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Years ago, I took a summer biology class at the Mountain Research Station near Nederland Colorado. During the course of that wonderful week, there was a conversation with our instructor, in which she was talking about an old friend of hers, who used to do work at the station, and was now suffering from Alzheimer’s. She would go to visit him, and ask him questions about his past, to keep him engaged. At one point, she asked, “What’s your favorite season”. And his answer has always stuck with me, these 20+ years later. “WINTER, because it’s so dynamic!” I try to remember this, as I witness how snow transforms the landscape, softening edges, hushing the noise, insulating the world from all insults. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
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 »
I’ve been raising chickens since about 2002. I grew up with chickens when I was really little, and it took me about 30 years to be able to get back to it. But with the exception of the year we moved from Colorado to Washington, I’ve kept chickens for the last 14 years. This was BEFORE the proliferation of back yard chicken raising blogs, websites and books. I bought a copy of Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, my husband built a coup (which was also a dog house/pen – they shared a dividing wall – which helped keep the chickens safe from predators but also safe from the dogs at night). I talked a bit about all of this here.
It’s really only been in the last few years that I’ve raised chickens with more of an eye to getting them to pay for themselves by selling the eggs. Here is a brain dump of factoids I’ve learned about raising chickens over the last 14 years, all in one place. Read the rest of this entry »
Well, June is turning out to be a busy month. I started with the Downtown Walla Walla Farmers market on Saturdays in May. Then on the 4th of June I added the Milton-Freewater afternoon market on Wednesdays and the twilight market on 2nd Street in Walla Walla on Thursdays. Sales have been great. But doing three markets a week is a lot harder than doing two. Especially when my booth at the Walla Walla Thursday market was on the sunny side of the street, on heated black asphalt until the sun dips behind the buildings at about 6:00 pm. Read the rest of this entry »
I just returned from the Washington State Farmers Market Association conference in Vancouver Washington. It was a great opportunity to talk to other farmers and market managers, find out what the latest Department of Ag rule changes are (take home message: don’t put anything in a clam shell or a sealed bag, including twist ties – unless you have a food processor license, because doing so makes it “ready to eat”), and most importantly, get away from the farm for a few days. Bless my husband for feeding everyone (including the Bean), collecting eggs, and generally holding down the fort. Read the rest of this entry »
Well, we had the final killing frost on Tuesday the 15th. Tomatoes (which were already cracked from the rain), done. Peppers, done. Summer and winter squash plants, done. Cucumbers, done. Melons, done. Farmer, done.
Alternative title – More about Squash than you EVER wanted to know.
Well, we got our first kiss of frost the other night. Just enough to take out the squash vines and make the tops of the pepper plants a little upset. The season really IS almost over. The frost prompted us to pick all of the remaining winter squash, (planted May 13th – hello 4 1/2 month growing season). Frost on the pumpkin might be the romantic image of fall’s arrival, but in reality, more than a light frost can damage the crop you’ve spent the last 4+ months growing. Better safe than sorry.
After living in a climate where I was lucky if I got 100 frost free days, it’s such a strange thing to have an entire extra MONTH of growing season here in Walla Walla. And that’s just frost free days. Of course, there’s at least an additional month of growing cool season crops like lettuce and spinach that can take a light frost. Which means that when we do finally get a frost sometime in early October, rather than running around covering everything and trying to eek out a few more days, I just let it come, say “phew” and breathe a sign of relief. Let’s face it, after starting onions from seed indoors around March 1st, I pretty much just keep gardening and after 8 months, I’m bloody tired. Read the rest of this entry »
Wait, there was a Soap Making 101 post?
No, there wasn’t. There are LOTS of great resources on the web to learn how to make soap. I learned primarily from the Miller’s Homemade Soap pages. It’s a clunky website, compared to how sites are put together now, and is not regularly updated anymore, but it’s still a great resource. I also highly recommend the About.com info on soap making, and tons of great resources on SoapQueenTV put together by Brambleberry, a soapmaking supplier that I’ve been ordering from for years. Read the rest of this entry »