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Monday, February 25, 2013

Just a Note

...to say that the blog is going to be quiet this week as I am working very hard to get our farm website up and running and migrating this blog.  I can only do one techie thing at a time and, truth be told, I'm depending heavily on my friends to help me with this one.  So, until next week....

Friday, February 22, 2013

Top 10 Things I Learned At the Moses Organic Conference

Day One of the MOSES conference is in the books.  And, folks, it was a great one!  I'd like to share the  Top 10 Things I Learned At the Moses Organic Conference:

1.  Diverse is how I would describe the attendees.  Where else would you see an elderly Amish woman sitting next to a pink haired young man with giant washers in his ears and they are both there to learn how to raise dairy cows without grain??

2.  Organic and sustainable farming is NOT taking farming into the 1800's.  You would not believe the technical research, tools and management that are available.  It is inspiring and amazing!

3.  I had the greatest conversation with a hoophouse salesman and he pointed me to a solution at another booth.  Where else would THAT happen?

4.  As a non-coffee drinker, it is rare to be at a meeting or conference and have alternative beverages available.  But, here at MOSES, there are organic milks, juices, teas, coffees, and water.

5.  The bookstore is nothing short of amazing.  I was very careful with my purchases and spent about $50 for four books:

  • Root Cellaring by Mike and Nancy Bubel
  • The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel-Maier
  • The Herbal Home Remedy Book by Joyce A. Wardell
  • The Economics of Happiness by Mark Anielski
6.  Listening to other farmers talk about their operations, their successes and challenges is the most amazing part of this conference.  The solutions for common problems are elegant in their simplicity.  Let's not over think it!

7.  One of my favorite fellow woman farmers is from Maine.  Abby and I farm in similar ways and face similar challenges.  We spent our first two sessions together and shared our responses...to be able to share and have someone know EXACTLY how you feel and been there themselves is so empowering and comforting.

8.  My friend Lori got to meet one of her hoophouse heroes and visited for almost an hour with him.  And although I didn't know who he was, for her it was like spending an hour with Uncle Joel would be for me.

9.  It is completely and utterly impossible NOT to be inspired to grow something, ANYTHING when you are here.

10.  The food is great.  The workshops are great.  The people are great.  What's not to love??

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thankfully there wasn't a spoon handy

I have spent the past day and a half in meetings.  Painful meetings.  The organization that I work for is a member of a collaborative group of like-minded organizations who all provide a particular training course.  We meet as a group twice a year and are currently going through a strategic planning phase.

Just typing the words "strategic plan" makes me twitch.

I've done strategic planning for other organizations and groups.  And it has never, NEVER been as painful as this process has been.  I had to take an extended lunch break just so that I could decompress and regroup.

"What's the problem?", you ask.

Well, you see, I'm a doer.  I do things.  I like to do things.  I don't like to sit and discuss things until there is absolutely nothing left to discuss and then discuss the fact that there is nothing left to discuss.  It makes my head hurt and my blood pressure rise.  As an introvert, I detest small talk.  Get to point and move on.  This strategic planning session was all SMALL TALK.  I just about couldn't take it, I was looking for a way out.  There weren't any spoons handy or I would have gouged my own eyes out.

But...that torture has ceased and it's on to the MOSES Organic Conference tomorrow and I. CANNOT.  WAIT!!!  Lots to see, do, and learn.  People to meet and re-meet.  Books and literature to buy.  Organic food to eat.  Just soak it in and be inspired.

Ahhhhhhhhh, I can feel sustainable agriculture seeping into my very pores and it feels so good!

Monday, February 18, 2013

House Tour: The Laundry Room

**We moved in November and we just starting to get situated and unpacking all of the stuff we brought with us.  Not just unpacking, but making it our home.  Here's a virtual tour:

In our former home, the laundry was in an alcove just off the kitchen and visible to all.  My sewing room and our office shared a room.  In our new (to us) home, things are a little different!  Hubby and I share an office that doubles as a schoolroom for the kiddos.  As Hubby says, "This is where we work and learn.  We don't play in here!"  (This is to avoid an influx of legos, potato heads, and cowboys.)

It excites me to no end to have a room I can close the door on the laundry and a room where I can create!  Welcome to my room...

I bought this jelly cabinet at an auction for a dollar.  Original milk paint and finish.  It stores my fabric stash organized by color families.

This lamp is without a shade.  It was made by my dear friend Doris, who had a custom made lampshade to match her bedroom.  I was helping her at her rummage sale when a woman bought her bedroom bedding.  I tried to talk her into buying the matching lamps.  She argued that she already had lamps but did like the shades.  I told her if she wanted the shades, I would split the cost with her and I'd take the bases.  I got two of these awesome lamps for $5!!  Now, to make a shade...

Here's the laundry section.  I was using the washer as an ironing station.  (Yes, I know there's an ironing board right there, but I was doing small projects and didn't want to set that big thing up.)

 A large storage unit for supplies, books and patterns.  Also, my scrap baskets (one for strips and one for misc. scraps), my yarn stash, stamps and paper goods.
 Usually my sewing machine is stored in the cabinet which folds up, but I'm sewing late into the nights these days so I'm leaving it open.  (Current project on the chair...)

This is a closet for smaller supplies:  paint, brushes, sewing notions, tools, buttons, batting, stuffing, etc.

 This is my crafting table/folding laundry table.  There is room underneath for laundry baskets to fold into.  

The space above is filled with small wooden paintings from the first artist I ever knew.  She was an older neighbor lady who loved to paint the things in her life.  My mom bought all of these and kept them wrapped away in a box. When I was cleaning out this house, I found this treasure!

 Simple things like a lilac painted on a piece of lilac wood.
A meadowlark on a piece of old fencepost (where you will most often find meadowlarks, perched on fenceposts).
Her mailbox and her cat, looking at a butterfly.

I love these pieces!  They inspire me to create from the world around me.

 My mom is a professional crafter and I sold the vast majority of her stuff because there is no way I could keep it all, nor do something with all of it.  My rule was:  If I don't have a plan to use it in the next five years, I didn't keep it.

Here's something I did keep, baby blanket flannel.  When we were pregnant with Kiddo1, we took a class called "Happiest Baby on the Block" that absolutely saved us as parents.  One aspect of that is to swaddle your baby.  But the swaddle blankets sold in stores are too small once your baby is about a month old.  You need bigger ones to swaddle bigger babies!  So I made a stack of fourteen swaddle blankets from my mom's stash that we will donate to the class.  To help other parents (who may not be able to sew their own swaddle blankets) have peaceful and happy babies!

Speaking of stash...this is my UFO stash.  My UnFinished Objects stash.  It's an entire laundry basket!  And that's after I went through it to weed out the stuff that I don't want to finish and never want to see again (which was three small things).  That black quilt is my nemesis.  I've called it naughty names.  It's beautiful, which is why I don't just burn it in frustration.  I'm going to ask a friend of mine with a long arm quilter if she will finish it for me and save me from myself!
The other items are table runners I just need to add borders to and quilt.  A paper-pieced wall quilt that will be stunning.  Some embroidery projects that need framing.  A series of monthly snowman wall quilts that I'm working on right now.

Then there's my mom's stash!  Again, I only kept the projects that I knew I would do in the next five years.  This basket is AFTER I sewed up all that flannel!

I've decided I need to do some stash-busting if I want to do any new projects before spring hits.  So each night I'm working from 9:30ish until 1am on sewing down that stash.

Here's what I did last night!

This is Kiddo3's baby quilt.  Doesn't it just make you happy?  It's totally her.  Hubby asked, "Is this the quilt she'll never sleep with?"  Yes.  Yes, it is.  I did an heirloom quilt for Kiddo1 that I hand appliqued and hand embroidered.  Kiddo2's quilt is hand pieced (and not done, about halfway).  I would hand or machine quilt these, but Hubby has four wonderful aunts who handquilt.  I love that my kids will each have a piece made by their mom and handquilted by their great-aunts!

Do you have a "space" that allows you to create??

Friday, February 15, 2013

When in winter...

 We're raising farm kids.  On the prairie.  In North Dakota.  We're tough.  A little snow doesn't bother us, it gets us excited!

My kids' favorite activity this past week is to take their sleds and go sledding down a little hill across from our house.

Dad helped them get started and showed them the ropes.

And then they were off!

And there were some tumbles!
(Yes, I know my youngest child was not wearing mittens.  The rule is if she takes her mittens off, she has to go inside.  She went inside with me after this ride.  She left them on the next day, however.)

Sledding really tires out the kiddos.  Kiddo3 fell asleep between the office and the kitchen!

What are you doing outside this winter??

Thursday, February 14, 2013

House Tour: The Larder

**We moved in November and we are just now starting to get situated and unpacking all of the stuff we brought with us.  Not just unpacking, but making it our home.  Here's a virtual tour:

We have a room in our house we call the "larder" or the "fruit room".  I'm trying to call it the larder because it contains so much more than fruit.  

This is the view from the door.  The freezer contains our personal meat/frozen food supply.

I'll give you a tour of the larder, but late winter is the wrong time to show it.  We've been eating a lot of this food over the winter!!  So, this is the inventory as of the middle of February....

This is our jelly/jam shelf.  There's chokecherry, plum, peach, blueberry, jalapeno, strawberry.
It's also the syrup shelf:  plum and blueberry -- both excellent on pancakes and waffles.  
I will probably make syrup this year, but no more jelly/jam (unless the chokecherries bear well, then we ALWAYS make more chokecherry jelly).

Pickled good are on top of this shelf.  Cucumber pickles, relishes, bread and butter pickles, pickled beets.  My dear Hubby does not like my pickled beets.  He likes his mother's recipe.  I didn't know this when I pickled bushels of beets two year ago.  Therefore, I eat a lot of pickled beets.  (He also doesn't like bread and butter pickles...oh well, more for me!)  The empty shelf will be canned beans, it's on my list to do!

This is a tomato shelf.  On the top left is quarts of ketchup, then yellow salsa, red salsa and BBQ sauce on the right.  The second shelf is quarts of tomato sauce on the left and spaghetti sauce on the right.  I obviously did not make enough spaghetti sauce or pizza sauce...I'm out!

Fruit on the top shelf:  Applesauce on the left (We thought we were out of applesauce so finding these jars when we unpacked was a pleasant surprise.  All of our kids loved applesauce as a baby food, especially mixed with other foods, so we used a lot of it.  Usually I'm gifted with pails and pails of apples in the fall, but this years crop did not do well so NO APPLES and no applesauce for this house in 2012.), sliced peaches in the middle and pitted cherries on the right.
The bottom shelf is canned veggies:  sauerkraut on the left and peas next door.

This shelf is meat and meals-in-jar:  on top is some pints of ham and a lone quart of chicken broth.  I usually can meat in March and April, cleaning out the freezer for new meat coming in the summer and fall.  Plus, that's when I have time to do it.  It's also the time I can a lot of meals in a jar to have ready for the summer months.  Right now, the second shelf holds soups:  split pea, white chicken chili, bean with ham, vegetable and tomato.  Great for a quick, hot winter lunch!
(The shelf behind this one contains some tools and such from Hubby's repair work and our honey supply.)

This is my purchased items storage.  

I bless my dad for adding this little door when he built this basement in the late '80s.  This gem opens to a root cellar where we can store potatoes, onions, garlic, squashes, cabbages, etc.  It needs to be swept out and then we'll be ready for the fall.

The lower shelves of each unit contain empty jars.

During the spring, summer and fall they will be filled with good food for my family to eat.

That concludes our tour of the larder!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

We're Swimming!

You may recall that last weekend we took the kids for an overnight at a hotel in the big city.

Compared to our last swimming experience, the kids have dramatically increased their swimming skills!

Kiddo2 is normally afraid of anything but bath water.  Forget showers, he HATES them.  But he did so well in the pool, even swimming short distances ON HIS OWN between Hubby and me.

Kiddo3 does everything her big brother and sister do, so our challenge was making sure she didn't just dive into the deep end or the hot tub.

They played so well together in the kiddie pool.

Kiddo1 loved the water slide!  She's going down with Dad here, but soon learned she could go by herself.  (Dad was at the bottom of the slide to catch her.)

Kiddo3 had to have her turn!

All this swimming certainly wore them out.

Everybody was alseep, with their buddies, before we left town.

Monday, February 11, 2013

No Blizzard Here

I know I'm tempting fate here, but...well...I live in ND, tempting weather fate doesn't make much of a difference.

The northeast was hit with the storm "Nemo" that dumped 3 feet (give or take) of snow on populations who probably won't see that much snow again in their lifetime.  That's a normal winter here on the great plains.
{Aside:  Why have we started naming storms now?  When did we lose the magic of "The Winter of '63"?  Or the "Summer of '88"?  If Bryan Adams were to sing these days, would he really be singing about a winter storm named Nemo?  I dearly hope not...}

As we were driving to church this morning with our 4-5 inches of dusted snow,  (Yes, I said "inches".  That's all we've got as of today.) Hubby asked me what we would do with 3 feet of snow and where the snow drifts on the road.  I dialed back my memory to my high school years where we had feet and feet of snow.  We actually had to string electric fence on top of the corral posts to keep the cattle from walking over the top of the fences.  That's a LOT of snow!

During my sophomore year of college, Fargo set a snowfall record.  If there ever was a point in my life that I was sick of snow, that was it.  As a residence life employee, we had to shovel on the weekends as there were no maintenance staff scheduled.  And shovel we did!  I may have perfected my grain shoveling skills on the farm, but I became a snow-shoveling professional at college.

Just four years ago, my brother wrote a book and came home with his wife to do some book signings.  They had to stay in a hotel in Bismarck the first night because both I and my parents were snowed in at our respective farms until the next day.  We have a picture of my brother standing on the corner corral post and it looks just 6 inches high!

For all of you who were in the "dump zones", do some stretches, keep hydrated and relaxed as you shovel yourself out.  Stay safe and warm...it'll be our turn soon enough!!

Friday, February 8, 2013

My Big Day

I don't consider myself a political person.  In our state, we don't have to register to vote so I've never really declared a party.  I prefer to vote on people and issues and not a party line.  I have never campaigned actively for a candidate or given money to a political party.  But I've never missed a chance to vote.  Ever.

My parents were wonderful role models when it came to the political process.  There were only two reasons my dad would sign us out from school.  The first day of the State Class B basketball tournament, which in ND is a religion.  And to spend a day at the legislature every other year.  (Yes, our legislature meets every other year and only for 80 days.)  He made sure we sat on the floor with our legislators, went to committee hearings, and understood the legislative process.  By the time I went as a senior in high school, it was old hat.

Even with all that legislative experience, I'd never testified in a legislative committee hearing...UNTIL YESTERDAY!  I was excited and nervous and may have wiggled my back foot just a bit (my nervous tic) until I told myself to "Suck it up and Get on with it!"  Then, of course, I calmed right down.

It went well.  The committee had lots of questions.  I have some homework to do.  All in all, a great experience.

And if you'd like to know just what I said to the Senate Agriculture Committee today, here's my testimony!  (minus the tables that I can't post on the blog)

SB 2324 – Testimony
Annie Carlson
Morning Joy Farm – Mercer, ND

My husband and I own and operate Morning Joy Farm near Mercer, ND.  The same farm my grandparents bought in 1941.  Our three young children are the fourth generation to live and work on this land.  Our grass-based farm raises pastured broiler chickens, eggs, turkeys, pork and grass-fed lamb.  And while our pastured pork and grass-fed lamb products are very popular, it is our poultry that is our main enterprise.

All of our farm products are marketed direct to the consumer.  We do not sell to restaurants or grocery stores.  We do not sell at a farmer’s market.  We also do not advertise.  Our customers order our products in the spring of the year via a newsletter with an order blank.  In the past two years, we have tripled and doubled our production and continue to sell out long before the last batch of chicks ever arrives in the mail.  Our customers vary widely in age, family size, occupation and socio-economic status.  We have elderly ladies who order just two chickens.  We have large families that order 80.  We even have one customer who orders a chicken for each of her children for Christmas, as she told us, “They have every thing else, but they don’t have a good farm chicken!”

Why do we raise poultry?
1.     Pastured poultry production is seasonal.  We raise broilers from chicks to full-grown in 8-9 weeks.  Turkeys take 16 weeks to reach slaughter weight.  Our first batch of broiler chicks arrives the second week of May and we harvest the last batch by the middle of September.  Yes, raising poultry and processing it yourself is hard work, but it’s only hard work for 4 months of the year.
2.     Pastured poultry requires very little infrastructure.  We brood our birds in a grain bin with an Ohio brooder that I built from wood on our lumber pile.  The birds are moved daily to fresh pasture with portable shelters, that we have built, for the broilers or electric fence for the turkeys.
3.     We can process poultry on our farm.  This dramatically reduces animal stress before slaughter.  It also allows my husband and I to visually inspect each and every bird before it is packaged and sold to a customer.  Any birds that do not meet my rigorous standard are marked with a large “C” on the package and placed in our personal freezer for my family’s consumption.  We would not have this same level of quality control if we were to take our birds to a processing facility.

Why don’t we take our birds to a processing facility?
            The state of North Dakota has no public state or federally inspected poultry processing plants.  The closest USDA inspected facility is 295 miles away in Ashby, MN. 

Why do we need SB2324?
1.     This bill allows ND producers to follow the federal USDA regulations for poultry processing, specifically the exemption made for producer/growers who process less than 20,000 birds.  The exemption is found in P.L. 90-492. 
2.     As the state currently interprets this law, we would be required to have a facility, sanitation and record keeping inspection if we raise and slaughter more than 1000 birds in a calendar year.  (Keep in mind, this applies to all birds:  turkeys, broiler chickens, spent laying hens, etc.)  With these requirements, the only difference between our family farm operation and a federally inspected facility is that we wouldn’t have an inspector physically present to do a bird-by-bird inspection.  Otherwise, we would be required to have the same type and grade of facilities as a federally inspected plant. 
3.     Building a facility that would meet the facility and sanitation requirements that the state currently requires would cost our farm a minimum of $40,000 to $80,000.  In order for such an investment in infrastructure, that facility would have to run every day, year-round to cash flow.  Given our seasonal production model, that is not possible.
4.     The freedom to raise and process up to 20,000 chickens would allow more farmers to add poultry production to their operations.  As with most facets of agriculture, poultry production functions on an economy of scale.  The same killing cones, scalder, plucker, evisceration table, and chill tanks are used whether you are slaughtering 50, 500 or 5000 chickens.  Most of us start small, try it out, see if we can raise chickens, see if we even like chickens…and butchering chickens!  Our first year, we raised 112.  They sold like hotcakes.  The next year we did 360 and were sold out again.  Last year, we processed 700 birds and had a waiting list.  I’d like to share our financial plan for this year to demonstrate the profitability of poultry.  (See attached tables.)

As you can see, poultry production with on-farm slaughter exempt from inspection can be a viable enterprise for a farm.  It could be the avenue that brings back a son or daughter to the farm.  It could be the job for a farmwife who tires of working off-farm.  It can be the college payment plan for children.

Is there a market for poultry?
            According to the National Chicken Council, in 2011 the average American consumed 82.9lbs of chicken.
Population of Bismarck in 2011**
5,194,928.5 lbs of chicken
1,298,732.1 chickens
*4lb average
65 farmers

*20,000 bird limit
Population of North Dakota in 2011**
56,764,946 lbs of chicken
14,191,236 chickens
*4lb average
710 farmers

*20,000 bird limit
                        **Figures from the US Census Bureau.

What about food safety?
            As direct-market producers, we have to provide a safe, quality product each and every time to each and every customer.  Our customer base grows solely on word-of-mouth.  Our customers have to have a great product or they won’t tell their friends about us and they won’t buy our product again.   
Our birds are raised entirely by us from their third day of life.  They have a wonderful life, and one bad day.  Each bird is inspected by both my husband, and myself, to make sure it is healthy before it is slaughtered.  Once on the eviscerating table, I visually inspect the exterior of the bird for any abnormalities.  During the evisceration process, I inspect the organs for any abnormalities indicating disease.  Finally, as the birds are packaged, both of us again inspect the birds to make absolutely sure our customers are getting the best possible product.  Our farm is neither state nor federally inspected; instead, we are customer inspected.  Our customers are welcome to visit our farm at any time, including on processing days.  We have taught a number of people how to butcher chickens:  some were potential growers, others were our customers who wanted to know just how their chicken got from the field to their fork.  Many of our customers come to the farm to pick up their chicken, this allows them to see for themselves how their food is raised and processed.    

            Your affirmative recommendation on SB2324 will open the doors for farmers in this state to add or expand a viable enterprise to their operations.  It will allow consumers increased access to fresh-from-the-farm, local food that they are asking for.  North Dakota should not have more onerous requirements than the federal USDA guidelines outlined in P.L. 90-492.

Thank you.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

When It's Cold Outside

The past couple of weeks have given us here in the northern plains a taste of real winter.  No blizzards, but icy cold temps.  -10 degrees F (that's for my favorite Canadians!) was routine there for a few days as a HIGH temperature.  And while those of us natives are used to such winter weather, it still limits what activities the kiddos can do outside.  My rule for our little ones is:  If the ambient air temperature is zero or above, they will go out to play.  If it's colder, they may go outside with a parent to do chores.  But only if they ask.

So, what do three kiddos do who are used to going outside for at least a little bit each day?

We do some box yoga.

We learn to peel carrots while wearing our princess dress.

We help each other juice oranges for breakfast.
(Did you know a bag of oranges yields a quart and a half of juice and was MUCH cheaper than bottled OJ?)

We had meetings with our dolls.

And we played so hard with our cowboy that we fell asleep before supper.

What have you been doing when it's so cold out?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Life Is Like the Movies

As you know, we have a cowboy in our house.  And our cowboys's favorite cowboy is Cowboy Woody from Toy Story.  His favorite toy, hands down, is his stuffed Woody doll.  Woody does everything but go in the bathtub.

If you watched Toy Story 2, you know that Woody get his arm torn and is considered broken.

In a moment of rough play....

Woody's arm was torn!  The very same arm as in the movie.
There was crying and whimpering and begging Mama to fix him.

I got out my trusty needle and thread and started sewing.

Kiddo2 held Woody's hand and looked on in intense concentration.

And when it was over, my cowboy was VERY happy to have his cowboy back!

Who says life isn't like the movies???

Monday, February 4, 2013

If You're Wanting...

Now that we're smack-dab into the month of February, we may have some needs or wants that we feel we must have.  And, because I strive to help in any way I can, here's how you can get what you want:

1.  If you're wanting to have an entire swimming pool complex to yourself.
Take your family during the Super Bowl.  Guaranteed to allow your family the run and fun of a multi-million dollar complex.  We went to the Big City to celebrate Kiddo3's birthday (two weeks after the fact, but that was fitting as she had turned two) and stay in a hotel and have pizza delivered.  Did you know they brought pizza to you???  I hadn't seen such a thing since 1999.  I'm happy to report that all three kiddos have grown by leaps and bounds in their willingness and their swimming skills.

2.  If you're wanting to not sleep at all in a hotel.
Ask your kids, who all sleep alone, to all share a pull-out bed.  It did not go well.  AT ALL.  There was rolling into and onto siblings.  There was touching.  There was pillow stealing.  There was stuffed toys dropping off of the bed.  At midnight, all three of them were awake and asked to watch TV.  Fine, I figured they would get drowsy and fall asleep.  But the thing about your kids watching very little TV is that it captivates them.  Thirty minutes later they were all still awake.  I was nodding off, but they were awake.  Finally, at 2:30, I gave up and brought Kiddo3 into our king-sized bed.  Which defeated the whole purpose of getting a suite-style room!  {sigh}  I told him, "Next time we're just bringing their sleeping bags and leaving the couch as a couch!"  He gave me a look that said there probably won't be a next time.

3.  If you're wanting to clean your house.
Take a week off of your blog and focus your attention on getting your office/school room set up.  

This is my side.  You can tell by the organization.

This is Hubby's side.  We have some more work to do here.  And Grandma has some desks for the kiddos that will be over here.

4.  If you want to impress your kids.
 Take them to a hotel and then order pizza.  Kiddo2 was shocked that they brought pizza to our room.  I was as well when I was his age.  Ahhh, the simple life leads to simple memories.

That's what I've been wanting.  What are you wanting??