Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Finally collected some honey and rendered some beeswax! Hops and honeybees and chickens...

 In the Hive

The last couple of years have not been good "bee" years.  The spring has been too cool or too rainy.  We have 3 hives and one died last summer which is really odd for it to die that time of year.  Usually, the bees have a hard time making it through the winter.  And that is what happened this past winter...one of the other hives died.  So...I went in and harvested the honey and wax...Ollie helped me...
I don't have a fancy extractor so I use a crush and strain method.  
I didn't get a pic of the bottling, but basically, there is a spout at the bottom of the yellow bucket and I just put a jar under it and fill it up.  Then, I got busy rendering down the honeycomb.  I put it into a big double boiler and let it melt down.
Then, I place cheesecloth over the top of a cardboard milk carton and poor the melted honeycomb through the cheesecloth and let it set up.  Voila...beeswax...I will use this when I make the herbal salves!

Keeping it short and "sweet" this time...pun intended. This was a pretty simplified explanation of the honey and wax collection.  I have done several more detailed blog posts about honey and wax rendering in the past and if you just search for "honey" in the blog, they should show up for you.  It has been at least 3 years since I have been able to collect honey/wax so I thought it would be good to review!  

Got 2 sets of new bees in mid-April so they are busy working on the farm now...the apple blossoms have just opened this past week!
The bees have been enjoying the daffodils!
I planted hops near the chicken and duck coops last year.   They grew but did not get very big.  I think because it was just the first year and they were getting established.  This spring they are taking off so I put up some wires to train the vines.  I am trying to get the vines to go over the top of the run to provide some shade in the summer.  I will keep you posted on this project...
I have read that hops contain a hop beta acids which is like kryptonite to varroa mites.  Varroa mites are deadly to honeybees.  I think if the bees interact with the hop flowers, maybe they could get the hop beta acid on them and bring it back to the hive?  It sounds like it is in the preliminary testing phase.  Also, I read that you can pick and dry the hop flowers and feed them to your chickens and they have some antibacterial effect in the chicken gut.  Well, we will see if I get around to picking any hop flowers.  I have zero interest in making beer...would rather make wine.  I mostly just wanted the hops for the shade because they are known to be a super fast growing plants.

Things are really picking up here on the farm...and Zach is off for the summer so I am going to be extra busy with Mark.  Therefore, this will be the last blog post until the fall when things start to get more manageable...I post almost everyday on Facebook so like "Remarkable Farms" on FB and you can keep up with the day-to-day activities of the farm.

Have an eggcellent day and summer!

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Birdhouse Gourds made into bird houses!

 In the Garden

About 3 years ago, I decided to try something new and grow some birdhouse gourds.  I guess I must have had some bad seed that first year because nothing grew.  I tried again the next year and got a lot of nice, good sized gourds!  I harvested them and brought them inside to dry down.  They are green when you pick them but then turn brown and become hollow as they dry down.  Here are some gourds growing in the strawberry patch...
I find the flowers of the birdhouse gourd absolutely gorgeous!  They are frilly and delicate!  The bees love them!
Here are the gourds I harvested in 2021...
I took them into the house and set them out to dry down...it took months!  I don't know what I was expecting but I guess I thought it would be faster.  
Slowly, the green started to turn to brown...
Then, some even peeled and shed their outer layers.  I read that this is normal.  
Some fungus started growing on them and, again, I had read that this is a normal part of the "aging" process...
Finally, they were dried down and so I scrubbed all the fungus off...
Then, I used a drill to make a hole in the front and made holes in the top to put in a string to use as a hanger.  I then, used leather dye to "paint" them different colors!  From left to right, these are orange, green, mahogany, and light tan (which is the most natural color).
I will have these for sale at the Farmer's Market.  I think I am just going to sell them by size...2 inches per height.  While doing some research, I discovered that there are also Apple gourds that are shaped like a big apple and Martin gourds that look like a big pear.  I ordered some seed of each of these and we will see how they grow this year!

Have an eggcellent day!

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Spelling 2 Communicate!!!


Buckle up...this is going to be a long one but probably one of the most important blog posts I have ever  written and it is 12 years in the making (maybe 20 years if you consider Mark's age).  April is Autism Awareness Month and I am going to make you "aware" of one of the most debilitating symptoms of autism for Mark.  Speech and language difficulties.  Mark can say some words for things that he really wants.  For example, he can say "pizza", "cheese", "swimming", "bike ride", "egg delivery", etc...BUT, you are not going to sit down and have a conversation with him.  I rely on his body language to help me determine how he is feeling most of the time...is he content...is he getting upset...is he happy...is he sad.  AND it is more than speech troubles....It is hard to explain, but it also involves motor planning challenges.  He knows what he wants to do but he can't make his body do it.  How frustrating!  Can you imagine being trapped in a body that is not working like you want?  I have been seeking to teach Mark a better communication strategy for years!  Something that is compatible with the motor planning that he can do...
In 2011, a movie called Wretches and Jabberers came out and it was about a couple of men who learned to type for communication and set out on a global road trip to change people's minds about disability.  I wanted this for Mark...not the global road trip part...the communication part.  I even went to a conference in Syracuse, NY during the summer of 2014 to learn more about the technique.  One of the keynote speakers was Naoki Higashida (pic below).  He is nonspeaking and lives in Japan.  He typed a book called The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism.  There is even a movie made from the book and you can watch it on Netflix now! 
Typing for communication is a form of augmentation communication and it can be controversial.  I don't really have time here to go into the controversy here.  The conference was inspiring but they didn't go into a lot of the logistics of "how" to teach the typing for communication.  BUT that did not stop me, I tried to teach Mark how to type for communication by myself when he was in Middle school. We would work at it every morning before he went to school but we never had a breakthrough where he could independently type by himself.  We even went to a local speech therapist that I had heard had some training in augmented communication.  She just flat out told me that Mark would not be able to learn it.  I don't know why she thought this.  I don't think people should make blanket statements like that.  It was rough...many tears...

Then, in 2017, we got ready to buy the farm and get Mark’s egg business going, we were having issues with our other son, Joshua, and communication fell off the priority list.

In spring 2022, I got a text from a parent that has a child with autism. I used to be the child's support broker and helped their family to get services set up for him several years ago.  He reminds me a lot of Mark when Mark was younger.  Mom told me that there was a lady in town teaching spelling for communication. She knew I had tried to teach Mark to type for communication at one point.  I was intrigued by this new possibility but it was spring and I was crazy busy getting things planted on the farm...

The next month, Mark and I were at Spence, we call it the “farm store,” to buy some supplies.  After paying for our items, we walked out to the parking lot and there was a young man there waiting to speak with us.  He said he worked at the Jubilee School.  I know that this is a school for children with autism.  He said that there is a lady there teaching kids how to spell for communication.  He said her name was Cynthia.  Then, I remembered my friend's text and I pulled it up and it was the same contact info. 

Okay, okay…when a perfect stranger comes up to you and gives you this kind of information...I saw this as a sign.  I didn’t need another prompt from above…I called Cynthia immediately and got us set up to start Spelling 2 Communicate (S2C).  If you click on the link, you will be directed to a webpage with several videos explaining S2C.  There is a video labeled "Overview of Spelling to Communicate" and it is good to watch and only about 4 minutes long.  I will attempt to explain it more here...

Speech, talking with your mouth, is a fine motor skill. Getting your mouth and tongue to contort into different shapes to make different sounds is hard work that most of us take for granted.  Basically, S2C is turning a fine motor activity into a gross motor activity.  In S2C, the speller uses their whole arm and a pencil to point to letters on a board.  This is the gross motor activity.  They spell out what they want to say one letter at a time.  Let me also note that when you start S2C, you work with the alphabet on 3 different boards.  This reduces the options for the speller and helps to develop the motor control needed to point to the correct letter.  As the speller gets more practice, they can be moved to 1 board with all the letters of the alphabet on it.

Cynthia started working with Mark in June 2022. Of course, it started out a little rough. Mark had been out of school for 2 years at this point and we were not doing any type of “table” work at home. Table work is when you sit down and work on teaching a new skill.  So…it took several sessions for Mark to learn to just sit and work at a desk again. 

Each session is similar, they start with a lesson plan.  The lesson can be about almost anything...hiking, music, art, advocacy, etc.  They read the first paragraph of the lesson and certain words are spelled out.  Then, it is Mark's turn to spell out the designated spelling words from the passage.  After about 3 spelling words, he is asked a "closed" question.  A closed question is a question with only one correct answer.  It is based on the passage that was just read.  

Cynthia did all the “work” at first and we met with her once a week.  It seemed that things were going slow.  I was so excited to start working with Mark myself because then we could get in more practice time each week.  Finally, in September, she started teaching me to work with Mark at her office and then in October we started on our own at home. 

At first it went well.  Then, Mark started having some behaviors when we worked. He started attacking me and this caused a lot of anxiety for both of us.  I let Cynthia know what was going on and we re-grouped and worked through this period.  I have videotaped most all of our lessons and will be slowly putting them out on our YouTube after this blog post goes out.  Here is an example of Mark's aggression towards me at the 12 minute mark of this video.  It may be hard to watch.  I know I don't like watching it and I was there when it happened...this is Session 7...
We were able to get back on track but it was so upsetting and things were moving so slowly.  Also, I had recently finished reading a book titled Underestimated: An Autism Miracle by Jamison and J. B. Hanley.  The book is about a young man, that was a little younger than Mark, and his journey to learn S2C.  He seemed to pick it up right from the first lesson.  I was happy for this young man but it made it hard to see Mark struggling to learn this new way to communicate. 
Things slowly improved through the holidays and soon we were back on track.  In January, he was actually smiling through his lessons with Cynthia.  This was great to see because it definitely did not start this way last June!  One obstacle that we have to work through is that Mark is very “prompt” dependent.  He always waits patiently for you to direct him for what to do.  It took 2 years for me to get him to feed the chickens by himself while I went into the other coop.  At first, he would just stand there and do nothing when I left.  But slowly over time, I convinced him that it was okay to keep working while I was out of sight.  BUT typing independently is going to require him to take the initiative and spell on his own.  

Here is a video of our 42nd session...things are going much better now...
February 20...it happened.  Mark was working with Cynthia and spelled out a whole sentence of his own words!!!  This is called "open" communication.  They were working on a lesson about art and paintings.  She asked him, "What colors would you use to paint with?" and he spelled, "I would use red, orange and some roses."  If I wasn't sitting right there, I wouldn't have believed it.  We have been limping along for months with one word answers and now a whole, open sentence!!!
It is common for the individual to be more "open" with the facilitator at first.  I have not been able to get any open sentences from Mark myself but we are working on answering the questions in sentence form instead of single words.  When Mark works with Cynthia, sometimes he is very emotional, almost crying.  He is finally getting a voice and, I think, this is almost overwhelming for him.  We are still in the beginnings of this journey but I am so hopeful and want to let everyone know about this amazing technique!

I am working with a group of individuals to bring a documentary movie to our town.  It is called SPELLERS and it is about several individuals that use spelling to communicate!  It is based on the book that I mentioned earlier, Underestimated: An Autism Miracle.  Here is the trailer for the movie...
As I mentioned, this is just a group of people putting together a free showing for the public to let everyone know about S2C.  If you live near Moscow, Idaho...please feel free to come!  We may have codes to give out to people that do not live in the area so they can watch it on-demand...more info to come on that option...
There will be Continuing Education credit available for medical professionals and educators!
As mentioned on the flyer, there will be a Question and Answer Panel after the showing of the movie.  I am going to be on that panel with Cynthia and the mom that I mentioned earlier in this post...that initially told me about Cynthia and S2C last March.  

The other boy that started S2C with Cynthia is much more "open" than Mark.  A couple of days ago, Cynthia was working with him...she told him about Mark's recent open spelling.  She asked, "Is there a message you would like to give him? What do you want Mark to hear from you?"  He used his letterboard to give his reply:


Everyone needs to know about S2C!  We estimate that it is going to cost close to $3000 to show this movie.  IF you would like to support this project, please make a donation to our GoFundMe.  If you do donate, please mention Mark in your comments or "words of support" on the Go Fund Me page.  
We are calling our group "Palouse Friends of Spellers".  There are 10 of us working on this movie showing.  I already got some good news this past week that the Dean of the College of Education at U of I sent out the information to everyone in the Department!  I will be putting links to all this information on the ReMARKable Farms Facebook page.  If you see the information about the movie on the FB, please share it to your personal FB page.  We appreciate any help in getting the word out!  The Kenworthy will seat 268 people and we want every seat filled!

Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, I am going to start putting out all the videos that I have recorded of me and Mark working together on our YouTube channel.  If you Subscribe to the YouTube, I think you get an email each day when the new video posts.  I am going to release one video each day.  So far, we have 65 recorded so there will be at least a couple of months of new videos each day.  The camera automatically shuts off at the 20 minute mark so that is how long they are.  They are not terribly exciting.  I don't expect people to actually sit down and watch every video.  It is just to show how this technique works and you will slowly see the progress we are making.  AND remember, we are doing our best.  I am not a professionally trained facilitator.  These are not high quality films.  Just me and Mark doing our best to learn a new skill...please, say a prayer for our journey!

Also, remember that I am not a professional writer...I am hoping this all made sense but, please, reach out if you have any questions.  I would LOVE to talk with you about S2C!!!  This is a lot of information from the past 12 years and it was challenging for me to try and put it together in a coherent way...

Have an eggcellent day!
P.S. I do have 3 other "open" sentences that Mark has written and I will be posting them, and any new spelling he does, on the ReMARKable Farms Facebook page!

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Marian Pilgrimmage

 In Wisconsin...

...there is a site of a Marian apparition that occurred in 1859.  A Marian apparition is when Mary, Jesus mother, appears to someone.  She usually has a message.  There are many apparitions in Europe but only one that has been approved by the church in the United States and that is just outside Champion, Wisconsin.  I learned about this apparition in January and I just really wanted to go!  I asked my mom if she would like to meet me there and we made our plans.  It was a short trip, we both flew into Green Bay on Sunday, March 12th.  We spent all of Monday, March 13th at the apparition site and then we both flew back to our homes on Tuesday.  My mom lives in Kansas and I live in Idaho, if you didn't know...here is a pic of us!
Denise and Terry visiting Our Lady of Good Help Shrine

Here is the story of the apparition.  This is taken directly from the website of The National Shrine to Our Lady of Good Help  You can read more on the website about Adele's mission and a miraculous fire that happened at the site...

"The Seer

Adele Brise (Brice) was born in Belgium to Lambert and Catherine Brise on January 30, 1831. Although she suffered an accident at a young age that left her blind in her right eye, those who knew her best describe her cheerfulness, fervent piety, and simple religious ways.

Upon receiving her first Holy Communion, Adele and a few close friends promised the Blessed Virgin Mary that they would devote their lives to becoming religious teaching sisters in Belgium. However, this promise grew difficult to keep when her parents decided to move to America alongside other Belgium settlers. After seeking advice from her confessor, she was told to be obedient to her parents. He assured her that if the Lord willed her to become a teacher and a sister, she would serve in that vocation in America.

After the six-week voyage to America, the Brise family joined the largest Belgian settlement – near present-day Champion, Wisconsin. Belgian pioneers’ and settlers’ lives were difficult, and many died in the harsh Wisconsin winters. Adele served her family’s needs by often taking grain to the grist mill.

The Apparition

While walking along a trail in the woods, Adele saw a lady dressed in white, standing between two trees believed to be a maple and hemlock. Although the mysterious woman stayed silent, it left Adele wondering what sort of encounter it may have been. When Adele told her family, they believed her but thought perhaps it was a soul in purgatory visiting this earthly life asking for prayers.

A few days later, on what is believed to be Sunday, October 9, 1859, Adele walked to Mass with her sister and a friend. The church was 10 miles away from home, but Adele made the journey every Sunday, no matter the weather. Along the same path, Adele saw the mysterious lady standing in the same spot between the two trees. However, Adele being the only one to see her, she and her companions continued their journey to Mass.

After Mass, Adele spoke to her parish priest, and he instructed her that if the lady appeared to her again to ask the question, “In God’s name, who are you and what do you want of me?”

On her journey home, Adele saw the lady for the third time. As she and her companions approached the hallowed spot, Adele could see the beautiful lady, clothed in dazzling white, with a yellow sash around her waist. Her dress fell to her feet in graceful folds. She had a crown of stars around her head, and her long golden wavy hair fell loosely over her shoulders. The lady had such a heavenly light around her that Adele could hardly look at her face. Overcome by the light, Adele fell to her knees and said, “In God’s name, who are you, and what do you want of me?”

The lady replied, “I am the Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same. You received Holy Communion this morning and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners. If they do not convert and do penance, my Son will be obliged to punish them.”

Adele’s companions, unable to see Our Lady asked, “Adele, who is it? Why can’t we see her as you do?”

“Kneel,” said Adele, “the Lady says she is the Queen of Heaven.”

The Blessed Lady gazed kindly upon them, saying, “Blessed are they that believe without seeing.” Then, looking toward Adele, the Queen of Heaven asked, “What are you doing here in idleness while your companions are working in the vineyard of my Son?”

“What more can I do, dear Lady?” asked Adele, weeping.

“Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation.”

“But how shall I teach them who know so little myself?” Adele said.

Teach them,” replied her radiant visitor, “their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the Cross, and how to approach the sacraments; that is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing, I will help you.

Then, wrapped as it were in a luminous atmosphere, Our Lady lifted her hands as though she were beseeching a blessing for those at her feet. Slowly, she vanished from sight, leaving Adele overwhelmed and prostrated on the ground.

This was the simple beginning of Adele’s mission to become a teacher for the Lord and the Blessed Lady."

Here is a picture of Our Lady of Good Help (above).  In this apparition, Mary has golden hair and wears a white dress with golden shash.

What We Did

When we got there, we went into the Mercy Hall (that is the first pic in this blog above).  There was actually a traveling display about Carlo AcutisEucharistic Miracles of the World.  Click on Carlo's name to watch a video about him.  Click on the website title to go to the website.  This is a website that has logged over 150 Eucharistic Miracles.  I had found one of the Miracles online and then found it in the display.  It was about Teresa Neumann and her birthday is April 8 (Just like my mom, Teresa (but she goes by Terry, who also has a birthday on April 8th!).  I liked Teresa Neumann because she fasted and I am really into spiritual fasting.  We also watched a short film about Carlos Acutis.  I have heard that there is a local miracle in Moscow, Idaho that may be attributed towards his sainthood!  So cool!
After checking out the display, we headed to the chapel and prayed a rosary and attended Mass.  Then, we had lunch.  After lunch, we came back to check out the Welcome Center and I saw this cool image.  
Here is a pic of it showing the church approved apparition sites around the world.  There are 15 on this world map.  As I noted before, most of them are in Europe, one in Mexico, one in South America, one in Africa and one in Japan.  Now, these are just church approved...there are many, many more that have not been church approved.
I think we walked around back of the chapel after that.  There was a walking rosary and there was also some Stations of the Cross but it was cold and windy so we just quickly walked through.  There was also this neat little, tiny chapel.  When the immigrants were coming to settle the new land, it was not easy to get to church each Sunday.  As you may have read above, it was a 10 mile walk, one way, to get to church for Adele.  So, people would build these little tiny chapels on their property to have a place to pray and anyone could visit the chapel.
After the walk, we went to the oratory where the actual apparition took place.  I did not take this picture.  I got it off their website.  It was all dark in there when we visited.  We lit some candles and filled out some prayer intention cards and prayed for everyone I could think of.
After that, we hit the gift shop and kept them late.  They were like, we close at 4:00 and it was 4:20!  There was so much good stuff in there!  It was probably good that our shopping time got cut short...would have spent too much money!

Then, we went back to the hotel and watched the movie, Father Stu.  If you have not seen this movie, check it out!  I just love it!  It is on Netflix right now.

Then, we had to get up early the next day and head back to the airport!  Super quick but lovely trip!

Have an eggcellent day!

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Goose eggs! A seasonal delicacy!

In the Goose Yard

A couple of weeks ago, I could tell that Golly, the gander (male) goose, was starting to hiss a little more than "normal".  Then, I noticed on a homesteading FB page that someone said they had goose eggs for sale!  

I dug out our goose nest boxes.  I had Logan make these about 3 years ago!  Finally time to put them to use!  I filled them with straw and put them into the run.  I was not sure if I should put them in the run or in their little goose coop.  BUT, we don't want to have any baby geese this year.  I had read that you should not let them sit on the eggs the first year.  Just like other poultry, they lay pullet (smaller) eggs when they first begin to lay.  You don't want to have these smaller eggs develop chicks because the goslings will then me smaller and less likely to thrive.  Therefore, we want to collect and eat all the goose eggs this year and I thought it would be easier to collect the eggs with the nest boxes in the run area.  I tucked them in under an apple tree.

After putting the nest boxes out, I filled them with straw.  Nothing seemed to happen at first and then I noticed that the ladies had built up the sides and made a nice little nest inside the nest box.  There are no bottoms to the nest boxes so they rest on the ground which should be more forgiving once a heavy goose is sitting on eggs.  I kept checking and then finally, I saw a small bit of white in one of the boxes!  Sure enough…it was a goose egg!  

The first goose egg!

Now, letting the geese out in the morning has been pretty interesting lately because they try to come right at me!  I make sure to have all the feed and water ready and then I lower the ramp and run to get over the fence.  They really come out honking!  

Surprisingly, they go to bed pretty well but once they get up in the coop, you better get that ramp back up quickly because Golly turns around and comes charging!  One night when I was putting them to bed, I noticed a big mound of straw in the coop.  It seems that they have made a nest in their coop too!  I had to leave for a short trip so the next day, Henry distracted the geese while Joshua went into the coop and found another egg!

So…what can you do with a goose egg?  You eat it!  One goose egg is the same as 3 chicken eggs or 2 duck eggs! I have read that they taste more “eggy” and am can be baked or cooked the same as chicken/duck eggs.  Goose eggs are richer, fattier and heavier than chicken eggs and will have nice dark yellow yolks.  Geese are herbivores so they only eat plants.  Also, the yolk to white ratio is 1:1 which means that there is lots of yolk!  Goose eggs really shine in custards or homemade egg noodles!

Lastly, the shell is much thicker and you are really going to have to whack it to crack it!  If you are careful enough to blow the contacts out, goose eggs are great for crafting!

Most geese just lay in the spring (I think there is one breed that also lays in the fall) and will lay between 20-40 eggs depending on the breed.  Geese lay white eggs and they hide them by putting straw on top of them. 

I am going to make a coconut custard pie with one of the goose eggs today!
Have an eggcellent day!

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Starting sweet potato slips

 In the Basement

It's time to start sweet potato slips!  I usually start them the end of February because it takes a while for them to grow.  Also, we have such a short growing season that you want a nice good sized plant to put out in the garden so it can get growing quickly.  

To start, you need a sweet potato.  I go to the Moscow Food Co-op to get my sweet potatoes.  I got 3 different kinds this year...garnet, purple and jewel.  I have tried a white flesh sweet potato the past couple of years but have not had much luck in getting it to sprout/grow.  Last year, I only got purple sweet potatoes to sprout so we had some purple sweet potatoes!  
First you have to get the sweet potato to sprout.  The idea is pretty simple, you cut the sweet potato in half and then stick toothpicks in it and hang in a jar of water.  Kind of like a second grade science experiment.  Then, you wait..

After a couple weeks, you will start to see little sprouts growing out of the sweet potato.  See the purple sweet potatoes on the right in this pic.  This is from last year....
Once the sprouts get about 6 inches long, you actually just twist them off at the base and put them into a different jar of water.  I usually put some waxed paper over the top of the jar, then poke a hole in the waxed paper, and stick the spout through so the bottom is in the water and the leaves are above the waxed paper.  Sorry, I don't have a pic of this.
Then, you wait a couple of weeks and the sprouts will start to grow their own roots.  When they have a good amount of roots on them, I take them out of the water jar and plant them in soil.  I keep them in the house until it gets warm enough to put them outside.  At the beginning of May, if the weather is nice, I start to put them outside to harden off.  I usually have to bring them back inside at night.  You do NOT want to leave them out if it is going to be close to freezing at night.  They will die!   
Plant them outside when the danger of frost has passed.  This is the end of May for Moscow, Idaho area.
They grew nicely out back in the garden but the tubers were really small!
I had planted some in front of our house where there is more sun and they did much better but the ground was really hard and I couldn't dig some of them out really well.  This is what I got...
To store sweet potatoes long term, you need to cure them and this involves high humidity and high heat for a couple of weeks.  We do not have these conditions here in the fall.  Therefore, I pretty much made mashed sweet potatoes and froze it into individual bags so that we could just take one of the bags out for special occasions.  Here I took the mashed sweet potatoes and added an egg and then piped them out into "flower" shapes and baked them for Valentine's dinner.  
Henry made me some raised beds to grow the sweet potatoes in this year in the space that gets the most sun and heat.  They are only 8 inches tall but I think this will help a lot for growing sweet potatoes.  Here is Allen packing down the compost so I can add more on top later...
That's it!  Really, it is not too difficult and there is more than one way to make your own sweet potato sprouts but I find this way to be pretty easy.  It's not too late to start your own sprouts!

Have an eggcellent day!

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Who says it doesn't pay to compost...a "lost and found" story...

 In the Compost Bin...

A couple of weeks ago, we had some fairly nice weather for the end of January.  I decided to take advantage and start filling up the raised beds in the garden.  Over the seasons, the compost in the beds settles and so you need to add more to the top of the bed so it is full to the top for the new plants and roots to grow this spring.  Now, I have to be honest, I never really even got around to putting the garden to bed last fall.  It was such a warm fall and all the plants were doing good.  Then, it finally got cold, really cold and I never got out to pull things up.  Therefore, I was pulling out old plants and then filling up the raised bed with chicken compost.  I dumped out one of the buckets and look what I found...
Okay...the compost that I was using was made from the chicken feathers and guts from chicken processing day in 2021!  That summer, my friend was helping with the eviscerating in the barn.  Eviscerating is a fancy word that means to pull the guts out of the chickens.  She was wearing her hubbies ring and it was a little loose on her finger.  We heard a "tink" and she knew immediately that the ring had slipped off her finger!  We thought it had hit the floor but there are huge cracks in the floorboards of the barn and rabbits have made tunnels under there and so that if it fell into one of the cracks it could be lost forever...
BUT as it turns out, the "tink" we heard was the ring falling into the gut bucket!  All the guts, feathers, and heads go into the pallet compost bin.  I took 4 pallets and tied them together to make a square.  This helps to keep the dogs from foraging in the scraps.  Also, when a chicken/duck dies, I "bury" them in this bin.  You can see it on the left in this pic...
The next summer, 2022, I took one pallet off and shoveled all the 2021 "stuff" that was inside the bin to the right of the bin (where the shovel is located in the pic above).  I had to move the old stuff out to make room for processing day 2022 stuff to go into the bin.  Then, in January 2023, I started shoveling the compost from 2021 to use in the garden.  

The ring went from the gut bucket...
to the compost bin...
to the pile beside the compost bin...
to the garden...
and then back to my friend!  

I keep thinking about all the times that this ring could have gotten lost in all that shuffle or even if it would have been on the bottom of the compost that came out of the bucket and I would have never even seen it!  What a blessing to find this ring and give it back to my friend!

My friends have been married for 23 years and are SO happy to have their original ring and symbol of their love back where it belongs!  Give your loved ones a hug!  Happy (early) Valentine's Day!

Have an eggcellent day!
Go Chiefs!

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Healing Herbal Salves

 In the Herb Garden…last summer…

Each summer, Mary comes to help collect and dry herbs and flowers from our garden.  We feed some of these to the chickens and ducks in the winter.  I have also been experimenting with making herbal salves.  I did make a blog post about how I make the salves last March and you can read post by clicking on the title: Using Beeswax and Herbal Salves.
As a quick review, Mary picks and dries the herb/flower.  Then, I take the dried herb and put it in a jar with a carrier oil.  I was using olive oil but now I am switching to avocado oil.  This may change again...we will see.  Here is a jar of yarrow flowers and leaves in oil.  
I let it sit for 6 weeks and then strain out the leaves and flowers and then you have an "infused oil".  This is where the magic lives!  You add some beeswax to "thicken" the oil into a salve.  I don't add any essential oils to the salves because I want the natural herbal properties of the plant to shine.  Beeswax is also great for your skin because it is a wax and forms a protective barrier when applied to skin.  This protective barrier not only locks in moisture, but it also helps to keep out environmental assaults like wind and dry air.
Okay, so today I am just going to list out some of the salves I have made this past winter.  I am not sure I will continue all of them.  I am just experimenting to see what works and what does not.  Unfortunately, everyone is different so you have to try different salves to see what works for you.  For example, I had a terrible pain in my shoulder and I would put comfrey salve on my shoulder every morning for like 2 weeks and it was still hurting.  Then, one day, I decided to try some of the Calendula salve and the pain went away that day!  Another example is that I made a pine mint headache salve.  I tried it when I had a headache but nada.  One morning my stomach was hurting.  It felt kind of like I was bloated and it just really hurt.  I was drinking some peppermint tea because I had read that it can be soothing for you stomach.  I saw the pine mint headache salve on my nightstand and figured, what the heck, I spread it all over my stomach and the pain went away almost immediately.  I had been dealing with the pain for hours!  

Here are some of the salves I have made:

I think this one is my favorite!  Calendula works its magic by promoting cell repair and growth, coupled with natural antiseptic, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties.  It is gentle in its work...you don’t need to worry about “overdoing it” with calendula.  Topically, calendula salve can ease, heal, or otherwise treat a huge array of skin conditions. According to the Chestnut School of Herbs, this includes: rashes, sunburn, swelling, eczema, acne, stings, wounds, burns, scrapes, chicken pox, and cold sores.  As I mentioned above, calendula works great for my muscle pain!
This is a new one that I just made this past week so I have not had time to really try it yet.  I did make some chap stick with echinacea infused oil because I had read that it is so good for dry skin!  Salve made with dried echinacea flowers and leaves is good for treating wounds, stings and venomous bites.  It helps calm, soothe and heal redness, cuts, rashes, bug bites, itches and scratches. 
Comfrey has been shown to reduce inflammation, reduce pain, and speed skin healing.  It is so good at skin healing that you should NEVER use comfrey on an open wound!  You can use any other salve on an open wound but not comfrey!  It contains allantoin, a substance believed to promote healing by stimulating the growth of new cells.  Herbalists commonly recommend comfrey salves for sprains, strains, muscle pain, arthritis, bruises, and fractures.  
Chamomile has been used for wound healing, including ulcers and sores, easing skin conditions like eczema or rashes and anti-inflammation and pain relief for conditions like back pain, neuralgia, or arthritis.  Because chamomile is rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, and nutrients, it’s really good at soothing and relieving skin irritation. 

Yarrow is know for it's blood coagulating properties when applied to the skin to stop bleeding.  Use it to treat minor topical injuries, including cuts, scrapes, burns, and rashes.  Yarrow has powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-itching, anti-bacterial, and wound healing properties to reduce signs of skin aging, ease inflammation and increase skin moisture.

Pine Mint
Mint helps to calm down inflammation, and pine is said to have pain-relieving properties so putting these two powerhouses together makes for an effective salve.  Use for headaches or any other muscle pain.  As I mentioned above, my stomach was hurting one day and I grabbed this salve and spread it on and the pain went away almost immediately! 
Along with its calming and anti-inflammatory compounds, catnip has antiseptic properties that make it useful for treating skin infections and speeding the healing of minor wounds and cuts and other skin problems.
Lemon Verbena
Heals dry or cracked skin and cuticles after a long day of gardening.  Lemon verbena has proven to be effective in healing dry elbows, knees, heels, hands and cuticles.  Just a heads up...although the plant smells very "lemony", that does not carry through to the salve so don't expect it to smell like lemon.
Future salves I would like to make:

Lavender salve moisturizes skin, soothes irritation, burns and itching, and can even help heal acne, scrapes, and eczema and soften the appearance of scars.  It can be used after shaving, to prevent or treat razor burn swelling, redness, and irritation.  Lavender is generally safe for kids and babies, making homemade lavender salve perfect for things like diaper rash or cradle cap.  
Lemon Balm
Lemon Balm cools and soothes irritated or inflamed skin. It can be used on cuts, scrapes, wounds, and  insect bites.  Lemon balms contains some anti-viral properties and is a natural way to help heal herpes, cold sores, shingles, and other viral skin conditions.
Rosehip oil is extremely high in essential fatty acids and is a great agent in the fight against dry, weathered, and dehydrated skin. It works wonders on scars and is used for treating wrinkles and premature aging and age spots.
So, that is that...I like the idea of making the salves in the winter because they will be shelf stable and I can take them to the Farmer's Market in the spring when I don't have flowers yet to sell!  I guess I should show you a pic of the finished product...

Have an eggcellent day!