Why I live here

Doyle Rice predicts in this USA Today article that drought conditions will continue across much of the midwest in the coming year.

I have traveled all over the USA on business, and I am fond of saying that I’ve only ever visited two places I thought I would like to move to. I like North Carolina (the Charlotte area) and I like Tennesee (Particularly the area around Chattanooga.) Other than those two places, I’ve never been tempted to live anywhere but Northwest Pennsylvania.

I like the fact that we have trees – LOTS of trees. I like the rolling terrain here in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. I like the fact that we have very few tornadoes, hurricanes, or earthquakes.

But I especially like the fact that we have water – lots of water. I am surrounded by lakes, rivers, streams, and springs. In fact, we have two springs on our own 20 acre property. We have two wells that have never gone dry (and we’ve lived here during some pretty dry summers.)

A person can live for three days without food, but without water a person will die pretty quickly. You can’t raise crops or animals without water.

I’ve always found it amazing that anyone lives in places like Arizona and New Mexico where there is such a scarcity of water. I would not want to live somewhere that a ready source of water could not be identified.

We’ve talked about purchasing a water purification system of some kind, just to make sure we always have safe, potable water – even if we have to make it ourselves.

I’m sure, if the drought continues, it will put further pressure on food and commodity prices. Another reason why it’s a good idea to raise as much of your own food as you can, buy local, and keep a storehouse.

David Vs. Goliath… again

Vernon Hugh Bowman, a 75 year old farmer from Indiana, will have his day in court… the Supreme Court, to be precise.

I doubt this farmer has a chance, and even in my opinion his case is weak; however, at some point, someone has got to figure out a way to stop Monsanto from completely taking over the world’s food supply…

Basil’s New Apartment

Our major goal this weekend was to make a new “apartment” for our buck, Basil. When we got Basil,  he was a nice “little” fellow weighing about 90 lbs. In the past seven months, he has blossomed into full man-goathood tipping the scales at about 160 with lovely curving horns. His harem now numbers seven does and six kids with more babies due any day. He has developed an interesting habit of walking on his hind legs when Kenton enters the pen; bringing him to a height of almost seven feet tall. He is turning into quite a handful.
We decided in the interest of safety for ourselves and our does, that Basil needed his own stall…so we headed out on Friday eve to purchase some lumber. That was an adventure in itself as our truck battery decided to die suddenly and thoroughly without any prior warning. Fortunately, we were in the parking lot of Tractor Supply. I have to say, if you must break down, that seems to be a good place to find plenty of helpful Samaritans. These folks are not afraid to stick their hands under your hood, poke around and offer to “give you a jump.” And we are thankful!!
So…we borrowed our grandson to help Papa hold boards while Gramma taught a gardening seminar and launched into another fun weekend.
Saturday was clear and brisk as the “guys” rounded up tools and headed for the barn. They made a healthy start by lunchtime and I joined them after lunch to lend extra hands.
By 5:00 PM, we had a lovely new stall with eight foot sides and a sturdy gate. It took a bit of wrestling to get Basil away from his girls and into his new digs and he was quite vocal about his displeasure…but today he seems to be settling in nicely.
Check that off the list!!

Never a dull moment…

Mid-winter is supposed to be the time where farmers sit in their rockers and warm their feet by the fire…that might work in fairy tales, but it sure isn’t true around here.
After the excitement of last week’s multiple kiddings, it would be nice if we could take a weekend off-no such luck.  I woke up last night and began a mental list of things that need to be done before Spring.
1) The fruit trees need pruned
2) Those pesky extra roosters need butchered
3) The buck needs moved and we need a pen for the dairy goat babies (coming soon)
4) The peach seeds are sprouting in the back of the fridge and need potted
5) The new baby goats need shots and dehorning
6) I need to make a seed inventory and get ready to order for this year
7) I need to get soil for the Gro-rack so that I can start some seeds
8) We need to order new chicks
It looks like the fire and the rocking chair will have to wait…time to go feed babies.

Welcome, Cinnamon and Cilantro!

Sorry for the late post, but things have been pretty hectic at Big Oak Ridge. This is Cinnamon (female) and Cilantro (male) with our granddaughters.

Cinnamon and Cilantro arrived on 2013.02.08 after a very difficult delivery. We thought it was odd that there were only twins, considering the size of the mama.

Unfortunately we were right – Cinnamon and Cilantro had a very large brother who was still born – 36 hours after these little ones.

Cinnamon and Cilantro join Curry (male), Clover (female), and Caraway (male). We still have 4 more does that we expect to kid over the next several months. Stay tuned for updates!

Seminar Sign Ups??

I have had several people tell me that they “signed up” for seminars…I am not getting any follow up emails because I don’t think the sign up page has been turned on.
If you are interested in this Saturday’s seminar on how to start a garden, please make sure you call 814 437 1920 or email me. paula@bigoakridge.org  to make sure I have your spot reserved.

New Arrivals

After weeks of waiting and watching, we have 3 new arrivals in the goat barn today:

Not sure of names yet; they will all start with “C” and will, of course be named after plants/flowers (it’s a tradition at Big Oak Ridge.)

We have another mom that will deliver any day… the rest will probably come in rapid succession.

February Already?

The Groundhog says winter is almost over… we’ll see! It’s been super hectic on The Ridge. Our three month long renovation on our rental property is nearing a close…now we just need to find a worthy tenant.
We are eagerly awaiting the births of several baby goats and not so eagerly looking forward to twice a day milking.
We also scheduled a few seminars for the spring (check out our seminar tab.)
We have had a few game nights, various birthday celebrations and several rounds of company.
We are busier than we have ever been but determined to enjoy life, whatever it brings.

What Season is This?

Very odd weather here in Northwest PA…last week at this time, we had 6-8″ of snow and frigid temperatures. It was a challenge to keep the water thawed and the animals comfy. We hoped and prayed that no one kidded as our nighttime temperatures where in the negative numbers. Today is is 60 degrees and most of the snow has melted. We have three “girls” in the maternity ward as they have been spotting and acting funny for days. Once again the weatherman says we’re headed in to another frigid spell…sure hope these ladies hurry up.

Locavoria – year 2

We are entering our second year of being locavores. If you are new to our site, locavores for the most part, eat food that is grown or produced within 100 miles of their home. I would venture to guess that 75% of what we eat is grown here at Big Oak Ridge. We raise chickens, goats, vegetables and small fruits. We purchase raw milk and honey within 12 miles of our home. We have been purchasing flours and other organic products at Frankferd Farms which is about 60 miles from here.
  We had had a few spots over the last year where our grand plan has failed…it is especially difficult to maintain locavoria when you have a large gathering or family party. When the children and grandchildren come and they are used to the “old” family recipes and request meals that we do not grow the ingredients for…well…sometimes we just give in to old traditions. After all, this isn’t a religion 🙂
  Many people think we’re a bit crazy and some are  interested in knowing more…but it can be extremely overwhelming to know where to start. Today I will give you a few tips on getting started.
1) Begin by assessing your diet and thinking about how you cook (or if you cook.) What do meals typically look like in your home? Is your food fresh, raw and local or does it come in boxes, bags and cans? You may to have to rethink how you shop and what you buy.
2) Buy food and not food-like substances. Buy ingredients and not pre-packaged meals.
3) Buy your meat from local sources not Mega-Mart. Find local sources of grass fed beef and pastured pork and poultry. Eat less meat and buy better quality. Buy local honey, eggs and raw milk. There is a list of available sellers on our Locavorium tab.
4) Grow what you can-Can what you grow. Even if you only have a small plot, grow as much as you can and learn to preserve it. If you cannot grow your own food, or not enough, seek out local vendors and purchase produce in season and preserve for winter months. We live in a perfect area for shopping local farms and orchards.  Look for vendors who do not use pesticides or chemicals in their gardens.
5) Do your research on healthy oils and good fats. This is the same principle as meat-buy better quality and eat less.
6) Use the available technology-timed crockpots, electric skillets, timed ovens, and any manner of food processors, mixers and kitchen gadgets. As with any job, having the proper tools makes the task quicker and easier.
7) Get back in the kitchen-take a class if necessary. Learn how to prepare simple nutritious meals without spending hours in the kitchen.

The main thing you will have to realize is…if your family doesn’t eat vegetables and fruit, you will have a difficult time being a locavore because you can’t grow chicken nuggets and pizza rolls! We have become a society that fills our bellies with fake food, carbs and unhealthy fats. We need to get back to the basics of simple, healthy food that comes from the earth.
At Big Oak Ridge, we are committed to helping folks learn the basics and live the lifestyle and we will gladly assist you in any way we can.