Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Knit Nite a Success and Chevron Patterned Drawer Liner

Knitted Flowers-Surprise Gifts
The Knit Nite-Learn to knit class turned out so much fun.  It is so wonderful to have these get togethers with some amazing women.  Aimee, the owner of Aimee's Yarn shop in Paradise was so patient and had the class all casting on and knitting in a very short time.  I had made cute knitted floral pins using scraps of yarn and patterns from Nicky Epstein's knitting book called Knitted Flowers.  I had attended a "Stitches West" Convention a few years ago where Ms. Epstein had a booth and was selling her book and demonstrating these new items.  She is an exceptional knitting designer and I have several of her other books and it was a great thrill to have met her. 
The dining room was set up with items that had been hand knitted, skeins of beautiful yarns, different size needles and lots of goodies to eat while learning to knit.  I think a Knit Nite once a month may be a fun thing to continue.
When I was working a full time executive-high paced job in my pre-farming days, I would work more than 55 hours a week, but seemed to always find time to go shopping.  I would be shopping for clothes, shoes, jewelry, house items, kids items, husband items, honestly, shopping was planned around anything and everything.
For the last few years, I seem to never go shopping unless it is Tractor Supply (where I have been known to buy shoes and clothes); occasionally Target and grocery shopping.  If I needed anything, I would just go on-line and have the item dropped to my door step.
But the other day, our friend Tina had purchased a bed from Marshall's and needed someone with a larger vehicle to pick it up, so I volunteer and off we went shopping.  My word, I had forgotten about the thrill of shopping, my eyes lit up like it was Christmas.  One item that ended up in my shopping cart was this chevron patterned drawer liner.  I have no idea why I bought it, other than aqua is my favorite color and I love the design of chevron.  I came home with the two rolls, put them in my pantry and forgot about them.  They fell off the shelf on to my head yesterday, so I decided to use them or give them away to someone who would use them.
The process was so easy, measured the drawers; cut the paper to size; peeled off the back and started laying it out.  I had this handy tool for wallpapering, so I used it to push out any bubbles.  I felt pretty good about my kitchen drawers, they got cleaned out, all unused items put in a thrift shop bag; new stylish lining and everything put back in a tidy and neat order.  It was actually more satisfying that buying those beautiful leather heels I bought oh so many years ago and wore-well, maybe not.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cooking Up Cottage Industry Products

  The new Cottage Food Bill AB1616 (The Homemade Food Act) became effective January, 2013.  This new legislation allows Cottage Industry people to produce and sell low-risk food products that are "non-potentially hazardous" to the public.  A list of items that can be produced are baked goods without cream or meat fillings; candy; dried fruit; dried pasta; fruit pies; granola; honey; jams, jellies, preserves and fruit butter; nuts; popcorn; vinegars.  This opens up a new avenue to sell items directly to the public, that are grown and made on the property where the food item originated.  There are two classes of food production, Class A and Class B, depending on the scope and type of items a business wishes to pursue.
   I have recently gone forward to obtain the licensing and certification to sell items in Class A which this class means I can sell my prepared items directly to a customer, such as through my CSA business or through a Farmer's Market or at my Self Service Roadside Stand.  Of course, nothing is easy if it involves the government, right?  I filled out the necessary forms with our Public Health Office (after going to 2 separate offices to find the correct department to file them).  This is such a new program, internal county offices have had to sort out jurisdictions and procedures.  At the Health Office, I was instructed to take the special water testing container, pay $18 and to drop off the sample of my drinking water to the Public Health Laboratory.  Then I am to take a 2 hour Food Operators Course that costs $15.00 and after completing, I am to send the certificate back to the Health Department.  In the mean time, my application is being forwarded to the Department of Development Services, Land Use for their review to insure that my property meets the land use and I am in a proper zone to have a cottage industry.  I will be notified of that cost at a later date.  I took my water sample into the Health Lab and am waiting for the results and approval by the Development Services Department.  I decided to wait for those results, before I paid out the $15 and take the 2 hour Food Operators Course.  Since I have been cooking for over 50+ years and have yet to kill anyone or make anyone sick from my cooking, I am assuming I will pass that course.
  All I want to do is to add some items to be made available to my customers, some jellys, some jams, some dried fruits and to possibly add pies and breads to my CSA member's baskets.  Since I have fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, farm fresh eggs, and Grass Fed, no hormone beef (from Douglass Ranch), what better items to add to make a totally complete weekly basket!!
In between the wind, we did get a few days to work in the fields, I planted some onions and hope to plant potatoes in the next few days.
I have been also busy putting my Learn To Knit Nite class together.  The class is scheduled for Monday, February 25th 6:30pm-9:00pm.  I have knitted up a bunch of really cute gift items for door prizes and will prepare my favorite Lemon/Lavender Cake served with fresh strawberries, mint tea and ice water.  The evening should be great fun and the instructor is Aime who owns the Yarn Shop in Paradise.  If you are interested, I still have 2 open spots.
Great Quotes:
Forgive your enemies; it messes up their heads
Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer

Monday, February 18, 2013

Aches and Pains and Loving the Farming Life

     Last evening, I thought I was going to die as every muscle in my body ached.  I have been cutting back; pruning; hedging; raking; digging and then starting up again the next day. Nature has just gone crazy while I thought we were still in winter!     Here at Windmill Farm, we have about 2 acres that encompass the house, shop, garden shed, chicken coop, garage, lawns, old fruit tree orchard and gardens.  The back of the property has around 3 1/2 acres which is where we grow all our vegetables for our Community Supportive Agriculture (CSA) business, have our pomegranate trees and another 30+ fruit trees. 
2012 CSA Harvest
     When we have warm weather early, like we have had these last few weeks, the whole property just pops into action and needs attention.  We can go crazy if we see the whole farm at one time needing something done, but we just have to focus on one section at a time.  Luckily for me, I have my wonderful Frank who I have pretty well trained enough now after 44 years, to ask me in the morning what I need him to do!!!  Aren't I a lucky farmer girl?  While I was cutting back the roses and hydrangeas, cutting back that horrid, horrid ivy (which Frank just loves); cutting back all the Mum dead branches from the late fall blooming; raking up the leaves in the flower beds, +++; Frank was discing the big field in the back where we plant melons; he disced all the other vegetable planting areas and cemented in the new fence poles for the enlarged chicken run.  And then we just dropped into our Mom and Pop chairs last evening and took 3 Advil pills each. 

     This is what having a small farm is about, a big enough property to do what you love to do, but it isn't a large farm where you may have the funds to hire help that does the work for you!  But Frank and I would not have it any other way and in spite of morning to night work; in spite of the worries about the weather; in spite of the financial worries; in spite of all the aches and pains, when you smell that beautiful Gridley soil being turned over in the fields; when I get my vegetable seeds in the mail; when I see the apricot trees blooming like they are doing today, we are really Blessed to be able to be living a life that we want to live.  We just wished our bodies were 20 years younger.

Outside of coop to get eggs
Inside Coop
And to clean

Quotes I saw Yesterday:

"Always drink upstream from the herd" and "Life is simpler when you plow around the stump"

Friday, February 15, 2013

New Chicken Coop & Chick Days at Tractor Supply

It is chick time of year so if you are thinking of having your own chickens, now is a great time to purchase chicks.  They only become available to buy early spring and most feed stores that carry they sell out quickly.  Frank and I went to Tractor Supply yesterday and just as you go into the front door, they have the cutest display.  They have horse/cattle stock tanks lined up with warming lights and they are filled with the cutest, fluffy little chicks.  Separated in different stock tanks by breeds of chickens and then a cute fence all around the stock tanks, straw on the floor.  There were several little kids of the customers looking into the tanks just wanting to get their hands around one of those adorable couple day old chicks and so did I!!!  The prices were very good for the chicks too.
     Our new chicken coop is finished!!!  And I think it turned out so darn fabulous, Frank did a really great job.  I had found a photo in a magazine a few years ago (pre pinterest!!!) and had saved it for a garden shed.  But when we were planning out a new hen house, I showed it to Frank and away he went.  What was especially rewarding is that we found the materials at a reduced price by buying lumber from a local person, Chris Swanson, he sells lumber in Biggs.  Frank was able to get reduced prices on 2x4s; the siding; Frank made the windows; the roof sheeting were found at Chris Swanson's lumber place and were odd sizing sheets that he was able to pick up very reasonably and pass on the savings to customers.  I had found the tin cupola at an antique show in Los Altos several years ago and it was on top of my sorting shed.  In November, we had a bad rain storm with lots of wind and the next day, I found it on the ground, blown off of the shed.  So we decided it would look better on top of the chicken coop anyways, so it was put up there just a few days ago.
In side the coop, Frank has a winter light if I want to use it on cold nights for the chickens; there are 8 nesting boxes that have doors on the outside so I can collect the eggs from the outside instead of going inside the shed; there are 2 slotted doors-one that slides up and down to let chickens in and out to keep the house secure of predators at night; there is another sliding panel door that lifts up so when I want to clean the inside area, I can sweep and hose down and it will go to the outside chicken yard.  (More photos in future blogs) The chicken yard will have a new "man" gate and a larger gate that will open wide enough for the tractor to get into the yard area to keep it clean.  There is an automatic waterer; an outside light in the back and a sensor light just in case I forgot to close the chickens up and have to go out to the chicken coop at night, there will be light.  Frank thought of everything.  Oh I forgot the most important thing, he put power plugs inside, and my new baby chickens will have their heat lamp and will be safe and warm inside the house until they grow their feathers on and are big enough to go out with the rest of the hens.  Some friends have seen it recently and think it is much too nice for chickens, they think it should be made into a "man cave" or guest bedroom it is so nice!!!
So if you are thinking of getting some chicks, check them out at Tractor Supply, it is officially their Chick Days.  They have some great chicken coops too, on line that you might want to check out if you don't have a sweety handy type guy like I do.
Hope you all had a wonderful Valentine's Day-

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Spending The Day in the Gardens

I read the cutest rhyme from Two Women and a Hoe blog that is written about gardening and landscaping that I wanted to share with you.  I know this happens to poor Frank all the time particularly in the summer.  He is always so understanding but honestly, many times I would rather pull weeds than cook or do house work!!!

"My Wife the Gardener"
She dug the plot on Monday – the soil was rich and fine,

She forgot to thaw out dinner – so we went out to dine…

She planted roses Tuesday – she says they are a must,

They really are quite lovely – but she quite forgot to dust.

On Wednesday it was daisies – they opened up with sun,

All whites and pinks and yellows – but the laundry wasn’t done…

The poppies came on Thursday – a bright and cherry red,

I guess she really was engrossed – she never made the bed…

It was violets on Friday – in colours she adores,

It never bothered her at all – all crumbs upon the floors

I hired a maid on Saturday – my week is now complete,

My wife can garden all she wants – the house will still be neat!

It’s nearly lunchtime Sunday – and I cannot find the maid,

Oh no! I don’t believe it!

She’s out there with the spade!

~Author Unknown
I purchased my vegetable seeds from the wholesale seed company I use and am so excited about the variety I bought and some items have never grown before.  My CSA members are really going to love this year's box of produce!!!  Still openings for the 2013 season if interested in receiving a fresh box of fruits, veggies, bouquets of flowers, free range eggs and much, much more this season.  We may even have some fresh home baked scones and/or breads.
If you haven't been to Windmill Farm's Facebook page, check it out and "Like" us.  And if you can relate to the rhyme, please leave a comment, would love to hear from you here on our farm blog.
Back I go to gardening-at least here in Northern California we are having terrific weather, some of my fruit trees are having some color coming out.  Sorry about that for those that live on the East Coast. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Following Permaculture Gardening Practices and What it Means

Here at Windmill Farm, we use good sustainable farming practices. There is a great deal of discussion in the gardening magazines and TV programs lately about "permaculature ' gardening practices. What I see it means is for people to mimic in your garden what happens in nature, naturally in the soils.  It is a word that came up in the 1970s and is re-emerging into backyard food growing discussions suggesting people compost more; rotate crops in order not to deplete important chemicals in the soils; avoid pesticides and chemical fertilizers; companion plant.  Last year, our farm purchased 4 huge semi-loads of compost from the Recology Compost in the Butte County and worked it into our soils.   We have maintained a rotating 1/4 system of planting where we follow a balanced wheel of every year plant in a 1/4 or our growing fields.  We have always planted companion plantings.  As an example, we plant Alyssum in and around our lettuce crops to bring in good bees and insects that like to eat the bad insects that eat lettuce.  We always plant marigolds to deter insects and we plant basil near tomatoes as it is supposed to highten the flavor of tomatoes.  We rarely, if ever use pesticides and would never use them unless we are in danger of loosing our whole crop of produce.  The water is conserved by the use of the drip system and we use our tractor as little as possible to reduce tillage and soil erosion.  So in my mind, our farm is and has always used the "permaculture" beliefs and practices that are being discussed currently.

    I don't know about the rest of the world, but Frank and I seem to collect lots of items for a dump run.  We are good citizens, we re-cycle and re-use whenever possible, but in the country, there are things that seem to just pile up.  I must be a warped person, because I LOVE going to the dump.  Not that I like the actual trip to the dump experience, just the feeling when everything is all cleaned up and gone from the farm.  We were out there loading up as much as we can get into our handy Ford Transit Connect.  Our Transit is the vehicle we use to deliver our CSA produce and it is a little wonder van.  They have been out a little while, but when we purchased it over 3 years ago, we would get stopped wherever we would be parked with people asking questions as to what is it!!  It is a Ford product but made in Turkey and has been used all over Europe for years but just recently brought to the US.  Ours gets over 30-35 miles to the gallon and because it is completely flat in the back, no back seats at all, and it is tall, we can really get a bunch of stuff in there.  It is easy for me to load and unload because it is low.  And when not using it for our farming business, our dogs love to ride along in the back.  We just open all the doors and hose it out.  Sometimes I get the lawn blower and blow it out, saves me time and money instead of having it professionally cleaned!!
    After the dump run, we headed to my favorite farm store, Tractor Supply to stock up on chicken feed and dog food.  Last time we were there, they had Levi's on sale for $10!!!  One thing that is really helpful to our farm business is that Tractor Supply keeps track of all the farm feed and supplies we use and once a year, they send us a list of all your expenses, all calculated.  We signed up a couple of years ago and it sure helps with our accounting for income taxes and it also saves us some money as some items get taxed a little differently if they are related to a farm business. So when we pay for the feed, it calculates it automatically and tallys it so I do not have to worry about keeping those paper receipts all year. Slick!!    Have a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Very Special Baby Shower for a Very Special Couple

     Everyone was talking about the Super Bowl on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.  I was in Auburn helping my daughter put together the biggest baby shower I have ever been involved with in my life!!!  100 people were invited; an old school house/hall was rented and we spent over 7 hours decorating it on Saturday.  Then early Sunday we got there and finished up with flowers, balloons and set up the food.  Many people were helping, cooking, decorating right up to the last minute.   It turned out beautiful and not a dry eye in the place as my daughter's friend, Marlo and her husband told their story of their struggles and heart ache of trying to adopt a baby for over 10 years and never loosing faith, hope or their trust in God.  Their new gift from heaven, baby Phoebe is about the sweetest thing I have ever seen and was asleep during a good part of the shower, in spite of the noise and ladies all ahhhing over her. Congratulations Curt and Marlo!!
     On Facebook I kept seeing links to this Paul Harvey Dodge Ram ad; then I heard some of my farmer friends talking about this fabulous Super Bowl farmer ad, I just had to go see for myself.  Well, everyone was right, it is fabulous and I am attaching this link to it so you can check it out for yourself.  ://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=AMpZ0TGjbWE
     In the evenings I have been making these adorable knitted brooches to be used as door prizes at my Knit Nite class February 25th.  I know this class will be so much fun and may turn into a regular get together of kindred knitting buddies.  I love making baby sweaters because they knit up so much quicker and the styles are modern, just like big kids or adults would wear.  On this one I made, I put the baby's initial on it when finished.  If interested in learning to knit, give us a call to sign up for the class.
     Frank has just about finished up with the chicken coop, HONESTLY!!!  I was painting out there for 3 days, but today, I fell off the ladder.  I didn't break anything but my side, neck and elbows hurt.  As if that wasn't bad enough, after Frank was sure I was going to live and didn't need to go to the hospital, he said maybe I was getting too old to be up on a ladder to paint!!!  Now that hurt.  He can just finish up painting it himself.  Promise, promise, photos coming, it is just so close, I hate to show it to you without it being just perfect.  Then we put in the chickens and it won't ever be perfect or nice again!!!
     Valentine's Day is coming up and it always reminds me of my Mother who died several years ago.  It makes me sad as that holiday along with Christmas were her very favorites.  During her married life, my father was in the service and gone probably 1/2 of their married life; then the 2nd half of her life she was divorced and single.  Yet she remained a romantic at heart and had such a happy heart.  She would decorate her house AND herself during these occasions with holiday jewelry, loads of pins; or wear red/green; or have sparkle someplace on her cloths.  She especially loved the old fashioned Valentine's cards so here is one for you Mom!!!