Saturday, March 26, 2011

I'm the new Saturday chick

Hello all! I'm Kristin (with an "in"), nice to meet you! My husband Daniel and I manage Briarmoor, one of Polyface's rental farms.

For my first post I thought I would expound upon our journey to Virginia. In May 2005, my husband joined the military. In the fall of 2005, we discovered Joel's book, "You Can Farm", and the general idea of homesteading. We felt something ring true in our spirits, and knew we had found our calling in life. However, with my husband's five-year commitment to the army, we couldn't rush out to pursue our newly discovered passion. Instead, we began where we were. We built a small chicken shelter, ordered 25 baby chicks, and started to learn. We were so excited! We brooded the little chicks in a cardboard box in the bathroom. When they went outside, I was extremely nervous that we would get in trouble for having 25 chickens in our Californian, suburban, military-base backyard. Miraculously, we didn't! The experience went well, although I cried when we processed the first chicken.

We weren't in California very long before we moved to an arid, miserably hot part of Texas. Behind our apartment complex there was a dead, dried-up empty lot for sale. We called and asked to use a small part of it for a garden. The owner was thrilled and gladly said we could use all the space we wanted! So, we experimented with our first (horribly unsuccessful) garden. We began composting. We read everything about homesteading and farming we could find. And again, being in the military, we moved.

Finally we ended up in San Antonio, Texas for about 3 years. We tried to purchase a house in the country with a few acres so we could begin to homestead, but that consistently fell through. Eventually we bought a suburban house about 1 mile from my husband's work-- very convenient commute, very inconvenient for farming. We were, however, undeterred; our 1/16-acre backyard had a 6-foot high privacy fence! In the height of our backyard-farming endeavors we had a teeny little pond, raised lots of meat chickens, had 8 egg layers, 2 pygmy goats, 5 rabbits, an attempted garden, and a compost pile. We rotationally grazed all the animals around the backyard, and had the best grass I ever saw in Texas. We gave our neighbors eggs in exchange for their loyalty to us, instead of to the homeowners' association. And we learned so, so much! To this day, the sound of a goat bleating will pull me out of bed in a fraction of a second, ready to rush outside and hush her up so the neighbors won't hear!

I'm sure you can imagine how shy we were to have anyone find out how truly "weird" we were- we didn't want people to see our backyard and think we were out of our minds. I'm certain some of our neighbors already thought that, but over time we discovered that our friends didn't; they thought our backyard was amazing! We began teaching them how to take care of chickens and compost. Eventually we approached our church about using their 10-acre plot of land for a community farming project. They said yes. We now had 10 acres in our care, amazing! We began teaching about 6 families in our church about animal husbandry, sustainability, and raising their own food. Instead of raising 25 broilers in the backyard, we were raising 350 at a time with our friends, and selling them to fund the project. We planted a few trees, raised egg-layers, tried to garden (again unsuccessfully), and dealt with a lot of vandalism and destruction from the surrounding neighborhood.

Amazingly, time passed quickly- our 5 years in the military was almost up-- what to do next?? We knew farming was the next step for us. We were very tempted to stay in Texas and continue suburban farming on our church's land- we had developed many close friendships there and didn't really want to leave. However, Daniel felt led to apply to the Polyface internship program. He was accepted, and so in May 2010 we moved to Virginia. We've never looked back- as soon as we were here, we knew we were home. A rental farm became available towards the end of Daniel's internship, he was offered the job, and we gladly accepted. We moved to Briarmoor on October 10th 2010. We're so glad to be here! Farming is definitely the life for us.

Although our 5 year journey to Virginia seemed painstakingly long, I know we were always where we were meant to be. Each valuable experience led us here, and we wouldn't want to be anywhere else!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Rain Clouds of Life


     You have heard it said, "A picture is worth a thousand words."  That may be true and on the farm, muddy boots are a sign of tasks accomplished even when the weather isn't cooperating.  This is when our dreams don work clothes to become a reality.

     It's not always easy being a farmer. There are days when life's rain and mud threaten to overtake your knee-high boots.  Keep on trudging. Stay focused on the task at hand. Your words echo with the ping, ping of the rain hitting the barn roof.

     Rainy days are the hardest. but they are needed to help things grow. Without the rain, the grass would shrivel and die. The animals would go hungry, the garden would perish and eventually, so would we.

     Without the rains of life, where would we be? If everything were easy, would we grow?  Would we learn to persevere? To keep on trudging?

    You see, it's all in how you view your challenges. Do you let them beat you down, never to surface? Or do you pull on your boots and wade on.

    Finding joy in the midst of struggle. This is what life is all about. For me, it's my faith in Jesus Christ. I know that He will pull me through whatever rain cloud comes my way. He doesn't promise me an easy road, but He does promise to walk beside me. He promises to bring me to the other side, wherever that might be. When the winds of life batter against me, He is my anchor.


   What rain cloud do you have in your life right now? What are you doing to don your boots? What anchor keeps you from being washed down the raging river?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

April and May's Book - The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball

Join us the Farm Chick's at Polyface Book Club for our April & May Read.
We will start reading the book on April 1st and will discuss different aspects of it throughout the two months.

Coming up next:
June & July - MADE FROM SCRATCH by Jenna Woginrich


 The Dirty Life on Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball

Description

"This book is the story of the two love affairs that interrupted the trajectory of my life: one with farming—that dirty, concupiscent art—and the other with a complicated and exasperating farmer."

Single, thirtysomething, working as a writer in New York City, Kristin Kimball was living life as an adventure. But she was beginning to feel a sense of longing for a family and for home. When she interviewed a dynamic young farmer, her world changed. Kristin knew nothing about growing vegetables, let alone raising pigs and cattle and driving horses. But on an impulse, smitten, if not yet in love, she shed her city self and moved to five hundred acres near Lake Champlain to start a new farm with him. The Dirty Life is the captivating chronicle of their first year on Essex Farm, from the cold North Country winter through the following harvest season—complete with their wedding in the loft of the barn.
Kimball and her husband had a plan: to grow everything needed to feed a community. It was an ambitious idea, a bit romantic, and it worked. Every Friday evening, all year round, a hundred people travel to Essex Farm to pick up their weekly share of the "whole diet"—beef, pork, chicken, milk, eggs, maple syrup, grains, flours, dried beans, herbs, fruits, and forty different vegetables—produced by the farm. The work is done by draft horses instead of tractors, and the fertility comes from compost. Kimball's vivid descriptions of landscape, food, cooking—and marriage—are irresistible.

"As much as you transform the land by farming," she writes, "farming transforms you."

In her old life, Kimball would stay out until four a.m., wear heels, and carry a handbag. Now she wakes up at four, wears Carhartts, and carries a pocket knife. At Essex Farm, she discovers the wrenching pleasures of physical work, learns that good food is at the center of a good life, falls deeply in love, and finally finds the engagement and commitment she craved in the form of a man, a small town, and a beautiful piece of land.

Discussion Posts:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's A Way Of Life

"So, why do you want to farm?"

People often ask me this question after we strike up a conversation. Most of them are curious as to why a young person would choose to live and work on a farm when they could live in a big city or earn a college education.

All of us farmers have varying reasons for why we chose this occupation, but for me it is more than a job or livelihood; this practice of farming, which nurtures the earth, animals, and people, is a way of life.

Having been first taught conventional farming methods, I have a deep appreciation for the grass-based, beyond-organic farming practices that are lived out every day at Polyface Farm. Here are a few reasons why I farm:

Healing the land: Through years of skillful grazing management, the land is being healed with increasing amounts of organic matter, earthworm activity, and fertility, which boosts grass growth and pasture stability.

Raising happy animals: By growing in an environment that mimics nature, animals are able to fully express their natural behavior and way of living, which makes them happy and healthy.

Nourishing people: Food from pastured animals contain healthy nutrients, minerals, and good fats & proteins, not to mention excellent flavor!

Good, hard work: Farming requires long hours of hard physical labor, but the work is good and fulfilling, and keeps us active and strong.

Community: The people that I am blessed to work with every day enrich my life; they provide the support and community that keep us all motivated and energized. The positive, encouraging attitudes here are a blessing!

Spiritual fulfillment: Psalms 24:1 says "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." Being able to care for what God has entrusted us with is a noble and rewarding lifestyle.

How about you? Why do you love your lifestyle?



Honey Bees and Dirt Baths

Echinacea Flower
Can you find the queen?
Rooftop tree swarm

In January I attended the screening of the documentary, "Queen of the Sun" in Charlottesville. Gunther Hauk,  biodynamic beekeeper, lecturer, and teacher is featured in this beautiful depictive documentary. He recently moved with his wife Vivian to Floyd Virginia. "Queen of the Sun" is filled with inquiry and healthy solutions for the decline of the bees. It made my heart sing to witness so many people tending to the bees with deep mindfulness. I took Gunther's "biodynamic" beekeeping class  last weekend. Gunther Hauk has 36 years of beekeeping under his belt. He is passionate about sustaining the future of the bees. I welcome his approach and look forward to learning more from him.  How fortunate we are to have him in Virginia! Queen of the Sun will be released this summer, it's a must see.
Honey bees are terribly wise, we have a lot to learn from them.  With the recent awareness about how the bees play a crucial part in a healthy ecosystem, lots of folks are taking up backyard beekeeping. Wouldn't it be nice if we stopped trucking these sensitive super organisms from the midwest to Fresno to pollinate almond trees in the dead of winter? Just like confined poultry and meat growing the bees are at the mercy of our actions to control their production. This long trip is terribly stressful for them. I look forward to the day Fresno and other states start to foster there own "local" healthy bee production. 

Last year I had the privilege of catching several swarms. The pulse of a spring swarm of bees is a sight to see and feel. I found one in our neighbors oak tree. It took a few days to get them into my bee box. Now I'm hooked! Pest control companies in California do not want to kill the honey bees with pesticides, at least not where I was living. They too have become concerned about their decline.  Thus, I put my name on local pest control rosters and I received at least 2 calls a week for swarm removals. Being a new beekeeper it was a super quick learning curve. I look forward to catching my first swarm this year in Virginia.  I have purchased  incredible local honey and eat it daily. Hot water with cinnamon and honey instead of tea is one of my simple favorites and it's great for respiratory ailments. I use honey for cuts and wounds, bee stings, sunburn, facial masks and as a sugar substitute. Honey has an outrageous healing quality and it's local! Honey truly is the nectar of the gods.
On the farm front! I caught a few of our girls in their dirt baths sharing afternoon gossip. This was their last day in their winter hoop house, as they are making their way to fresh pasture behind the cows in their egg mobiles. Big transition for them. Watching them clean their feathers while lounging in the sawdust in the warm sunlight  gives me a warm tender feeling. When our animals are happy, we are happy!Add Image 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring, in Words and Pictures

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.  ~Margaret Atwood

If you've never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom,
maybe your soul has never been in bloom.  ~Terri Guillemets

Spring is sooner recognized by plants than by men.  ~Chinese Proverb


 It's spring fever.  That is what the name of it is.  And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want,
but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!  ~Mark Twain
 

Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems
to be only one of the instruments, not the composer.  ~Geoffrey B. Charlesworth

Every spring is the only spring - a perpetual astonishment.  ~Ellis Peters

Spring has returned.  The Earth is like a child that knows poems.  ~Rainer Maria Rilke


What is Spring, in your words?


{ Many thanks to http://www.quotegarden.com/! }

Monday, March 21, 2011

Farmers Market Season!!

Spring!! Spring to most people means flowers blooming, warmer weather and longer days....to me it means farmers market season! A chance to eat fresh again! I'm so lucky to work for Polyface and have access to yummy meats and fresh produce grown right outside our door - believe me I don't take that for granted one bit! But it's also getting easier for all of us with farmers market season right around the corner and more and more farms offering CSA's - we all have access to healthy, local food! Now, I know what you're saying..."I don't have one close enough to me" or "I don't have time to cook and it's more expensive". I know, I've been there and it's so easy to become overwhelmed with making the decision to eat locally and seasonally that you decide that it's just too much trouble. Let me tell you a story.....I used to sell Polyface products at St. Stephen's Farmers Market in Richmond, VA and there was a little girl who came to the market every Saturday with her parents. She was about 10 years old. She had been learning about the importance of healthy eating in school and wanted to prepare a meal sourced from local farmers and growers. She would visit the market with her parents, and $20 to buy eggs, veggies, meat, fresh bread and cheeses .....whatever she could find that day and make dinner with what she brought home. She thought it was so fun and called it a 'treasure hunt' because she never knew what she would find and loved making up new recipes with the fresh ingredients! She did this one day a week - that's it! It was a great way to jump start her family's commitment to eating healthy and supporting their local farmers and growers! It was also a great way to share a family meal and teach her parents how easy it is to eat seasonally and locally!

If you're not sure where the closest farmers market or local farms are to you please visit www.localharvest.org or www.eatwild.com. Or call me at the farm! I'll help you find one or give you directions to us!
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