Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Christmas visit to see Joshua

Visiting Joshua

We got up early on Christmas Day and headed for the airport.  One short flight later, we were in Salt Lake City.  Mark was excited to go to see Joshua.  In early December, he kept saying, "Airport, airport" and when I asked who he wanted to see, he said "Josh"
Mark waiting at airport to get on our plane.
Henry's mom flew out from Philadelphia to meet us and visit with Joshua.  We were so happy to see her because it had been almost 2 years since we were able to visit her.  We went to see a movie and then headed to the Macaroni Grill for dinner.  Although we had made reservations, it was still about an hour until we got seated and then another hour before the food came but that just gave us a lot of time to talk and catch up.
Linda, Joshua, Mark and Henry waiting for our Christmas dinner.
The next day, we went for a train ride in Heber Valley which is about 40 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.
Joshua, Denise, Linda and Mark waiting to board train.

Denise, Joshua and Linda on train.
The best part of the train ride was that we saw some swans on the lake!  Joshua seems to be really fascinated by swans lately and kept asking for pics of swans to put in his room.  Did you know a baby swan is called a cygnet?
Denise and Mark on train.
On Friday morning, we had a family therapy session and then headed out to the Great Salt Lake.  This time, we went to Antelope Island.  You can drive out to it on a causeway!  The entire island is now a State Park but it used to be ranched in the late 1800's up until 1981.  The Fielding Garr Ranch homestead is open for people to walk through.  It is the oldest Anglo built house on it's original foundation in Utah.

Henry and Mark walking around the Fielding Garr homestead
Denise and Mark walking out to see bison.
There is a lot of wildlife on the island including mule deer, big horn sheep, antelope, and one of the largest herds of bison.
Bison grazing at the base of "mountain"
We spent our Saturday doing some shopping, bowling, going to another movie, eating ice cream and pizza!  We left on Sunday and headed back to Idaho.  

A big THANK YOU to Joe for feeding the ducks, chicks, dogs and cat while we were gone!


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Fall 2019 Update and Food Storage

On The Farm

Some brief updates from happenings this past fall at ReMARKable Farms and the Wetzel household.

Let there be light!  After 2 years of being in the complete and total dark at night, we finally got around to calling the local utility company.  They came out and put in a totally new, photosensitive light in the yard where we park our cars!  Thanks Avista!  Now, we can see when we are getting in and out of our vehicles at night!

I started some apple wine.  Last year, I made hard cider and it is still aging (it is supposed to age for 2 years).  So, I decided to try something different and make some apple wine!

I know this is not going to be a popular decision but I have decided that I am NOT going to plant sunflowers to sell as cut flowers next year.  I will probably still plant some sunflowers to harvest for the chickens but these will be more for seed and not flowers.  Of course, I will still grow some red sunflowers so I can make the red sunflower jelly.  Why not grow sunflowers?  Time...the sunflowers take a LOT of time and I can never recoup that in profits from sales.  The sunflowers has truly been a labor of love the past few years.  Now, with Mark's egg business starting, I just don't feel like I will have the time to devote to the flowers.  Another reason is that I also want that time to devote to our own personal garden and food preservation which leads me to my next topic...

In the Garden

Here is a list of the items I was able to preserve this past year.  Yes, I am patting myself on the back...also, I use this list to help me determine if I need to make more/less for the next year.

5 - 1/4 pints cowboy candy
9 pints beets
12 pints pickled beets
8 pints salsa
8 pints rotel
9 quarts apple pie filling
10 pints applesauce
26 pints hot apples
32 quarts tomato sauce
6 quarts cherry pie filling
cherry jam
12 - 1/2 pints beet ketchup
4 - 3/4 quarts of dilled cauliflower
4 - 3/4 quarts of green enchilada sauce

30 pints green beans
5 pints dragon tongue beans
12 - 1 cup servings of diced onion
9 - 1/2 cup servings of green chilis
15 pints corn
*12 pints broccoli
*7 pints cauliflower
7 -10 oz servings of kale/beet greens
*note to self: freeze in quarts next year

green beans
*lots of herbs (oregano, thyme, basil, yarrow flowers and leaves, lemon mint, catnip, dill, echinacea, anise hyssop, sage, bee balm)
*flowers (calendula, chamomile, borage, marigold, nasturium, lavender)
cherry tomatoes
Sunflower seeds
Pumpkin seeds
*most of the herbs and flowers are for treats for the chickens and ducks this winter

4 gallons salsa
1 1/2 quarts sauerkraut
2 quarts of cauliflower

I also finally purchased some shelving to store my squash!  I am so happy about how this turned out.  It feels so much more organized.  A lot of these squash are for the chickens and ducks too.  I just went through the bins this morning and picked out the moldy ones to toss in the compost bin and picked out a couple to roast for the chickens and ducks.

In the Wetzel Household

Lastly, a bit of nerve racking news...I had a phone call in November about Joshua's Medicaid.  It seems that we make too much money now so he lost his Medicaid.  The Medicaid is paying for his residential treatment.  I have no idea how much this costs but I can assume it is a lot of money.  My heart just sank.  He is definitely not completed with his treatment and I was so nervous that he might be forced to come home.  I immediately started making phone calls.  It's crazy that his treatment is based on our income.  The two seem to be unrelated to me.  Anyway, the good news is that I just found out on Friday that Children's Behavioral Health in Idaho is going to take over on Joshua's payment for his treatment.  Another thing to be thankful for!  A Christmas miracle!

Ready to put 2019 in the books and start a new decade...Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Chicory coffee...a caffeine free coffee substitute...

In the Garden and Kitchen

I have been posting a lot about the ducks and chicks lately so I thought I would mix things up and share something that I did this past fall.  I made chicory coffee!  Once again, this is something I kind of discovered by accident.  Let me start from the beginning...

Before moving to the farm, I spent a lot of time researching about chickens and growing feed for them.  I remember something about how chickens would like to eat chicory but my research did not go much beyond that.  So, we moved to the farm and I planted some in my food forest and herb garden.  I planted seeds and it really took off and got HUGE!  It was taller than me!

Chicory also grows wild in pastures and ditches.  If you look around in the summer and see any plants with pretty little blueish flowers, that is probably chicory.  Many parts of the chicory plant can be used.  The greens can be used in salad (Radicchio and Belgian endive are types of chicory).  The flowers are great for pollinators.  It is a perennial (which I did not realize...again...should have done some more homework...) and grows some massive tap roots.  The roots can be eaten or dried out, roasted and used as a coffee substitute.

This past summer, my friend, Janet, brought her friend from Texas over to see the farm (sorry, Janet, I could not remember her name).  She noticed the chicory and had noted that you could make coffee from the roots.  I had also read that at one time but didn't really give it a second thought.  

It seems that throughout history, when coffee beans were limited, people started harvesting chicory, roasting the roots, and used that as a coffee substitute.  Chicory is still very popular in New Orleans and it is often brewed with coffee and then mixed with milk (au lait).  There is a nice review of the history of chicory here.

This fall, after a killing frost, I decided to try and clean up the food forest.  I started pulling the chicory tops to add to my compost bin.  
Dead chicory plant in food forest
As I pulled, out of the ground came these long roots.  I grabbed a bin and started collecting them.
I brought them in to the house, washed them up and then attempted to cut them into small pieces.  That was pretty challenging.  I found that a pair of pruning shears worked the best.  I laid them out on a dehydrator sheet and put them in the dehydrator overnight.

The next morning, I roasted them at 300 degrees in the oven.  The whole house smelled wonderful!  Sort of like a chocolate malt scent.  I roasted them for at least an hour.  Then, you put them in a coffee grinder and grind them up.

Here is a really nice article about harvesting chicory for coffee.  I add a little bit to my regular coffee grounds and brew it in my coffee pot (I guess I should say that Henry does this because he always makes my coffee for me - thanks Hen!).  It has a nice, earthy taste and you don't need much!  I should have enough for the whole year in this half gallon jar.


Sunday, November 24, 2019

Being Thankful...

On the Farm...

Things have been busy with the new ducklings and chicks.  Mark works everyday to help with emptying the duck "pond" and feeding and watering all the ducklings and chicks.  We have also been practicing gathering eggs, washing eggs, packing eggs, and storing eggs.  See, a week ago Friday, Mark and I went to meet with his Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) counselor.  It seems that they are trying a "new" customized employment program with Mark's business plan.  We are literally charting new territory here with VR funding for individuals with significant disabilities.  I am going to be honest.  I find it frustrating.  I guess I am being selfish.  I don't want to pave any new trails...I just want them to fund Mark's business.  We are now going through a Discovery process to see what Mark can do for his business and, it is my understanding that, it must be determined that Mark can do "a significant amount of meaningful work" for VR to move forward with funding.  

This is the reason we have been practicing gathering, washing, packing and storing eggs.  The VR counselor is coming to our home on Tuesday for Mark's evaluation.  Please, send good vibes and prayers our way on Tuesday.  I will work at being more thankful for this opportunity...

Then, I got this small stone in the mail yesterday from my mother-in-law:
I think this kind of says it all.  

I am thankful that I have the ability to speak up and help Mark.  

I am thankful that we have gotten so much support from our family and friends as we start this journey. 

I am thankful that we have gotten support from the local community (front page newspaper article and grant funding).

I am thankful that we have a barn that we can use to house the poultry since the coops are not built yet.

I am thankful for a supportive husband that lets me do my crazy ideas.

I am thankful for friends that put together garage sale fundraisers and all the people that donated/came by to purchase items at garage sale.

I am thankful that we were able to purchase a home and property that will meet our farm needs.

I am thankful for my truck to help me get stuff done around the farm.

I am thankful for the Medicaid funding that helps to provide for Mark to be a part of his community.

I am thankful for our church family and the support we have gotten from St. Mary's parish.

I am thankful for the schooling Mark received and that they spent time helping Mark to learn tasks that he would need for his business.

I am thankful that we raised over $11,000 and just got another donation yesterday on the GoFundMe!

I am thankful that I can cry tears of joy as I type this because we are so blessed...

Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!  to everyone that has helped Mark and our family!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Newsletter sign up! Ducklings and chicks arrive!

On the Farm

The ducklings and chicks have arrived this past week!

The ducklings arrived at 5:30AM on Wednesday. There were 25 start and we are down to 21. They have really grown a lot over the past couple days and will be ready for their first supervised swim time soon!

On Friday at 3:12AM, we got the call that the chicks were at the post office. I ventured out to bring them home. There were 78 to start and we have 74 as of this morning (Sunday, November 10th).  

To celebrate these new beginnings, we are starting our own newsletter. By signing up for ReMARKable Farms newsletter, you will get all the updates regarding ReMARKable Eggs and when Mark has eggs for sale and other happenings on the farm delivered right to your inbox.

As a Thank You for signing up, you will get our ReMARKable Eggs cookbook filled with a dozen of our favorite recipes and lots of great information about pastured poultry eggs!


MORE good news to share...

Last August, Mark submitted his business plan to Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). We were told that it was one of the best business plans that they ever saw! BUT they could not provide start up funds for his business (this was upsetting...we had been working with a VR Counselor for months and thought we had completed all the required paperwork correctly).

We contacted Client Assistance Program (CAP) and was assigned a non-attorney advocate to help is appeal the VR decision.  We were allowed to re-vamp Mark's business plan and submit again.  Last Wednesday, we found out that the agency was going to make an exception and fund Mark's business plan!  I don't want to get into all the details, and we still have some more work to do on the business plan, but it appears that things are moving in the right direction now!

I am going to keep this short because I typed most of this out on my smartphone while at the vet hospital with Yeti this morning...more info about these happenings on the ReMARKable Farms Facebook page.


Sunday, October 27, 2019

Finally some success with plant propagation...

In the Food Forest

I have tried the past 2 years to propagate some woody shrubs (currents, honeyberry and elderberry) with absolutely no luck.  I tried a new method this year that involves putting cuttings into wet sand.  I started this project on the 4th of July.

First, I drilled holes into the containers.
 Then, I took cuttings from my plants.  This is a honeyberry cutting.
 You strip off the lower leaves and I dipped the stem in rooting powder.
 Then, you stick them in the damp sand.  These are the cuttings from the honeyberry bush.
 Put them in a white trash bag (it has to be white, not clear and not black).  Put it in a shady spot and let it sit for a couple of months.

 These are not the best pics but I wanted to explain why I wanted to propagate certain bushes.  This black current was loaded down with big currents the size of grapes!  The branches were literally hanging down with all the fruit.
 This white current bush is all bushy with leaves and only had a few small, pea sized berries.  

I had bought 4 different current bushes when we moved to the property a couple of years ago.  Only the black current seems to be super productive.  I am glad I decided to try several different ones to see what would be best.

On Labor Day (early September), I decided to see how the cutting were doing.

These are the black current.  I had put 15 cuttings in and I had 4 that looked okay...not 100% sure they will make it...
 The honeyberries did the best.  I did 2 different bushes and I got about 12 new seedlings in each container.
 Check out the roots on this new seedling!
 I also tried to propagate Elderberry but had no luck with that at all.

There are lots of different ways to propagate bushes and some methods are better than others for certain plants.  I am going to try and do some stool layer on the current bush.  Basically, it involves putting good compost and mounding it up at the base of the plant and then let it sit on the branches and they should root in the compost.

Here is a nice video describing the stool layering technique:

Another type of propagation that is good for plants with arching canes is tip layering.  Here I took the end of a blackberry and stripped off the leaves at the end and covered it with compost.  Over winter, it should root and I can dig it out in the spring and transplant it to a new area.
Here is a great video about tip layering:
It may go without saying, but propagating your own plants can save you a lot of money.  One year old honeyberry plants can sell for $15-$20 each.  I was able to propagate at least $300 worth of plants for free.  I have seaberry plants that I want to try and propagate next.  These plants cost $25-$30 each!  I have one male and one female.  The first ones I bought did not grow and the company replaced them (yeah!).  I had planted the second ones last fall and they did really well this year but they were not big enough to take any cuttings from this this year.  I bought my honeyberries and seaberry from Honeyberry USA.

I will still work to propagate more plants.  If anyone knows of a fool proof way to propagate elderberry, please, clue me in.  I have heard it is super easy to propagate but I have failed 3 times to get any to grow!


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Happy accident...sunflower seeds for poultry!

On the Farm

I know we have been planning Mark's poultry egg business for a while now.  One thing that was in the back of my mind was maybe growing some sunflower seeds for the poultry.  I actually did plant some black oil sunflower seeds specifically for the purpose in the spring.  Unfortunately, I did not do a good job of marking where the black oil sunflowers were growing.  When I went to harvest the cut flowers, I just took the black oil sunflowers too!  Whoops!
A Brazilian study found increased egg weight in hens fed sunflower seeds. Its researchers stated that increasing levels of sunflower seeds in daily rations did not affect feed intake, feed conversion or yolk color. 

Example of black oil sunflower field and seeds
As the season progressed, some of the sunflowers in the middle of the row grew REALLY big.  Too big to even use as a cut flower.  I just left them because they looked so pretty.  Then, I started to realize that they were putting on seeds!
Sunflower showing seeds under stigma part of flower
I wasn't sure if I would get seeds because the type of flowers I grow are pollenless.  You have to have pollen present to fertilize the ovules to get seeds.  Let's talk about sunflower sex...

Taken from hunker.com: Sunflowers are known as composite flowers. The large flower head at the top of the stalk is often referred to as one flower but is actually hundreds of small flowers. The dark center is made up of disk flowers that have five brown petals fused together into a tubular shape. The male, stamen, and female, stigma, are both present in disk flowers. The stamen is composed of filament and pollen-producing anthers. The stigma houses the style, which receives the pollen and allows it to travel down to the ovary, where the unfertilized seeds, ovules, are located. This is the process of pollination that enables the flowers to produce seeds.

Pollenless sunflowers do not have stamen to produce pollen.  HOWEVER, the black oil sunflowers that I had planted were NOT pollenless.  I am thinking that the pollen from the black oil sunflowers was used to fertilize the other flowers.  There are always tons of pollinators buzzing around the sunflowers.

As the sunflowers started to dry down, I cut off the heads to dry out.  At first, I thought I would just dry out the heads and store them.  This still might work if I can get them dried down enough.  The struggle is to get them dried down enough so when you store them, they will not mold. 
I started to "shell" off some of the seeds and put them in my dehydrator overnight to make sure to get all the moisture out.  There is a wide variety of seed color because of the different flower colors.  I love the brown seeds (at the top of the pic).  There are also black and white seeds.
More benefits of feeding sunflower seeds to poultry:
Taken from beginningfarmer.org: Since sunflower seeds contain oil, they are a great source of fat and will therefore add a little weight to birds. This is a good thing going into winter because this extra fat will translate into warmth when temperatures drop. Another physical change will come in the form of feathers. The very same oil that adds fat to their diet will make feathers glossy and shiny. 

I have read that sunflower seeds should not be more than 1/3 of the hens diet.  We definitely won't have enough to feed that much but we should have some to feed a little each day as a treat.

Next summer, I may plant some of those big mammoth sunflowers so we can get LOTS of sunflower seeds!!!