Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

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 - ran our 1/26/20
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!!!


Sunday, September 29, 2019

Summer recap 2019

On the Farm

This past summer was crazy busy between the Farmer's Market, my parents visit, our visit to Joshua and getting things prepped for Mark's egg business, we didn't have a lot of down time.  Here is a recap of what happened on the farm.  Mostly garden projects...

A pic of the garden at the beginning of summer...it always looks so small but by the end of the summer, it was hard to even walk through it...I will refer you to the garden video in one of the August blog posts.
I really upped my fermentation game this year.  Here are half gallon jars of carrots, cucumbers/pickles, and salsa.  I ended up fermenting about 4 gallons of salsa.  I really like it on my morning eggs.
The cauliflower did really well this year.  I ended up freezing some of it but also canned some dilly cauliflower.  I also fermented some cauliflower.  It was super stinky while fermenting but tastes really good so I'm glad we stuck it out.  The broccoli did well this year too and I froze a lot of that too.  I have a much better idea about how much I need to plant.  I planted too much of some things and was able to donate to the food bank so nothing was wasted.
Finally got back to planting some nut trees.  It is a little hard to see but I planted 2 English walnut trees and a Hazelnut.  There is also a very small beechnut tree that has survived and is looking good.  I ordered another 2 hazelnuts and 2 chestnuts that will come in the spring.  I have finally decided where I want to put some pecan and oak trees but that may be a project for next year.
Made 2 raised strawberry beds that will be planted in the spring.  Here is a pic of the beds.  They are 8 x 4 feet in size and we put 1/2 inch hardware cloth on the bottom.  They are 8 inches tall.
 We put some dirt in the bottom (lower bed) and then a layer of rotting hay (upper bed).
 On top of the rotting hay, we put a layer of compost (didn't get a pic of this).  Then, we put a layer of rabbit shavings (bottom bed) and then a final layer of soil (upper bed).
Then, I just threw hay all around over the cardboard.  It will settle a little over the winter and we will fill it up with more compost in the spring when we get ready to plant the strawberries.
I started on another "food forest" that goes along the lower part of our driveway.  Here, Yeti is helping my put down cardboard and hay on top of it.
 I got all the cardboard and hay down and planted in a few items: bee balm, lavender, echinacea, thyme, oregano, lupine and transplanted in some feverfew and lemon balm in from my herb garden.  I planted a gooseberry and choke berry bush.  There was already a serviceberry and choke cherry tree in the area.  I have ordered an almond tree to put in the middle.  There are still about 7 areas left that can be planted in to in the spring.  I will probably divide some rhubarb and put in there and I also ordered some horseradish that will go in there.  I will probably also try to divide some yarrow and catnip and get it in there...so many possibilities...it doesn't look like much now but it will be nice in a couple of years.
 I want to continue with this food forest all the way up the driveway so as you drive in you can see lots of different flowers/herbs all along the drive.  I forgot how much work it was to move all that hay and collect all the cardboard so it might be a couple more years before I get to the top part...

Headed out to the garden today to try and collect as many veggies as possible before the big freeze comes tonight!

Happy Fall!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Visiting Joshua!

Trip to Utah

I try to put out a blog every other week on Sundays.  This is coming out a couple days late because we were out of town and I did not have time to put everything together until we got home yesterday.

We made a trip to Utah to visit Joshua.  Joshua is currently at a residential treatment center in Utah.  If you are not up to speed, you can read about that HERE.  He left in March and we have not been to see him since.  We have weekly therapy via the telephone but it's not the same as seeing someone in person.

You may have seen this video before because I posted it on the FB and Instagram.  Mark was up early on Thursday morning and just kept saying "airport".  He was really excited to go and see Joshua...

Joshua looked really good and was so happy to see us.  We were all happy to see him.  His hair is getting long.  He always was wanting to grow his hair long but we had kept it cut short.

We got to take him out of the facility for 3 hours on Thursday and Friday.  We could stay with him at the facility as much as we wanted in a small "family" room that had some chairs and TV and DVD player.  Mark wasn't so keen on staying in the small family room so Henry and I would take turns.  We ended up watching a lot of movies.  On Saturday and Sunday, we were allowed to take him out for 5 hours at a time.

On Friday morning, we had our family therapy in person with his therapist.  Then, after that, top priority was a hair cut.  I guess they used to have someone to come in and cut hair at the facility but they quit and they are still trying to get a new person to cut hair.
We also did some shopping and went out to eat.  Joshua wanted to go to Olive Garden and get mushroom ravioli because he had read about it in the Twilight books. 

While Henry was hanging out with Joshua at the facility, Mark and I did some hiking!
Mark taking a break while out on a hike with Denise.
 On Saturday, we went to the Salt Lake City Zoo.  It was really nice!
Joshua standing in front of the spoonbill birds.
Mark really liked watching this duck!  Can't wait to get his ducks!!!
Mark watching a duck take a bath at the zoo.
Joshua liked the polar bear the best.  It's hard to see in this pic but the polar bear was very active swimming around a lot.
Joshua looking at polar bear at the zoo.
 On Sunday, we went to the Great Salt Lake!  It was really stinky!
Mark, Joshua, and Henry at the Great Salt Lake.
 We also went to the aquarium.  Mark really liked the shark tank and penguins at the aquarium but I didn't get any pics of that.
Joshua at aquarium.
Henry and Joshua watching a tortoise eating some lettuce.
Then, Monday morning, we headed back to Idaho.  It was a great little trip but also exhausting.  It is good to be back home and it was SO good to see Joshua.  He is making good progress on his therapy!  Most treatment programs are 15-18 months in length so he has quite a bit to go still.  Please, keep him in your thoughts and prayers!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Early and Ultra Early Tomatoes and Garden Video Tour

In the Garden

In May, my friend Randy gave me some extra special tomatoes.  Randy owns a seed company called Sun Mountain Natives.  
Here is a list of their products and services:

Individual Species:
Sun Mountain Natives is a distributor of hand-collected native seeds.
Supplying seeds from wildflowers, forbs, grasses, wetland species, shrubs, and trees.

Specialty Mixes:
We specialize in supplying seed mixes that meet your project's seeding specifications.
Our specialty is to provide custom seed mixes based on our customer’s needs.

Custom Cleaning:
With our experience and specialized cleaning equipment, we can provide custom cleaning.
We clean berries, small lots of seed, cones, grasses, and most other native plants.

Heritage Products:
We offer the Heritage line of native wildflowers and grasses.
Heritage mixes are designed to be adapted to different eco-regions throughout the western states.

Many years ago, Randy was given some really old tomato seed.  This seed was from the University of Idaho tomato breeding program dating back to the 1970's.  He was able to get some of the seeds to grow and now grows these varieties in his home garden.

Most tomatoes need a long frost-free period to get the fruit to maturity.  In northern states and in areas of high elevation, it can be challenging to have enough frost free days to get a good harvest before it freezes/frosts and kills the plants.  Therefore, it became a priority for some land grant universities to develop tomato varieties that would develop over a shorter growing season.  In 1938 there was some success at North Dakota State University and 14 early season varieties were released.  

Since then, even more breakthroughs have been made in Canada where earliness and ability to set fruit at cooler temperatures is imperative.  In the late 1960's and early 1970's, the sub-artic series of tomatoes were introduced.  These are called "early" tomatoes.  They were small plants with sparse foliage and many small fruits.  

This is a Sub-Artic Maxi tomato that I got from Randy.  It produced really nice sized fruits!

In the 1970's, the University of Idaho introduced 9 "ultra early" tomato varieties.  These ultra early varieties ripen even earlier.  They are not only for cold regions. They can be used to extend the time when ripe tomatoes are available in warmer areas of the country too.  

This is an Ida Gold, obviously a gold (not red) colored tomato.
This is a Gem State...it was REALLY low growing along the ground.  No need for a tomato cage!
This is called "Santa".  They are a little bit bigger than a traditional cherry tomato and nice and sweet!
This one is called Latah (we live in Latah county in Idaho).  It seems to be producing a little bit later than the other varieties that I have but it has a good amount of tomatoes!
Early and ultra early tomato varieties should never be pruned or over fertilized.  We picked our first tomato on August 1st!  My other tomatoes just started turning red this past week (this blog post is being posted on September 1, 2019).  

Randy gave me two publications that talk about these tomatoes and tips for growing them.  Click on them below to read:

Growing Tomatoes in Cool Summer Areas by A. A. Boe and Margaret I. Luckman

"Ultra Early" Tomatoes by A. A. Boe

Here is about a 20 minute video of my garden this year.  I am pretty sure I pointed out the early and ultra early tomatoes in the video at 15 minutes into the video.
The garden was very prolific this year.  The only thing I could not get going was peas and now I have realized that some critter was coming in and digging up and eating the peas after I planted them (4 times!).  I was finally able to get some snap peas to grow and we are enjoying them right now.

Anyway, I have a better idea about how much less I need to grow for next year.  Not complaining...it is a good problem to have...too much food!  I donated some to the food bank last week (see pic below) and will probably be donating some more soon!  Some of the tomatoes in these boxes were the early varieties!
I hope your garden is doing well!  If you have extra, consider donating to your local food pantry!