Arbor Day Foundation: More than just cheesy commercials

Those of us of a certain age all remember the Trees are Terrific commercials that Arbor Day put out a couple of decades ago.  While the commercials were over the top patronizing, the message was still solid…get out there and plant some trees people.  Enter in Arbor Day Foundation 2013.  They are still alive and kicking without the cheesy animated cardinal.  Their website http://www.arborday.org has a wealth of information about planting in your zone, educational programs for kids as well as opportunities to help your city/town replenish your tree population through programs like Tree City USA.

pic courtesy of arborday.org

pic courtesy of arborday.org

They also have what looks like a beautiful lodge for the ULTIMATE tree hugger vacation, Lied Lodge.  While we have not been there, I think it would be a very easy sell for me to get Sheldon to visit their lodge/tree farm while I get some rubs in the spa:

Barn at the lodge: pic courtesy of Lied Lodge

Barn at the lodge: pic courtesy of Lied Lodge

But, I’m not here to talk about scamming my way into a spa day (sigh, heavenly!)…I’m here to talk about scoring some bargain trees.  You can do this a few different ways like through getting a membership for ten itty bitty dollars, you get ten free trees that you get to select from a listing of either ten of the same, or just ten pretty flowering trees that are well suited for your zone like the Golden Raintree:

pic courtesy of forestry.about.com

pic courtesy of forestry.about.com

Or, if you are feeling more generous, you can either opt for no trees at all…or you can select that your ten free trees go into a Nat’l Forest.  In addition to the gift with membership purchase, you can also just purchase trees outright from their nursery, which we did (and I will blog on when I’m not so sore from the planting.) The only thing I wasn’t crazy about was the idea of ordering fruit trees through them without being able to verify from whence they came….ie…GMO?  It looks like some of their fruit trees are heirloom varieties but I can’t seem to find information on the others.  However, I personally believe there is much that you can do to “rehabilitate” certain plants/trees if you take a long view approach.  That is-more than likely, these trees will take at least a few years to reach fruit bearing stage.  As a result, if perhaps they grew up initially in a “broken-home” full of chemicals from parents with questionable heritage, they can still be loved, nurtured and eventually grown as organic as possible.   And while you can’t love the GMO out of a plant, I do think that you can get pretty close to what God intended with some TLC.  Bottom line is that while I can’t verify if these trees are all heirloom, non-GMO, organic, etc etc…I still believe it is a really good thing for the environment planting more trees that are good for your zone.

Sigh, ok…gotta go get dressed for a morning of boring errands in the city.  Been up waaaay too long today.  Curse you time change!  Happy planting!

Check out some great new posts every Monday at the Homestead Barn Hop!  http://newlifeonahomestead.com

Check out some great new posts every Monday at the Homestead Barn Hop!
http://newlifeonahomestead.com

 

 

Slow Foods Ark of Taste: Is real food becoming extinct?

For those of us who are actively making a conscious effort to eat food closer to how God originally created it, I think the slow food movement is less of a movement and just more of a way of life.  But what is the slow food movement you cheesie pouf eating readers may ask?  Well, in a very small nutshell, it’s a movement that was started to help consumers realize just how much genetically modified, engineered and just plain wrong food hits their plates every day.  What I really like about the ideas that they espouse is the concept that the best foods shouldn’t be reserved for the rich…that is, those people who can afford to go to Whole Foods and Sprouts every day picking up the best organic produce that the market has to offer.  No.  Slow food is about making this food available at all income levels in every store so that we all are getting the best of God’s bounty-not just what Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta want us to have.

badge courtesy of slow food usa

badge courtesy of slow food usa

To that end, enter in their US Ark of Taste.  The Ark of Taste is a listing of 200 foods who are in danger of becoming extinct.  Many of these are regional specialties, but I think it’s a national imperative that we stop and think about what we are putting on our plates.  When is the last time you stopped and thought about the variety of produce you were putting into your cart at your local mega mart?  For some of us, probably not too often.  But, there are plenty of little changes even the non-homesteader can do in the grocery store.  Instead of reaching for that same bag of brown potatoes, try the reds, golds or better yet, the purple potatoes!  See those long white radishes next to the round red ones?  Try those instead!  Armenian cucumbers instead of “regular” cucumbers?  Yes please!  Another great way to ensure biodiversity and the inherent values behind the Slow Food movement is to frequent roadside stands and/or farmers markets.  Yes, some of the produce available at these events is going to be GMO and loaded with chemicals, but in other cases you are going to find small scale farmers who are doing everything in their power to produce heirloom produce without the use of harmful chemicals even if they can’t jump through the hoops from the USDA to become “certified organic.”  And speaking of heirloom produce, for those of you who are backyard gardening, farming or homesteading, think about picking up some heirloom, non-GMO seeds to produce in your garden/henhouse/pasture.  I don’t know about you, but when I start looking at seeds that produce fruit and veg in abundant, wild colors with incredible taste descriptions, I ask myself why have I been buying the same mealy produce year after year at the mega mart?  The answer may not be easy to find, but the solution certainly is…biodiversity.  Let’s all embrace it and bring some interest back to our plates!  Happy eating!

Check out some great new posts every Monday at the Homestead Barn Hop!  http://newlifeonahomestead.com

Check out some great new posts every Monday at the Homestead Barn Hop!
http://newlifeonahomestead.com

 

 

 

Poop is worth it’s weight in gold?

Those of you who have had to rehab large tracts of land know what I’m talking about…turkey litter.  It’s the fertilizer of choice here for pasture land (did you know Missouri was the #2 producer of cattle in the nation?  Nope?  We didn’t either…) and it’s worth it’s weight in stinky gold.

Our poop is the shiz.comPic courtesy of ect coop

Our poop is the shiz.com
Pic courtesy of ect coop

We have asked every single human that we have come into contact with for connections.  I even stopped by the local Ag Extension today and asked if they had a hook up for litter and/or topsoil and oddly both of these ladies looked at me like I was on crack.  While we have found Missourians to be absolutely warm and lovely people, they don’t give up the good stuff to “ferners” (You know-people from Texas) quite so easily.  Finally someone shared the helpful nugget that it is actually more profitable for these poop producers (aka large poultry farms) to ship it up north than to sell it to their neighbors.  Huh.

So, to The Bing I go…I have discovered some local (local being companies within 200 miles) providers and intermediaries.  I’ve sent messages to several of them, all in Sheldon’s name (because that post on good old boy mysogeny is for another day) and now we just wait.  For poop.  That we have to pay for.  What a life.

Blueberry farming, Kitty eating and family fun in between

We had a great weekend this weekend!  On Saturday, we got another farm dog this weekend to keep Kya company.  They are already getting along famously and Buddy is helping to teach Kya that he is boss.  Kya has a bit of a nipping problem and I’ve noticed that when she got me a few times, he came over and corrected her before I even had a chance.  Hallelujah!  He came from a very nice family that simply did not have enough room for him in their backyard.  He is smart and kind and we have high hopes for him, although he (insert huge sigh here) seems to have the cat affliction that so many others do despite being raised with a cat….“I just need one taste mom!”

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Despite his kitty addiction, the family that gave him up had a very nice young girl who was very sad to see him go and we promised that we would love him, so we shall.  We’re hoping to take both dogs to the obedience classes that start in a few weeks but we’ll have to see how that works out with Sheldon’s crazy work schedule.  Anyone else out there have successful techniques for teaching outside dogs “no kitties” when it comes to barn cats?

We had a great family day on Sunday starting off our adventures at Promised Land Zoo  and ending it at Tractor Supply.  We’re kind of suckers for finding these “drive through zoos” wherever we live and we are very fortunate that Promised Land seems to do an excellent of caring for both the animals and of the souls of those who come to visit.  Plus, we have been there so many times since moving here that they offered us a break on an annual membership.  Love it!  They have one location in the middle of nowhere (Eagle Rock-shout out!) and a new location in Branson.  If you are planning a family visit to Silver Dollar City or the like this summer, I highly recommend checking them out!

At Tractor Supply, The Blueberry was excited to find so many garden implements her size.  We’re actually planning on her having her very own garden this year.  She’s going to be responsible for tilling, planting, watering, etc.  If I’m behing honest, I have to say that I expect it to look like a hot mess by the end of the summer, but I think involving our kids in growing their own food is a really important part of this journey to get back to nature.  She spent the entire ride to PL Zoo telling us what seeds she needs us to order:

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Plus, in the event that a carrot or strawberry actually makes it through her more than likely haphazard care, I can imagine that she will beam with pride!  She’s already been helping add more hay to the dogs’ training yard and the chicken coop:

yes, that really is a kid sized radio flyer wheelbarrow.  Thanks Tractor Supply!

yes, that really is a kid sized radio flyer wheelbarrow. Thanks Tractor Supply!

Well, it looks like another storm is moving in.  Fluffy Newspaper, our “head” barn cat is running back and forth in front of the kitchen window in between the garage and the barn like he’s on a mission.  I think this unsettled weather has the animals unsettled, so we better get to it.  Hope everyone has a great day.  Happy farming!

Check out some great new posts every Monday at the Homestead Barn Hop!  http://newlifeonahomestead.com

Check out some great new posts every Monday at the Homestead Barn Hop!
http://newlifeonahomestead.com

Composting for beginners

I’m so looking forward to spring although it’s with a little trepidation. We are a bit behind in getting the garden ready compared to previous years. However, the one thing that we have been great about is beginning our compost pile. We’re lucky in that we don’t have to worry about “smell free” compost options since our compost pile is a good distance away from the house. But, you know, one of the things that I have really noticed is just how smell free our compost pile is. And while I know a certain bit of earthiness is to be expected, I think that I’ve learned that sometimes stink doesn’t always mean good compost. And we have some beautiful compost. Just ask our little rescue cat, Soleil. She is obsessed with the compost pile but thankfully doesn’t add her own “signature” to it:

 

Soleil “helping” me with the pig pen by holding the dirt down with her body…

So how to get started on your own little pile of compost? Well, we started composting a bit in our suburban house-mostly in the winter. We would allow our garden beds to go dormant and add in rich materials to increase the nutrients in the soil for spring planting. Even in our little suburban jungle, we always had a pretty good harvest of fruit/veg that were ideal for our zone. But, what to do if you want to be more thoughtful than we were (hello-standing on the back porch having zucchini throwing contests to see who can hit the garden-not thoughtful composting)…then you first need to think about a few things:

1) Do I have the patience to keep up with it?  Composting is not just about throwing stuff in a pile.  That’s called being a redneck…composting is about the thoughtful throwing of stuff in a pile and then maintaining that pile so your leftovers turn into nutrition for future fruit, veg and trees.

2) Do I have a place to do this?  While you need very little space to compost, this probably isn’t a good fit for you if you live in a one bedroom loft with no garage, patio or outside space.  Even the best compost units take up some space, so decide if this is something you can live with and if so, where will it go?

3) Do local laws/restrictions need to be considered?  While I can’t say that I have heard of any cities/counties restricting composting, you just never know.  I still think about the guy from the Pacific Northwest who was cited for using rain barrels on his property because the city felt like he was taking water away from other residents.  Sometimes gov’t can be crazy…but I think crazier than government is a Homeowners Association, so check with yours to make sure that you aren’t breaking the neighborhood law.  And if you are-well, then get them to change it and compost anyway!!

Beyond what I think are the basic considerations above, there are plenty of simple articles that can help you get started like the EPA’s site (actually aimed at business, but good info all the same) and another good site from the state of California.  Many will walk you through adjusting the content of your compost pile so that it’s not too acidic or nitrogen rich, etc.  For us, we’re just not that high-tech yet…but I would imagine that we will be someday.  For now, here is a list of things that we typically compost in our “casual compost” pile:

Vegetable/Fruit trimmings (no tomatoes or citrus)

Rotten vegetables (we all have those hairy little carrots that get forgotten at the back of a crisper)

Used coffee grounds/filters (not talking your K cups people)

Lawn trimmings

Egg shells (I only use our egg shells-not any we buy from the grocery and I rinse them before putting them in.  Probably lose nutrients rinsing them, but that helps me with the “oogie” factor)

I have heard of some folks who compost meat waste from processing without any negative effects but we’re not remotely there yet.  It’s an interesting idea.

Used chicken bedding (while we use chicken poop, we do not compost dog/cat poop at this time.  We’ve read that the risks outweigh the benefits)

Beyond tossing in these things, we go out to stir it to make sure that it’s getting all of that great decomposition throughout the pile.  We don’t have any trouble with smell, vermin or flies…and that to me is the sign of a great pile.  Well, that and how much our plants will love it!

So-what do you like to compost and how do you manage it?  Would love to hear from some other folks!  Until then, happy composting!

 

 

Trying to work on a little garden planning….

I promise this is not an advertisement for Burpee...

I promise this is not an advertisement for Burpee…

 

We’re doing some garden planning here on Blueberry Acres Farm.  We have used Seed Savers many times in the past for our seed needs (and they have some great varieties) but for some reason, we haven’t yet ordered any from them this year.  I think it’s been the craziness of the last couple of months-we’re just a bit behind with our garden planning.  So, we’re just rolling for now with these organic seeds hoping that at least we will get our soil started.  We have been composting in preparation for getting our garden beds ready.  We’re trying to keep it as organic as possible.  To that end, I had read recently about a farmer/gardener that was using a small tunnel and wrapping it in tulle (that was fun trying to explain tulle to Sheldon) to keep pests out.  Seems like a pain, but after losing many crops to the dreaded squash bug, I’m open to anything that doesn’t involve me buying deet by the truckload-yuck!  Anyone ever experiment with this method?

We have decided to do 4-6 large/raised garden beds (mostly because we’re finding rock is a major component of the soil here) with a variety of plants.  While I don’t have all of the beds planned out, I would like to take advantage of companion planting as much as possible.  I would like to have a Three Sisters garden bed and I’m considering focusing on lasagna style gardening.

I’m also enjoying the geeky appeal of Mother Earth News’ Garden Planner.  It has handy tips, planting schedules as well as companion planting information.  However, if I really want to show my garden geekiness, I would show you my multi-tabbed Excel spreadsheet with it’s myriad of garden plans, but we don’t know each other that well yet!

Happy planting!