The Peculiar Goat Sound

“I think someone around us got a goat as well.”

“Why do you say that?” Doug asked.

“I keep hearing a goat’s cry.  I thought yesterday that maybe there was one in the fairgrounds, but I heard it again this morning.”

“It’s a rooster,” he matter-of-factly said.

“What do you think I am stupid?  I don’t know the difference between a goat and a rooster?  (eye roll)  A neighbor definitely got a goat.”

“It’s a rooster.  I’m looking at him right now.”

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Yesterday, I thought I heard a goat cry again so I ran outside to rescue the baby goats.  Twas Henry.

Then I thought a girl was screaming next door.  Henry again.

It really is embarrassing.  Henry looks so regal and fine as he herds his little ladies around (not the older girls; they will let him have it!) and tries to crow.  I imagine he is just a teenaged boy trying to find that manly voice within.  Remember when we couldn’t decide if Henry was Henry or Louisa?  I guess that answers our question.  He’s Henry.  Henry Higgins.  The screaming girl goat….er..rooster.

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Jammin’ (or attempting rather)

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My first year of making jelly was lovely.  I made dandelion jelly with a bit of orange essence and it turned out amazingly delicious.  It also gave me a false sense of “Oh, this is easy!”  The next years of jam making have been an utter fail.  We drizzle syrup on our toast rather than slather on thick jelly.

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Peach butter, burnt.  Apricot jam, syrup.  Ginger Peach jam, syrup.  Cardamom Pear jam, syrup.  Chokecherry jam, syrup (albeit scrumptious!).  I do wonder if it is because of my problem with recipe following.  I am able to can any number of delicacies because it is quite difficult to mess it up.  Pressure cook for this long plus added minutes for altitude, make sure everything that is acidic stays together if one is water bath canning, etc.  I know the salt and lemon juice ratios to make sure that spoilage doesn’t occur.  Jam just irritates me.

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Exactly 4 cups of fruit with exactly 3 cups of sugar, with exactly 2 T of lemon juice, and exactly 1/2 ts of salt.  BUT, I have two tons of cherries and no time or patience to spend four days canning small batches of jam!  So, my friend directed me to a recipe that is very lax.  Use as many cherries as you can fit in the pan with room for bubbling.  Add 3/4 that amount of sugar.  Add some salt and lemon juice and rind.  Boil, boil, boil.  Can.  Easy!  I now have eleven jars of delicious cherry….syrup!

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Goats on the Couch

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Doors continue to open.  We were offered a pair of adorable goats in exchange for classes!  How could we resist?  Sitting in the back yard last night watching the goats play with Bumble the Greyhound was hilarious.  The chickens milling about.  The weather perfect.  Inside the goats jumped on the couch, jumped on the cats, jumped on our laps, then curled up asleep under a cabinet.  Their favorite game is jumping on the swinging ottoman and holding on.  This morning Jovie was sitting with Ichabod, the cat, on the yellow chair and decided she had to pee.  Ichabod didn’t mind and Jovie was confused why I was yelling to get down!  They are adorable.  We just have to get used to saying, “Please don’t eat the computer cord, or turn off the power strip, or pee on the cat.  Thanks.”

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Jill first told me about her new addition that was born last Sunday.  She is an Angora/Nigerian dwarf mix.  Dual use, fiber and milk.  She is all white with little curls, more like a lamb then a goat.  Blue eyes and a sweet disposition won us over immediately.  She loves to snuggle.  She needs to work on not getting the majority of her milk from the bottle up her nose.  She does love her bottle.

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Jill also offered me a baby that was born two days before the little white one.  Three quarters Nubian and one quarter Nigerian Dwarf.  After my memory of the bruiser animals, I said no thanks.  She had a registered eleven week old Nigerian Dwarf we could take along with the baby.

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When we pulled up to the house a cacophony of goat singing was following Jill.  One baby was left behind (ten feet) and was stopped behind a tree hollering for dear life.  I joked that she had forgotten one.  The baby pranced around our feet, no bigger than our cats.  She picked us.  Three quarters Nubian, one quarter Dwarf.  The other Nigerian dwarf never even glanced our way.  The two babies frolicked and danced around our feet as if they were meant to be together.  In the truck they went and that is how we ended up with these two love bugs.

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The movie, Elf, prompted the name Jovie for the Angora/Dwarf mix, and Doug named the Nubian mix Betsy Ross since she was born on Flag Day.

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I just went to check on them, as they were much too quiet, and they are curled up near Bumble, the farm dog.  Our dream  is coming true before our eyes.  And somebody peed on the couch.

The Apothecary Garden

An Apothecary Garden is an important addition to any farm whether your plot is an apartment balcony or large acreage.  Herbs easily grow in pots on the porch or a south window in the house or in their own space in the garden.

IMG_0658 (Rosemary increases focus and memory)

Apothecary gardens have been a staple in every culture around the world for many, many centuries.  The religious leaders were generally the herbalists, medicine men, and healers of the village.  Herbs have amazing healing powers and are every bit as effective and much more safe than pharmaceuticals.  Herbalists have been known as healers since the beginning of mankind.  Sometimes these things are met with cynicism.  I know how to make a broken bone heal in two weeks.  Folks that aren’t aware of herbs are confused about this.  My own family stems back to the Salem witch hunts where many of my herbalist ancestors were burned at the stake.  Herbs are wondrous and miraculous, but met with confusion all the same.  My goal is to take the woohoo out of herbs.  They heal.  End of story. Now let’s get your Apothecary garden going!

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Peppermint is a staple everyone should have.  It is a mild pain reliever but its real job is in the digestive area.  It will calm an upset tummy, help stop heartburn, even heal stomach lining due to ulcers or colitis.  It is carminative, meaning it is anti-gas!  A cup of tea is delicious and with a little chamomile and ginger (which contain the same digestive properties) you will have a fine medicinal tea ready for the taking.

IMG_0657 (St. John’s Wort)

St. John’s Wort is becoming harder to find to grow, but if you can get it, grab it!  The pharmaceutical companies use a derivative of St. John’s Wort that is then lab created to make chronic pain medications and anti-depressants.  If you can change the structure of the constituent then you can patent it.  Can’t patent something God made up.  He was there first.  Therefore, you cannot make very much money peddling a plant.  Big pharma is after a bit more money than that.  Making a tea of St. John’s Wort flowers, leaves, and rose petals is every bit as strong as an anti-depressant/anxiety medication.  There are corporations out there that don’t want you to know that!

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Valerian is a beautiful plant that will get your sleep cycle back into a peaceful rhythm.  It is also an excellent pain reliever.  Add catnip and chamomile to go to sleep.  Add California Poppy and St. John’s Wort for an excellent sleep remedy.

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Stinging Nettles will stop allergies in three minutes flat.  Take care when harvesting them (they aren’t called Stinging for nothing!) and dry them in a paper sack.  Crumble them up and make tea with them.

Dandelions can be made into tea or salad to help heal the liver and gallbladder.

Red Clovers help with women’s health, uterine health, and breast and uterine cancer.

So the weeds that pop up in the garden are there for a reason too!

There are Apothecary gardens that are designed in a circle with paths leading north and south, west and east.  There are Apothecary gardens that have winding paths.  I turned the front three feet of my long front yard into our garden.  The left side is medicinal plants and the right side are culinary (which also have medicinal qualities) herbs.  One large section of the garden holds the Poppies and Calendula (great for skin when infused into oil) to inspire beneficial insects to the garden.  Pots of herbs line the porch and in the winter are brought in to line the window sills.

Head to the nursery and see what you can add to your garden.  Want to learn more and completely take charge of your family’s health?  Look up my correspondence classes for Certified and Master Herbalists and take control of your medicine! http://gardenfairyapothecary.com

I am also leading an herb walk and medicinal tea talk Sunday, June 30th from 10-12 at Castlewood Canyon.  Meet at the visitor’s center.  Their cost is $7.

Fast Food

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We awake before the sun and make the long drives to the farmers market of the day.  After many hours and hot pavement, we make the trek home.  Then we repeat it the next morning.  We are tired, dirty, and hungry!  I put off making dinner last night to spend time with Doug in the garden.  He was watering the thirsty plants while we caught up on the day and enjoyed ice cold beer.  But then it was inevitable, dinner had to be made!  The freezer and the root cellar to the rescue!  This is what we call fast food at our house.  There were a few fish in the freezer, a two year old jar of homemade sauerkraut in the root cellar along with a jar of apples I put up with a bit of honey added.

I informed Doug and Emily in my snootiest voice what dinner would be this evening.

Freshly caught Rainbow Trout (that Rich caught for us) stuffed with savory rosemary and sage (from the porch) then breaded in organic cornmeal, barley flour, salt, pepper, and chipotle powder.  Sautéed in goat’s milk butter and scallion oil.  Topped with salty sauerkraut and honeyed apples sautéed in the pan drippings from the fish and browned butter.
I told them I would send them each a bill for $30 a plate.  Dinner took all of ten minutes to make and then I got to put my feet up!  Do enjoy with deliciously cold beer or hard cider. (You don’t need a recipe, just wing it following the ingredients in order!)

Chicken Cliques

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My mother said that her chickens hung out together based on which breed they were.  I found that really interesting.  I couldn’t tell if mine did that because there are three Golden Buffs that hang together and Ethel, the California White girl, is usually with them.  Laverne, the Jersey Giant, when not broody, hangs out nearby too.

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Then the babies came along.  The five girls went from being our the only beloved chickens in the yard to the five popular witches from high school.  They pick incessantly on the babies, even though some of the babies are getting bigger than they are!  They want the food first, they want the best perch to sleep, they want the babies to get out of the way or they get pushed against the wall, or worse, pecked.  Hen pecked, indeed.

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The babies started with the two Polish girls, Aretha and Ginger.  Ten days later the rest of the babies came to stay.  Aretha, being the largest, was rather bossy.  She is now rather small, and is now one of the outcasts.  Ginger, who was beat up dreadfully in a story I highlighted about Comfrey in, is the smallest of the chickens.  A wee six inches off the ground and adorable.  Looks like a roadrunner with a crazy hat running about.  She hangs out with the popular kids in the new chicken group.  Liesel (a Marans), Yetta, Nala, Sophia (Aracaunas), Ginger, Marta, Gretel (Buff Orpingtons), and Henry Higgins if he is allowed, run around the yard in a pack.  Acting very cool and grown up until the big girls send them screaming beneath the lilac bush.

IMG_0644 (Henry the rooster, Yetta the white Aracauna, Sophia the leopard Aracauna)

Meanwhile, in the chicken coop, Laverne sits on eggs that don’t belong to her (until I take them away) and glares at Brigitta and Aretha.  Henry up until recently was banned to the chicken coop as well by the other chickens.  Not just the coop, but the dog kennel within.  He runs around the yard poofed up like a good looking peacock, only more like a teenaged chicken, bossing the girls who just look at him like, ppleeassse!  They will not mind him a bit.

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Why the cliques?  Don’t you always imagine chickens running in a pack pecking the ground all together?  Not these seemingly high school adventure cliques where the big kids pick on the little kids, the cool kids pick on the uncool kids, and the depressed dark one sits in a corner all day hoping for a baby. (Okay, well that doesn’t happen in high school that much.)

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I never imagined so many different personalities in a bunch of chickens.

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Self Fulfilled Prophesies

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Do you believe in self fulfilled prophesies?  “Careful what you wish for, it just may come true.”  “Guard your mind and thoughts.”  “Put it out in the universe and watch it come to life.”  I have mentioned before that by writing out or saying what you desire is like a prayer waiting to be answered.  It is pretty astounding, actually.  It always works!  I have not been living my own belief here lately.  Doug snapped me back into reality, by yelling, “Self fulfilled prophesy!” at my whining that I don’t know if we are going to make it here.  He said we will make it here.  Our business will still thrive.  Our customers will find us online or hanging out at the coffee shop.  Our bills will be paid.  We will have more time together.  And this little farm will suit us just fine for a long time.  We are alright.  We lit a prayer candle.  And that was that.  Case closed.

For the past year I have complained about having a retail shop.  Not having a business, but the retail shop itself.  I am more of a one-on-one talker, a teacher.  Doug is the talker, the people person.  People love him.  I am not a sales person.  I have no patience for stupid remarks or jokes.  I am behind the scenes.  I successfully develop Diabetes medicine.  I am tired of people thinking we are witches because we brew Echinacea.  It’s just silly.  I thought of selling the shop until Doug gave me a look of sheer horror.  He loves our little business.  We help an extraordinary amount of people and animals.  I want a farm and to teach classes, I said.  I don’t want a shop.  Our shop is now closing.  Whoops.  Did I do that?  Yikes, I hope not.

And the farm has landed here.  Nearly everything I wanted in a farm, a place to do classes, and sell the herbal medicines.  Plus a genius computer husband that can make us an even better online store for Garden Fairy Apothecary.  I can have a pot of tea ready for anyone who wants to come by the house and visit while refilling their tincture bottles.  I have what I asked for.  What I wanted!  I guess I just didn’t mean this second.  I wanted this.  It came.  We will make enough money to survive here.  Not a million bucks.  Just enough!  No worries.  Self prophesy.  We will succeed!  And help and educate people for many years to come.  Keep thinking positive, people!  It works.  Make your own destiny.

Do you have a self fulfilled prophesy to share?  Would love to hear it!

Out Hoeing Around

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Ever the comedian, in Blazing Saddles form, Doug walked around the local farm store asking salespeople, “Where da hoes at?”  He was met with eyes lighting up and laughter.  I cut down a different aisle.  Alas, we live in a small town and everyone knows who I belong to.  One salesman turned a corner, saw me, and said, “You hoeing around this weekend?”  Laughter.  Men.  Gotta love them.

Since I dug up the whole front yard and side yard I have over tripled my garden space.  I have no desire, nor the time, to hand weed and my small spade just isn’t cutting it this year.  I remember reading one my favorite books (which somehow missed the list of my Top 10 Garden Books), “Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology” by Eric Brende.  He was trying to weed his extensive pumpkin patch when an Amish fellow showed him how to use a hoe.  I figured I needed a hoe too.

The weeds are ever so happy this year, joyous, dancing, that I am watering daily and for the rain.  The sun makes them stand up and shout, and I am feeling a bit like the Headless Horseman, or the Queen of Hearts, “Off with his head!”

It really takes little effort to use the hoe.  Your frame doesn’t really move, but stays upright and with simple flicks of the elbows the hoe shoots out, chops through the weeds, or in the case of smaller weeds, dislodges them from their soil source.  You will have to do this at least once a week because there are thousands of weed seeds because, guess what?, they are the native plants here.  Not the heirloom warty pumpkin.  Even pulling the weeds from their roots (which is sometimes necessary) will pull up a hundred more of the buggers in its place.  The weed battle shall never be won.  Much like laundry and dishes.

But that is what organic farming is all about.  Weeds love organic farms, so do bugs.  So do I.  So I lose up to 30% of my seeds to hungry birds.  The rest of the Swiss Chard to the leaf miners.  Last years roses to grasshoppers.  But what I do get is delicious produce that feeds and fuels us and our customers.  Packed with nutrients, and not packed with pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides!  I’ll opt for the hoe.  My biceps are looking pretty nice and I don’t mind being known as the girl hoeing around town.

Homesteading School

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“I am not able to can, I live in the city.”  The young lady stood in front of me shifting from one foot to the other in front of my booth.  She looked at our array of canned sweet apples, pickles, beets, zucchini, apricot syrup, just a bit of this and that from our root cellars.  They don’t look like the ones at the other booths at the farmers market.  Ours sport handwritten labels on clean glass canning jars without anything resembling a store shelf.  It makes people wonder while holding the glass orbs in their hands.  “You made this?”  No factory, no helpers, just a housewife in the kitchen putting up food for the winter.  An image that appeals to young and old that come by the booth.  “My grandmother used to can.”  “You are able to can zucchini?”  “This is spaghetti sauce?”

“I can teach you,” I say and their eyes light up.

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They say the economy is getting better but I am not sure how that can be.  I know an awful lot of people trying to hold onto jobs, keep their shops, keep their houses, keep their way of life but we are all being forced to make some decisions and go back in time a bit to a more simpler and, yes, easier time.  I may not know if we have to move or if we can afford to stay here, or what will happen, but I am preparing for slim pickin’s.  We will have food, that I can tell you.  This week I am canning carrots; brown sugar carrots for a delicious side dish and plain for stews.

Doug made me some beautiful brochures that I can distribute at farmers markets and to curious folks.  I am speaking at a few events this summer where I can share these brochures as well.  Besides telling about our apothecary, I am advertising about my homesteading school.  I will set up classes to teach people how to can, how to knit, crochet, spin, take care of chickens, garden in small spaces, make their own bread, make their own medicines, and inspire folks to become more self sufficient.  If we are more self sufficient, we are in a better place to help others and they can help those around them too.  We end up becoming a stronger community if we know these skills.  It takes the worry out of everyday life as well if you know you can make a sweater, pull out fish from the freezer, retrieve eggs from the chicken coop, or pick a lovely salad out of the pots on the front porch.  You worry just a smidge less.

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I keep thinking, ‘If I could just get somewhere that has a well, or that I can stay in for many years, that already has an orchard, that already has a root cellar, that I can afford easily….’  Acquaintances of ours have lost houses, animals, everything.  The fire wiped out over four hundred houses not far from us.  They had everything they wanted in a homestead, and in a second, it was gone.  Perhaps I should stop searching for the perfect because perfect is not guaranteed to last.  Perhaps my faith needs to get a bit stronger.  God has always provided.  And I can do my part by providing just as much for my family as possible.  And help others learn to do the same for theirs.  I have carrots to chop.  Have a blessed day!

Simple Pleasures and Tragic Fires

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The fires rage on.  The town seven miles south of us is evacuated.  So many of our friends have evacuated.  My friend pulled up to the shop to get a bottle of Furry Friends Anxiety from us, her car filled with two exchange students and nine cats on their way to a hotel.  Hundreds of animals; llamas, alpacas, cows, horses, unclaimed dogs, goats; along with human evacuees are crowded into the fairgrounds just beyond our back yard.  Doug and I took our daily walk through there so that Maryjane could see the animals.  One man, worried look on his face, resembling a sad Santa Claus scratched a yak behind a temporary fence.  All of his animals there, no home to go to, the Sheriff told us.

I shutter to think how many fellow farms will be not be at the farmers market tomorrow.  How many people will be missing.  We did not go to the market today as it is a mere mile from the evacuation site on the other side.  The smoke here hangs like fog.  Our eyes are dry, our hearts are sad for those around us.  We are safe here.  But it doesn’t take long for Mother Nature to decide otherwise for any of us.  So we focus our efforts on helping those we can, being thankful for what is here and now, and not worrying about all the small stuff that plagues our days.  We focus on the simple pleasures in life.

Ready for Market!

Holding a child’s hand.

The sweet taste of real honey. (Not the packaged stuff at the fast food joint!)

The hummingbird that visits each morning.

For Maryjane’s smile.

For all the jars of pickles and tomatoes in the kitchen waiting to be moved to the root cellar.

For baby chicks and their antics.

For the sound of Grandma and Grandpa’s voices.

For the first lilac.

For light rain on a sweltering day.

For time with friends.

For good wine.

For good folk music, mandolins, guitars, fiddle….

I told Emily as we walked home, “We have to stop worrying about everything in our lives.  We can’t be attached to material items.  Today, we are okay, and that is all we need to know.”

What are simple pleasures for you?