Who would you rather have on your team?

FOfFbookcover“We live in a culture where too many valuable, crucial, life skills have been lost to most people. If the country collapsed, who would you rather have on your team? An agriculture professor or someone who knew how to milk a cow, make cheese, and deliver baby calves? ”

– Joel Salatin, Fields of Farmers

JoelSalatin

Oh Come Let Us Adore Him

Actors dressed as Joseph and the Three Wise Men, part of a live-human nativity scene, stroll past the U.S. Capitol Building after demonstrating outside the nearby Supreme Court in Washington

Be Anxious for Nothing…

beanxiousfor nothingYour vocabulary lesson for this Holiday season: Anxious vs. Eager. Only two more sleeps until Christmas and many are thinking they will have to sacrifice sleep just to get everything done on time and make Christmas “perfect.” I hear people say, “I’m anxious for my kids to come home.” or “I’m anxious to see if the kids like their gifts.” or are you “anxious” to try out that new recipe you found on-line? Let me remind you today that Philippians 4:6 says that we are to be anxious… for nothing. Let me suggest that you are “eager” (happily excited and expectant) for this wonderful time of the year. Make a conscious effort to replace the word anxious with the word eager this season and all though the year. If you are feeling anxiety, Philippians also gives instruction on relieving the tension and refocusing on what’s really important.
Merry Christmas!!

It won’t be long now…

Last week was pretty hectic on the Ridge. We were given over 20 quarters of venison to process. In two days time I cut and canned over 40 jars of meat plus ground about 35 pounds of burger and bagged several large roasts and a few steaks. I can now say with certainty that I am DONE canning for the 2013 season.

Lest you think I am now breathing a sign of relief, think again. Christmas is upon us with all of the joys of the season: cookie baking, shopping, wrapping, card sending and attending various Christmas parties, dinners and concerts.

In the barn, things are snug and warm with the new door and the battens finally finished. A couple of the girls are bagging up which means we’ll soon have babies. Canning season may be over, but kidding season is just starting. Maybe we’ll have Christmas babies!!
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Happy Thanksgiving!

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How To Apply For A Passport

Today we had a frustrating encounter…we applied for passports. Grandbaby #11 is due in the spring so we’ll be headed to Japan for a visit. We learned a few things along the way and to save someone the aggravation that we experienced, I thought I’d share how to obtain a passport in simple terms.

nogovsymbol1. Skip the government website.

In an attempt to be prepared, I went to the government website. I have noticed that government websites are notorious for inaccurate information and prices (think Obamacare.)

 

topsecret2. Gather your official documents.

You will need to take along photo ID – a driver’s license works well. Photocopy both sides and take the original. Take your birth certificate, the REAL one from the department of vital statistics. Make sure you know where you were born, your parent’s full names, the date and place of their birth and your mother’s maiden name. If you have ever had a passport before, even if it is expired, you will need that too. Unless it is “lost” – in which case you will need to (you guessed it) fill out another form.

(By the way, they KEEP your birth certificate… they said it will be returned, separately from the passport.)

aaa3. Pay for a photo.

Even though the website says you can take your own photo, you can’t…so save yourself the frustration and pay to have one taken. AAA charges $8.49 for members. Rite Aid and CVS will also take them and often have on-line coupons.

postoffice4. Head to the post office…BEFORE 3 pm!!

You can get an application at your local post office or the courthouse. But going to the post office doesn’t require removing your belt, jewelry and emptying your pockets. The post office has applications and they also sell money orders, which you will need to the tune of $110. Make sure you arrive early in the day because the post office does not process applications after 3 pm. Don’t forget your black ink pen and an additional $25 for the processing fee.

 

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5. Breath a sigh of relief and hope it arrives in time for your trip.

There is a place that asks your destination and date of travel. A helpful lady at the courthouse told us to fill out this section even if we didn’t yet know a date. She picked a date 6-7 weeks in the future, telling us that applications with dates get processed faster.

That’s about it… hopefully, we’ll get a passport in 4-6 weeks AND get our birth certificates back!

EGG$,EGG$,EGG$!!!

eggsinbasketRecently our Red Star pullets began to lay eggs. Within weeks, each hen was producing a nice brown egg each day and we found ourselves swimming in eggs.
I put the word out that our hens were laying and we had eggs for sale. I even contacted a near-by restaurant that advertises that they use local foods. I was a bit shocked to realize that many folks, including the restaurant owner, want fresh, brown, cage-free eggs without hormones or antibiotics for less than the price that “factory” eggs are selling for in our area. Apparently they assume that since my hens are free range, I don’t have to feed them and my eggs are free.

 

flyingdollarbillsStarting a flock of laying hens is not for the faint of heart. The initial investment of a coop, feeders, waterers and fencing can run into the thousands of dollars. And trust me, you DO need a fence…because free-range chickens WILL tear up your garden if they are not confined and raccoons and foxes WILL raid your hen house if it’s not secure.

 

chickineggThen comes the investment in chicks. Gone are the days of the 99 cent chick.  Day-old peeps now range from $2.50-5.00 a piece depending on the breed.
Prior to your purchase, the coop must be prepared for four to six weeks of incubation during which time the temperature must be precisely maintained until your charges are fully feathered.

 

 

chickensfeedsackFor the next 20 to 24 weeks,longer for heavier and heritage breeds, you will be dumping bag after bag of feed into hungry mouths with no return. If you purchase your flock in the spring, by late fall, you will begin to see some eggs…HOWEVER, the hen is designed by God to lay when the light is brightest and the days are longest…SO…this means you will need a light and a timer if you want your girls to lay consistently all winter.

 

 

 

farmerinsnowAnd speaking of winter, you will have to feed and care for your flock 365 days of the year.
In the hot months, you’ll have to guard against heat stroke and insure that water stays cool and fresh. You’ll need to gather eggs frequently so that they don’t spoil.
In the winter you’ll have head to the coop several times a day to make sure the water and eggs are not freezing.

 

 

 

washingeggsOnce the eggs finally reach the house, you will have to check  for cracks and wash them if necessary. Most small flock owners use “recycled” egg cartons but this is another expense if you’re just getting started. Marketing, Sales and Public Relations are all vital skills that a small farmer has to master. There is no middle man on a homestead. From beginning to end you are: contractor, veterinarian, day laborer and vendor.

 

 

eggssunnysideupSounds pretty daunting doesn’t it? But nothing compares to the taste and quality of a farm fresh egg. Knowing how this hen was raised and how she was cared for and fed are priceless to me. I will always have chickens  for myself. If some people think the cost of my eggs is too high, I will let them get their eggs from a factory.

 

So Confusing…Why We Are Locavores.

 flat_belly_dietEvery day I encounter people who are trying to be healthy, eat right and live responsibly.  It seems that everyone has an opinion about what is the best thing to eat. Every day there is a new thing…8 foods experts won’t eat, foods for a flat belly, no carbs, high protein vs. no meat, high fat vs. no fat, organic vs. non-organic, non-GMO…the list goes on and on. Then there are those who think we should just be drinking green super drinks.
I have recently been hearing a lot of people talk about “Eating Clean” . Clean eating basically says avoid the processed foods and stick to whole foods…that seems simple woman_shoppingenough…BUT I noticed two of the eight foods experts won’t eat on the clean foods list. So what should we do?
At Big Oak Ridge we decided to adopt the Locavore stance. A locavore is a person who only eats what is grown or produced within 100 miles of their home. Granted that leaves us with a few issues since olives do not grow in Northwestern Pennsylvania. So we have devised the Big Oak Ridge Philosophy.
1. We will grow or produce as much food as we can on our farm.
2. We will search for organic and non-GMO products within 100 miles of our home.
3. If a product is not grown in our area, we will look for products: First) in Pennsylvania, Second) on the East Coast and Third) within the United States.PA_BuyLocal
4. If it is impossible to get the product in the US (ei: coffee, coconut oil), we will look for an organic, Fair Trade source.FairTrade
5. We are NOT making a religion of this and will not turn up our noses at parties and in other’s homes…we will be gracious and thankful for the hospitality of others.

This life style has caused us to view food differently. Realizing that growing and preserving food is a huge amount of work, we have come to value food as fuel and not waste this precious resource. We also eat fewer grain products. Grain is very difficult to grow on a small scale and non-GMO sources of grain are  costly. Plus many of the grain products we eat require the addition of fats, sugars and leavening…things we try to avoid because they involve extra processing to produce.

 We have learned to adapt many of our favorite foods to local options and actually find we prefer these new foods to the old, processed, grocery store, versions we previously consumed.

I’m sure everyone has an opinion why their food choices are better, healthier, easier and more tasty…but for us, this is our choice…for sustainability, environmental stewardship and our own food peace of mind.

Putting Your Garden to Bed.

gardenBEDIn the past couple of weeks I have had several newbie gardeners ask me what to do with their garden now that the vegetables are picked and the colder weather is coming. Today I heard that freezing temperatures and snow are expected in our area this week, so I guess it’s time.
Because we grow in raised beds, we do not have to wait until everything is harvested to begin cleaning up our garden; we are able to work up one or two beds at a time, but the basic principles are the same.
1. Clean up the garden.
Pick the last of your late crops or if you plan to overwinter some things…get your cloches or mulch in place. Remove all of the old plants and any rotten produce to prevent any diseases from spreading into next year’s garden. Pull up the weeds and/or till to prevent the weed seeds from sprouting. Now is also a good time to add some fresh manure, leaves or other organic matter-this will compost down over the winter and replenish any nutrients lost this year. Roll up your pea fence, pull up the tomato stakes and put away all of your row markers.
2. Time to tally.
Now is a good time to take stock of how your garden produced and begin to plan for next year. These are the things I make notes on from year to year: How much seed did I use? How many beds did I plant? What did each bed produce? Each spring I make a map of my garden and keep track of how many beds I planted in each particular vegetable/fruit and how many seeds or plants it took to fill each bed. As I harvest my produce, I write on my calendar how many bushels/pounds of produce I picked and how many jars/bags I was able to preserve for the winter. At the end of the season, I tally up the total amount of food in my larder and freezers along with the amounts. This helps me to apportion out the produce for our monthly meals and I don’t end up with only beets and pickles left in March.  🙂  This also helps me to plan for next year when I am ordering seeds, planting my sets and deciding if I need to build more beds.
3. Check your equipment.
Do you need a better fence next year? Did your shovel break while digging those last potatoes? Is the gasket worn out on your pressure canner? This is the time to go over your equipment and decide what you need to repair or replace before next growing season.
Even though we would all like to forget the work of the planting, weeding, watering harvesting, and preserving there are still a few more chores to be done before the first seed catalog arrives in November.