHarvest.org connects people looking for good food with the farmers who produce it.  Their directory lists over 40,000 family farms and farmers markets, along with restaurants and grocery stores that feature local food.  Local Harvest lists both farms and farmer's markets in your area.  They also have a list of Community Support Agriculture (CSA's) available in your area and give tips on finding the best one to serve your needs.

Farmers Markets

If your community has a local Farmers Market, this is an easy way to support your local farmer and get fresh food.  The National Farmers Market Directory can help you find your local Farmers Market.  The Directory is designed to provide customers with convenient access to information about farmers market listings to include: market locations, directions, operating times, product offerings, accepted forms of payment, and more.

Mark and Denise at Moscow Farmer's Market summer 2019

Eat Wild

EatWILD was founded in 2001 to promote the benefits—to consumers, farmers, animals, and the planet—of choosing meat, eggs, and dairy products from 100% grass-fed animals or other non-ruminant animals fed their natural diets. Today it is the #1 clearinghouse for information about pasture-based farming and features a state-by-state plus Canada directory of local farmers who sell their pastured farm and ranch products directly to consumers.

Eating local is good for you, your community, and the environment

There are lots of good reasons why eating local – or being a “locavore” – is good for you. Studies show a correlation between local foods and good health.  Buying fresh local food is the easiest way to avoid eating processed food with added sugar, fat and preservatives.

Most food in the United States travels between 1,500 and 2,000 miles before being eaten.
~ Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University

Locally sourced foods may have greater nutritional value. When your food doesn’t have to travel as far, it’s likely to be fresher and have fewer preservatives.  It’s also better for the local economy (by keeping dollars in your community) and the environment (by cutting down the distance required to transport food to your table).

Grow Your Own Food!

The Victory Garden is making a come back.  I have read that seed orders are up 300% this spring.  The Moment for Food Sovereignty is Now is an article by Civil Eats that explains that many seed companies had to actually stop taking orders so they could catch up!  Good thing I always order my seeds ridiculously early.  However, I have seen lots of seeds still available in the local Walmart and most hardware stores have seeds.  I bought seed potatoes for $1/lb at the local farm store.

Gardening classes are in high demand too.  When Oregon State University opened up their online Master Gardening series to the public in mid-March, more than 13,000 people signed up to take the course—compared to 105 people in 2019.  Even if you only have a couple pots on your patio, growing some of your own food can be a rewarding hobby.

We have a big garden and grow most of our vegetables.  We have also planted, and continue to plant, several fruit and nut trees on our property for us and the animals.  I just planted an almond tree and some golden raspberries.  In the summer, we visit a you-pick blueberry farm and come home with about 12 pounds of blueberries and freeze them (we just ran out so we need to pick more this summer!). 

We have a farmer that we get grass fed beef and pork from.  Call Crow Bench Farm if you want to place an order.  Click on pic for the Crow Bench Farm Facebook page:
In a couple of years, we are hoping to add some broiler chickens to our farm.


If you don't have the space or time to grow your own food, consider supporting a local farmer in your area!  

I know they will appreciate your business!

Have an eggcellent week and stay safe!
~Denise