I’m a FarmHER!

Recently I had a friend introduce me to some new people at a party and she said “This is Meredith, she’s a farmer’s wife.” If I was a cartoon, my head would have spun around exorcist style and fire would have shot out of my eyeballs. I know that several of my contemporaries experience similar treatment. We know the things that we do to raise our families, our animals, and our crops. But to the rest of the world, we are invisible. An accessory to the Farmer; the “real” worker. I know people imagine they get up before the sun, feed the animals, do chores, hop on the tractor and do field work all day, and come in well after supper time. And while that may be true for some, there are many more women out there that not only support their husband’s work, but also do a fair bit of farm work themselves.

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I’m here to tell you that I am a Farmer too, I’m a FarmHer! I wake up early (most days before Hubster) get breakfast for my boys and us, then he and I do the morning chores TOGETHER. He goes out and does field work on the tractor while I go take care of our children. We work on large and small projects around the house or barn (And I usually have a baby on my back). We put in the endless feet of fence TOGETHER. For more on the fence, check out my other two fence posts. We suffer the same disappointments and celebrate the same joys that accompany farming TOGETHER.

The US Census Bureau collects a lot of Agricultural statistics that are available here. One of the most important statistics they collect (in my opinion) is the number of farmers that are women. However, the way they count women farmers may need some updating. They count women farmers as any woman that is listed as the sole or majority operator of a farm. These women are significantly in minority accounting for less than 10% of all farmers in this country. But, I reject the idea that because I am in a partnership with a man, that he is the farmer and I am the accessory.

Hubster and I are true partners, in everything (farm work, housework, parenting, bringing home bacon, all of it). It’s truly wonderful and I am so so grateful. And if you tally up “years of experience in farming” Hubster has a few more than I do (but only a few). But especially because, without me, this farm would never have existed. My hard work, long days, blood sweat and tears, and my vision are the foundation of this farm just as much if not more than Hubster.

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So I beg your pardon friend who needs some educating, while it’s true I am technically a farmer’s wife, I am also a FarmHER!!!

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Are you the primary farmer in your family? Even if you contribute support, be proud! Comment below!

Im So Crafty, I Made a Farm!

In 2011, my mom Connie, my husband Dan, and I were struck with a lightning bolt of luck when we found the property that is now our home. It took us almost 2 years of driving all over central Maryland and looking at run down property after run down property, but when we saw what is now BlueLand Farm, we all knew it was perfect.

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Ever wondered what it might be like to build a whole farm up from nothing? Yea, I hadn’t really either, and so when I set out on this adventure I had very little to go on except that it would be a lot of work, and a pretty big chunk of our savings. My only experience with building something like this from scratch is when I watched my parents build their own home when I was 12. Not exactly a lot to go on. And this “farm” was just a field that had had corn and soybeans growing, no buildings, no house, no fences, not even a driveway.

Closing on the property was an adventure in and of itself. The family joke is that it took Dan and I less time to make a baby, than it did to close on this property. There were issues with deed overlap, and issues with extremely old deeds (the last time they had been updated was 1940), and the title company was dragging their feet.

Closing got so involved and Dan spent many nights hunched over PDF copies of Microfiche deeds from the 1920s reading about meets and bounds.  Our real estate agent asked him if he was a property attorney…nope, just a farmer with a lot of motivation to get this done right!!! Buying a new property or house is always stressful, and so I wasn’t surprised or concerned. We persevered and now I can say; all’s well that ends well!

We got a lot of support and advice from local farmers, soil conservation, and anyone else we could think of to ask. So if you are out there in internet-land reading this, THANKS!!!!

When faced with many tasks, I find it best to make a list, just randomly point to something on the list, and start with that. But this time, we decided to be a little more organized. We needed a reliable way to access the property, so we started with a driveway. Our driveway was going to be ⅓ mile long and gravel. We did some adulting and, we got some quotes and settled on a “guy”, henceforth know as Driveway Rick, who ended up doing a great job, we were super happy.

At the same time, we started work on the never-ending project that haunts my dreams now. I call it simply “the fence”. The first phase of “the fence” was relatively painless and did not provide any foreshadowing of the pain that would come later. It did not require a lot of man hours on our part, but we paid the price….literally. It was really ‘spensive ya’ll. It was beautiful, convenient, and FAST. But the downside of it being twice the price of a DIY fence, we could NOT afford to keep THAT up without drying up our money pot too fast.

Plan B, buy the materials and install the fence ourselves. We are not shy and delicate flowers; we are sturdy, rustic, do-it-yourselfers! So we thought, we got this. But almost a year later, it just keeps dragging on and on and it’s one of the hardest things I have ever done (I planned, and executed a 100% DIY wedding for Hubster and I back in *mumble mumble mumble*, ahem, several years ago – this fence was worse then that – maybe because it isn’t quite as fun). We’ve done about 2,000 feet ourselves already, and Hun, it STILL ain’t finished. I can’t, I just can’t talk about the fence any more today. I’ll save that for another day I promise.

But that’s the beginning of our little farm’s story. And the idea is that this blog will take you on a journey through that story, with some sidebars about cooking, sewing, maybe some homeschooling…..who knows where my brain will take us. But hang with me and I promise it won’t be boring!!!

Canning Safety

After I wrote the post about applesauce, I figured that a post with some home canning safety tips would be in order.  I have found that the website www.healthycanning.com as well as the NCHFP and the CDC are great resources for home canning guidelines.

Internet-land can be a great deep pool of knowledge, but sometimes the problem when cruising around in all that knowledge is that you are really just getting a lot of people’s opinions, like MINE! 🙂

Just because someone’s grandmother canned using (insert unsafe canning method here) and everyone was fine…..does not mean that it IS a safe method.  I equate it to driving without a seat belt.  A majority of the time, you will get to your destination and everything will have been fine, but that ONE time you get into an accident, you’ll be sorry you weren’t wearing it!  In most situations it doesn’t take any more time or effort to do it the right way, just like buckling up!  Just do it!

When we are talking about the safety of the food that MY family is going to eat, I want to know that everyone is going to be safe.  Food tainted with botulism or other food born illnesses do not always look and smell rancid!!! HealthyCanning.com has straightforward, easily understood articles about canning safety and I encourage you to head over there for some reading before venturing out into the internet to learn different recipes and techniques. And always after every article they provide resources for you to read more about the topic.  Evidence-Based practice? What? Instead of antidotal accounts? YEA!!! That’s what my little nurse heart loves!!  Never trust the first thing you read. Go out and search for the thing that proves it right!!

And just in case you are wondering, here are MY home canning rules:

  1. Do not fly by the seat of your pants – home canning is not the time to get creative. Find tested recipes and follow them to the letter.  This includes measurements, cooking and processing times.
  2. Always use proper, safe, inspected equipment – Always inspect your canning equipment before getting started and follow manufactures suggestions for care and maintenance.  Pressure canners should have their rubber seals replaced at regular intervals and dial gauges should be certified yearly. Make sure you are using genuine mason jars and never re-use lids (unless you sprung for the fancy reusable lids). Also make sure you are pressure canning what needs to be pressure canned and water bath can what should be water bath canned. They are not necessarily interchangeable.
  3. Do not store cans with rings and more that two jars high – rings left on can rust lids more quickly or allow a lid to stay “sealed” that may not have sealed properly. Stacking jars too high can cause jars to fall and break as well as the weight can cause seals to pop on lower jars.

That’s it! Follow the recipe, use proper equipment, and store them safely! Not so complicated right? GO forth, you can CAN!!!!

Applesauce

I’ve made jam many times before, but I’ve never actually made applesauce before….I know, I know, that is crazy!  I went apple picking with friends at a local orchard. I had all these beautiful apples and I knew we wouldn’t eat them all before they went bad, so I decided to take the not so scary plunge from jams to applesauce. The internet is a blur of different choices. Different recipes and techniques are abundent.

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I settled on a recipe for applesauce in a crock pot.  I love my crock pot!!  I’ve had it for 7 years and it hasn’t let me down yet!  So I peeled/cored with my trusty apple peeler/corer and then I set the crock pot and walked away. Later that day I canned it and now I have four beautiful jars of homemade applesauce! It was so nice to not have all the work to do all at once or stand in front of a stove cooking apples all day.  I HIGHLY recommend making applesauce with this method.  I could even have let the apples cook longer and ended up with apple butter! Don’t be afraid to try new things friends!  It leads to beautiful, delicious results.

I’ve had my apple peeler for years, but I want to upgrade to one of these bad boys! UPDATE: Hubster bought me one for my birthday and it got quite the test run making pies for the holidays and I have to say I LOVE IT!!

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Here’s my favorite canning equipment, I always use Ball Mason jars and rings that I use and reuse, but I always use new lids.

**This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  When you click, you help support future blog posts, where all of the opinions I express are my own and I am not paid for them**

 

Getting Cleaned Up

This is a farm friends, and the work is literally never done here. We’ve been here for a year and we’ve been so busy with big projects that there is a lot of little things that have fallen through the cracks lately. We are taken the next few weeks to get a little cleaned up around here. Ted and I are on skid loader duty:

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And Hubster, Jackson, and T are cleaning up the brush pile, getting it ready to burn later this fall. (you need a burn permit in our district for this, obtained from the county health and human services department)

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We are also working on building a small run-in shed on skids to use for extra shelter this winter. We are using extra materials from our large shed. It’s both practical and pretty since it’s saving us money, and it also matches our shed.  Mmm oh I love things like that.  I SAVE money, AND it looks pretty!?!?!

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And then, just for fun, here’s a picture of Jerry, our kitten, deciding if it’s worth it to jump in the tub with the boys and get wet, but get to play with the fun toys in there.

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Patio

We’ve been in our house just shy of a year now, and we have had a really hard time growing grass directly behind our house. It gets a lot of foot traffic and the kids play in the dirt there. I have been wanting to do something about it for ages.  This past winter, we bought 500 sq. ft. of brick pavers in a big sale. The store has a big sale each year where they sell off all of the extras from other large projects at a big discount.  I didn’t care if all of the bricks matched because I wanted the patio to look old and weathered.  We also had a big load of stone dust delivered for a base. We rented the tamper and paver saw from a local tool rental place for two days.

A friend of mine’s husband is a structural engineer and was able to help us level the site. we used 1″ PVC pipes at regular intervals to keep the depth of the stone dust even. We tamped down the first layer, and then did it again.  With two inches of level stone dust, we started to lay bricks. We were just initially just laying them down, but soon realized that was not going to be very even and would leave us with a lot of strange, uneven cuts at the end.  So we then used a piece of twine line to stay more straight from then on.

Not too shabby for one weekends work. Next weekend we plan to add the sand in-between the bricks and plant some grass seed where we tore up the ground.

We also used our leftover bricks to make some sweet mini-pads by the front steps of the front porch, and the side hose bib.

 

Here Guinea, Guinea, Guinea

Here at BlueLand Farm we have introduced a new animal to the mix and I am so excited about it!!  We bought some guineas!!! Guinea Hen Keets to be exact, Keet is the term for the babies.  Guineas are an African game hen, we call them our African Attack Chickens!

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They have faces that only a mother can love, and what I mean is that they are so comical looking they end up being actually quite cute.  They make a TON of noise pretty much all the time, and they are very bossy about who comes up the driveway.  Why get these creatures then you may ask? One word, TICKS! These little creatures eat ticks like it’s thier lot in life, which is fitting, because here at BlueLand Farm, that is their lot in life!!

And I have to be raising some kind of baby fowl, it’s one of my favorite thing to do in the spring.  We got them in the end of July, so there wasn’t much to be worried about as far as keeping them warm, so we started them outside (Also, guineas are super hearty).  So we set up “Keet TV”.  A dog crate that I lined with hardware cloth to prevent tiny escapes and then added a mama heating pad.

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Mama heating pad is my preferred method for raising chicks for two reasons: it uses less electricity than the big warming lights and it is more natural that those big bright bulbs!. The chicks are exposed to light and dark as they would be normally and feather up a lot faster.  This makes them ready to go out of the brooder faster too!  There are several ways to accomplish this.  You can purchase one of the fancy ones like this one from Premier 1. These are convenient because they are easier to clean and change height for you growing chicks.  Or if you are more of a do-it-yourselfer like me, you can build one! I just used a sturdy metal form (I used a leftover piece of hog panel) draped with a heating pad and towel.  Just make sure that the heating pad doesn’t have an automatic auto off feature.  I use this one because it is cheap, the cover is washable, and I like that the indicator light is a quick way to check if it’s on or not.  You want to check that it is still warm at least twice a day.

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The keets grew quickly and we are just finished coop training them.  We had an extra empty chicken coop so I put all the keets in there for three weeks to let them get used to it.  Then I let out half of them at a time to wander around.  They are very flock bound and won’t wander too far from their buddies that are still locked up.  Every night we closed them in.  After another month of this, I swung open up the coop door an them them all out to roam.  I haven’t closed the door since then and they all come back every night to roost in the coop!  No one has been taken by predators or wandered too far!

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Questions about Guineas, mama heating pads, or farm life in general? Post them below!!

**This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  When you click, you help support future blog posts, where all of the opinions I express are my own and I am not paid for them**