Chicken Tractor and Poultry Processing Workshop is presented by Baker’s Green Acres and Growing By Faith. This is a hands-on workshop that starts at 9 am with the students building a chicken tractor. After the lunch break, students will be instructed on how to process meat birds. Each student will process two to three birds under the supervision of Mark Baker, who is a commercial poultry processor. He raises thousands of Cornish Crosses, while, Kathy typically raise 300 soy-free Freedom Rangers. This combination offers the students to see different perspectives in regards to raising poultry. Come get the experience you need to raise your own meat birds or start your own poultry farm business. Full day workshop is $100 per student. Family discount. Limited enrollment. Call, text or email for reservations.
Jerky, Jerky, everyone around here wants me to make more jerky! The first time I made jerky, I had to stay up late all by myself cutting strips of beef. However, after they tried my first batch, making jerky is now longer a solo project. Presently, I get help from just about everyone in the family. Once it is dehydrated, I have to hand it out to the family on a ration basis or it will be gone in one day! I am so thrilled that they love it because it is so good for them. Since it literally goes like candy around here, we have a rule that they can only eat it when they need a quick and easy protein source. So when I have some in the cupboard, they will gladly grab some while rushing out the door. It makes me feel great to know that they are heading out the door into the world of high fructose corn syrup with a great source of natural protein that will help their body say no to those sugar cravings we all get when out on the road. It is so easy to do, just a bit time consuming if you do it alone. Last night I marinated it with an organic tomato sauce. Then tonight I placed it on the screens of my electric dehydrator and it should be done by noon tomorrow. You will find my recipe on my forthcoming recipe page. If you haven’t yet made jerky, quit being a jerk about it and make some! OK, that was lame. But really, you should try making some. I think you will really enjoy having fresh jerky to grab when you are on the go.
Bow Drill Class: Saturday, October 24 from 3-6 pm.
Did you ever wonder how rubbing two sticks together could possibly start a fire? In this class we will learn the ancient technique of starting a fire using a bow drill. Participants will carve their own bow drill kits. This class is recommended for people 12 and older. Limit 8 participants. Please bring a fixed-blade carving knife with a 3-6”-long blade. Class $20 plus a $5 materials fee; Total class fee $25
Great Workshop at a Great Price!
This is a sampler class of different herbal medicinal preparations: infusion, decoction, tincture, medicinal oil, salve, compress. Participants will experience all stages of each preparation and will take home their own medicinal tincture, medicinal oil, and salve. Much plant lore will be shared! This class is recommended for people 12 and older. Limit to 16 participants. For reservations call/text 517-960-6486 Monday, 8/31 from 6-8 p.m Class fee $22 plus $8 materials. Total class fee $30 Instructors: Rowena Conahan and Kathy Johnson
Today we FINALLY finished our FIRST cutting of hay! YAY! Normally, we should be getting ready to do our second cutting. With all the rain we had the last few months, it was challenging for any farmer to harvest hay. That is probably why I noticed there have been a lot of grouchy farmers around our area. Since we do not have hay equipment, we have someone else cut it, and then we help bale. The first farmer we had contracted out to do our pasture had over 100 acres to do and only a few days to get it all in, due to the rainy weather. He felt so bad about not being able to fit ours in. He advised us to start contacting every farmer we knew. We did, but they were all trying to get their pastures baled before more rain came. To harvest hay, farmers need three to four days of good, hot, DRY weather. This season that didn’t happen until the Fourth of July weekend. Every farmer we knew was scrambling to make hay. To make matters worse, many of them said their equipment had broken down and the parts stores were closed due to the holiday. That is why we didn’t get our pastures completely cut on July 4th. Some inexpensive part broke, which could have easily been replaced had the stores been open. So, unfortunately, about six acres were left standing. This past week, the weather allowed us to try again. The hay was cut on Wednesday and was due to be baled on Friday. However, the farmer didn’t finish his field, so he had to leave ours till today. Last night when he gave me the the news, I had to quickly call our butcher to tell him we wouldn’t be able to help butcher our meat birds, since we would be baling. He seemed relieved to have Saturday morning off. He could only reschedule them to the following Wednesday. I sighed, but was thankful we could do it then. Sadly though, Wednesday I had previously scheduled a rare trip to Lake Michigan to see our grandchildren. I have an uncomfortable feeling that we won’t make it to the beach that day. Ah, that is farm life!
While we waited for Jim and his equipment to arrive, a heavy anxiousness crept in upon us as dark storm clouds began appearing in the west. We knew the hay wouldn’t be much good if it got rained on. Once again we gathered the family together and prayed that our pasture would stay dry. At the end of the prayer Chris sweetly added, “God, if you choose to not answer our prayer, we will rejoice anyway. We will not worry, for You, God, are in control.” His words penetrated my anxious heart, and peace began to enter in.
Jim did arrive before any drops fell. We were thrilled that God answered our prayers. However, after about an hour, his baler broke. Was God trying to teach us something? It was about six o’clock. We didn’t have much time left. We all felt the pressure. We needed a baler and we needed it now. Once again our family joined together in prayer. Suddenly a little ray of hope appeared. Dad thought we should ask Mr. Sweet if we could borrow his small baler (really, Sweet is his last name). John Sweet lives close by; only about two miles away on a large dairy farm. The problem with that idea was finding Mr. Sweet. He never answers his phone, and looking for him is like looking for a needle in a hay stack! Jeff took off in the car and I kept praying. Jeff was pleasantly surprised to find John just coming in from the field. His big round baler had just broken too. Funny, farm equipment is so large and strong, but apparently so sensitive, like some men I know.
Well, John lived up to his name. He sweetly lent us his baler! Thank you, John. Once again I thanked God, for living up to His name as well; Faithful and True! He says that He will answer our prayers, and I have experienced that to be true. Of course, I have experienced unanswered prayers as well, but those have been few. So it is becoming easier to trust Him, as more and more prayers are answered. Those answered prayers give me security and comfort, and build trust, which carries me through the few difficult times God chooses to not answer my prayers. Like a farmer patiently waiting for a dry harvest window, I am learning to patiently trust God concerning my unanswered prayers. So, dear reader, remember, just because God isn’t answering your prayers in the way you would like, it doesn’t mean He isn’t listening. Keep praying! Perhaps God is waiting for you to obey Him or to trust Him more. Perhaps He knows that having to wait will help build good character in you. Maybe your request is unwise. Who really knows? Only God. What I do know is this: I have developed a habit of talking to God about pretty much anything. My requests range from minuscule to significant. I would guess He has answered about ninety percent of those requests. Once again today, I saw Him active in our lives. The dry bales are neatly stacked away in our barn. We are blessed, and I am thankful.
(This was written on the 25th, but not posted till the 27th… I was waiting for pictures.)
This past Thursday evening it was not unusual to see The Sun Times News on our old wooden table in our dining room. However, there was an unusual buzz of excitement hovering over the front page. Like bees over a patch of clover, our children were enthusiastically reading the front page. “Mom, we made the front page!” In the past, we have had plenty of visitors from family, friends, and customers at our farm. We have even experienced a few strangers dropping in with homesteading questions. The evening of July 10th was a bit different at our homestead because we held our first “official” public event: Wild Edible Plant Walk. I purposely limited the class to 20 attendees so that everyone could easily see and hear our guide, Rowena. The class filled up almost immediately. Rowena did a great job! I was delighted to meet like-minded folks, and thrilled to have teens attend the walk. We plan on holding future events from homesteading classes to farm-focused art.
I think every homestead should grow lettuce! In the summer time, I will occasionally even have it for breakfast. I definitely have fresh lettuce with almost every meal. It is so crisp and delicious when eaten freshly picked! I do not enjoy store-bought lettuce nearly as much. That is why I love growing it. Lettuce doesn’t have a long shelf life, so harvesting just before your meal is the perfect time to do it. I think leaf lettuce is the best type, because it is so easy to harvest and there are so many different varieties. Since the leaves grow individually from the crown; using the cut-and-come-again method is perfect. Take care to not cut the crown, that way you will have continual growth. I simply pinch off the larger leaves near their base. Just prior to eating, I rinse the leaves with water and spin dry. If you don’t have a dryer, just blot the wet leaves with a clean towel. If you are going to eat it later, put the unwashed leaves in your refrigerator. Even though lettuce is known for being a cool weather plant, it doesn’t fare well in a very cold refrigerator. Make sure it is in the warmest section of your refrigerator. When it comes to being outside thogh, lettuce is known for being very heat sensitive. It grows best below 75 degrees. I have been told that is best to harvest in the morning when temperatures are lower to avoid any bitter taste. However, I often harvest at lunch and dinner time and the leaves still taste great. I will share my secret that seems to help my lettuce keep producing in hot weather (don’t tell anyone)! Shh…this is my homesteading lettuce secret. When temps raise to about 75 degrees, I will water the soil (not the leaves) with very cool to cold water. This seems to help keep the lettuce from bolting, which is something you do not want to happen. Bolting is when the lettuce plant gets ready to go to seed. The center (crown) will shoot up to produce seeds. When this happens, the leaves become very bitter. Yuck!
I hope this little blog will help encourage you to grow and harvest your own lettuce. If not, I made this very short, somewhat humorous video so you can see just how easy it is to harvest, as well as see how easily our family is entertained. Truly though, I do hope I have encouraged you to grow it. Eating it freshly picked is soooo delicious. Watch video now
Thanks to Rowena, our wild edible plant walk on the farm was so educational. She did a great job showing us all the free food we have growing on our farm. She also explained their medicinal purposes! Everyone got to sample some of the plants picked. I got to try my first Burdock root! In times like these, when organic food and medical intervention are expensive, it is great to know what you have growing ‘for free’ on your property. I kept busy serving homemade raspberry and chamomile ice tea. It was fun to meet everyone. There were several from out of state. I was also really encouraged to see teens attending! I sure wish I would have learned what was growing out in my backyard when I was a teen! I limited the class to 20 attendees so that everyone could easily see and hear Rowena. The class filled up quickly! Several folks took home some plant clippings. Some even dared the mosquitoes and picked from our raspberry patch. If you are interested in attending any future walks, simply contact us. We will contact you when we schedule our next walk. Enjoy the photos!
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In my post, Five Reason Why I Love Homesteading, I shared the benefits of raspberry tea. Making raspberry tea is so simple. All you need is raspberry leaves and very hot water. You simply pour very hot water over either fresh or dried leaves, then cover and steep for at least 3 minutes. I prefer 5 to 8 minutes. As I said in my previous post, I really like raspberry tea because of all the great health benefits it offers. That is why I dehydrate so much! However, I do not recall mentioning that I really enjoy the taste and smell. Sometimes I add fresh berries along with the leaves. Oh, that is the best! At night or when I am feeling rushed, I add fresh chamomile with the raspberry leaves to help calm me down. I am having a wild edible plant walk this Friday on the farm. I think I will brew some tea for that and use raspberry leaves for the base. We will have it over ice because it will be a warm evening. Oh, and I almost forgot the reason I started writing this post. In addition to its great nutritional value and great taste, the leaves also offer us great harvesting memories! Thus the reason for posting these pictures in the first place: I love seeing my children enjoy life. It is wonderful to watch them laugh, sing, and simply goof around while they are busy at work harvesting. Thank you God for my raspberry tea, the smiles upon my children’s faces, and their dedication to our homestead. I am truly blessed!
This picture shows five reasons why I love homesteading. Can you identify them? I will give you a few hints. We picked them all today (June 29th., first hint). Not only do I love these for their delicious taste, but also for their nutritional value! My favorite one I have never found for sale at a store (second hint). I am so glad that we have two trees that produce those berries (third hint). So could you name them all? Well, if not, I will tell you. Plus, I’ll share why I think they are so great to have on your homestead.
Strawberries are used to make one of my favorite summer desserts. I really enjoy Strawberry Shortcake if the berries are fresh! We are able to eat fresh strawberries all summer long from our everbearing patch. We freeze most of the berries from our June-bearing patch so that we can enjoy them in the winter. I have one daughter who eats them almost nightly while reading in bed. She loves them rock-hard! We also use the frozen berries in raw milk smoothies throughout the winter. These berries are packed full of the antioxidant phytonutrient known as phenols. From what I have been told phenols promote good health and help protect us from disease. Perhaps that is why she rarely gets ill during the winter months! They are an excellent source of potassium, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, plus many B vitamins. They also give us manganese, iodine, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and copper. I have read that they can even reduce macular degeneration of the eyes! Plus, they are helpful in fighting some forms of liver and esophageal cancer! WOW, and to think we were simply eating them because they taste so good!
Wild Black berries are my least favorite due to their large seeds, but we still eat them anyway. Why, you may ask? Well, like other berries, blackberries are powerful antioxidants, but they have something a bit more special about them. Did you know that since they have high levels of pectin, which is a soluble fiber, it is believed they can help lower your cholesterol? What is really special about them is that they are also extremely high in vitamins C, E, and ellagic acid. Apparently Ohio State University did a study that showed blackberries can help fight cancer from our mouth to our colon! I would say that is a “good enough” reason to eat these berries despite their large seeds!
Red Raspberries have always been a favorite of mine. I enjoy spreading these fresh berries on warm toast! Today the bushes were loaded with these beauties! I grow an everbearing variety which gives me a small crop in early summer and then a large crop in the fall. As with all berries, they are great for promoting your health because they are full of those cancer-fighting antioxidants. But what I didn’t know is that raspberries may even help us manage obesity! Apparently, scientists say that metabolism in our fat cells can be increased by their phytonutrients, especially raspberry ketones. Just the sound of that makes me want to spread another inch of fresh berries on my toast. Maybe if I put enough berries on my toast that will nullify the calories in the toast?! Hmm, what do you think?
We also harvest their leaves for the many benefits the tea offers us. The tea aids in digestion issues and has anti-bacterial agents which help our body fight off infections. It has many of the nutrients and minerals we need, especially in the winter. Drinking the tea gives us minerals such as iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, selenium, and even calcium. It also gives us vitamins like A, C, E and B complex. They are full of a powerful antioxidant called antocyanin! It is great for the whole family, but I really like it for the ladies of the house because it is an excellent source of the alkaloid fragrine. Fragrine tones the tissues of the pelvic region, thus reducing menstrual cramps. Historically, it has been used to help with pregnancy, child birth and post-partum. This is why raspberry bushes have been known as the Woman’s Herb!
Chamomile flowers are not just pretty to look at. They have a soft aroma that gently fills the room with a sense of relaxation. They have been used medicinally for thousands of years. I was pleasantly surprised when I had my first cup of FRESH chamomile tea. It was nothing like the packaged kind I had been used to. I LOVE it!
Mulberries are my favorite because they have a very mild taste. However, if they are not picked at the proper time, they will taste sour! Like other berries, mulberries are very healthy for us too. The berries contain resveratrol which is another powerful antioxidant. Resveratrol protects against stroke risk by altering molecular mechanisms in the blood vessels. In addition to the berries being good for us, like raspberries, their leaves are used for making a great medicinal tea too! You will not find the berries in a store because they are too fragile. They have a very short shelf life. I either eat or freeze them the day they are picked.
So, today my children and I gathered up some delicious berries and some calming chamomile, all on our little homestead. I feel so blessed to be able to have these available right here on my property. This day has come to a close and I am headed off to bed feeling very thankful that God created all these great tasting berries for our pleasure and for our health!
There you have it! Five more reasons why
I love homesteading!