Monday, February 16, 2015

Why We Grow Heirloom

There's quite a bit of hype right now about GMO food and how they should be labeled so Americans know what they are eating.  Some feel we are entitled to know if we are eating a GMO product, and others feel that science tells us GMO's are safe, and that labeling will simply raise prices at the supermarket.  Many proponents of labeling cite the many countries that ban GMO's, or require labeling.  See a list (although it may not be complete here) These countries are numerous, but include most of the European Union, Scandinavian countries, some from the Middle East, and Australia to name a few.

So who do we believe? The U.S. Government and the USDA who say they are safe?  Those who cite studies performed in Europe, stating GMO's are bad for our health?  Recent studies that link the rise in GMO's to the rise in diagnoses of Autism?  I don't know.  I'm not a fan of Monsanto and their constant law suits against farmers, that's for sure.

What I do know is this: I'd rather eat food that I knew was not modified for some reason, whether it is to make it more nutritious (it's healthy in its natural state), brighter color, or longer shelf life.  I'd rather eat food that was closer to its natural state, one that pests like to eat as well as me.  I don't pretend to be a scientist, and I don't plan to argue with anyone who wants to throw study after study at me declaring GMO's are safe.  I'm not saying they aren't safe.  I'm saying I would rather my food be in its natural state, unmodified by science and one that I have to combat pests over.

But a little proof...our commercial farm planted a non-GMO corn 2 years ago.  The yields were higher than the previous years with corn that was GMO.  Why the higher yield?  Isn't part of the whole GMO appeal the higher yield?  It's not scientific, but it's enough for me.

Heirloom plants are history.  They are part of the history of seeds that have been brought over by generations of farmers.  I want to carry on a history of plants that many are trying very hard to save.  Many noble companies are working tirelessly to find these rare seeds and work to restore their numbers.  I'd rather help out the folks restoring history than the corporations trying to make money from modifying seeds that do not need modification.

For more information on seed saving, what you can do to help, or to grow your own, visit:
Seeds of Change:
Baker Creek Heirloom seeds:
Seed Savers Exchange:

Sunday, February 15, 2015

After the hiatus....

Our hiatus from the business aspect of the farm was due to increased responsibilities at work, school, and the decimation of our flock last fall.  Losing the flock was the proverbial straw that broke the camels, or in this case, the farmers back.  It's incredibly depressing to lose a flock of chickens.  Earlier in the fall, a mother fox found its way under the fencing of our coop.  For awhile, we had 5 chickens that roamed around the yard.  We tried getting into the new coop, but of course, they had other ideas.  They went rebel and began roosting in the trees out of reach.  Then, they were gone. 

Until this past Friday....

I pulled into the driveway and there stood one of our white Easter Egg chickens.  How she had survived I've no idea, especially after the very low temperatures we had last month.  But, she was there and that was all that mattered.  She happily ran into her old coop and fell on the food we found for her.  We didn't have any chicken feed so we found veggies for her eat.  

Then we made the trip to TSC to the feed store.  I had already decided I wanted chickens again.  I wanted about 6 that would give me a dozen eggs a week, and that I could organically raise.  Caris was excited, and I was excited.  We had decided how to make our new smaller coop the "Fort Knox" of coops, and had planned out the area.  What I didn't bargain for was seeing the bins for chicks that TSC had ready.  Chick days are coming soon.  

They had already arrived at Rural King.

Now I've had my issues in the past with Rural King and their chick days.  Last year it led to a complaint to management about the inhumane way they were housing the chickens and letting every child reach down in to grab-and harm- any chicken they wanted.  I was pleasantly surprised this year with the fencing over the bins.  And the selection!  Oh goodness....the selection.  They had every chicken breed I wanted.  "Let's just get 6 chickens" turned into "might as well get 10 and share" (with a fellow non-gmo friend).  It then turned into 13, because they had black Jersey Giants!  All (minus the chick we lost this morning) are brooding happily in the garage, kept safe from harm from Fergus the outdoor cat by clever fencing.

So we have chicks again....seed catalogs are coming in diagrams have been drawn....seed varieties have been chosen.  I'm not sure what will happen, but it would seem Aurora Bryn Farm is back in business!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Going Bulk!

In an effort to not only eat healthier, but to save money, I've taken the leap into buying certain pantry items in bulk.  This is not a massive truck load of stuff delivered to my house, but me heading to a market and picking  and choosing what I want.  With Caris and a list in tow, off we went to Baesler's Market in town.  They've had a bulk section for some time now, but I've never really checked it out until today.  On my list was black beans, red kidney beans, lentils, steel cut oats, and then a huge question mark.  I wanted to allow for some flexibility, after all!

I didn't quite end up with what I wanted, though.  Surprisingly, they did not carry red kidney beans in bulk.  What I came home with was bulk black beans, pinto beans, pearl barley, and green lentils.  (oh, and some banana chips that didn't make it home, but we won't talk about THAT)  I ended up buying packages of red kidney beans off the shelf in bags.  They had french couscous, which I almost bought, and quinoa.  I've never used quinoa, but I wouldn't be against trying it one time.  There were many different varieties of rice, but I had already stocked up on rice, so that is saved as a mental note for next time.

For those of you who know me well, you know I LOVE mason jars!  They are invaluable in my house, and store everything from left over soup to nails to flowers, and now, bulk dry goods. They are now full of my bulk goodies, waiting for a day when I have the time to make soup, or whatever other recipe I might happen upon.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Farm Happenings

This blog has been mostly quiet for the season, because of the drought.  We've spent many, many hours watering plants in the hopes they will not fry in the 100+ degree temperatures.  Sadly, we've lost many plants to the lack of the rain high temps.  But, there have been some surprises this season.

"Honeybun" Sweet Corn (hybrid)
We harvested sweet corn about a week ago.  This variety is called "honeybun".  It is not an heirloom corn seed, because we live so close to commercial corn fields that heirloom varieties do not produce well.  With the drought, I was expecting very tiny ears with many undeveloped rows.  What we discovered, however, was that while some of the ears had missing kernels, most were just fine.  It was a very nice surprise to actually harvest corn.  A little early, but I'll take early than none at all!

"Yellow Pear" tomato (heirloom)

Even with the drought and heat, we're getting a good amount of tomatoes.  In the last few days, we've also harvested about 10 pounds of tomatoes.  The Rutgers, Marglobe, and Roma plants have been doing great since we wrapped soaker hoses around them.  The Beefsteaks are not doing as well, but they are producing some here and there.  Our yellow pear variety produced first this season.  They are small and very sweet, perfect for snacking and salads.  Actually, many of our first Rutgers and Marglobe were more cherry-like in size, but now they are beginning to grow to full size.

Ready to become sauce!
Yesterday, we processed about 10 pounds of Rutgers, Marglobe, and Roma tomatoes into salsa and pasta sauce.  We purchased  a Sauce Master at Rural King, which has multiple screens that can be interchanged, depending on what you are working with.  We bought a salsa screen, and will eventually purchase the pumpkin and grape screens.  The screen that accompanies the unit is fine and not a seed comes through.  The salsa screen allowed the pulp and seeds through, and we ended up with a bowl of skins that the chickens devoured.  All in all, we ended up with 4 pints of pasta sauce, 3 pints of salsa, and 1 pint of salsa ready tomatoes (we ran out of salsa seasonings!).  There are still plenty of green tomatoes on the vines, and we have two plots of Beefsteak and more Marglobe that were planted later, and have been slowly getting bigger and bigger.  We're hoping for a late frost and an extended growing season this year!

Three Rhode Island Red hens
Not all has been good on the farm, however.  With several weeks of 100+ temps, we lost several year old hens from the heat, as well as one tom turkey.  The heavier breeds of chickens just don't seem to tolerate the heat as well as others, and these were the ones we lost.  We did make several valiant rescue efforts, one successful, and two not.  The Barred Rock that made it has recovered completely and is back with her coop mates and laying like normal.  The new Rhode Island Reds had been separated from the others in the coop, but due to the heat they had to be combined so they could have a cooler spot.  This resulted in 1 cockerel being almost pecked to death, and a hen with a similar injury.  They have been residing in our garage (AKA, the MASH unit) for quite some time now.  They will have a new home down at the in-laws once the meat birds are all processed.  As far as heat goes, the RIR's that we purchased as chicks earlier this year seem to tolerate the heat better than the others.  Next year, we will likely add Australorps and possibly some Leghorns to our little flock.  (I really want a Leghorn rooster to name Foghorn!!!)  

Ruby- farm dog wannabe
So that is what's been happening here at Aurora Bryn Farm.  The only other piece of news is our new addition to the family.  Ruby has been with us for about a month now.  She is a golden retriever/Labrador mixed breed puppy we acquired from a local rescue.  Her owners were about to dump her and her little mates into the river bottoms before some kind soul rescued them.  Ruby likes to bark at the chickens, and has made a mortal enemy of our remaining tom turkey, who rushes the fence at her whenever Ruby comes close, which is every time she is out there.  Ruby has a bit to learn about being a farm dog!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap!

So I decided to take a chance, and attempt to make our own liquid laundry soap.  I've seen multiple blogs about this, and read countless recipes.  Since we're becoming more and more ingrained into living a sustainable lifestyle, this seemed like the next natural step.

Here is what you need:
Everything shown was purchased at Rural King: borax, superwashing soda, baking soda, and bar soap.  I used Fels-Naptha, because it seemed to be the one that was the most used, and it was readily available.  Note this has both washing soda and baking soda.  I searched long and hard for a recipe that used both, because I am a long time fan of baking soda and its regular uses.

Here is the recipe I used:
1 cup borax
1 1/2 cup baking soda
1 1/2 cup washing soda
1 bar soap
1 quart of water to melt the soap in.  2 gallons for later.
1 5 gallon bucket.

First, grate the soap.  A box grater seems to be the best way to do this, just be careful when you get to the end of the bar!

In a large pot, heat 1 quart of water, and add the grated soap. Medium to medium high worked the best.

You have to constantly stir this until the grated soap is melted, and do not let it boil.  I noticed the soap tended to stick when I stopped stirring to measure out the other stuff.  I didn't take a picture (oops), but in a large bowl, add the borax, washing soda, and baking soda together. When the soap is completely dissolved, take it off the heat and add in the dry ingredients.  Stir this in really well- I ended up using a whisk to make sure everything was incorporated as it should be.

After everything is mixed together, pour the soap mixture into a 5 gallon bucket, and add 2 gallons of water and mix well.  Because I was worried about whether or not all my stuff was mixed well, I stirred it in the bucket for a long time.

I had some help....

This is what I ended up with.
Cover this for 24 hours, then check your consistency.  Here is where I'm in the dark, since this is my first batch.  Tomorrow evening about this time, I'll open it up and hope for a gel-like consistency.  My plan is to transfer a portion to a mason jar with a plastic lid, and keep it by the washer.  I guess you'll have to shake it before using, so a mason jar seems to be the logical choice for a container.

I'll make sure to post again tomorrow on whether or not my soap was a success!

Friday, February 10, 2012

We were thinking about raising some hogs on our property, only two so we can have one in our freezer at the end and one to sell. The goal we set at the 2011 Thanksgiving dinner at my parents house was to have a 90% + meal that was either raised or grown on our hobby farm or at my parents house. Aurora Bryn Farm has 2.33 acres and my parents have 40+. We should be able to make this work!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Our egg production is still going strong with an average of 9 to 11 eggs per day. We are starting to get enough of a customer base that getting rid of them is no longer a problem. Sometimes our biggest concern is having enough for ourselves so we will be going in with some friends and ordering another ten or so laying hens for our flock.

We are also going to do have meat birds again this year and this time we will be doing double what we had last time. My father is going half with us so this time we will be able to have them commercially processed at our local butcher rather than me doing them all here.

I have a coffee table full of seed catalogs. It's nice to think about the garden in the middle of Winter but you are likely to catch a serious case of Spring out!