Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Drying, drying, drying...

Farm Update

I have been out to the farm and re-planting sunflowers.  The germination was poor so I am trying to fill in the spots where nothing has germinated.  The sunflowers that have germinated are really starting to grow!

This morning I purchased a canopy, table and weights (to keep the canopy from flying away) to use at the Farmer's Market.  This was quite an investment...hoping to break even now...LOL
Can you tell which one is NOT a sunflower?  The plant on the bottom is a pigweed.  I studied 10 different species of pigweed for my Master's thesis.

Garden Update

My oregano overwintered really nicely and just took off this spring.  So, I went out and chopped a bunch of it off and hung it up to dry.  I may be taking some of this to sell at the Farmer's Market this summer...

Oregano drying

Speaking of Farmer's Market, when I was there last week, I saw somebody selling the mushrooms that we have growing in our front yard!  Now, I know what they are called...

I decided to try and dry some of the mushrooms.  We have so many and I didn't want them to go to waste.  It has been a VERY good year for mushrooms here.  I used my oven to dry them.
Fresh mushrooms ready to be dried - I started with 2 pans full.  (I would cut the larger pieces smaller next time.)

After one hour of drying...

After about 3 hours of drying (this is both pans of mushrooms condensed down to one pan after drying).
Dried mushrooms can keep for months and are easy to add to soups and other dishes.

Around the Homestead

A couple of months ago, I went through my garden shed to look for small pots to start my sets.  I found a birdhouse and so I put it up in the lilac tree/bush.  I was mostly just wanting to get it out of my way.  I was surprised to see that a wren has made a nest in the house...

It is hard to see but the wren is sitting at the opening of the birdhouse.
My hubby got me a chicken magazine for our Anniversary yesterday!  It doesn't take much to get me excited!  Actually, we just purchased tickets to see Shania Twain in September so I think that is our real Anniversary gift that will be just a little delayed...

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Chickens that lay during the winter...

Starting a Farm Business Update

I have been reading the Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens book.  In a section that nothing to do with laying hens, there was a comment about how Chantecler chickens produce well in the winter because they were bred and developed in Canada.  So, this started me to think...one of the biggest problems with chickens (or so I have heard), is that they do not produce well during the winter.  It can get really expensive to feed chickens and not get any eggs. 

The main purpose of our farm business is to make a profit on selling chicken eggs which I know is going to be a challenge.  So, I started to research about which chickens produce best in the winter.  From what I can tell, most breeds will produce relatively well through their first winter.  The problem comes during the second winter when, after the chickens go through a molt in the fall and then don't really start laying again until the next spring.  So, one thing you can do is to buy new chickens every year.  I am not super excited about this idea.  However, I really do not want to be keeping lots of chickens around that are not producing anything either...

So, this is something I think about a lot and then I found a great chicken chart that puts a little "snowflake" in the column that gives the stats about "egg color, productivity and egg size,"  The chart is called the Henderson's Handy Dandy Chicken Chart.  The snowflake means that the chicken breed lays well in the winter.

I could not fit the entire chart in the blog here but if you click on this image (above), it will take you to the site. 

This has made me re-evaluate my chicken breeds chart:

I have also been thinking about what type of housing we will have for the chickens but I think I will leave that for another blog post...

Other News

Last December, my youngest son, Joshua, got a cheese making kit for Christmas.  We made some cheese and let it age until Grandma came to visit this week.  
Here is a picture of our big block of cheese.  It is a sharp white cheddar.  It tastes really great.  I do want to make some more cheese but I also want to get some smaller molds.  I think this might be a great Christmas present idea.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Weekly Update

I continue to read my chicken book.  I haven't had much time to do my "business" planning.  The book is due back to the library soon so I just want to finish it and I continue to keep notes and I will have time in June that I can get back to working on my business plan.

My youngest, Joshua, had a 4-H meeting on Thursday.  We had signed up to be "hosts" for the meeting.  I thought this meant that we just brought treats.  On Monday, I got an email from our 4-H Club Leader asking what my "educational" presentation would be...

Well, I wasn't aware that I had to present an educational program.  She mentioned that we had kind of gotten away from doing this but that she would find something to present.  I didn't want to come up short on my duties so I made a presentation about foraging.  On Mother's Day, our family went out to search for morels.  It was such a wonderful day and we ended up gathering a half pound of morels (they sell for $40/pound at the Farmer's Market).  Pictures of the morels are in the previous post.

Here is my brief presentation. 

I made Dandelion cookies for our treat to share with everyone.  Click on this image for the recipe:

 I think I have mentioned before that I made dandelion jelly last month and I also have some dandelions  fermenting...

Finding a Local Farm Update

We had ordered half a pastured pig from Omache Farm and got to pick it up at the Farmer's Market yesterday!  Made some pork chops for dinner last night, sausage with our breakfast and ham tonight...delicious!

Pork in our freezer!

Garden Update

The garden is growing and we have WAY more lettuce than we need!  My lovely hubby has made me a new garden bed.  It will have mostly tomatoes and peppers since my other 2 garden beds are full of garlic, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and lettuce, spinach, radishes, carrots, and kale...

Garlic with broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage planted among it.

Potatoes are starting to grow in the potato bag
New garden bed my hubby made for me...a late Mother's Day gift!

Here is a look at my 3 garden beds with the garlic in front, then the potato bag, lettuce bed and new tomato/pepper bed...
We have so many lettuces to pick from that I am going to harvest a good amount of the spinach and freeze it.  I am going to use the information on this website to do it:  Simply Canning

I brought these iris from our old house in Coeur d'Alene almost 4 years ago.  They have never bloomed since I moved them down to Moscow but this year we are finally seeing some blooms!   I had brought these from my mom's house in Kansas.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Chicken Breeds

Starting a Farm Business Update

Last week, I mentioned that I would start making a business plan specific to our chicken business.  I check out the book Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens from the library.

I decided that I would read through the book and then make a decision about the topic that I am reading about.  For example, I have finished reading the first 2 chapters which was mostly about different uses/breeds of chickens.  Chapter 3 is about shelter.  So, I am going to pause here and do a little research about what breeds I want to have on my farm.

Before, I get into picking my chicken breeds, I want to make a few points about what I learned in Chapters 1 and 2 of the book:
  • Best layers average 250-280 eggs/year
  • You can expect 180-240 eggs/year from commercial strain brown egg layers
  • Buy at least 25% more chickens than you want to end up with to allow for natural deaths
  • You can keep about 1 cock per 12-20 hens (cocks help with protection from predators)

I used several different sites to "research" breeds.  Since, we are wanting to raise "layers" this is where I concentrated all my research.  I first decided that we only wanted to raise chickens that lay "large" eggs.  Then, I decided on other criteria such as egg production, egg color, temperament, cold hardy (we live in north Idaho), and broodiness.

Here are some websites that I used to help me make my Chicken Breeds Chart.

Manna Pro Chicken Breeds Chart
I even found an app that helps you decide what chicken breed would be good for your farm:

Also, there was a chart in the Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens about Large Breeds.  So, I combined these resources to pick the chickens we would like to have on our farm.  I have it narrowed down to the chickens in this chart:

I want to add more information to this by putting in the prices and number of chickens I want to purchase.  I ran out of time to get that info into the chart for today...

Garden Update

Things are really heating up in the garden.  We are getting close to the frost free date (May 23) and as I look at the 10 day forecast, there are no days that are below 40 degrees at night.  So, I feel "safe" planting my sensitive crops.  I planted all my herbs:  basil and parsley that I started from seed and then thyme and rosemary plants that I got from the Farmer's Market.  I also planted my hot peppers and eggplant among my lettuce and spinach.  I picked 2 small radish yesterday from the garden and ate them right away!

Happy Mother's Day

Had a great day foraging for morel mushrooms with my family!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Cottage Foods

Starting a Farm Business Update

Okay, so I started working on the big Farm Business Plan the past couple of weeks.  I found this website where you can do a plan online.  It is nice because then I can work on it no matter where I am, just log in to my account (it is free) and pick up where I left off!

I have linked the website to this banner so click on it and it will take you to the site.

What is AgPlan?

AgPlan helps rural business owners develop a business plan.
Everyone can use AgPlan—for FREE.

Develop your own business plan
Learn what you need to include in your plan with Tips & Resources
View Sample business plans for ideas
Share your plan—print, download and work with your own Reviewers

I started working on the big Farm Business Plan and it got a little overwhelming.  Mostly, this is because I want to do so many different things and be well diversified on the farm.   Also, it got me thinking...when I went to look at the property with the house on 10 acres, most of the acreage was all in pasture.  I would have to most the fence to make room for berries and trees.  So, the home/land we purchase might be a limited factor in what we can do on our farm.  I think most anything is possible but this just made me realize how important it is to plan this out and get each enterprise implemented correctly.

I realized that I needed to break this down into smaller parts.  So, I am going to have one big overall Business Plan but then have individual Farm Business Plans for each enterprise that will break down all the income/expenses for each project.  I will begin with the chicken business plan since this is the one I want to get started first.


Pat texted me on Thursday and said that he watered my sunflowers!  I have done 2 plantings and we have not had any rain so nothing has started.  I am going to go out tomorrow and see how things look but I am not going to plant anymore until I can see that what I have planted has gotten a good start.

This was the first weekend of the Moscow Farmers Market.

Joshua and I went to the market and got eggs from 3 different farms.  We are going back next weekend to get some herbs.   Lots and lots of vegetable starts were available.  I will probably have to get some peppers because, even though I got new see, mine never germinated.  It was a great morning.

I did notice that there was one vendor there selling flowers.  The prices of bouquets ranged fro $6-$20.  Mostly it was tulips right now with the specialty double tulips demanding the highest price.

One vendor had garlic for sale for 3/$1.  I was a little disappointment to see this because I will have an abundance of garlic and was hoping to sell some but can't really compete with these prices...maybe they will have run out by the time mine is ready in August...

Cottage Foods in Idaho

Okay, there is something going on with "Cottage Foods" in Idaho.  I know that I had seen several posts about this a couple of months ago and something about a bill being made into law that would regulate the Cottage Food industry.  I will be honest, I didn't take the time to see what this was all about.  Basically, the bill was never brought to a vote but there was LOTS of discussion about it.  So, Patrick Guzzle is the Idaho Food Protection Program Manager.  He is going all over the state to get public comment about this proposed bill HB 187.  He was in Moscow last week so I went to learn exactly what all the buzz was about and how this might affect ReMARKable Farms and our fancy business plan...

First, what exactly are Cottage Foods.  Here is a definition from the Merrium-Webster site: 

Cottage Industry: a system for making products to sell in which people work in their own homes and use their own equipment.

Mr. Guzzle talked about Time/Temperature Control for Safety Foods (TCS).  These are foods that are known to support rapid and progressive growth of harmful bacteria when certain conditions are met
◦ Meats (raw and cooked) and items that contain meat protein
◦ Cooked starches like rice and pasta
◦ All cooked produce
◦ Some raw produce (seed sprouts, cut melons, cut
tomatoes, cut leafy greens)

I bring this up about TCS foods because Non-TCS foods are the types of foods that are made in a Cottage Industry.
◦ Breads
◦ Cakes and most pastries
◦ Cookies
◦ Fruit jams and jellies
◦ Honey
◦ Candy
◦ Fruit pies
◦ Dried fruits
◦ Dry herbs, seasonings
◦ Dry cereals, trail mixes, granola
◦ Nuts
◦ Vinegar and flavored vinegar
◦ Popcorn, popcorn balls, cotton candy

Basically, there is nothing even in Idaho Food Code about Cottage Foods.  The Idaho Food Code is up for revision and Mr. Guzzle is trying to determine if that needs to happen.  It seems that there is a small group of people in the southern part of the state that think that Cottage Foods should be heavily regulated.  This would require each Cottage Food producer to register (probably pay a fee), have inspections of their site, and certain labeling requirements and probably more that I cannot remember.

It seems like the system we currently have in place is working fine and this is also the opinion of our State Attorney General.

I am glad I went to the presentation and learned a lot about how the State and the Health Districts work together to regulate food safety in Idaho.  It you are at all interested, here a link to Cottage Foods presentation.  It seems that any Cottage Foods we want to produce here at ReMARKable Farms are on the non-TCS list!

In the Garden

Picked my first harvest of lettuce for the season!

 Planted some broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage among my garlic...we will see how this goes!