Feb 2013- geese, canning round-up

some really good advice…..and geese!!!!!!!!!

I came across this today: http://www.new-terra-natural-food.com/farm-hurdles.html

If you are about to begin farming, or want to start, or just ARE farming, these are all really important things to think about! Even if you are an “established” farmer…things can always change and you have to be prepared for how challenges will be dealt with. True Story, as a friend of mine says.

One exciting thing I have to report is that we now have geese, 41 of them! A farming acquaintance of ours came into a situation, and we now have his geese. I’m extremely excited about them, but geese weren’t in our plans this year after we found out about the sand mine stuff. A perfect example of rolling with the waves of life.

Attitude is everything

I think, normally, when you complete a season on a farm, winter is something to look forward to…a time for planning and preparing for the coming spring’s bustle, followed by some serious rest and rejuvenation. Early December we came up with some big plans for 2013 and were about to take out some debt to grow our farm business. Projections and totals and were tallied over and over in our farm journal. We got all set on paper, and then prepared to wait over the winter to implement our plans, meanwhile heading into a cozy, relaxing hunker down.

Then, at the end of December, we heard terrifying noises coming from the land next to ours…the boring for frac sand samples started out of nowhere. A sea change for the winter of 2012-13. We got involved with urgent community meetings, and the gravity of the situation smacked us hard in the gut. This land that we love might not be our home for the rest of our lives….the rug got pulled out from under our feet. It was a terrifying and sudden change from where we thought we were going.

January and much of February was a blur of frustration and sadness and attempts to make our voices heard by our town board. The board showed us what our limitations are, even as tax-paying residents of this township. As it became apparent how little they cared about our opinions, and what a powerless feeling. We began mourning what our minds had gotten set on for the coming farming years ahead. It was heartwrenching. Were we fools to get any idea stuck in our heads? Every element of life can have sudden unexpected and undesired hard times.

Thankfully, starting mid February, something changed.  We were tired of feeling sad and frustrated, and resigned ourselves to accept our fate, meanwhile doing everything possible to do our best here this coming season, no matter what. Images of people enduring all kinds of hardships come to mind and make me feel ashamed of myself. I have nothing really to complain about, even though the “mining thing” really hurts. There was a video a friend shared recently of a motivational speaker, a man with NO ARMS AND NO LEGS. Not only is he getting along just fine, he gets up in front of audiences to inspire and encourage THEM! Time to buck up and quit whining and feeling sorry for ourselves. That’s what happened this month, and I am so glad—-yay for the attitude adjustment!

Blessings:

We have AWESOME customers and more CSA signups now than this time last year! We’ve had some lovely sunny afternoons planning out our gardens row by row. Seedlings are sprouting from the homemade potting mix, and I got to have dirt under my nails again! We have some of the coolest and wonderful people as country neighbors, who have helped us do impossible things like hauling geese in a trailer by the light of the moon. The geese are settling in & demonstrating some breeding behaviors! Our rabbitry population is about to explode with babies. We started a new blog project on our farm website focusing on cooking in the season- “The Farmstead Kitchen.” We have a promising relationship developing for a retail outlet for some of our artisianal pastured meats. We found the first chicken egg of the year (nothing yet from the ducks though!) The new brooder design was ironed out and built, just in time for the new group of ducklings arriving next week during a forecasted warm spell. Andrew’s attending the Midwest Organic Conference this weekend and getting to visit our dear friend too. A few local leads on hay wagon chassis are looking good for the mobile coops we’ll be building and using starting this year. We might get a SARE grant for a pastured meat duck trial, we’ll find out in March. We finally got the “in” for one account we’ve been hoping to nab —-and—-we’ve got our health, our family, our farm, our friends, our customers and each other. The flow of this winter has been off, but I think we’re back on track. Attitude is everything.

canning round up

After doing the numbers, I canned a ridiculous amount of food last summer and fall. Like, for real: 775 jars!!! Here’s my canning legend, complete with batch number, notes and quantity canned on each batch. Very precise, I know! Hahahaa! Ridiculous!

I can because I love it. Canning saves extra produce coming from the garden. Canning prepares you for an emergency. Canning stores food in glass and keeps BPA mostly out of your life (although canning lids have BPA, the tin-canned version in the store is completely lined with BPA.) I canned so much also because I wanted to take advantage of the new WI pickle bill law which allows me to sell the high acid canned foods at a farmers market. Pickles, tomatoes and applesauce are all high acid pantry staples, and also safe bets for first canning forays.

New to me last year was pressure canning, thanks to some friends of ours who bought me one in trade for some of our chickens. The only downside to pressure canning is that each batch takes a REALLY long time, with the venting and building of pressure, then the 45 to 90 minutes processing, letting it cool back down, etc. However, I canned the best dang green beans in my new pressure canner. Very different than frozen, and really nostalgic since I loved canned green beans as a snack when I was a kid. So far we’ve eaten 4 quarts of them and it’s been two weeks, so I know we are not poisoned by botulism. This is what my canning expert friend told me- botulism takes 2 weeks to set in, and then it appears you died, but you are not dead, so you can be buried alive. She is really trying to freak me out!

One thing I made this year and super loved, but did not can, is hot pepper mustard. I made up the recipe based on some various things I found online. I made my own yellow mustard from ground mustard, instead of using premade store mustard as most recipes call for (isn’t that dumb?) Anyhow- it is super TASTY!!! But I didn’t can it- & luckily it is seeming to keep just fine in the fridge, since it has alot of vinegar in it. One thing that is very confusing is- if I bought a ph meter, could I make up my own recipes and then safely can them. I don’t think so, as I read the ph can change after the canning process itself? Does anyone out there know? Perhaps what would be more helpful as more and more people begin canning at home, would be a botulism meter! They say the botulism toxin doesn’t smell or have a taste, but then if your canned food has a weird smell DO NOT TASTE IT because it might be botulism. Hmmm. There is ALOT of confusing information out there about canning. My inner renegade struggles, but I won’t mess with this topic!

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