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Lavender field, ready for harvest.

I’m all about sourcing local when I can, both for my own use, and for products that I sell. But soap, in particular, is difficult to source ingredients for locally. Coconut oil, nope. Palm oil, nope. Olive oil…well, I could get it from California if I wanted to pay 3 times the price. Other than the local bees wax in my products, and the few that contain locally sourced lard or tallow, not much of my cosmetic line can be locally sourced. But, last fall, my husband and I visited the SAGE (Sustainable Agriculture and Energy) Center in Boardman Oregon, just 80 miles south of us, and toured their educational exhibits. The place is dedicated to learning about modern agricultural practices on the Columbia Basin. This is big ag, not small 5 acre mom and pop farms. But its an interesting and interactive exhibit, and well worth the visit, especially if you have kids. Read the rest of this entry »

Well, June just flew by, didn’t it? Sorry for the long delay. It’s been a crazy month. Here’s what we’ve been up to.

Surviving Turkey Babies

The two surviving turkeys, and one of the surviving hens, in the “play pen” area, where they can eat chick food without being bothered by the adults.

When I incubate poultry in the spring, I start with the ducks, then do the chickens, then do the turkeys. Ducks and turkeys take 4 weeks to incubate. Chickens only need 3 weeks. Ducks are much more hardy, and grow incredibly fast, so they can go first and be put out in the poultry yard at 4 weeks. Then the chickens, timed so that when they are about 4 weeks, its warm enough for them to go out into the “play pen”, which is a separate walled off area in the poultry house with a warming light. Then its the turkeys turn. The fertility of the turkey eggs is higher later in the season, but if the timing is right, they still get 6 months to grow up before Thanksgiving.

Hollyhock and BeeAll went according to plan with the ducks, with the exception of the one who was late hatching and managed to drown itself early on. I sold two, and the other 8 are doing very well, all grown up and incorporated into the rest of the flock. They are a beautiful mix of ancona and two other breeds, and are gorgeous.

The 15 chickens in the brooder made it to 4 weeks, and were put out into the play pen. This is a chain link dog kennel. The openings are large enough for the young chickens to come out if they want to, but small enough that the rest of the flock can’t get in. They were out there for one day, and then all but one disappeared. The poultry house is a quonset hut, with doors that close tight at night. We still don’t know what the heck happened, but after later events, we think maybe they wandered out into the poultry yard, through the fence and into the driveway, and were picked off by the dogs. Or, something got into the quonset hut and got them when it was dark but before we had closed it up for the night. We had gone out to an anniversary dinner that night (celebrating 17 years), and didn’t get home until after dark. My husband closed up the coop without looking in on them that night, and the next morning they were MIA. The play pen isn’t sealed tight, so something could have gotten in. Regardless, it was heartbreaking after 7 weeks of time (3 weeks in the incubator and 4 weeks in the brooder) to lose them. One survived, and two that were raised by a broody hen also survived, so out of a flock of 17, we ended up with three survivors. I did start a new batch, and have 12 birds that are currently about 4 weeks old. I’m afraid to put them out in the coop, even though they are SO ready to go outside.

Freesia

Freesia, that I grew from bulbs this year. I’ve been making an Apricot-Freesia scented lotion for years, so wanted to see that the actual flowers look like.

The eggs the ducks were brooding? Gone when something got in when the back door of the coop got left open one night. The eggs the turkey was brooding? No good, due to her getting off and them getting cold early in the game. To her credit, they were in a dog kennel, and the door was bumped closed so she couldn’t get back in. So two for two there as well.

Then I hatched out 11 turkeys. Since last year I had a terrible time hatching out turkey eggs, I was ecstatic to have hatched out so many. Turkeys are fragile when they are young. Their two instincts are to explore and to roost. So early on, if given the chance, they wander, and they try to get up high. We went away for the day to do some shopping and exploring in a nearby town, and when we got home, four of the turkeys had managed to hop out of the stock tank brooder, and were subsequently killed by the dogs, who didn’t like being left alone all day, but appreciated that we left them a snack. Then I lost one more when I put them in an outside pen in the back yard in the grass and the dog managed to get to them (turn your back for 30 minutes…). I sold two to a local blog reader (Hi Patty). Then, we put the last 4 out in the poultry play pen when they were 4 weeks old and one wandered through the fence into the driveway, and, you guessed it, was eaten by the dog (this would be Gideon, who has decided he really likes turkey). So, now the poultry yard is lined with chicken wire so no one can get through the fence, and the dogs are sequestered to the back yard during the day, so they have no access to the driveway. Then another bird just shows up dead one morning, after seeming a little out of sorts the night before. So, out of 11 birds, 4 survived, and two only because they left the property. Sigh. Those two ARE doing well, and have incorporated into the flock and get up high to roost at night (trust me, I check on them about 20 times a day). What a mess. Lots of lessons learned this year.

Spring Harvest

Early spring market offerings.

Meanwhile, June brings on doing three farmers markets a week. Wednesday in Milton-Freewater, Thursday at the Walla Walla Heritage Park market on Main Street, and the regular Downtown Walla Walla market on Saturdays. Plus time to make and test new products like Beard Oil. Plus the occasional online order for soaps and other goodies. Plus an increase in wholesale orders. Plus harvesting produce. Plus putting the finishing touches on the commercial kitchen so that I can get it licensed by the state, so that I can add jams to my line (and mostly get away from perishable produce – I’m just too small to absorb the loss if something doesn’t sell).

Culinary Sage Blooming

Culinary sage flowers.

Walla Walla 113 degrees

Hard to see, but that number is 113. Seriously?! This was taken on June 28th. It’s just not right.

The June days march on, the flowers bloom, the tomato plants seem to grow inches a day, and suddenly, the temperature is in the 90’s, in June, which is NOT normal. And then, this week, we are into the 100’s, and I’m just trying to keep everything alive, including the rabbits, who don’t do well in this kind of heat. We actually cleaned out the chicken coop (LONG overdue) and in the process moved the rabbits outside under some trees. Since we haven’t been able to locate some wood chips to rebed the space, and the heat hit like it did, they are still outside, under a mister, which is actually cooler than in the quonset. Meanwhile, I have one heck of a compost pile, most of the stuff normally in the coop is outside the coop, and the chickens are very confused. Some of the nest boxes were actually outside, and a chicken laid an egg in one in the sun. When I picked the egg up, it was so hot that I set it aside, and when I cracked it, the white had actually started to turn opaque from the heat. You’ve heard the expression “hot enough to fry an egg”? It really was! We’re predicted to have this heat continue for another week, at least. The cool weather crops like cauliflower are toast. Tomatoes aren’t setting fruit, because the pollen isn’t viable when its over about 90. What a mess.

Walking Onions

Egyptian Walking Onions. Worth growing just for the weird and wonderful blooms.

And…we got a new cat. His name is Kirby, renamed from Kerplunk, but we’re thinking his nick name should be Chaos. He’s about 8 months old, and until last Tuesday, was an unneutered male. He needed a new home or he was going to the pound. We’d been looking for a new cat for about 6 months. He’s cute as can be, full of energy, he’s explored every inch of the house, done his best to win over the two other cats and the dogs, and likes to get up on the pool table and play with the pool balls. He’s not an especially cuddly cat, but we’re slowly winning him over. No longer having testicles should calm things down quite a bit, we expect.

Beans Coming On

The beans! I have one green bean and 4 dry beans planted out there. They are doing great. One of the varieties is a black bean I picked up at an estate sale. I saw the jar on a kitchen shelf, and given all the leaves and stems in the jar, I knew they were home grown. I figured it was a nice gesture to continue to plant them, since the original grower no longer could. Had fantastic germination on them.

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I’ve harvested a few cherry tomatoes and a few of the Early Chief variety. Not bad for before the 4th of July.

Violeta Cauliflower

Violeta Cauliflower (from Seeds of Italy). Supposed to not get strongly flavored in the heat. This would certainly be the year to test that!

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Golden Marguerite (anthemis tinctoria). It reseeds, but not obnoxiously so. Beneficial insects LOVE it, so I always have some around in the garden.

Grape makes a comeback

A grape planted last year, that died all the way back to the ground. I thought for sure it was dead and gone, until a few weeks ago.

Raspberry Harvest

I pick a few cups of these every few days and freeze them. Future jam, right there.

Kenny and Fawn

Kenny, our remaining adult ram, and Fawn the goat, who keeps him company and teaches him bad habits.

Beard Oil - Miles Away Farm

New product. Beard oil! Controls unruly beards and conditions the skin to stop the itchies.

Calendula

Calendula. Great for beneficial insects and bees. A wonderful medicinal for the skin. I let them reseed every year and collect them when they are in full bloom. My carrot-calendula face soap has infused calendula petals in it.

New Kitty Gets comfortable

Kirby, who is decidedly not yet a lap cat, but has calmed down enough to snuggle in once in a while.

Rossi Pines For the Cat

Not a great picture, but the look on his face cracked me up. Kirby was up on the counter (because of the dogs) and Rossi SO wanted to go make friends. He sat there, with this pining look on his face, staring at the cat, for about 5 minutes.

The Prince and the Pea

Butters (aka the Prince and the Pea) has made friends with Kirby. When he isn’t sleeping like a baby in his favorite spot.

Spinach Stems

I had terrible spinach germination this year, so didn’t have enough for market. I managed to harvest a couple of pounds before it started to go to seed. I love this shot, because it is a great reminder that spinach is in the same family as beets. The cross cut of the stems looks just like a candy cane beet.

Kohlrabi

I DID get a nice harvest of kohlrabi this year. I love this weird alien looking vegetable.

Miles Away Farm Blog © 2015, where we’re hoping August isn’t as hot as June!

DSC08753watermarkSo, the larger your garden, the more weeds, right? I have a large garden, but I don’t own a tractor, so I still tend to plant more along the lines of the square foot gardening method rather than the traditional “x spacing between each plant, x spacing between each row”. Those back of the seed package guidelines, by the way, are based on spacing if you DO have a tractor. I can get a lot more plants into a lot smaller space this way, which makes my life easier and gives us more pasture for sheep forage as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Robin Eggshell Find

I always feel a bit like a small child who has found a small miracle when I find one of these. From a just hatched robin nest, no doubt.

Today was a perfect day to be a farmer, and a homesteader, and a business woman, and a human alive on the planet. Read the rest of this entry »

LiquidSoap

Coconut, Sunflower and Castor oil. A nice combination.

For those of you with no interest in making your own liquid soap, you can stop reading now. Next week we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programing of gardening, homesteading and cute animal pictures. Wink.

Edited 4/25/15 to add: This blog is MY opinion and MY experience with liquid soapmaking. I’ve had several readers point out that they have had different experiences from mine (with adding salt to thicken, and with the Soaping 101 glycerine liquid soap video, for example). Please note: YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. Feel free to experiment! Please share your differing experiences and understanding of the chemistry in the comments. That’s how we all learn from each other. This isn’t meant to be the final word on the subject. It’s just my own personal understanding and experience.

Questions about how to get started with liquid soapmaking come up a lot on some of my soap making groups, and I remember how hard it was to get a handle on it all when I started making my own, despite the fact that I’d been making cold process bar soap for years. I find myself writing out long-winded answers over and over again. So I thought I would do a bit of a brain dump on some of the fundamentals to get new liquid soapers started. Note: what this is NOT is a step by step guide to making liquid soap. If I were going to do that, I’d write an ebook. Also, apologies for lack of pictures. This is mostly an informational post. Read the rest of this entry »

DSC08718watermarkI used to just buy bags of potting soil at the big box stores. Then I graduated to starting my own seeds, and had to search high and low for “seed starting mix”, which is finer grained than “potting mix” and less common. Then I started to really get serious about seed starting (I currently have about 50 flats of seedlings in my greenhouse) and buying seed starting mix just wasn’t a financial option any more. Read the rest of this entry »

American Blackbelly Triplets

Cocoa’s Triplets. Because she is half Soay sheep, her babies tend to have more variation in coloring.

Babies. Boy do we have babies. We have 12 ewes of breeding age, and we ended up with 21 lambs, born from March 2nd through March 23rd. Five sets of twins, two sets of triplets(!), and 5 singles. We weren’t expecting the triplets. One mama, Cocoa, is doing just fine with her three, but the second mama, Maggie, has rejected one of hers. So we have one bottle baby. Of the 21 lambs, 17 of them are male. SEVENTEEN. Seriously?! We have no idea why our sex ratio is so skewed, though something very similar happened the first year we had lamb babies (10 out of 13 were male), and they too were also all born in March. Read the rest of this entry »

StackedEnchiladaCasserole2

OK, so getting it out of the pan intact is a challenge. But it all tastes good.

I can’t remember where I first saw this recipe. Probably an old subscription to Cooking Light or Eating Well. All I know is that it is super easy, super adaptable, inexpensive to make, relatively healthy and very satisfying to eat. It comes together in minutes, unlike traditional enchiladas, with all that messy rolling. If I had to pick just seven dinners to make once a week for the next year, this would probably be one of them. Read the rest of this entry »

DSC08493watermarkWe’ve been working on a lot of spring projects as we wrap up February and move into beloved March. The break is over. Let the craziness of spring begin.

When we moved into this house, built in 1995, it had a front and back deck. The inspector mentioned in his report that both of them needed to be replaced. Well, not only was that obvious (you could see the wood rotting away in places), but in an effort to bring new life into them in order to sell the house, they had been painted a color that I can only describe as mauve. They were poorly designed, not to our taste, and downright hideous. But…so were a lot of things IN the house. Like every single light fixture, and the 1970’s wood stove, complete with orange and avocado green tiles. So it has taken us some time to get to the decks. But this winter, my sweet sweet husband tore off the old front deck (some of it literally using his foot), put in new piers and framing, expanding it considerably, and when the weather and money permitted, worked on getting the new decking in. This one is even attached to the house with actual concrete anchors rather than just nailed into the siding. Read the rest of this entry »

Ready for the Smoker

Ready to go into the smoker. Note the pork belly hangers are actually old wire hangers, trimmed down by my sweet husband at my request, so I could get 4 bellies in the smoker at once vertically, rather than on racks.

Way back in July 2010 (wow, I’ve been writing this blog for a while!) I wrote a piece on curing your own bacon. And its a good post, and reliable and solid advice. However, in the last 4 years I’ve amended how I cure my bacon a bit, after buying Michael Ruhlman’s book Charcuterie (Charcuterie is defined as all things relating to preserved meats). One of the things we noticed about the original cured bacon recipe is that it tended to burn easily in the pan. I attribute this to the large amount of sugar in the cure. I’ve also come to realize that a little bit of nitrite in your meat (like cholesterol) is not the end-of-the-world, cancer causing scourge we once were led to believe. See this fantastic rant by Ruhlman on the No Nitrite hoax in natural food markets or this more recent piece by Chris Kresser on why bacon isn’t the enemy. Read the rest of this entry »

Jennifer Kleffner

Miles Away Farm

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