Saturday, March 31, 2012

Experimental Crop: Job's Tears

With my history of corn and soy allergies, and our desire to raise our own chickens, my husband and I have been toying with the idea of growing our own non-corn, non-soy (and non-GMO) custom chicken feed.

We can grow some sort of beans for part of the protein need, but have been looking here and there and reading a bit on what to fill that other side of the equation with to get a higher-protein feed, without using corn and using something a little easier to harvest than wheat. (we don't have modern harvesting equipment at this time).  (The sunflowers were gorgeous that we grew a few years ago for added protein; however the flocks of yellow finches thought so too and took care of the entire crop in a matter of days!)

In our research, we came across an old plant called Job's Tears (species Coix lacryma-jobi).
Here are a few interesting tidbits I learned about it and found noteworthy:
  • ancient relative of corn
  • Gluten-free
  • High protein-even higher than Quinoa, which is often touted for high protein content
  • An Anti-Cancer food...the bran contains compounds that inhibit human cancer cells
  • Used medicinally in the Far East for many ailments, and also a food in the Far East, used much like barley
  • Only the dark-colored ones are good for food--lighter ones are bitter and will ruin the whole pot if cooked with the darker ones

Randy's grandmother had given me some old seed  years ago, possibly even before we got married, but I am not sure where I put it(or even if it would grow at this stage in the game!).

So we began looking online for a source of seed and kept coming up dry.  Of the few seed companies we found that carry it, all are sold out already, and jewelry sources often have the seeds reamed out already, ready for threading.

And then we came across crafter Jenny Hoople  (dh found her just googling Job's Tears, and I found her Etsy listing, AuthenticSeeds<<---take a look at her cool jewelry!).  She grows Job's Tears herself for beading and has made the seeds available for others to grow. (Thanks, Jenny, for making these available!)

I have to say that when I received my seeds in the mail, the packaging and presentation of the seeds was a ray of sunshine to my day. Might not matter to folks just wanting seed to grow, but I thought it was a nice touch. :)

Cute bunny drawn on the envelope.

A gift, unwrapped...

 And my seeds, complete with an informative card.
 Thanks again, Jenny! :)

We plan to grow these this year and see how well they do in our climate/soil and how much care they require, and if we get enough to play with at the end of the season we will see how well they might work to 1)incorporate into chicken feed (possibly using a corn grinder...), 2)cook and eat ourselves and see how we like them (probably in soup?), 3)make some cool jewelry w/the kids, and of course 4)save some seed for next year!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Update: Charlie's Soap Day 377 and counting...

Over a year ago, I had posted about the wonderful Charlie's Soap purchase I made on Amazon. The price has gone up nearly $6, but I'd say it's still a great price and  heartily recommend it.  There may be better deals out there. :)

I had expected the Charlie's Soap to last me a year, and it was worth it to me at that price.

But guess what? I have only used about half of it and expect the remainder to last me another year!

I worried about it hardening into one large clump with our humid summers. I put a couple of those nitrogen packs in the big bucket as I found them throughout the year(pill bottles, shoe boxes, etc) and haven't had any problem with clumping/hardening.

I have not purchased any other laundry detergent in the last year. I do sometimes use a separate stain remover (one kid in particular is good at getting clothes good and dirty...), or a squirt of Dawn if there are exceptionally greasy stains.

I do not use commercial fabric softener due to allergies. I use vinegar in the rinse(when I remember) and this seems to help my towels be softer and to cut down on static a bit. And I use dryer balls...or I did for most of the last year, but they died so lately I've not been using them.

~Rockin' good price
~No fragrances to cause allergic reactions in myself or my kids
~Cleans well
~Lasts forever

What's not to love?

All in all, I'd say this purchase is well worth the initial cost!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Pear Tree is in Full Bloom

I went out this morning after the kids and hubby were sent off to school and work...
 ...and found the Pear tree in full bloom.

I had to take a pic of the beds of clover.
And a pic of my trusty companion.

Yesterday, as I was working in my herb garden, I found a young grasshopper---in March! Aah! I wonder if this means the bugs will be extra bad this year since the winter was warmer and they are getting a head start....or if they are going to go through their life cycles and die "early" and give us a break. Time will tell...

Here's the wee grasshopper. Sorry for the blurry pic, but I'm limited in what I can do/see with my point and click digital camera outside!
(and if I'm going to be working in the dirt with my bare hands...there's really not any point in a manicure, is there? ;) )

Thursday, March 22, 2012

More Blooms at Augsburger Farm

There are a lot of old trees on our farm, left over from years ago when there was an official Orchard. Some of the trees are left from the orchard. Some of them are "planted" by birds in old fence rows.  Most are neglected, but they do add color to the farm in spring!

Yesterday, the Plum trees began blooming.

And this morning, the Cherry trees are in bloom as well.

Our pear tree is about halfway to full bloom.

 Closeup of the pear blossoms:

I am working in the herb garden today, trying to limit the effects of Lemon Balm and Peppermint that I planted  about 8 years ago...and find my Yarrow and Lovage that have been overtaken.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Allergy Update: March 21, 2012

It's been awhile since I've been in for an allergy appointment. I have been having little stuff flare up off and on, carrots being a constant(even organic), so I went in for allergy stuff and a chiro adjustment.

I brought in a bag of things to muscle test with, to help save time in finding vials, and I wanted to be sure on the exact foods I was eating.

First off, my Polarity was blocked (again!). We have no explanation as to why this happens to me so often. If anyone has any idea, please let me know! Had to work on getting it back working again before any muscle testing. I think it might  have to do with stress, and possibly with the change in seasons, but have no idea why...

Things of note that I brought in:

A Ziplocked board with what I was told was black mold on it (surprisingly tested ok with this!)

X A commercially grown potato (DID NOT test ok with this)
An organic potato (tested OK--so I think w/the commercial potato it might be a pesticide/herbicide issue)

X Carrot (tested ok w/the piece I brought in...but at insistence that these have persistently been causing lip burning and throat itching we pursued it further with the computer, breaking it down to plant phenolics and muscle testing, and Caffeic Acid is what DID NOT test out ok with me---on the Caffeic Acid list, other sources include corn pollen, apples, beans, cauliflower and lettuce, all of which I have issues with at times...)

X Local Eggs (may be an issue of something the chickens ate...might pursue and try to figure it out.)

X Turkey Pepperoni (muscle testing through the ingredients showed sodium nitrite to be the culprit...something I know isn't good for us anyway...)

I ended up having Caffeic Acid treated with the BioAllergenix system and need to avoid it until tomorrow morning.
Sources of Caffeic Acid include: Apple, Artichoke, These Beans (Lima, Navy, Pinto, Red, String), Carrot, Cauliflower, Olives(green and ripe), Corn Pollen, Grapes, Lettuce, Meadow Fescue Pollen,  and a bunch of grass pollens.

The Outside Chard is Sprouting! and A Peek at the Garden

I planted some Five Color Silverbeet Chard outside in the dryer corner of the garden last week.

Yesterday afternoon, I went out again to take a peek and behold--some of them are popping out of the ground!

So, they are coming up a week after planting, 3 days after the ones I planted inside came up

Waiting to see how they compare once I transplant the inside ones outside. I'm going to wait a few weeks at least--to give my hubby a chance to till the garden once or twice.

Can you see them? There are two little sprouts!

Here's a peek at the main garden and what I have to work with. We left most plants in the garden in the fall to decompose/reseed/do their thing.  Hubby is planning on tilling soon, I think, and will probably remove the corn stalks on the far end before he tills.  The Chard and a short row of peas the kids planted is on the near corner on the left.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Nanking Cherries and Pollination

The Nanking Cherry bushes this morning: all in full bloom!

Last year, our Nanking Cherry bushes bloomed, but we did not have many cherries to speak of.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, the bee population has declined drastically, so we have lost a lot of our pollinators (and a lot of potential fruit as a result).

We need bees. Yes, there are other pollinators out there still, but we need bees.

Until we get some bees, I have been reading on how to do a little pollination myself. It's pretty labor-intensive, and method varies with each plant.

For the Nanking Cherry, it seems that it's not good enough to pollinate the flowers on the plant from the same plant. I need to cross the pollen with another Nanking Cherry or another plant in the same family (stone fruits, which our other varieties are not blooming *quite* yet).

Time for a little experiment.  Outside I go with my wee little paintbrush and a few colored pieces of yarn to mark my progress.

The method is easy: "paint" the center of each flower.
There's more than one way to paint a Cherry Blossom!

Method 1: Before researching a bit more after having time to think as I "painted", was to start with one branch and paint all(most) of the flowers on that one branch. I marked this branch with pink yarn and went inside to read some more.....

Method 2:  Pick a branch on each bush and go back and forth between the bushes, painting flowers on a branch of each bush. I marked these branches with cream colored yarn.

Method 3: (because I was getting a little bit tired of painting blossoms by this time) was to use my hands and lightly brush up and down the branches of blossoms on each of the three bushes. I marked these with black yarn.

Any way I did it, some of the blossoms fell off. My bushes are no longer the striking beauties they once were. But at least I might have some cherries in a few months!

I did see about 3 bees when I was out just now (yeah!).

Now to wait a few months to see if there are any noticeable results. :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

What's happening on Augsburger Farm?

I thought I would give another update as to what is blooming on The Augsburger Farm. I love spring, and can't wait to get things growing in the garden!

This Saturday, Grandma's old forsythia decided to bloom, as did the daffodils.

I looked out the window this Monday morning to see that the Nanking Cherry bushes are blooming as well!  Here's a few pics of them in early morning when I first saw them.

Here's a pic of them in full sun:


And a close-up.

Hubby say that now we need to get some bees! The last few years, pollination has been hit-and-miss and generally horrible as far as the berry bushes and few fruit trees go. We've not seen the bees the last few years like they were 8-9 years ago when we first moved onto the farm, abuzz everywhere we looked when things were in bloom. It's early yet this year, so we are hoping for the bee populations to rise so that they can do their job. 

The big cherry tree out back is taking its time in blooming.

 Perhaps it's waiting for the bees?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Gardening On the Cheap: The Chard is Sprouting!

I had an interview with a local paper this week, and shared an idea I had found online on how to garden frugally using empty toilet paper tubes and found containers. I planted some chard seeds in them, and they are sprouting already!  The seeds I planted outside a few hours later are not up yet, but I still have hope. :)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Eagerly preparing for Spring...

The sun was shining so happily that I could not resist going outside to tend to things.

I decided to work a bit in my neglected herb garden.  If anyone was nearby to see me out there, they probably thought I was having a personal glee day, as I was grabbing dead foliage and casting it up into the air and letting the wind take it away from the garden and over onto the grass.  I probably looked like I was celebrating, throwing my hands up and shouting "Hooray!".

Oh. Wait. Maybe I was doing that. Minus the shouting hooray part(at least out loud).

Or they might have thought I was crazy.

No matter. I found my oregano, my chives, my walking onions, my yarrow overgrown with weeds/grass (tomorrow, dear thing...), and unfortunately my lemon balm and peppermint everywhere I don't want it. (Note to my readers: I highly recommend planting these in pots or way far away from any of your other plants  you want to, in the next county.)

Sharing some pics:

Our daughter, who said she is freezing in the overgrown herb garden.

Chives peeping their leaves through the dead foliage. 

 Praying Mantis Egg Sac (of which I've found many in this garden) that I spared.

Wee Little Dandelion that dared to show its' face...flush to the ground.

 Lilacs beginning to bud out...

Wild Daylilies popping out of the ground...

Daffodils fixing to bloom any day now...

Cherry tree fixing to bloom...

Spring is on the way!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

GF "RECIPE": Chocolate Mint Coffee

Life's a Little Sweeter with (Mint) Chocolate

I've been faithfully avoiding the beloved Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies of my past. There are 2 boxes lurking about in my house, but since they are not Gluten-free, I am staying away.  But don't think they aren't calling me.

I have been wanting chocolatey-mint *something* these days---seeing the lovely green color all around me as St. Patrick's Day approaches doesn't help either....nor is walking through the candy aisle.

So, my splurge yesterday at the local health food store was a bar of Equal Exchange Mint Chocolate, 67% cacao content(so I think that means it's dark enough to consume without guilt, right?), Organic and Fairly Traded (more of the "no guilt factor" ;) ) It cost $4.49. (Oh, there's the guilt!)

In our Life Before Kids, hubby and I would regularly go to the local coffee shop and my order would often be a Grasshopper Coffee....Chocolate and Mint coffee with the token steamed milk added.

Do you sense a theme here?

This morning, I brewed up a pot of Sumatran coffee (easier on the stomach, for those looking for that, and no, hubby, I didn't use the Decaf!).

Once the coffee was finished brewing, I poured a cup and then shredded a square of chocolate with a fine shredder and stirred it up and added a splash of milk. Mmmmmm.....

Oh, and seeing the bits of chocolate melting on the shredder and realizing it wasn't a good idea to lick a shredder clean like one would a spoon, no matter how desperate, I dipped it into my cup and stirred so as to melt all the chocolate off and not let any of it go to waste.

So, not really a Recipe, per se....but a little idea I thought I'd share, in case anyone else is looking for a Chocolate Mint Coffee Fix. :)

GF Chocolate Mint Coffee

1 cup hot coffee
1 square(more or less, to taste) Equal Exchange Mint Chocolate, shredded or finely chopped
milk or cream, to taste

Add shredded chocolate to hot coffee, stir to melt and combine, add milk or cream to taste and enjoy!

(Or....merely munch away on the chocolate bar whilst drinking your cup of coffee!)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I Planted Chard Outside Today...

I did it.
I couldn't resist.
I went outside and planted a short row of my favorite variety of chard: Five Color Silverbeets. Now I can see which ones fare better: the ones I started inside yesterday afternoon, or the ones I just put into the ground.

Now I have dirt under my nails.

I'm a week early for the First Day of Spring, but I say....

Let Spring Begin!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Gardening On the Cheap

I recently came across the idea of using empty toilet paper tubes as containers when starting seeds.  Since I'm almost always looking to save a buck, I decided to give this a try. It was also a great idea, since I had an interview for the local paper on gardening and they wanted to do a photo-shoot of me outside planting in the garden....which after the rain, was way too muddy to work in.

All I did was save up a few toilet paper tubes and scrounged up a few containers from my recycle bin.

I cut the tubes in half and set them in the rinsed out (washed in hot water/bleach would probably have been better, but...) mushroom containers.

I then filled them with potting soil, planted a chard seed into each one and watered just a bit and added just a bit more soil to the ones that sunk in.

An aside: It irks my hubby that we live on a farm and I had him buy dirt. But I told him that all our dirt was way too wet outside, so I think he's ok with it now....

Once I got the little seeds watered, I set them on the base of the cake container and popped the lid on.  I put the whole shebang on the baker's rack in the sunporch.  I might bring them inside...we'll see.
Once the seeds sprout, I will prop the container open so that it's not too humid in there for them. I don't want them to get moldy and damp off if it's too moist in there.

Time will tell if this works well....Once the little plants are fairly substantial, I plan to put them in the corner of the garden that will hopefully be dry(er) in a month or so.

I think I might mosey on out there and stick some chard seeds in the saturated ground of the garden, just to see which ones fare better. It'll be like a race, right? :)

Friday, March 9, 2012

GF RECIPE: One-Pan Beef Stroganoff with Rice

During my hiatus from blogging, the idea of making beef stroganoff using rice (instead of noodles) was presented to me.  I found this idea intriguing and couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it myself! I have a recipe for One-Pan Beef Stroganoff that I have used for about 10 years (and don't remember the source, or I'd tell you), but due to the higher cost of GF noodles, I have avoided making it for the whole family.

So, I tried making my recipe using rice instead of noodles, and it was a hit! In fact, I think I like it with rice even better than with noodles!

Here's the recipe, with my substitutions:

GF One-Pan Beef Stroganoff with Rice

1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion (I just chop a whole onion and throw it in)
1 clove of garlic, chopped

1 tsp salt
1 TB lemon juice (I used lime juice), optional
1 small can of sliced mushrooms
1/4 tsp pepper
1.5 cups brown rice
3-3 1/2 cups water or broth(more if you like your rice cooked longer)

2 TB parsley (I use about 2 tsp dry)
1 cup sour cream (I use Daisy brand--less fillers)

Brown meat, onion, and garlic.
Stir in remaining ingredients, except parsley and sour cream.
Cover and simmer 30-40 minutes, or until rice is done and most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally.
Add parsley and sour cream, stir well and heat through.

I served with a salad/veggie tray. Next time, I may add a veggie of some sort to the pan. This fed our family of 5 for one meal (might have to double it as the kids grow!)

This is a good "pantry staples" recipe. :)
Pic to come when I make it again--kids were starving and I didn't get to take a pic! :)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I'm baaaaaack!

Apologies to my readers for my neglecting the blog. It seems that life on the homefront got very busy the last 4 weeks or so, with all of us being sick at one time or another (each kid missed about a week of school due to fever/illness....kind of cuts into my writing-the-blog thing) and with getting some work done on the house and things going a bit awry... I know it all happens for a reason, and in the meantime I am hoping and praying for life to settle down to some level of normalcy...whatever that is!

Anyway, I just wanted to pop in here and let you know why I've not been around.

I hope to be posting more regularly soon!

Thanks for reading!