Monthly Archives: April 2015

Three Bags Full

So you last saw Lizzie looking like this.

Lizzie's all grown up! {}

It seemed to me that this look was a bit overdressed for spring fashion; no one’s wearing wool this season.  It was time for a makeover.

Learning to crochet-- from the very beginning!  Getting the wool from our sheep, Lizzie.  {}

If you were shocked, no worries.  I dropped her off at a friend’s house to be sheared while we were gone and came back the next morning to a different animal!  Although technically my biggest surprise was the bag of wool that greeted me on arrival.

Learning to crochet-- from the very beginning!  Getting the wool from our sheep, Lizzie.  {}

As Brett says, you could fit Lizzie herself in this bag.  And there is another bag of the dirtiest wool from her backside.  (Didn’t think you need a picture of that!)  Both bags are in the garage and every time I pass them I think “Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.”  There is easily enough for the master, the dame, and the little boy down the lane, but I’m not planning to give any to them!  This is the goal.

Learning to crochet-- from the very beginning!  Getting the wool from our sheep, Lizzie.  {}

Aside from what’s in the picture being bamboo and silk, I’m hoping to turn my bags of wool into balls of yarn.

Learning to crochet-- from the very beginning!  Getting the wool from our sheep, Lizzie.  {}

While my kid’s take ice skating lessons on Wednesdays I’ve been learning to crochet from some of the other moms.

Learning to crochet-- from the very beginning!  Getting the wool from our sheep, Lizzie.  {}

(And for the sake of keeping it real, here is what most of my photos look like.)

Learning to crochet-- from the very beginning!  Getting the wool from our sheep, Lizzie.  {}

I’ll keep ya posted!

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Adventures in Rhubarb

I couldn’t believe it, but it’s true.  April is almost over!  Most of the time I’m anxiously awaiting the beginning of May so I can plant the seedlings I bought, um, in March, from the greenhouse when I just want green and growing things.  This year, besides being crazy-busy, I bought daffodils, shamrocks, hyacinths, and violas instead.  And although I did throw a few seeds in a raised bed back in March, I haven’t paid that much attention to the garden site.  So imagine my surprise to notice the rhubarb positivly overgrowing it’s bed!

Growing crazy-big rhubarb!

I should have stood a child next to the plant so you can see how tall these stalks are, but here’s Brett posing with a few he picked.

Growing crazy-big rhubarb!

Growing rhubarb is something of a new experience for me.  I decided to plant some four years ago when strawberries were on sale for a dollar a pint but rhubarb cost an arm and a leg for three stalks.  I was warned by several people that the little plant in its gallon pot would quickly be three foot square, but that was fine.  I planted it in a four by four foot garden bed and looked forward to strawberry-rhubarb everything.

Adventures in growing rhubarb.  {}

The first year I wasn’t supposed to pick any and the next two years you pick frugally.  No biggie; three or four stalks twice a year was enough to satisfy my spring-time craving for pie.  Last year the goats ate quite a bit, but by then the plant was well-established and we still made several recipes.

But this year I’m gonna need more recipes!

Growing crazy-big rhubarb!

Thankfully, there’s Pinterest.  I found a brilliant suggestion for Strawberry Rhubarb Sugar Cookie Crisp from Heather Christo.  I may never cook rhubarb any other way again.

Growing crazy-big rhubarb!

And it was easy!  Chop up some strawberries and rhubarb, coat them in flour and sugar, dump into pan.  Then mix up a sugar cookie recipe, roll it out about half an inch thick and lay it on top!  Much easier than a pie crust and soooooo delicious!

Now my favorite recipe!  Strawberry-rhubarb sugar cookie crisp.  {}

Her recipe makes a 9×13 pan, but I didn’t have that many strawberries so I put mine in a pie plate.

We might be eating the extra dough straight out of the fridge…

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Do Conventional Farmers Use Environmentally Friendly Practices?

Today is Earth Day which seems like the perfect time to answer a question I hear a lot.  Do conventional farmers use environmentally friendly farming practices?

Many people equate “environmentally sustainable” with “organic.”  I’m sure this is largely true, but organic is more about how you grow the plants than how you take care of the land.

But I’d rather not get out the boxing gloves with organic.  Instead I want to answer the question; what do conventional farmers do to take care of the land?

Actually, they do a lot.


Here’s a photo I snapped of Daddy’s tractor planting corn.  You can see the green of our cover crop, which, sadly, was supposed to be wheat.  And while the failure of our second wheat crop is disappointing, the nice thing here is that you can see the fresh marks of the corn planter clearly in the green.

Many people think of organic farmers as being more environmentally friendly.  What about conventionally grown food?  {}

The red arrow shows the marks from where the planter has just put seeds.  The yellow arrow shows the odd shape of untouched wheat grass between the planter rows.

Why in the world would we do that?

Well, it’s environmentally friendly.  Our land is hilly, so to keep soil from washing into streams we use terraces to keep the soil where it belongs.  Terraces are an awkward shape and they cut an otherwise rectangular field into weird shapes as well.  Farmers have to plant and harvest on one side of the terrace at a time.  We start planting by tracing the outline of the field (end rows) and then we trace both sides of the terraces.  Finally we finish planting by filling in those blank spaces the yellow arrow points out.

Take a virtual tour of a modern tractor! {}

The use of technology is also a major part of being a good steward.  The GPS monitor shows us exactly where the tractor has planted and what little triangle somewhere as been forgotten.  The planter also uses a pretty impressive system that shuts off each row individually as it drives over ground that has already been planted.  That saves us lots of seed, as well as confusion when it’s time to harvest double planted ground.

Planting with terraces is a pain.  However, protecting streams and our water supply is important to us (we drink water too) and it’s beneficial because soil that washes away is our best top soil.  Those are two big reasons you’ll find conventional farmers practicing soil conservation!

Here are other posts that describe why it’s always Earth Day on a farm.

Farm Ugly! How farmers are taking care of the land. {}

1.) Farming Ugly!  Cover crops help prevent soil erosion, control weeds naturally, and enrich soil.

Farmers taking care of the land {}

2.) Terraces and no-till, best practices on our farm.

Another way farmers are taking care of the land. {}

3.) Another farmer planting hay on terraces and waterways.

If you’re a farmer, what other practices do you use?  If you’re not, what questions do you have?

Categories: Agvocacy, Farming | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Hope Springs Eternal

For a farmer, spring is hope.  No matter how poorly last year’s crop grew, despite the prices at the grain elevator, and against the odds of droughts, hail, insects, flood, and other calamities, we put seeds in the ground.

Everyone gets excited about spring planting on the farm!  {}

Last week Daddy showed up in the field that is our front yard (at bedtime, please ignore the pajama-clad kids) to plant the first test rows.

Planting begins on the farm (and everyone's excited!  {}

He drove the tractor a few yards into the field and stopped to see how the planter was working.

Planting begins on the farm (and everyone's excited!  {} Planting begins on the farm (and everyone's excited!  {} Planting begins on the farm (and everyone's excited!  {}

Daddy looks in the rows created by the planter to see how deep the seeds are, how close together they fell into the ground, if there are spaces where the planter skipped seeds or dropped a double.

Planting begins on the farm (and everyone's excited!  {}

Daddy has invested equipment from a company called Precision Planting that creates add-ons for your tractor and planter to ensure that every seed is placed as precisely as possible.  For crops like corn, that can make an impact.

Planting begins on the farm (and everyone's excited!  {}

He’s also checking to see if the wheels on the back of the planter are doing a good job covering the seeds back up with soil.  If you look carefully at the above photo you’ll notice one round, black wheel paired with one spiky looking one.

The ground was too wet to use the spiky wheels, so Daddy had to take the planter back to the shed and changed each spike wheel to a matching black one.

When he came back the next morning I was able to grab a few pics of him unfolding the planter.  This piece of machinery is 60 feet wide and couldn’t possibly get down the road like that!

Spring planting on the farm.

This planter folds in three places, with the two side sections bending forward to align next to the bar that pulls it behind the tractor.

Spring planting on the farm.

The sections swing out and the bar that pulls behind the tractor actually shortens to give more control while Daddy is driving.

Spring planting on the farm.

When the sections lock into place its ready, planting more hope in the ground as it goes.


Categories: Farming | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

White As Snow

Recognize this?

Lizzie's all grown up!  {}

Yah, that’s Lizzie, the “little” lamb we brought home–wasn’t it just yesterday?!

Lizzie's all grown up!  {}

Last time I think you saw her she looked like this.  I can’t believe how much she’s grown!

The thing is, its spring time and I have baby fever.  Baby animals that is.  I’m posting these photos to remind myself next time I see a cute bunny or whatever that they don’t stay little for long because, yeah, this happened last week.

Not so "little" animals on the farm!  {}

There are just three.  And they’re for the kids.  I promise.  Because I know that baby animals grow up all to quickly.  I really do.

Then again, they’re pretty amusing as grown animals too.


For example, here’s a photo bomb by Harriet.

And this is Harriet and Fanny as I was leaving their pen.

Not so "little" animals on the farm!  {} Not so "little" animals on the farm!  {}

Don’t leeeeeeeeave us, Mom!

And Lizzie again, trying to eat the camera’s strap.  So adorbs.

Not so "little" animals on the farm!  {}

So maybe not so “little,” and a long ways from “white as snow,” but know what?

Pretty fun anyway.

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Farmer Brett Birthday Cake

I did not tell Brett it was okay for him to turn eight years old, but he has gone and done it anyway.  Not being given much choice I agreed to make him the birthday cake he wanted.

When Brett turned two years old I got to plan his whole birthday party and choose all the cutest stuff myself.

Farmer Brett Birthday party  {}

I spent hours making an unrealistic but totally adorable toy dump truck looking cake.

Even when he turned five I had lots of design input.

Farmer Brett Birthday party  {}

The official title of this party was “A tractor, A cart, A combine, and Two Semi Birthday.”

But now I have a grown-up farmer on my hands and only the most true-to-life cake is allowed.

I started with two round cakes to make the number eight.  Brett looked and looked at cakes in the shape of a four and five on his Pinterest board, but eventually picked a rectangle cake because it was the most realistic.  My plan was to surprise him with the eight he wanted and the decoration from the other.

Farmer Brett Birthday party  {}

That’s Oreo cookies mixed with chocolate icing and green grass piped from a Wilton 233 tip.  It was super easy since the grass doesn’t have to be perfect!

Then I (thoroughly!) washed the tractor and planter he chose from his collection.

Farmer Brett Birthday party  {}

I wanted all red equipment, to make the cake cute.  Brett wanted the planter and tractor just like Daddy’s.

Planting time on the farm

Our Case IH tractor pulls a John Deere planter– proof that it can be done! 🙂

Reluctantly I added them to the dirt icing,

Farmer Brett Birthday party  {}

and used a toothpick to make the marks in the soil from the row openers.

Farmer Brett Birthday party  {}

This was a bit of a risk because I single-handedly chose to make marks for corn, not soybean seeds, and Brett had wanted to be planting into cornstalks.  Since we plant on a rotational bases, this would mean the planter was planting soybeans, but Brett’s idea for making cornstalks was broken toothpicks.  I told him we could put broken toothpicks on top, but we wouldn’t be able to eat it.

Farmer Brett's Birthday Cake  {}

So I guess we compromised and I think it turned out cute and realistic.  Because believe me, more of our farms are shaped like a number eight than a rectangle!

Categories: Family | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Food Faith

Faith is an important part of my life. I choose to believe certain things regardless of anything you could tell me to the contrary. Even if I can’t see it. Even if it doesn’t make sense.

That’s why it’s faith.

But while I readily acknowledge faith in my God, so many are denying their faith. Not a faith of religion, but a faith of food.

The faith of food.  {}

Because faith is really all you can call most people’s belief in food.

It doesn’t matter what you tell them. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense. People believe what they believe about food. And that’s fine and all. Let’s just make sure we know what it is.

It is not science. It is not verified. It is not fact.

Recently the Food Babe (won’t even link) was called out by Science Babe (click at your own risk!) for her outright scare tactics. The Food Babe following is made up of consumers trying to eat right and feel better. Maybe you heard they demanded Subway remove a substance from their bread because it was a chemical also found in yoga mats. Never mind the chemical is completely fine; it’s such a disturbing thought.  And her army made such a fuss Subway actually gave in and changed their bread.

There was no research, no reality. Just a woman who started a rumor and the people who believed her.

What do you believe?  What do you know?

Having faith in God is non-negotiable to me.   When it comes to things of this world, however, I’m gonna need a little bit more to work with. I want science in the mini-van I buy. I want testing done on my kids’ car seats. And I’ll go with research when it comes to food.

Categories: Family, Food | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Daddy’s Tractor Quiet Book Tutorial

Daddy's Tractor Quiet Book Tutorial

If you’ve never made a quiet book before, well, you’re smarter than me.  I’ve made six in the last few weeks.  My latest creations have two important characteristics that made me think I should share them on the blog.

1.) They are farm themed.

2.) They’ve gotten much better and MUCH simpler!

My Pinterest board started out with phenomenal projects (search Russian quiet books– or maybe don’t) and I jumped in with both feet.  Four weeks later, and I’m much wiser. 😉

First!  This tip helped me SO much.  Draw or print your pattern onto paper then trace the pieces onto freezer paper. Then roughly cut the shapes out of the freezer paper and iron them (medium high heat) onto the felt.

Daddy's Tractor quiet book tutorial

Felt stretches easily and can become misshaped– never work with just one layer!  After you’ve cut the felt the second thing you’ll do is join it up with another layer.  Some pieces will be sewn to the page, other shapes you’ll need two of.

Many directions have you cut two, let’s say trees, and sew them together, but again, stretching.  If you sew it to a plain piece of felt, like the tire and pick-up below, you can cut the finished shape when you’re done and it will look perfect every time!

Daddy's Tractor quiet book tutorial

Let’s get started!

Tractor Page

Obviously you’ll need a “Daddy’s Tractor” page first!  This one has changeable tires for button practice.

Daddy's Tractor quiet book tutorial

You’ll need:

  • One 9×9 piece of background felt
  • One sheet of tractor color felt (of course I recommend red-lol!)
  • One sheet black felt
  • One sheet white felt
  • Two large-ish buttons
  • Needle, thread, sewing machine, etc.

Trace a tractor outline, windows, and three grill vents onto freezer paper. Cut and sew these pieces onto the background felt.  Then trace and cut the tires.  Sew the white rims to the black felt, then do the double layer thing I described above with the black.  Add a button hole to the center of each tire.  Using the tires as guides, hand stitch the buttons in place.

Sheep Page

Curled ribbons make great sensory play!

Obviously the first thing any Daddy's Tractor quiet book will need is a tractor!  This one has changeable tires for button practice! 

You’ll need:

  • One 9×9 background felt
  • One sheet white felt
  • One sheet gray or black felt
  • Assortment of ribbon, I recommend grosgrain
  • Wooden dowels OR wooden pencils

Start by creating the curled ribbon. Preheat the oven to 225*.  Wrap the ribbon around a dowel rod (I used a pencil!) and hold in place with straight pins or clothes pins.  Bake the ribbon for 20 minutes and allow to cool completely before removing from the dowels!

Meanwhile, cut a fluffy sheep shape, head, legs, and fluffy head piece.  Start by sewing the feet, then body.  Here I added the curled ribbon by using an embroidery stitch to keep them in place.  Whatever you use you don’t want a child to be able to pull them off!  Next add the head, followed by the wool on top of the head, keeping ribbons out the the way with straight pins.

Baby Chick Page 

Lift the flaps, and then lift again! make this page lots of fun!

Daddy's Tractor quiet book tutorial

You’ll need:

  • One 9×9 background felt
  • Light brown felt
  • Redish-brown felt
  • White felt
  • Yellow felt
  • Orange felt

Start by sewing the body to the background, followed by the neck, beak, and comb.  Make a double layer of the wing and attach it to the body with a straight pin.  Then pin the wing back up and out of the way to arrange the eggs and chick.  Next, make a double layer of the cracked egg shell and sew about an inch of the top and bottom to allow the chick to show through.  I added eyes to the chick with a Sharpie and used fabric glue for its beak.

Hauling Hay Page

Use your pick-up to bring hay for the cows!

Daddy's Tractor quiet book tutorial

You’ll need:

  • One 9×9 background felt
  • Grosgrain ribbon
  • Cording
  • Eyelets with setting tools
  • Three colors felt for trucks
  • Brown felt for hay
  • Six small, black buttons

Cut, pin and sew ribbon into desired path.  Next, following the directions on the package, insert an eyelet into each end of the ribbon.  Then, cut truck shapes from each of the three colors.  Add two eyelets to each truck where you want them to set on the track.  Cut and sew a double layer of hay bales.  Before sewing a double layer of the trucks, slip a hay bale into the back of each pick-up bed.  Now sew on the button wheels, being careful not to sew through the space between the eyelets on the back of each truck.  Then, thread the cording through the eyelet in the ribbon, through the eyelets on the back of the truck, and through the last eyelet in the ribbon.  Add knots to the end of the cording and use an embroidery stitch to finish off the edges of the ribbon, making sure to catch the cording in the stitches.

(Cording and eyelets can be found in the notions section of a craft store.  Everything in the pictures I purchased at Hobby Lobby.)

Daddy's Tractor quiet book tutorial


Last I added a pocket for any extra pieces, made small button holes down each side and attached them with book binder rings through them.  Easy to slip in and out with new pages as your kiddo grows!

Categories: Family, Homeschool | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Is Local Food More Sustainable?

One quick, easy fact about sustainability!

Is local food more sustainable?

Maybe something you didn’t know?


Categories: Food, Quick Fact | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s the Big Deal with Sustainability?

My farm friends are rolling their eyes right now.  Sustainability.  We hear it every day.  And like me saying “stop that” to my kids, the word rolls off our backs.

It means nothing.

People shout it from the roof-tops, McDonald’s demands it, but only Webster has defined it. “Capable of lasting for a long time.”

What is the Big Deal with Sustainability?  How do we leave our farms to the next generation?  {}

Passing the farm to future generations is a priority for us!

That’s big.

And nebulous.  Sustainability is many things.  To make farms last you’ll need land, soil, energy, labor, infrastructure, and profit.  You’ll need to keep our water clean and air clear.  Let’s add fair treatment of animals too.

The thing is we all look at sustainability from our own viewpoint.

If you focus on energy you might be in favor of smaller farms, more reminiscent of an era when agriculture didn’t depend on massive machinery.  But then you’ll need more labor.  You need people leaving their careers in the city to grow food.

If your concern is soil conservation you may want farmers to use less of the land, disrupting dirt less often.  In this case you’ll sacrifice economics, sending farmers to other jobs to support their families.

If you’d like animals roaming in green pastures you’ll have to deal with streams polluted from their waste.

Are you seeing my point?  To view agriculture through just one or two of these lenses is to not be sustainable at all.

Another way farmers are taking care of the land. {}

Here’s a farmer preventing soil erosion by growing hay for his cattle on the terraces of a corn field. How’s that for sustainable?!

Like beef.  Recently a committee suggested the government remove red meat from its recommendations because it isn’t sustainable.  They believe the land used to grow food for cows could be used to grow food for people instead.

Here’s the thing.  Some of the land my family owns isn’t good for growing plants.  The hills are too steep or the soil isn’t great.  We call this “cow ground.”  Even if we stopped eating beef that land wouldn’t be able to grow broccoli, spinach, or yams.

To make this land grow vegetables you’d need a huge labor force.  You’d need more water and you’d have to add nutrients to the soil, which leads to run-off in our streams.  After all that the spinach would probably cost more than you’d want to pay.

Also, like your grandparents fed scraps to a pig they fattened for fall, animals can make productive use of things that are waste to humans.  For example, animals use straw, which is the stalk from wheat plants.  And the ground that grows only grass can be baled for hay.

What is the Big Deal with Sustainability?  How do we leave our farms to the next generation?  {}

Anna feeds dried-out cornbread muffins to the chickens while wearing her favorite outfit!

Leaving farms for future generations isn’t a simple thing.  I think it will involve more science and technology and hopefully less of that roof-top shouting.

Next time someone tries to sell you something grown “sustainably” find out what that means.  And how true it really is.

Categories: Science | 1 Comment

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