Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mason Jars, Burlap and Smart Phones

I was pondering how much life is changing so fast, for everyone and it is hard to keep up with what is current.  There seems to be a feeling that if you don't participate in knowing and being involved in what is happening, you will be left behind.  What is the latest clothing fad; what is the most current shoe style; what is happening on TV shows; what sales are going on at the mall; what stores are opening; what stores are closing; should I have Dish Net; should I have Comcast. Oh so much to know.
Each morning I devote some time to view the news; read emails and blogs, and check my phone.  Frank and I have given each other a smart phone thinking we would use it occasionally, but are so surprised to find out how wonderful they can be in making contacts and receiving information immediately.  I can almost feel the need to keep the smart phone with me every minute of the day because I may miss a text or email.  I think I am "getting it"; the reason why you see people with the phone to their ear or in their hands; but resist because I am such a time management person.  Maybe because I feel I can become addicted to it and also because I still feel most of it is wasting my time when I should be doing something productive.  Is that my mother's voice talking to me from my past???
People love the idea of farming because I feel it gives people the sense that life here doesn't change, that the people who live on a farm resist modern, resist change, remain constant, remain close to the basics of life, take the time to chat instead of text; to value work more than play.  Much of those thoughts are true.  We are constantly asked if people can bring their kids to our farm to look at the chickens; or see the fruit on the trees; or see the old tractor Frank is restoring.  They want their children to not only see where food is grown, but also to feel a connect to the past, to a way of life that has always been there, in spite of all other changes.
There are two products that seem to become popular over and over again; come out from the basements or attics or barns every 10+ years.  One product is burlap.  I believe it originated in India, but has been an essential product in the agriculture field for centuries.  People used to receive feed in burlap bags and women would take the burlap sacks and make them into their curtains on the farms where the nearest town may take 2 days to take ride a horse to get there.  The strength of burlap is renowned, as it is hard to tear and can stand up to great pressure. Burlap is extremely weather resistant and can be dried over and over again after becoming moist. It is also available in many widths, weights and forms. Burlap is able to be colored, sewn, treated to protect against rotting and even laminated.  It is used in clothing, used to protect hillsides from erosion; used to protect trees from frost or shipping; the uses are endless.  For over 35 years, I raised canaries and each spring my daughter and I would cut small squares out of burlap.  And then pull the warp/weft of the fibers to end up with short burlap strings that I would place in the bottom of their cages.  The canaries would use them to build their nests.  We always have at least a bolt of burlap around our farm and re-use pieces for just about anything-it is a constant and dependable item on a farm.
The second product that is old yet keeps becoming modern is the Mason/Ball Jars.  John Mason invented the first canning jar with a screw top in 1858 with his patent expiring in 1879 which opened up the market to competition.  In 1884 Brothers Frank, Edmund, George, Luclus and Wm. form Ball Brothers Glass Mf. in New York State and start making mason jars.  In 1909 the first Ball Blue Book, a primer on home canning is published.  In 1933 the Ball Company does not lay off a single employee during the Great Depression.  A true, Made In America icon. I love Mason/Ball jars and use them in my pantry to store products; I can with them; I use them to store buttons; I put flowers in them in my CSA baskets.  On my Pinterest site, I have a category/folder for burlap ideas; and a folder for Mason jars.  It is unbelievable how many modern purposes are using old mason jars; or using a few yards of burlap to create a new purse or wreath for a door.
So turn the TV off; let the answering machine take the telephone call; leave the smart phone in the house and go outside to look and listen for yourself as to what is happening!!! 
Until next time-

Friday, June 15, 2012

Wind, Re-Use, Water, Bread Tips

Welcome back to Windmill Farm.  Can you believe that wind we had last week and even today?  And going from the 70 degrees to today, it is supposed to be 104 degrees.  We can adapt fairly well by wearing hats when outside; turning on the sprinklers or when inside; to turn on the fans or air conditioners.  But our poor vegetable and fruit plants really took a beating.  After the wind settled down, Frank and I really pumped the water to the plants to try and revive them.  My pepper plant leaves looked burned and half of them were knocked over. I am not sure, are we in spring or summer?
     We delivered our CSA baskets this week and they were filled with fruits and vegetables; along with basil, mint, chives.  They would have had some yummy parsley too but a gopher made very short work of them in just a few days.  For those that dream about someday owning their own small farm, make sure you are ready for lots of joy, but lots of extremely hard work and tribulations!
     I mentioned this before about how I am really loving all the renewed interest people are having into anything that has to eating healthy food; growing your own food; preserving your own food; farm animals; farm life.  Every magazine or TV ad shows the how to grow tomatoes or how to raise chickens in your backyard.  The new Williams Sonoma catalog has a new section called Agrarian where they have for sale gardening tools; seeds; planters; and even a chicken coop.  Some years ago I had attended a Sacramento Flea Market and purchased a couple of galvanized sinks that I was told came from France.  I really loved them so two came home with me.  While fixing up my garden shed, we decided one of the sinks would be perfect to water plants or even to have flowering plants under the window.  Frank installed it for me with a faucet next to it.  Here is a photo of mine with Rosie the cat using it to get up and lay on the window ledge and when I opened up my Williams Sonoma catalog, they are selling them too!!
Re-using, re-purposing happens all the time here at Windmill Farm just as it is happening in your home and you are seeing it everywhere.  Here are a couple of examples.  The first photo is a galvanized round hood looking object.  I purchased two of them from an antique store going out of business about 3 years ago not knowing what I would use it for but I just love anything farm related and made of tin or galvanized.  I believe it is called a brooder.  You put a light through the opening and hang it suspended over baby chicks to stay warm.  When we were putting together a little self service road side stand out front of our house, Frank built the stand and made a brooder into a roof.  I glued the flags around it and it helps to keep my items cool.  Re-using feed bags are very popular and I make them into farmer's market or tots when I have some time to sew.

TIP FOR THE DAY:  Did you know there's a way to help figure out how fresh store-bought bread is? Just look at the twist-tie or plastic tab that keeps the bag closed. Turns out, it's color-coded to reflect the day that the bread is baked. It became an almost-universal practice among commercial bakeries as a way to help grocery store restockers recognize which loaves to replace on their shelves.
To remember which color is which day, put the colors in alphabetical order. Here's the breakdown:

  • Blue: Monday
  • Green: Tuesday
  • Red: Thursday
  • White: Friday
  • Yellow: Saturday
Did you know this??  Now we just want to know why bread isn't baked on Wednesdays.
PS-Keep watering because plants, trees, shrubs, vegetables dry out so much faster with wind than the heat and we are having both!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

2012 CSA Season Began and Making Strawberry Jam

I am sure all of you have been busy with the warm weather being outdoors; with school activities; seems like everything happened all at once.  Last week I purchased two wedding gifts,  a graduation gift for high school and a college; and we attended our grandson Collin's "graduation" out of pre-school; and a wonderful picnic celebration of granddaughter Carli's 1st. grade class at their school. And we started our 2012 CSA basket of fresh produce delivery business.  Wow!!!
Over Memorial weekend, our family came with some friends and we had a delightful day picking our own strawberries and then making them into jam.  The day was so beautiful, all the kids had so much fun playing around on the farm, driving their kids electric Gator; playing in the tree house and picking cherries and strawberries.  After a BBQ, we stacked up all our completed jam jars and we had made over 80 jars of jam for really only costing very little money plus having a really good old fashioned family day together.We really didn't think we could get enough items in our baskets that would delight our members with such a weird spring here at the farm.  But after we picked and put everything together, it turned out quite wonderful.  We will make up later when all the crops start producing and our baskets are almost too heavy to lift with lots more vegetables.  This delivery had lots of surprises too for my members with some rice from Lundberg Rice Farms; apricots, cherries, strawberries, jam, onions, lettuce, flowers, eggs to name a few items.  We even picked our first peppers, such a shock to have peppers before the end of May!!!  Our salads are now starting to taste wonderful using fresh vegetables picked from the garden. The flowers from are garden were picked and put in the back of our gator and later I arranged them in Mason jars and placed in each basket.
I mentioned in a past blog that I would show another photo of our completed hall bathroom.  Every day that we go into it, it is like seeing a bathroom that belongs to someone else. We are so happy with the results without spending a huge amount of money.  On our projects, after deciding on a floor plan and products/materials to use, we keep our eyes open for any items that turn out to go on sale someplace or find on Craig's list it is always a surprise where something might show up.  The dimensions of the rooms we have planned to remodel are always in my purse.  We found most of the tile we needed locally at our Non-profit window and kitchen/ tile supply store here in Gridley called River Valley Outreach Community Center-RVOCC.  You never know what they may have each time you go, so it is always fun to check back but you need to buy the windows or doors or cabinets or tile when you see them.  And buy more tile than you think you need because the next time you go, that item/s will be gone. Fab prices.  In Gridley we have two other places that are filled with bargains for items that always surprise us.  Chris at Swanson Timber Co is located in Biggs.  We found him on Craigslist when we were looking for tomato plant stakes for our fields.  Wonderful and helpful guy.  He now has a lumber yard located in downtown Biggs and has so much lumber and incredible prices.  He has redwood, fence materials, 2/4s, cabinet materials, siding, all kinds and lengths of posts, too much to mention.  We didn't know he was there when we were remodeling our bathroom, found his lumber yard when we contacted him again for more tomato stakes.  What a wonderful surprise and such a nice guy.  Another local place is Goforth Moulding also in Biggs off of Larkin Rd.  Talk about moulding!!!  When you want baseboards, crown moulding, trims, you will think you died and went to heaven when you see his selection and the FABBBB prices.  We have resorted many old houses and if I had known they were in Biggs, we could have saved ourselves thousands of dollars.  They have columns, doors and they have fencing where you can have it put together for you or buy the boards and install yourself for so much cheaper prices than any other hardware stores.  Check them out, they are a family owned business and have been in business for years. 
Before picture in bathroom, we took out the tub and pocket door; Frank built the cabinet and we moved the toilet to a new location and were able to put in a great shower.  Will show you the shower on my next blog.
Craft Ideas:  Have you heard about Anne Sloan's Chalk Paint?  Got to check that out, loads of fun colors, covers well and gives new life to some old items.  Also saw this idea in a magazine.  Cute using paper bags and fill them some cherries, strawberries or blue berries from your local farmers, like US!!!