Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

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!

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. 

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!

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!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Egg delivery protocol and egg facts...

In the Barn

We have been working to identify a corona virus safe system for egg deliveries.  I think we have identified a way to keep everyone safe and get their eggs!  
If you want eggs, we will need a physical address (where you want the eggs delivered), email address and phone number.  Send me an email at remarkablefarms@gmail.com to get on the egg list.  

We will send out an email on Wednesday to ask if you are interested in purchasing eggs.  Let us know by Friday at noon, what your order is.  The sooner you respond, the better chance of getting your order filled.  The eggs will be delivered on Friday afternoon.  

Make sure to leave a cooler on your front porch by 3:00PM on Friday afternoon.  Put cash (we are looking into maybe a PayPal payment but do not have it set up yet),  your loyalty card, and any empty egg cartons in the cooler.  If this is your first order, you will receive a loyalty card with your egg order.  A hard sided, nonporous cooler would work best, such as this...
We will take all precautions and use hand sanitizer before handling any cartons.  Once the eggs have been placed in the cooler, you will receive a text message stating that your eggs have been delivered.  If you think you might not be able to get to them right away, it may be a good idea to put a small ice pack in the cooler. 

This delivery system is a temporary situation.  Once the Moscow Farmer's Market begins, we will be selling eggs at the Market every other week. 

Storage of Eggs

Eggs should be stored in the refrigerator.  Sometimes I am asked if eggs need to be refrigerated.  When a hen lays an egg, there is an invisible bloom, or cuticle, around the egg that protects it from contaminants like Salmonella getting in the egg.  HOWEVER, we wash our eggs and this removes the protective coating.  Therefore, the eggs need to be refrigerated.  According to the USDA, refrigeration also increases the shelf life of the egg from 21 days (at room temperature) to 15 weeks from pack date.  For the best quality, use eggs within 6 weeks of their pack date.  We stamp the inside of the container with the pack date.  In other countries, hens are vaccinated for Salmonella and; therefore, they can store eggs at room temperature.  Here is a nice article about proper egg storage, if you are interested.

Egg Sizes

When hens and ducks start to lay eggs, the eggs are smaller.  As the poultry continue to grow, so does the size of the eggs that are laid.  
Initially, the eggs you will be getting will be small sized.  (We keep the peewee sized eggs).  We are giving an extra punch on the loyalty cards for purchasing the small sized eggs.  Hang in there...the eggs will get bigger each week!  In fact, many of the eggs we packed yesterday (3/29/20) were already in the "medium" size range.

Here is an egg size substitution chart.  For example, if your recipe calls for 2 large eggs, use 3 small eggs.

Fun Fact - Double Yolkers

As a pullet (young hen) starts laying eggs, her reproductive system is still maturing, which means a glitch, such as a double yolk, is more likely to occur. It is usually much larger than the other eggs and will contain 2 yolks.
Pullet egg on top and double yolk egg on bottom.

In young hens, the odds of producing a double-yolk egg are one in 1,000.  In the Wiccan belief system, a double yolk is a herald of good fortune for whoever cracks the egg.  Bring on the double yolks!  Double yolkers are also symbols of death and fertility (twins)...no thank you.  I like the idea of having good luck!

What is that in my egg?

Sometimes you will crack open an egg and see a small spot of blood.  Blood spots, also called meat spots, are the result of the rupturing of tiny blood vessels in the hen’s ovaries or oviduct. This area is full of tiny blood vessels and occasionally one will rupture during the egg making process. Eggs with blood spots are fit to eat. You can remove the spot with a utensil (or just scramble it up and eat).

One last note, Henry wanted me to make sure that you know that the duck egg shells are thick and can actually be challenging to crack.  The thicker shell increases the shelf life of the egg.  Getting that egg cracked is worth it because duck eggs are so great to bake with!  Here is a great article on Everything You Need to Know About Duck Eggs.

Have an eggcellent week and stay safe!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Stress Management on the Farm

Stress Management on the Farm

When I attended the Women in Ag conference in January, we talked a lot about self care and stress management.  I had been wanting to write up a blog post about the topic.  Now, with the growing Coronavirus pandemic, it seems that everyone is feeling some stress so I figured that this might be a good time...

Farming (and life, in general) is stressful. There are a lot of the parameters that are outside our control...weather, financial worries, disease issues, regulations, weed or predator pressures, the list goes on and on.

Farming is a unique situation in that home and business happen all in the same place.  Failure not only affects the farmer but the farmer's whole family.  For smaller farms, the production of seasonal products can make it difficult to meet expenses in the off season.  For larger farmers, they can be at the mercy of the ever changing commodity market. 

Farm stress is rarely talked about but suicides among farmers are 1.5 times higher than the national average, and could be higher because some farm suicides could be masked as farm-related accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Some universities are now starting to address the issue of farm stress.

The University of Minnesota also has a set of Cultivating Resiliency Webinars offering tools to help in dealing with the stress.  

Michigan State University started a research project called Managing Farm Stress to determine if text messaging can help to alleviate farm stress.  

At the Women in Ag Conference, one analogy that was used is the 3 legged self care stool.
The 3 legs are:
1. Relational - having healthy connections with others
2. Cognitive - change negative self-defeating talk to empowering talk
3. Physical - eating/drinking right, sleep and exercise

On a Personal Note

I thought farming with Mark would be so carefree...we would just apply for funding and hire someone to build the coops for us and life would be peachy.  If you have been following along on our journey, that is not exactly how things have been working out for us. This has been stressful.  

Mark's funding was denied and we had to get a non-attorney advocate to help us fight this decision.  After working for months on this issue, we heard in February that his plan was going to be approved but we still have not gotten the funding (any day now, we are hoping!).  

Our contractor said he would be starting to work on the coops the end of August 2019.  We still have no coops. I could not sleep last Monday night because I was so upset that the coops have not been built!

Okay...try to stay positive...empowering talk...  

Because of LOTS of generous donations, we have been able to make ends meet financially with the chicks and ducks AND they have started laying eggs so we will finally have a product to sell (income!!!) 
Another positive is that the concrete finally got poured last week.  The chicks and ducks seem happy in the barn for now.
I am taking steps to manage my stress.  I think it's best if you work every day towards reducing stress but it's always best to have a "go to" plan when things get overwhelming.  My "go to" is praying.  I pray a lot to St. Rita, she is the patroness of impossible causes and hopeless circumstances because of her difficult and disappointing life.  I know prayer is not for everyone.  Find something that works for you.

I exercise most every day.  I found an app on my phone that goes through 5 minutes of full body stretching and I do that everyday.  I am making it more of a priority to meet up with friends.  I try to eat healthy.  I am getting better at evaluating priorities.  Also, I rant on this blog!  LOL!  Thanks for listening!

One last resource...North Dakota State University has a website with lots of great information about Farm and Ranch Stress.  Here is some information from their website:

12 Tools for Your Wellness Toolbox in Times of Farm Stress 

Individuals in farming can experience stress from multiple sources. Stresses can be managed as individuals use practical wellness strategies to reduce stress and improve wellness.

1. Exercise 20 minutes or more daily (walk, swim,ride a bike, etc.). Physical activity enhances feeling good.
2. Get a medical checkup with a local health-care provider. Stress can cause or add to physical challenges.

3. Spend 10 minutes to plan your day and priorities. A few minutes of planning reduces stress and helps you stay focused.
4. Take regular five- to 10-minute breaks in your day to relax and recharge. Doing this multiple times a day renews your energy.

5. Write down three things that you are grateful for daily. Conscious gratitude calms your mood.
6. Share concerns with a counselor or other professional. A listening ear helps lift your burdens.

7. Take 15 minutes each day for uninterrupted conversation with a spouse or family member. A few minutes of planning reduces stress and helps you stay focused.
8. Get involved or stay connected with a friend or group of friends. Doing this multiple times a day renews your energy.

9. Discuss needs of the farm operation but do not let them occupy all other aspects of life. Plan other daily work tasks to shift your focus.
10. Seek constructive feedback on your farm operation and ways to grow or improve. Others can share ideas or assist in new ways.

11. Create a family budget and seek to live within your means. This helps give you a sense of financial control.
12. Select three healthy habits you will try to practice daily. Start today!

Take a deep breath and have an eggcellent day!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Barn cat and new house cat!

On the Farm

I love cats!  I have pretty much always had a cat.  So, it's really no surprise that we would be getting farm/barn cats!  We have been waiting because of the coyote pressure.  Now that we have the dogs, I am hoping that it will be safe to release some cats on the property (as long as they stay on the property, I think they will be okay).

There are many benefits of keeping cats on the farm but the biggest benefit is critter extermination!  We have enough voles, pocket gophers, weasels and mice to keep the barn cats fed and fat.  

I knew we wanted to get some cats this spring so I started looking around.  One of local animal shelters, the Lewis Clark Animal Shelter, has a Barn Buddy program.  Taken from their website:

Barn Buddies are cats that are independent, self-sufficient animals.  They are also known as "mousers" and "rodent managers."  They typically prefer to live outdoors, seeking accommodations in a barn or shed with a steady supply of food and water.  Some Barn Buddies, with patience and kindness, will learn to trust over time and become affectionate and loving companions.

Sometimes rescue cats, for various reasons, can not live as indoor companion pets.  These cats become part of our Barn Buddy program.  They are in desperate need of a home on a farm, horse stable, warehouse, or other suitable outdoor location.  This program offers them a chance at a safe life that is best for them.

Candidates in our Barn Buddy Program include:

Friendly cats with litter-box issues
Friendly cats that have spent their life outdoors and can not adapt to indoor life
Semi-feral adults too shy and fearful of people
We consider our Barn Buddies to be "outdoor pets."  They ARE NOT just turned loose to live off the land.  These cats will depend on you for basic care for their overall health.  Their welfare is our foremost consideration and we work hard to find qualified barn homes for Barn Buddy cats.

There is no adoption fee associated with barn buddies.  All Barn Buddies go to their homes spayed or neutered and are current on rabies and distemper vaccinations.

I called and got put on their waiting list for the month of March.  Then, our house cat, Buster passed on February 13.  We had him for about 13 years.  This left a huge hole in our family.  I started looking around for a new house cat and then I found a cat at the Humane Society of the Palouse in Moscow, ID:

Meet Cider
Are you looking for a loving barn kitty to keep a handle on rodent population? I am definitely the girl for you!  My name is Cider, and I am one sweet girl! I am roughly 3 years old, and I would make a great outdoor kitty.  I was surrendered to HSoP because I was having litter-box issues. The staff at HSoP took me to vet clinic and had a few tests ran on me to make sure I was healthy and not suffering from an underlying medical problem. I had blood work and a urine analysis done, and both came back completely normal! This is great news for me, but this also means that my litter-box issues are not due to fixable medical issues. I lived mostly outdoors in my previous home, and when I was brought inside I began to pee outside of my litter-box. The staff here thinks that I should either be a barn kitty, or maybe an indoor-outdoor kitty.
I was living with two other cats, and I liked to keep my distance from them. We never had any issues, but I was not super cuddly with my friends. We all respected each others boundaries!
Relocating feral and outdoor cats is not as easy as physically placing them in their new outdoor home. Cats are very territorial, and if you simply place them in a new location, they will try to find their way back to where they came from.  Fortunately, feral and outdoor cats can be acclimated to a new territory fairly easy and in a short amount of time.

We got a large kennel and put it in our barn.  Put the food, water and litter box near the door for easy access.
Here is our set up for Cider in our big barn
After 2-3 weeks, we will open the cage door.  We will keep food and water both inside and outside of the cage. We got Cider on February 18th.  That means that this coming Tuesday (March 3) will be 2 weeks.  She seems super happy when we visit her each day.

Here is a video of when we brought her home:

We still needed a cat for the house.  All the cats I had ever owned were strays that someone was trying to re-home and they were all great cats.  I had always wanted a calico cat and there was one available at the Lewis Clark Animal Shelter.
Her name is Beck!  She came home on February 18th too.  We were told that she goes "psychotic" when she sees other cats which is fine because she will be an only kitty in the house.  Mark picked out a toy for her and here is a video of them:
Both cats have settled in to their new homes well.  So, we went from one cat, to zero cats to two cats..that is good cat math.  I am really excited to release Cider soon!