Definition of a Farm, Please!

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We were sitting around waiting for Joel Salatin to speak.  It was a lovely day this past August, the weather was cool in the morning and just perfect the rest of the day with sweet breezes and sunshine.  The folks that sponsored the event had a nice tract of land hidden in the pine trees that, with a large rented canopy, served as a meeting place, classroom, and stage for Mr. Salatin.  The question that kept coming up as we milled around talking with other attendees was, “Do you have a farm?”  My girlfriend, Nancy, answered, “No…”  Nancy and her husband and beautiful farmgirl daughter have a large herd of goats, make mouthwatering goat cheese, and have a spacious garden.  I said, “Yes, you do!”  I don’t though.  But then a funny thing happened, we started talking to people with little to no land, few if any farm animals, small gardens, lots of dreams.  Holy smokes, I do have a farm!  I sell eggs at my shop, and tend a garden (I also have a CSA for insurance; high altitude gardening could make anyone start drinking).  That is why I love the term ‘mini farm’.  How cute.  I think I have one.

In my mind all the real farmers I know are the ones we’ve done farmer’s markets with all these years.  They won’t hesitate to tell you they are farmers.  I haven’t really sold much, have no extra produce (I can currently garden enough to feed us for roughly, say, about a week out of the year), and rent no less!  That is not the iconic farm I grew up thinking about.

So, what is a farm?  Therefore, what is a farmgirl?  In two years I want fleece animals.  As soon as I learn how, I am going to be the spinning queen!  Then will I have a farm?  When I manage to not need the CSA so much, then will I be a farmgirl?  If I ever own land then will I be?  I am vegetarian, all those pet cows will make a delightful farm!

farm [fahrm] 

noun

1.a tract of land, usually with a house, barn, silo, etc., on which crops and often livestock are raised for livelihood.
2.land or water devoted to the raising of animals, fish, plants, etc.: a pig farm; an oyster farm; a tree farm.
Hmmm, well my land is devoted to the raising of animals; 9 cats, 2 dogs, 5 chickens, and 3 teenagers.  By golly, I am a farmer!  I am dubbing this place The Silly Chicken Farm.
So, for all of us that don’t quite fit the description yet, farmgirl is a state of thought and doing.  A balcony of lettuces outside an apartment, a plot in the community gardens, the urban beekeepers, goat babysitters (uh farmers), and the two-thirds of an acre rented in a small town with silly chickens and a garden.  Long live the farmer in all of us!

Sugar Scrubs and Breaks from Normalcy

All this farmgirl stuff started spiraling out of control on a plane to Vegas if we really wanted to pinpoint a moment.  Isn’t it amazing how a seemingly small event can make such an impact down the road (a country road in our case)?  I picked up a book on natural beauty to read on the plane.  As an ex-model I was always very concerned about how I looked and I am afraid a bit of my identity was wrapped up in my face (I am better now!) so imagine when in my late twenties acne became my new accessory. Ignorance is truly bliss, but I suppose knowledge is too.  I found out about all the toxic, cancer causing, unidentifiable, petroleum based ingredients in my beauty and bath products, and what I was putting on my young children’s skin!  www.cosmeticsdatabase.com did the rest.  I was done for.

When we got home from our trip, out went a huge trash bag of beauty and body products and in went all organics.  (And another trash bag of cleaning products and pharmaceuticals!)  Well, the organics were pricey and they still had ingredients in them that were not exactly non-toxic.  I started on a mission to make all our own body products.  I made lotion first, which I am still slightly famous for, then came sugar scrub, salts, shampoo, hair spray, deodorant….everything.  Oh, I was on a roll.  A monster had been made.

We started out in a cookie cutter suburban house that cost way too much, in a not very interesting suburb, working ridiculously hard to pay for things we didn’t get to enjoy.  Stressed out and making more money than we ever had, we paid our debts (wealth really is an illusion, isn’t it?) and thought this was a normal life. What saved us was Dave Ramsey University and a farmer’s market.

A farmer’s market where I took all the body products and the ten or so herbal medicines I had learned to make in a Certified Herbalist Course.  We make a lot more medicines than that now but it was those first years of farmer’s markets that allowed us get where we are.  So, when Doug finally had that nervous breakdown over servers that never came back up, we took our cue and left the “normal life.”  It was a risk, but we did 6-8 markets a week and moved to a smaller town not far from where we were.  We cut our bills in half. We found a shop just over two years ago.  The rest is still being written.

As a gift to you for Christmas (and perhaps a gift from you to all your friends!) I want to share my sugar scrub recipe.  So lovely and simple.  Happy Holidays!

SUGAR SCRUB

In a 4 oz canning jar, pour sugar in leaving 1/2 inch head space.

Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla essential oil and 1 teaspoon of orange essential oil. Only use essential oils!

Then pour rich olive oil up to the very rim and let soak in.  Replace lid and shake vigorously.

Experiment with other essential oils too.  I love this blend for the holidays, it smells like a creamsicle!   This leaves your skin amazingly soft and glowing.

 

 

Flying the Coop

She didn’t come home last night. No, not the teenager (though she didn’t come home either, but that is a different story!), the chicken!  Ethel simply vanished yesterday.  When we arrived home from the shop she was nowhere to be found.  It was dark so we did search briefly, mainly to look for signs of struggle and loose snow white feathers but, nothing.  I didn’t know she quite literally flew the coop!

A friend of ours came over last April before the babies were to arrive to help Doug put up a fence around the 90 year old chicken coop.  They put up a five foot fence of t-posts and chicken wire (seemed reasonable) with a nice little gate.  Over the whole thing Doug and I attached bird wire, stapling it to the top of the high chicken coop.  It was a fine sight, like a zoo exhibit for our new flock.  The first snow promptly brought the netting down. We could put it back up but we have at least four more months of intermittent snow storms!  So, Ethel flew out.

I have seen beautiful coops with 8 foot frames and chicken wire, a perfect box to keep the little buggers in and and the ever present danger out. (Seems everyone and everything but us loves a good chicken dinner.)  They would be rather pricey to create. If I could find them at a reasonable price, I suppose dog kennel panels would be good too.  I’ll keep researching this and get back to you.

Ethel is now standing on the top of her gate screaming to be let in. Floozy.  Maybe she’ll stay home tonight!

Elderberry Honey

The Christmas cards are ready to be sent. Even though I paint and make my own cards, at Christmastime I love to purchase the Leaning Tree brand cards.  Full of sweet country houses, and farm scenes, and adorable animals, the glossy cards are carefully selected for each friend and family member from the box.  I would like to send Christmas cards every month!  What a fun surprise to receive a card in the mail. I bet receiving a Christmas card in April would really be a surprise!

With all the fun of Christmas starting, I was discouraged to have woken up with a cold yesterday.  It is almost gone today thanks to elderberries!  Here is a recipe for Elderberry Honey or Cold/Flu Honey as we used to call it when we did farmer’s markets.

2 Tablespoons of dried elderberries (if they don’t grow near you, you can purchase some online or at a health food store)

1 Tablespoon of dried peppermint

2 teaspoons of dried Echinacea

1/4 teaspoon of dried ginger

Place in a saucepan and cover with about 1 cup of honey. Heat over medium-low heat for 20  minutes, swirling pan often to avoid burning. Store in a small glass jar.

To use, spoon a big dollap into a tea strainer and pour boiling water over it to infuse into a mug.  Drink to your heart’s content and kick that cold!

Cast of Characters

My given name is Katie, it is not a nickname, I don’t like the name Kate. Katie Lynn is such a marvelous farm girl name! Thanks Mom!  I am an herbalist by trade and own the cutest little Apothecary in the west. The Garden Fairy Apothecary is its name. My heart is as a housewife as much as it is a shop keeper and I love putzing around my mini-farm.

My husband, Doug,  is a funny, wonderfully spirited man who was taught growing up that if you couldn’t fix it with a butter knife, you best call a professional! He is my partner on this adventure.

My son, Andrew is 19 and really doesn’t live here but we see him run through occasionally to take a shower or use the computer. Our daughter Shyanne is 16 and rarely home because her boyfriend lives five houses down. Our other daughter, Emily, is here at least half the week when not with her boyfriend! We are apparently being prepared to be empty nesters.

Our goal is to be farmers and we are learning most unconventionally, by trial and error, as neither of our families are farmers. Mine were a few generations ago, but I only have nostalgic stories to go by for information. I am writing this blog because I love to write, and to keep a sort of how-to log for other up and coming farmers and homesteaders.  Also, it will become a record for me to see my progress, as sometimes we forget how far we’ve come.  So, I will sit at this computer, who is not my friend- I am still waiting for typewriters to come back in style- and write to dear friends and hopefully keep you laughing while becoming a farmgirl.

Farm girl Beginnings

This is the beginning of a wannabe farmgirl, who grew up in the city, becoming a proper farmgirl. How I wish someone could tell me how much to water the corn, or what chickens would be great layers, or even what kind of trees to plant! So, we are going to learn together! Through my mishaps (which we’ll cry or laugh about) and successes (which we’ll brag and cheer about while strutting in front of the neighbors) a fabulous farm will be created.

As of right now, I am on two thirds of an acre in town in a rented house. My transition farm, we’ll call it. And when I have all the skills I need to be sustainable, an educator, and a proper farmgirl, I will buy or lease a “real” farm, whatever that means.

In the meantime, I have to go start supper and check on the chickens. My next post will be a proper introduction!