Struggling

This has been the hardest summer to date. This is even worse than the year we had to rebuild the tire wall. C had a “cardiac episode” almost a month ago. We have no idea what caused it but he definitely has heart damage. He was taken off work for at least a month but so far we haven’t had any answers, other than from the cardiologist who told us that “he was too young to be having heart trouble so it was probably heartburn, so take some Tums”.

I have had a really hard time getting myself back together after this, and C isn’t allowed to do anything strenuous, especially in the heat. We have been able to keep up on most of our bills but it’s been a struggle since the kids just went back to school. I was able to ramp up my bread baking for a while but I’m so afraid of getting in trouble (because the cottage food laws are strict) that I have refrained from advertising myself outside of our Facebook page. Thankfully we have a great group of friends who love bread.

The CSA has taken a huge hit because of the constant rain into immediate drought and I had to cut way back on how many I am offering. I’m really upset about it and may end up having to cut it short all together. I Think I can keep up 3 baskets for the rest of the season, buts until it starts raining again it’s really touch and go. We are behind in so many chores on the farm that I can’t even fathom catching up anytime soon.

The one silver lining is that we are living here. I absolutely love our farm and the house. I do have to force myself to stop and really take in all that we have achieved in the past few years and k ow that we will get past this. It’s also really nice having C home. It was our plan from the begining to be able to figure out how to work the land enough that he could afford to be home more. The factory job has been a huge blessing to our family but it is literally killing him. I am really impressed with his dedication to the bees though and hope that it can be lucrative in the next few years. I guess time will tell. For now we need to get through this hiccup.

Rough summer

This spring and summer has been rough for produce growers. Everyone I have talked to either has or are currently losing produce left and right. The spring was really hot and wet. We lost almost all of our cabbage family plants. We bought some hoop benders at the begining of the season but couldn’t get out money situation straighted out enough to make hoop houses out of our brassica beds. Next year we are going to spread them out more, have them bigger when we put them out, and put a cover over them during it gets too hot. Hopefully we can get some yield out of them. From what I understand they do better in the fall anyway.

The summer plants took a big hit because it was too cool and wet for them for a very long time. Finally over the past three weeks the rain has stopped and the sun has come out and we are finally getting everything to grow. We are hoping we will finally start to get a good yield in the next few weeks. I feel bad for our CSAs. I’ve had to cut back a lot to compensate for the lag in produce. We are learning a lot.though and have a much better plan to go forward with next year.

The good news is that my bread business is really taking off. We could potentially come out of this ahead, finally. I don’t want to jinx it though.

Update on the bees

It has been a hard spring with all the rain. I’ll update you all on that later. The one shining start through it has been our bees. The three colonies we bought are currently doing wonderfully.

Out if the four splits we made into the queen castle two have produced queens and have been moved to nucs. One of our starter colonies started a swarm cell while we were on vacation so we moved the queen to her own nuc and are waiting for the new queens to hatch.

So at the moment we have 5 hives with queens, four hives with capped queen cups that will hopefully be hatching in the next week, and two that we are waiting to see what they do (one may have a queen on a mating flight and one was just started today).

From 3 to 5 hives in a month and a half isn’t bad!

Aa

The mission

Hey guys, gonna get a bit real on this one. Last night I attended my 20 year high school reunion. It was wonderful. I loved seeing everyone and finding out what they have all been up to, and also sharing the farm story with them. I was actually flabbergasted at how many people not only follow our farm story but were encouraging us to keep pushing for our dream. We see ourselves most days as the weird backwoods people who are slowly trying to fight against inequality one bread loaf at a time and rarily step back to see the impact that we have on others. I was encouraged by many last night to make this post, so here it is.

We have many new followers who may not have read back to our early days of building the house and farm, back when I made a lot more political posts than I do now. Some of you may not be familiar with the mission of the farm, and because of this I need to share it more. I need to put it at the forefront of our public persona.

We have been at the bottom. We have been food insecure with small children. We have had to stand in line for community food baskets and survive on food stamps. We have had to go without food ourselves so our children could eat. We are very familiar with this process. We are also familiar with how humiliating it can be, especially when your weekly basket consists of expired food cans and boxed goods that taste like plastic. We know what it is to live in one of the poorest states in America with the highest rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes. We know how it is to know that you need to eat better but not be able to afford it, while simultaneously having to listen to people tell you that it’s your fault and that poor people don’t deserve better unless they pull themselves up themselves. We had people put in our lives who gave us chances that we probably would not have been given of we had been anything but a white heterosexual couple with small children. I will never not be appreciative of those people, but at the same time I will also acknowledge the fact that not everyone will be given the same opportunities that we were.

Food accessability has always been something I have been passionate about, but after going through that ourselves we knew we needed to figure out how to make this change. So I started to research food quality and availability. For years now I have been getting books from the library, buying books, going to lectures, and talking to everyone I can to help me figure out how to solve this problem. We have a dilemma right now where the healthiest food is coming out of the small farming industry, which is also the most expensive. Next month I am subbmitting my application to a sustainability graduate program with the hope of answering this very problem. How do we bridge the gap between the local food industry and the people who can’t afford the local food industry. The CSA is our experiment to see if we can be profitable while also providing good healthy food to people who can’t afford to join other CSAs. If we can be successful this year we are not only going to expand exponentially in the following years but we are also going to add in a sponsorship program where you can sponsor a box to a family in need. We love and appreciate everyone that has supported us, and welcomed us in your lives. Hopefully in the future we can be a major change in this fight. Please keep following and share our mission with others!

Company

We had C’s birthday party last weekend. It was a big one but I won’t tell you which one. We had a few of our friends over to play a day of D&D. It was quite fun and exactly the party he wanted. I had a goal that before he ay of the party we would put up the drywall that had been laying on the floor for months. The day before the party was spent… Putting up the drywall. I love having almost all of the floor open. Now we just need to finish them and I will be extremely happy! Here are what the floor and the walls look like. We still have 2 full sheets to put up in he laundry room once we finish putting in the electric wires that need to run to the breaker box, but that will happen later and I’m in no big hurry to do that. Yay for free progress!

Forcing our hand

Sometimes in life you make list of what you want to get done and when you want to get it done, and then life comes at you and says “nope, you must get it done NOW NOW NOW!”. Such is the life of home ownership (I would say building a home, but let’s be real here, this happens to just about everyone).

Last week I had finished cutting the tile for the bathroom so that this week we could finish laying it and have the bathroom floor complete by C’s birthday party. As some of you know we have been battling some flooding issues in the bathroom and boys’ room that we have just about completely resolved. We began noticing that the untiled floors in the bathroom were still wet and despite running the dehumidifier the drywall was starting to grow mold. After taking a closer look we realized that the wax seal on the toilet had failed and was flooding the bathroom every time we flushed the toilet.

Out we went that day to buy a new, and better, seal. Yesterday we spent the day fixing the toilet, fixing the loose tile that was under the toilet, and laying the tile in the spots of the floor that weren’t wet. We still have two very small areas that need to be tiled but that should only take a half an hour once the floors dry. We also removed the pieces of drywall that molded and will be replacing them with mold resistant drywall. At least this fix has only cost us about $25. It could have been so much worse.

Bees, bees, and more bees

As always we have been super busy here at the farm. We now have three hives that seem to be doing really well. We will know for sure on the newest two in a few days. Today C split the first hive into a queen castle he had made.

The hive was doing really well and was full of bees. There were lots of capped brood as well as larvae. They also had a few frames of honey and pollen too. We have a really calm colony. We have no problem messing with them without gloves.

We found the queen pretty easily. She is quite large compared to the other bees. She layed about 5 eggs while we watched her and we really wanted that frame for the queen castle. C gently moved her to another frame and placed the frame she was on into the castle.

We moved another frame we thought had new eggs in it as well. Without a queen the nurse bees will create a queen out of one of those new eggs, which will hopefully give us two new hives. Then we gave them a pollen patty and put a feeder with a 1:1 sugar syrup on top. We will check on them again in a week to see if they have created queen cells. I’ll keep you posted on that!

Farmers Market

We have switched farmers markets this year. After much deliberation it was decided that joining the Shelby County Farmers market would be in our best interest. Our previous farmers market was not very inviting to new members and was very hard to navigate. It also was not in the greatest location and did not receive very much traffic. Our hope is that we will be much more successful now that we have switched.

I will also be joined by a good friend of mine from work who builds crafty things. She is very talented and extremely funny. Before we decided to make the switch we attended the first meeting of the new market. Apparently the market had gone through some changes over last year and were in need of some new officers and board members. She and I (knowing how apt we are at either volunteering ourselves or being volunteered for things) both proceeded to sink in our seats to avoid detection, in the room of 10 people. Despite our best efforts, and the small detail that we were not yet approved members, she is now the new secretary and I am on the board.

A week or so later, at the first board meeting, we officially approved our own membership into the market… A little backwards but it’s something nice to put on a resume and I get to put together a new members packet to ensure new members aren’t completely lost and confused their first day. I consider this a win on my part.

Last weekend we cleaned up the market area, which is a very nice pavilion located at the fairgrounds with large signs and banners, a bathroom (this is a nice perk, no more having to make the littles pee behind the bushes of the courthouse. You did not hear that from me), and stalls that are designated for each vendor. These are our stalls. I have to say that so far I am quite pleased. The market officially opens on the 11th of May. For those of you in the area I hope to see you there! 8-12am!

Lots of farm progress

We are a bit behind on working on the house, but we have done a lot with the farm! In terms of the house we are cleaning up a section of the bottom driveway so we can have the whole driveway leveled and the giant hole right outside the front door finally filled in. Until that happens we have been diligently working on the farm!

The Brassicas are thriving! I still have about 2 months until I can harvest though. I think next year I’m going to start the seedlings in late January. That way I can have some ready to harvest by the start of the market, which is mid May. It was smart to plant the garlic and onions around them because we have had little to no insect interference. We have also had some of our asperagus plants come up. That was a bit of a surprise since we really haven’t taken care of them in there years, aside from cleaning out the bed once last year.

I also had quite the shock the other day. I was weeding the garden and making a general well check of the day when I almost stepped on this guy

That is a garter snake eating a toad. It was actually pretty cool to see, and I was so happy to finally get confirmation that we had safe snakes around (great pest control and all). I was a little sad for the toad and wished it had been eating a mouse, but oh well. What can you do.

C also purchased another package of bees to replace the one we lost. He has been doing a ton of research lately and has really stepped up on his bee caretaking, much as I have with the garden. It’s easier to take care of things when we live here and don’t have to set aside large chunks of time. We checked them yesterday and the queen is doing very well. In the next week and a half we should start having tons more bees hatching. There is so much more to share but I’ll save some for tomorrow. But for now I will leave you with BEES!!

A very productive weekend.

We have so much preparation for the coming summer. Friday C bought the last of the bee supplies we need for the colonies we have coming in over the next few weeks. We spent most of last night putting them together.

Today we picked up two scoops (which filled the back of the truck) of soil and compost to finish filling our last three already built garden plots. We even had enough left over to fill in the asparagus bed we put in three years ago and forgot about. We cleaned it up, added more soil, and planed the empty half in artichokes. One of the regular beds I direct sowed more carrots and beets and planted our basil and oregano. I will also add radishes once those seeds come in. The last two beds will be planted in zucchini and several types of squash over the coming weeks. Eventually they will have corn and most of our beans and cucumbers. We still need to add 8 more beds over the next few weeks as well, but that’s mostly for summer plants C also spent the day cutting down much of the brush around the house and garden. We then celebrated our hard work by taking the kids fishing, and playing with the puppies.