Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Jams, Jellies, and Preserves...

In the Kitchen

It's jammin' season so I thought this might be a good time to say a few words about fruit preserves.  First, a word about pectin because if you don't have pectin you can't make some fruit preserves.  Pectin is a type of starch that occurs in the cell walls of fruits and vegetables to give them structure.  Some fruits, such as apples, naturally have more pectin than other fruits.  Commercial pectins are usually made from citrus rinds. When combined with sugar and acid (usually lemon juice), pectin is what makes jams and jellies develop a semisolid texture when they cool.  

Now, on to the preserves.  I think most people know the difference between a jelly and a jam.  Jelly is made from juice so it is totally smooth and often clear or opaque.  Jam is made from chopped up fruit so it has pieces of fruit in the spread.  Preserves is made from whole fruit or larger chunks of fruit.  Do you know about conserves and chutneys?  Here is a handy chart from Cookery Nation showing all different types of fruit preserves:

I kind of made up a fruit preserve that I call "jammy".  It is a cross between jelly and jam.  I make it with raspberries and blackberries.  I put the fruit through a sieve.  This helps to remove some of the seeds.  What comes through the sieve is like a thick paste and I use this to make the jammy.  So, it is not a liquid juice like what is used to make jelly and it is not chopped fruit like jam.  It is kind of in between so I call it jammy.  I have also seen other people just call it "jelly jam".

I like to stick to the basic jam and jelly recipes for items that I sell at the Farmers Market.  All items I sell at the Farmers Market have to be approved by the local Health District.  The low sugar jam recipes must be tested before you are allowed to sell them and the testing costs around $50 each!  Luckily, you just have to have it tested once.  They have to make sure the acidity is good so it will not get anyone sick.  Also, if you make anything "different" it must be tested.  I invented a Red Sunflower Jelly and it had to go through the testing process before I could sell it.  It is unique and a lot of people buy it for that reason.  You are not allowed to sell fruit butters because they are not considered safe because the mixture is so thick, it is hard to heat the jars sufficiently to get all contaminants killed.  Of course, you can make them for your own consumption...they just cannot be sold.  Just ask someone in the canning community about canning pumpkin and you are opening a big can of worms.  But, I digress...I have not really experimented much with conserves because once you start adding nuts, your input costs go way up.
Speaking of input costs...all the jams/jellies that I make are from fruit that we grow or forage for.  We have raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb, plums, white and black currants, and apples growing on our farm.   In the past, I have foraged for dandelions, wild blackberries, huckleberries, elderberries, grapes, plums, pears, and I am sure there are other things that I am forgetting.  This year, we had an abundance of cantaloupe so I decided to make a Cantaloupe Basil Jam   It turned out great!  If we have extra cantaloupes in the future, I will make this again but I am not planning on planting extra cantaloupe just for this reason.  Just to be clear, I did not invent this recipe...it was in one of my preserve making books.
Another new jelly I made this year is a Crabapple Hot Pepper Jelly.  The peppers did not grow so well this year so I only had enough to make one batch but I think that will be good enough.  To juice the crabapples, I used my new steamer juicer.  I love that thing!  In this video I am juicing white currants...
I know that when most people think of preserves, they probably think of bread.  BUT, jams, jellies and other preserves do not need to just be used on toast and bagels. Consider using them in other creative ways:

Filling or topping for crepes, pancakes, and waffles

Topping for cakes and tartes

Top muffin batter with a dollop before baking

Create a glaze for pork or chicken

Add to homemade salad dressing (like a raspberry walnut dressing)

Add to yogurt (I like to buy plain yogurt and add fruit preserves for flavor)

Add to oatmeal

Add to BBQ sauce

Add to milkshakes, smoothies or tea

Use in cookie recipes (thumbprint cookies)

Top custard and ice cream

I only have a few more jams/jellies that I want to make for the rest of this year.  I want to try a new Apple Mint Jelly recipe that came with the steamer juicer.  Also, one of my ultimate favorite preserves is Pear Preserves and I am looking forward to making some of that as soon as the pears are ripe!  Our apples are not doing so well this year.  If I get enough, I will probably make some Apple Pie Jam too which is something I have made in the past.

One last note, something that I have not experimented with is making Lemon Curd.  Lemon Curd involves 2 of my favorite things...eggs and preserves!  I will be honest, I never even really heard of Lemon Curd until I started working in a French Bistro when the boys were toddlers.  We would sometimes have a "tea" party and lemon curd was served with the pastries.  Another fun item preserve to experiment with!

What is your favorite fruit preserves?  How do you like to eat your preserves?

~Denise

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Joshua Home!

Bringing Joshua Home...

On Sunday, August 22 Henry, Denise and Mark drove down to Salt Lake City, (SLC) Utah to pick up Joshua. We drove down to Boise and stayed there overnight then got up early and headed down to SLC.  We were able to make it down there around 11:00AM on Monday morning and discharge went quickly.  We headed to Apollo Burger for lunch (Joshua's request).  Then, we went to Mrs. Cavanaugh's for a tour of the candy factory (another suggestion from Joshua).  
Since this was our first stop, we took a lot of pictures.  We bought some candy AND had some frozen custard!

That evening, we went to the Tracy Aviary.  Tracy Aviary is committed to inspiring curiosity and caring for birds and nature through education and conservation.  Joshua really enjoyed the ducks there.  Two geese got into a fight which was "fun" to watch them honking at each other and trying to goose each other.  The pecking order is real!
On Tuesday morning, we went to the Natural History Museum in SLC.  The Natural History Museum of Utah illuminates the natural world and the place of humans within it.  There were exhibits ranging from dinosaurs, and gems and minerals to Native American artifacts.  Currently, they have a special exhibition of Egypt: Land of Pharaohs with a real mummy on display.  We grabbed lunch and then hit the road back to Boise.
On the way to Boise, we stopped by the Shoshone Falls which is often referred to as The Niagara of the West (my pic really does not do it justice!).  At 212 feet tall and 900 foot wide, Shoshone Falls is one of the largest natural waterfalls in the United States surpassing the height of Niagara Falls. Shoshone Falls is located on the Snake River as it carves its way through a deep basalt Canyon on its way to the Columbia River. 
On Wednesday morning, we got up early and started on our last stretch of highway back to Moscow.  We made a quick stop at Ponderosa State Park in McCall, Idaho.  This is Lake Payette in the pic. 
Then, we finally made it home!  It was a long trip and we are glad to be back to the farm!
Now, we are working to get Joshua set up for his Senior year of High School and learning how to all live together again!  Busy, busy!

Have an eggcellent day!
~Denise

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Fermenting feed for the girls!

In the Coop

When the girls were going through a molt last fall, I had read that fermented feed is great to give while chickens/ducks are molting.  We bought some gamebird feed.  It has 30% protein!  Our regular layer feed is about 17% protein.  Feathers are mostly protein so it is advised to increase protein intake when the poultry are molting.  There are several benefits of feeding fermented feed.  Fermented feed has tons of probiotics.  Fermentation makes the vitamins, minerals and proteins more bioavailable to the poultry.  In addition, fermented feed is easier to digest which is great during this stressful molting time. 

Any feed can be fermented!  All you have to do is put it in a bucket and cover it with water and let is sit for 3 days.  Easy peasy!  Since we feed about 23 pounds of feed a day, there is no way we could ferment all that feed.  I take about 5 pounds of feed and ferment that for the girls.  I end up adding about 15 pounds of water to get the finished fermented feed.  I also read that feeding fermented feed increases egg size, weight and shell thickness.  The fermented feed kind of reminds me of a porridge...
A study performed in Denmark in 2009 showed that laying hens fed fermented chicken feed not only performed better and required less feed, but they showed signs of increased intestinal health.  

Closer to home, I found a podcast talking about a study that was completed last year in northwest Washington.  They compared dry feed, fermented feed (fermented for 3 days), and hydrated feed (feed that had water added just before feeding).  Basically, the chickens ate a little bit less of the fermented feed AND the real eggciting news is that the egg lay rate went up 9%  for the fermented fed hens!  So, they ate a little bit less feed and laid more eggs!  Here is a video all about the study but I basically already told you about it...also, I found a Fact sheet about the study.
We probably will not be able to keep up the fermentation during the winter months.  It seems to me that the bacteria responsible for fermenting the feed will need a certain temperature to "work" and digest the feed to release the extra nutrients in the fermented feed.  We could try fermenting in the house but fermented feed really stinks!  I had also read that fermentation is really good in the summer when the birds will be getting water and feed at the same time when they eat.  Chickens need water to help produce eggs so any way of getting more water to them in an advantage.  We will start up the fodder production and use that during the winter months and ferment a little feed for summertime.  This is a great way to provide different foods and keep things interesting for the girls.

Here is a little video I made of the chickens eating the fermented feed out on pasture...
It took a couple weeks but the ducks seem to finally be taking advantage of the fermented feed...
So, bottom line is that fermented foods are good for us (see blog post from 4 weeks ago regarding radish fermentation) and good for the poultry!  Pickles or Sauerkraut anyone?

Have an eggcellent day!
~Denise






Sunday, August 8, 2021

Currants!

 In the Food Forest    

I made some White Currant Jelly and took it to the Farmers Market.  A lot of people ask me what it tastes like.  I have a hard time describing it...I am not a supertaster (a person that experiences the sense of taste with great intensity).  I found the following description from specialtyproduce.com:

a floral aroma and flavors of sour cherry, 
kiwi, Muscat grape and a lingering residual sugar

This seems like a complicated description but maybe this is what I should tell people from now on...

Anyway, I had an idea for a different blog post today but felt that currants was a more timely topic.  I just finished picking the white currants and now I am picking the black currants.  I was able to pick 4 gallons of white currants off one bush!  They are really small berries too!  I was really impressed with the production!  I don't think I need anymore white currant bushes but I did propagate some of my black currants and I have 2 more bushes growing in the food forest.
White currants growing in bunches

I also have a golden currant bush and it put on a few berries this year for the first time but there was not really enough to make anything with them.  I think I also have a red currant bush but it has not produced any fruit yet.  

For some reason, I have always been fascinated with currants.  There were some wild currant bushes that grew in the hedge row at the home where I grew up.  They are still there.  I just thought it was so neat that these berries were just growing there and we did not cultivate them but could enjoy the free food.  
Black currants are bigger than white currants and a deep purple color

I knew that I always wanted to have some currant bushes in our food forest.  I bought some from the University of Idaho Pitkin Forest Nursery when we moved to the farm 4 years ago.  The U of I Fall plant sale will start September 1.  They have some amazing resources on their website about Idaho native plants. I am almost positive that they will ship trees/bushes.  I ordered some oak trees during the pandemic shut down last year and they came in the mail.  They do not list white currants on their website so now I am trying to remember where I bought mine from...hmmm...probably a local plant nursery.

Currants are part of the Ribes family and are related to gooseberries.  Contrary to popular belief, zante currants, are just tiny raisins and nothing like actual currants.  Currants can taste tart.  Red and black currant varieties are generally considered to be too strong and tart for fresh eating.  The white currants are the sweetest and may be eaten fresh.  All fresh currants can be used just like other berries.  They can be baked into quick bread or muffins, ice cream, sorbet, or used in pie filling with other fruits. Since both black and red currants contain a lot of natural pectin, you can use them to make the most delicious jams and jellies with only sugar as the other ingredient.
Currant buns

Black currants are also delicious with game meat, and often cooked into a simple sauce that's paired with duck or venison.  Freshly picked berries have a short shelf life so they need to be used right away.  This might be one reason you don't really see currants in the grocery store.  It is really easy to freeze them and pull out to use later.  They can also be dehydrated and used in baking.

Give currants a try!  I think that some black currant lemonade will be making a debut at the Farmers Market soon...

Have an eggcellent day!
~Denise



Sunday, July 25, 2021

Fermenting vegetables

 In the Kitchen

I had a bumper crop of radish this spring.  I had meant to thin the plants but never got around to it.  Oops!  No worries.  It seems to have worked out.  These radishes even fell in love because they were growing so close together...ahhh...

I had been picking a couple radish each day to add to my salad.  Then, one day I realized that one of the radish had a seed stalk and it was flowering!  So, I quickly pulled all the radish.  This bucket does not look too impressive but this is a 3 gallon bucket completely full of radishes!

I decided to ferment the radish.  This way, I could keep using a couple in my salads over the next few weeks.  I did plant some more radish as I was pulling these out.  I cleaned the radish up and cut off the tops and bottoms and stacked them into jars.

I made up a salt solution of 3 tablespoons salt in 1 quart water.  I used pink salt so that is why my solution is a bit cloudy and pinkish...

After packing the radish into the jars, I poured the solution in and then placed a fermentation lid on top.  This allows the gases to escape as the radish ferment.  It is important to keep all the radish under the solution at all times or you might get contamination.
Put the ferment in a warmish, dark place and leave for 3 days.  At the end of the three days, you can take the fermentation cap off and just put a regular lid on the jar and put in the refrigerator.  The cooler temperature of the refrigerator will stop the fermentation.  Here is a pic of the completed ferment.  Yes, the red color in the radish skin has been bleeded out into the fermentation solution.

The radish are pink all the way through...here is a pic of some pieces of radish that I am using to build my salad...they are the pink triangle shapes...
Here is a pic of the radish blooms.  They sure are pretty.  Some were pink and some were white.  
Since some of the radish were already putting up flower stalks, I just decided to let them go so I could collect the seed.  Here is a pic of the seed pods that will develop the seeds...
That is going to be a lot of seeds!  Did you know...you can actually eat the seed pods!  There are even varieties of radish that are grown specifically for their seeds pods.  I tried some and they are deliciouis!  I even found a recipe that sautéed some radish seed pods and added them to scrambled eggs!  You want to eat the green pods (not when they have already turned brown and are starting to dry down).  They taste like radish!  Surprise!  I also found a recipe for pickled radish seed pods.  You can pickle just about anything.  Just like you can ferment almost anything.  Just a note of distinction...pickling usually involves vinegar and fermentation involves salt.  

The girls got the radish trimmings and they were super happy!
Fermented vegetables do have a different taste and texture.  The radish are still crunchy but they are not crisp.  There are TONS of benefits to eating fermented foods:
1. they are easier to digest (they have been pre-digested by the bacteria during lacto fermentaiton)
2. fermentation makes the nutrients in food more available so they are more nutritious
3. fermented foods help our gut microbiome flourish (more good bacteria...yeah!)
4. fermenting creates new flavors and is a safe way to preserve foods
AND it is super easy to do...cut up vegetables, add salt water, let sit for 3 days, put in fridge...done!  Easy peasy!  I LOVE to ferment salsa and can't wait for the tomato crop to start soon!

Have an eggcellent day!

~Denise






Sunday, July 11, 2021

(Worm) Tea Time...

In the Garden

Using worm compost, vermiculture, to make worm tea can provide lots of micronutrients to your plants in your garden.  When a worm eats, the food passes through the gut and the organic matter gets broken into smaller and smaller fragments which releases the various components in it. The digestion of the food helps to release nutrients into the vermicompost.  Then, the nutrients from the vermicompost are infused into the tea and this is used as a fertilizer for plants.  You can use worm tea as a foliar spray to spray directly onto the plants which is absorbed through the leaves.  This can be effective if the foliage is showing signs of disease.  The worm tea will help the plant strengthen their defenses and fend off disease organisms.

The main reason I like to make worm tea is for that it can work as a natural pesticide.  The worm tea contains an enzyme known as various forms of chitinase to which insects have a strong aversion.  The worm castings also have the ability to activate multiplication of the chitinase-producing bacteria found naturally in plants.  Some pests that are repelled by the worm castings or tea, include a large array of insects including white fly, aphids, spider mites, fruit flies, and other nectar-sucking insects.

Here is the recipe I use.  This is taken from daringgourmet.com

Equipment Needed:

5 gallon bucket

4 gallons water (ideally use rain or well water because it has no chlorine; otherwise use city water but let it sit out for 24 hours before proceeding – chlorine is very volatile and will evaporate out on its own)

5 to 6 cups worm castings

3 tablespoons molasses (encourages the growth of healthy microorganisms)

Porous material for a compost tea bag (cheese cloth, dish towel, old t-shirt, etc).  Optional but will prevent your watering can or spray bottle from clogging when it’s time to use the tea.  Alternatively you can pour the finished tea through a fine mesh strainer into your watering can.

Process:

Fill the bucket with water.  Add the worm castings and the molasses.  Stir to combine.  (If you’re using a compost tea bag, place the worm castings in the cloth and tie to secure it shut.  Place the bag in the water.)

Let the tea steep overnight.  It will be a dark brown color.  Give it another stir.  Remove the compost bag if using (place the contents onto the soil or on your compost pile).

Pour some of the worm tea into your water can or spray bottle and dilute with water until it is a light brown color – the color of weak tea.

Use immediately for best results.  The microbes will begin dying off quickly so the sooner you use the compost tea the better while it’s most potent.

Do You Need to Aerate Worm Tea?

Both sugar (molasses) and aeration boost the microbial activity resulting in an increased microbial population.  Sugar alone will do that but adding some aeration will increase it further.

If you choose to aerate it you can use a fish tank bubbler to add oxygen while the tea is steeping.  Insert the aerator all the way to the bottom of the bucket.  Let it aerate for 48-72 hours, stirring occasionally.

Here is a video of how I make the worm tea:


Compost tea

Making compost tea is similar to worm tea.  I make it pretty much the same way I make the worm tea except I let it brew for 3 days and I only brew the worm tea for 1 day.  It works as a great fertilizer for plants but does not contain the chitinase/pesticide benefits of worm tea.  Here is a great post from Morningchores.com that describes compost tea and gives 4 recipes for making some.  I have read that compost tea can also help with disease pressure but it is more a preventative and not a cure.

So, that is it.  Short and sweet.  It took about a week but I ended up making 4 batches of worm tea and had enough to give to every single plant in my garden.  So far, so good!

Have an eggcellent day!

~ Denise



Sunday, June 27, 2021

Worms...

Building a worm bin    

When we moved to the farm, there was a tub in the barn.  We set it up and put rocks and water in it.  At the time, Mark had a fascination with throwing rocks into water.  He spent many hours on the back patio throwing rocks into the tub of water.  Then, the second year that we were here, he didn't seem interested in throwing rocks into water anymore.  So, we cleaned it out and I kept thinking that some day I was going to make a worm bin out of the tub.  Finally, that day has come!  First, Logan built a frame out of wood to set the tub into.  (I know it looks a little crooked but it actually setting on uneven ground.)  I placed the tub in a shady area, if the bin gets too hot, the worms may die.
Henry was able to put in a drain so that we could catch the leachate that drips out.  A quick note about leachate.  The stuff that drips out of the worm bin is NOT worm tea!  It is called leachate and I have heard different ideas about whether or not you should use it in your garden.  Initially, I read that you should never use this.  Lately, I have heard that you can dilute it 1:2 or 1:20 but not to use it on plants that you want to eat.  The reason you do not want to use it on your vegetables is that worm bin leachate can potentially contain toxins that are harmful to people.  So, use it on your nonedible flowers, trees, bushes, or put into a hot compost bin.
After we had the frame and the drain all completed, it was time to fill it up.  I added large rocks to the bottom of the tub to help with drainage.  
Next went in a layer of wet cardboard.  Make sure to soak it really thoroughly.  This is the first layer of the bedding and it needs to be the consistency of a wrung out sponge.
On top of the cardboard, I put in some of the aged compost from the chicken barn.  This was not screened, it was just taken from the pile...again, I wet it down well...
Now, let me back up a minute.  I have had a small worm bin in the house for the past 3 1/2 years!  These worms were really needing a new place to live.  My plan is to put them into the worm tub outside during the spring, summer and fall.  Then, as temperatures start to approach freezing, I will take them out of the tub and put them back into the bin and bring them inside for the winter.  I got my initial worms from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm and they are red wigglers.
I dumped out the worm bin into the tub.  
There was a lot of good vermicompost in the tub!  Vermicompost is like black gold for your garden.  It is the compost that the worms make.  I put it out in a layer on top of all the bedding.  I am going to go back in and harvest some of this vermicompost out later to make worm tea...that blog post will be coming out in a couple weeks...
I pulled back the vermicompost and put a little food in for the worms.  They will also eat the bedding (cardboard and newspaper).  I save a tub of vegetable scraps during the week and when it gets full, I put it into the freezer.  Then, I bring it out, thaw it, and feed the worms.  It looks like they are getting carrot and celery scraps this week...
I covered up the food scraps and put a thick layer of shredded newspaper on top.  I watered down the newspaper.
Then, I just covered it with some cardboard.  I just wanted to put some type of "lid" on top to slow down any evaporation.  I regularly water the worm bin and feed them food scraps each week.
So...why go through all this trouble...what good is a worm bin?  
I have a few reasons for keeping worms:
1.  helps recycle food waste into an organic fertilizer that is rich in microbial activity
2.  makes a rich organic fertilizer that is easily taken up by plants
3.  great high protein chicken food
4.  reduces the need for pesticides (more about that in the worm tea blog)
5.  vermicompost helps with water retention in the soil and releases nutrients slowly to plants

As I mentioned earlier, I will keep the worms outside most of the year but when it starts to get cold, I will be able to harvest some worms out and feed them to the chickens.  I will then take a handful and put them back into the worm bin and bring them inside for the winter.  Of course, I will be able to take the vermicompost out of the tub and apply it to the garden.  I can use the worms from the bin to "inoculate" the worm tub the next spring.  

We are going to get a heat wave this week so I put some shade cloth over the tub and I put my compost thermometer in so I can keep an eye on the temperatures.  The worms will die if they get too hot or too cold.  If I notice that it is getting too hot, I will take some worms out and bring them back inside the house until this heat wave breaks. 

One of the most amazing things about vermicomposting is making worm tea.  I will have an entire blog post about how to make worm tea and all the great benefits of worm tea in a couple weeks...

Have an eggcellent day!
~Denise



Sunday, June 13, 2021

Lovage

 In the Herb Garden

Going to keep this short and sweet because I have been busy with getting the garden planted and taking care of the meat chickens.  This week, I thought I would highlight one of my favorite new herbs...lovage!  Lovage is a perennial herb plant that tastes like celery.  I will be honest, I am not sure how or where I heard about lovage, but I just remember that once I heard about it, I just had to get one to put in my herb garden.  I found one in Spokane when Henry and I went out for a date night to watch The Biggest Little Farm movie in June 2019.  It was on the way home from this date night that we hit a deer with our minivan and it got totaled.  Then, I got my pickup!  That was a memorable evening and I can't imagine trying to take care of Mark's girls with a minivan.  Last time we picked up feed it was a half ton in the bed of the pickup...that never would have fit in the minivan.  But, I digress...

I wanted to mention that, if you live locally in Moscow, ID, I saw some lovage plants at Fiddler's Ridge Nursery.

I planted the lovage in the herb garden and it has done well.  This spring, it really came to life!  It was over 6 feet tall!  I had no idea it would get so big!  I should have taken a pic before I cut it down but I didn't think to do that at the time.  Here is a pic after I cut it back...it is still really big!
I brought it inside and picked the leaves off of the stalks.  The stalks are kind of stiff so I did not bother to try and dry them.  I placed the leaves on drying racks and let them dehydrate overnight.  This will go into the herb blend that I make to feed to the girls this winter.
You can eat the leaves, stalks, seeds, and even roots!  It can be dried or frozen to store and use in soups or stews.  As I mentioned earlier, it has a strong celery flavor so use it any recipe where you would put celery.  You can make a tea from the leaves, use it to make a flavored vinegar or flavored salt, sauté the roots to be served as a side dish, or use the stalks to make an old fashioned candy!  Recently, I added some to our vegetable lasagna and it was delicious.

Lovage has several therapeutic benefits too.  Taken from theherbalacademy.com:

Lovage has been used in infusions, tinctures, decoctions, vinegars, elixirs, lozenges, and bath and foot soaks.

All parts of the lovage plant have been used therapeutically (and culinarily). Teas of the leaf and stalk were common and used for sore throats and tonsil problems, rheumatism/arthritis, jaundice, and for digestion. Lovage is known to be a diuretic and was considered good for kidney stones and to increase the flow of urine (Wood, 2007).

The roots were used in salves for skin problems and put in bath water for aching joints or skin problems.

The seeds, collected when ripe, were chewed on for digestion and gas.

At one time boils were treated with the lovage leaves fried in oil and used as a poultice.

Lovage is in the same family as osha (Ligusticum porter) and therefore, some herbalists consider it as possible lung ailment relief (Wood, 2007).

Lovage is good for the chickens too!  It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and can promote respiratory health.  It is also a blood detoxifier.  Lovage has been used for medicinal properties for centuries!

So, that is it...short and sweet...we are enjoying the warmer weather and out in the garden a lot lately.  Hope your garden is growing well!
~Denise



Sunday, May 30, 2021

Duck eggs for sale at the Moscow Food Co-op and farm insurance...ReMARKable Eggs coming to Farmer's Market...

 On the Farm

When starting Mark's business, we wanted to make sure we had multiple avenues available for selling the eggs.  You probably already know that he has an egg delivery route.  He LOVES doing egg delivery each Wednesday!  He also sells duck eggs at a local farm store called Wingover Farm.  

As you might guess, another way to sell eggs is through a grocery store.  We decided to look into selling duck eggs at our local food co-op.  We read through all the "rules".  Mark would need to get liability insurance.  This is to protect him if someone were to purchase his eggs and get sick.  Years ago, I think it was in 2017, I had actually attended a presentation about farm liability insurance.  I can't believe that I actually found the information from that presentation but I did!  In early September 2020, I called the presenter to get help getting the liability insurance.  The lady that had done the presentation said she would get me in touch with an insurance broker that could help us.  It seemed confusing because I thought that she was the one that was going to provide us the insurance.  But, what do I know, this is all new to me.  

The insurance broker called me and I gave him the information.  Mostly, he wanted to know how many poultry we had.  He started looking around and the weeks ticked by.  At one point, he said that he found a provider but that they wanted to see our Farm Safety Plan.  I spent the better part of an afternoon putting together Mark's Farm Safety Plan.  I guess it was not convincing because they backed out.  Actually, now that I think about it more, I think they wanted us to show the past 3 years of finances. This is impossible to do because the business was less than a year old!  This came up more than once.  How do they expect a farm to grow and get business to show finances if it does not have insurance to protect itself.  Kind of a chicken and the egg situation...Finally, after about a month, the insurance broker just said he could not locate anyone that would be willing to insure Mark's business.  He is too small and too new for most insurance companies to want to deal with an egg business.

Okay, now I had to start making calls.  I just googled "farm insurance and Idaho" and started calling every listing that popped up.  Finally, after about a month, I located 2 companies that were willing to actually provide insurance!  The first quote was several hundred dollars (like close to $1000)!  I was in shock!  I was like, Mark is not even going to make that much money selling the eggs until he is in full production.  Luckily, the other company we had contacted had a much more reasonable quote.

The company is COUNTRY Financial and Mark's agent is Crystal Wendt.  Naturally, the company wanted all of our business.  This means that we had to switch our auto and home insurance over to their company.  A small price to pay for the ability to get insurance to cover Mark's egg business.  A great advantage of the COUNTRY Financial insurance is that it is actually "farm" insurance.  So, all the barns and coops are covered too!  I even added our automatic gate onto the insurance (because we just had someone back into it and it cost almost $2000 to fix!).  

Now that we had the insurance, Mark could take eggs to sell at the Moscow Food Co-op!  Yeah!!!
Here is a close up of the eggs in the cooler for sale...
This was so eggciting and such an amazing milestone!  It is a nice advantage to take a cooler full of eggs to one location, drop them off, and get paid!  It is great to serve our community this way.  I am pretty sure that Mark is the only one selling duck eggs at the Co-op.  I think people are catching on.  We brought 10 of the 6 packs last Tuesday and they were sold out by Saturday!
Crystal has been great to work with.  She came out to the farm and took inventory of everything.  She is very responsive to any and all questions that we have.  I highly recommend her services if you are looking for insurance in north Idaho.  

I want to also give a big THANK YOU to Stepping Stones.  Last fall, Mark got a grant from Stepping Stones to help cover the expense of the insurance.  If it were not for this grant, he probably would have had to wait to start selling at the Co-op but these monies made it happen!  Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

The insurance broker just called me 2 weeks ago!  He had another client that was doing something similar to Mark and wanted to know if we had ever located insurance!  Too funny!  I'm glad he called and I could give him the information to help another small farmer.

Where to buy ReMARKable Eggs

To recap, here is where you can purchase ReMARKable Eggs.

1. Off farm: just contact Denise at remarkablefarms@gmail.com and let me know what kind of eggs you want and when you want to stop by and pick them up

2. Moscow delivery route: contact Denise at remarkablefarms@gmail.com to learn more information about the delivery route.  We only serve the city limits of Moscow right now.  We may start a delivery route in Pullman at some point but not for a couple years...

3. Moscow Food Co-op: Only duck eggs are sold at the Co-op in 6 packs.  We stop in often to make sure that there is always inventory there.

4. Moscow Farmers Market: we were not going to go to the Market this year but that has changed.  We will start going about every other week starting June 5th.  We don't have enough inventory to go to the Market every week at this point...maybe next year if the chicken coop gets built and we get more chickens!  If you are interested in coming to the Market for eggs, make sure to like the Facebook page.  We will always post to FB on the Saturdays that we are going to be at the Market.

Have an eggcellent day!
~Denise

Sunday, May 16, 2021

What is bugging the girls?

 In the Coop

I had noticed that a couple of the ducks just have not looked "right" lately.  I have been watching them and they seem to have lots of energy but their feathers were all matted.  I picked one up and I saw a lot of white looking dander at the base of the feathers.  I didn't actually see any lice but it seems that this may be the issue.  It was mostly in the older ducks.  I have also noticed that the older chickens seem to have patches of feathers missing.  It is not the right time of year for them to go through a molt so I am not sure why they would be losing their feathers.  The conclusion is that the girls had feather lice.
Chicken standing in wood ash dust bath
I started looking for ideas of how to treat the girls.  Dusting the girls with something like diatomaceous earth (DE) would help to kill the pests.  Food grade diatomaceous earth is useful to reduce internal and external parasites (such as worms, lice and mites).  We actually put DE on the girls food once a month so they eat some to help keep any internal parasites (worms) from becoming a problem.  DE also contains trace minerals that are beneficial to poultry.  You can use the DE to dust the outside of the birds to help kill any mites or lice.  The DE is a desiccant and will dry out and kill the little buggers.  Adding DE to a dust bath is a great way to help the chickens stay lice/mite free.

The idea of dusting each bird (we have about 120 total poultry) seemed pretty overwhelming.  So, after consulting YouTube University, I found that many people use ivermectin to treat poultry.  I went to the local farm store and bought some Ivermectin right off the shelf, no prescription needed.
As you may notice from this pic, this medication is for cattle.  They don't actually make it for poultry.  Obviously, treating poultry with ivermectin is considered an "off label" use.  I put some of the medication in a small bottle with a dropper.  Then, I took it out to the ducks in the evening.  I had all the ducks in the paddock and closed the door to the run.  Then, I ran around and picked up each duck, lifted the feathers up on the back of their necks and applied 2-4 drops of the medicine.  The medicine is meant to absorb through their skin and into the bloodstream.  After 10 days, you have to repeat the treatment.  This is to kill any eggs that may have hatched after the initial treatment that escaped.  Here is a video of me trying to catch the ducks to give them their treatment...

When giving medication to animals, there is sometimes a "withdrawal" period.  For example, after treatment, you should have a withdrawal period of 7 days and not eat any of the eggs during that time.  Since this is an off label use of this medication, there are no official guidelines for this.  I did see several sites mention the 7 day withdrawal timeline.

For over 25 years, ivermectin has been used to treat parasitic infections in mammals, with a good safety profile and is generally well tolerated.  If you, personally, got a parasitic worm infection, your doctor would prescribe ivermectin.  I find it interesting that ivermectin is being studied as a medication to be used for COVID-19 treatment.  In our home, we are not observing the withdrawal period but we contacted all our regular egg customers to let them know of the treatment so they could make their own decision.  

Where did these pests come from?  Well, they are everywhere in the environment.  Wild birds can carry them.  I have seen quail and magpie in the run on several occasions.  Providing swim water to ducks gives them the opportunity to bathe and preen themselves to keep themselves clean and avoid pests.  We always provide water for the ducks.  Even in the winter, they have smaller tubs of water that they can get in and bathe.
Chickens will dust bathe in the dirt to keep pests off them.  The chickens have lots of opportunities to dust bathe outside.  I did put a container of wood ash into their barn (see pic at top of blog).  Wood ash particles are very fine so they can get up in their feathers and suffocate the pests.  
I feel like we have been doing everything correctly.  The ducks have access to water and the chickens have plenty of areas to dust bathe.  These things just happen.  Hoping the treatment works and we can have healthy girls again!

Have an eggcellent day!
~Denise






Sunday, May 2, 2021

New look coming to jams and jellies...

 In the Kitchen

A few months ago, my friend, Allison, called me and asked if I would like some jelly jars.  Well, of course I would!  She knew of a person that had some jars that he bought decades ago and was ready to get rid of them.  The story goes a little like this...  

Marv Obenauf had a business idea to sell a spread of honey with nuts in it.  He ordered some special hexagon shaped jars.  (If you didn't know, bees honeycomb are hexagon shaped so I assume that is why he wanted to use these specially shaped jars.)  Once he had the jars, Marv started working on a label.  Unfortunately, the labels were going to be SO expensive that it made the venture unrealistic.  

We can relate to this issue.  Egg cartons and labels are super expensive.  We are fortunate that a lot of our delivery customers save their egg cartons and we can re-use them a few times.  We also take back jelly jars to re-use.  Yeah for recycling!

Mr. Obenuaf then had a different idea and that was to make leather conditioner made with beeswax.  Obenauf's Your Best Leather Protection can now be found at various farm stores and Cabella's throughout the country!  I think he made a good business decision in going with the leather conditioner.  BUT he still had all those jars from the honey idea that he needed to get rid of.  So, one Sunday afternoon, we jumped into the pickup and headed to Peck, Idaho and loaded up the bed with jars!  What a generous gift and we are so grateful for the opportunity to take these jars off his hands.
Some of the jars had the honey/nut mixture in them.  I just opened them all up and scraped out the honey mixture.  I gave it to Alison and she is going to feed it back to her bees.  Alison also got some of the jars.  I think maybe she is going to make some lavender infused honey...if I remember correctly...
I did a test run with the new jars and made some raspberry jammy and they worked great!  They have special sealing lids.  I already looked and found that I could buy replacement lids and they are not too expensive.  This may be helpful because I still have not been able to find any "regular" size canning lids at the stores!

The only downside is that the jars are 4 and 6 ounces.  I usually place a label on the lid identifying the contents of the jar.  The lids are pretty small so there is not enough room to put our logo.  I want to avoid putting a label on the actual jar because it can be challenging to scrape off the sticker to re-use the jar.  On the bright side, we have several hundred jars so it will take several years to make enough jam/jelly to use all these jars up!  What an amazing gift!

Did you know...

I did make some Dandelion Jelly that is going in the farm store today!  Surprisingly, Dandelion Jelly actually tastes a lot like honey.
Have a sweet day!
~Denise