Sunday, June 10, 2012

Spring Sprung Sprang.....

   Our veggies in the garden are popping up everywhere! this is my favorite part of gardening...  seeing what makes it into newborns...  like babies, i want to tend them and watch them grow! I love the way the little sprouts push out of the soil and reach for the sun! We have a better organized garden this year, thanks to the Garden Party Extravaganza! I cannot wait to see wait this next week brings!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Moving meditation...

Weeding is a simple practice that seems to require huge amounts of energy...   While weeding today I discovered a mathematical relation....  if I weeded just fifteen minutes every single day, that would equal to one and three fourths hours of weeding every single week....   given that the garden is planted and the herb beds are showing so much life, this is actually an awesome amount of time (awesome meaning cool & awesome meaning alot) to get the job done! Besides the fact that I weed half the time on my belly, looking at the plants at a level not unlike a 'good' bug.... weeding is another form of moving meditation (in the process of creating a Wiktionary for this word...) for me. A way to delve deep into myself and quiet the non-stop ramblings of my DIY brain. Yes, my to-do list may be over three pages long, and my dream board may fill up the wall, but when I am weeding, it doesn't matter at all.... 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Amber Fox Apothecary's Newest Creations:


here is a re-print of her wonderful how to blog post:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My First Experience Making Hydrosols; A Surprisingly Easy How-To Blog

It was my birthday on Mother's Day, and I got to spend the day with my wonderful kiddo just lazing around the house and yard, laughing and playing with each other. When my partner Justin got home, we opened presents and went for a hike in one of my favorite wildcrafting places near the river. One of the presents he got me was a book by James Green called  The Herbal Medicine-Makers Handbook  (link opens in new tab/window), which is just a wealth of information about how to make nearly every herbal solution I'd ever wondered about, put into simple terms, with often several recipes in each section to choose from, in case one sounds a little too (or not enough) complicated for you. 
The first recipes I was eager to try out were the Hydrosols, as they've always had this air of complicated-ness about them, and they are often fairly pricey, which somehow lends to the mystery, but I was pleasantly relieved to find that they were quite simple and uncomplicated. Yet another reason I am so in love with herbal healing! It's so accessible!
It's pretty much as simple as this: Gather some Rose petals, or some other kind of fragrant flower or herb... (Wild Rose ((Rosa woodsii))is the most amazing smelling of the Roses IMHO, but you can try with any you like)
  Next get an enamel canning pot, add 3 quarts water and your loosely packed quart of herb...
Place a vegetable steamer with the center taken out in the bottom of the pot...

Then place a bowl on top of that (to catch your hydrosol in)...
Next, cover this, and slowly bring it to a boil, emphasis on the slowly. 
Once it's come to a boil, take the lid off and flip it upside down, replacing it back on the pot. This is going to help the gathered condensation drip into your bowl. You can place a bag of ice on top of the lid, which the book says adds a little something to the mix, and I did this, but it didn't even last half the time, and I didn't really have anymore ice to put on it again, as I'd used all the ice in the house and the newly filled trays took too long to re-freeze. So if it added that extra something, it added it in that first two hours only.
This is about 4 hours into the process... (steamy!)
 About 4 hours more and I was able to double this amount, or about a quart and half of Rose Hydrosol! And it smelled A-MAZ-ING!!! Put some in a spray bottle and use it to mist your face and body. Rose Hydrosol has been touted to help problem skin and reduce fine lines and signs of aging, as well as aromatherapy to help emotional and spiritual healing.
Good luck trying out your own hydrosols! Let me know how they go!

link to original blog post
(opens in a new tab/window)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Garden Party Extravaganza!

The Garden Party Extravaganza was a huge success! Harkening back to the old fashioned barn-raising type get togethers, twelve adults, eight kids, and three dogs all got together for a productive celebration of community, friendship, spirituality, and fun. Punctuated by delicious steak kabobs, a huge bowl of fresh salad, and mouth-watering homemade potato chips, smiles and seeds flew in a frenzy. Occasional bamboo stick battles and a fairy with a squirt gun aside, the labyrinth garden bed, as well as the squash triskelion garden bed got turned out and planted. Wine & home-brewed beer accented the palates as the day drew to an evening bonfire brouhaha. With the gardens planted, fences mended, and the solar eclipse looming ahead for the next day, guitars were brought out and a good foot-tapping fireside sing-along ensued. All things accounted for, the Garden Party Extravaganza was a huge success! Yes, I repeated myself...... now,..... what's on everybody else's agenda that would require many hands and many smiles.....

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Importance Of Two-cycle Engine Maintenance

 reprinted with permissions:

The Importance Of Two-cycle Engine Maintenance

Author: Mike Moorhead
Failing to properly maintain two-cycle engines in grounds care equipment can have major consequences. Summertime — and the living isn't easy, especially when grounds care responsibilities lead the to-do list. The hallmarks of summer — leisure time, vacation and rest and relaxation — don't necessarily apply to maintenance professionals who handle landscaping and grounds care for schools, hospitals, municipal facilities and commercial and industrial buildings. Weeds, grass and vegetation often seem to grow at an almost unfathomable rate, and having the best tools to tackle these foes isn't an option — it's a downright matter of summer survival. Maintenance professionals aren't the only ones working overtime during the summer months. Power equipment — weed eaters, leaf blowers, chainsaws, etc. — shares the summertime workload. Therefore, the proper upkeep of these under-appreciated workers is often as important as the grounds care itself. Preventative maintenance and treatment of these two-cycle engine machines helps maintain optimal performance and keeps productivity consistent among maintenance staff. The following are some quick tips for providing best-in-class care for those trusted summertime shed heroes.
Bid Farewell To Ethanol-based Fuel
While ethanol is great in automobiles, it's extremely detrimental to the health of two-cycle engines. Not engineered to handle ethanol-laden gas, power equipment will often begin to show signs of critical problems linked to ethanol, such as hard starting or erratic performance. Power equipment dealers nationwide attribute a large percentage of internal damage in power equipment and related equipment failure to the after effects of ethanol use. Yet, what most people don't realize is that more than 50 percent of the gasoline sold in the United States contains ethanol. Most problems arise when gasoline with ethanol is left unused for extended periods of time — when it's stored in a maintenance garage, for example. The ethanol in gasoline attracts water from the atmosphere and the two bond together. This ethanol/water mixture separates from the gasoline in a process called "phase separation." When starting a two-cycle engine, the machine uses the ethanol/water that has separated from the gasoline and does not receive the lubrication that it needs.
This can cause immediate engine failure. Moreover, ethanol is also a powerful solvent and, when separation occurs, it often degrades rubber fuel lines and plastic components, which causes unnecessary maintenance problems and reduces the lifespan of equipment. Fuel that is ethanol-free protects the two-cycle engine from the corrosive nature of ethanol and ensures peak performance that lasts.
Embrace The Notion Of A "Clean Machine"
The phrase "clean machine" is important to remember when maintaining power equipment: It's exactly what one should aspire to have. Whether by hand or using an air blower or compressor, ensure that tiny particles of dust, grass, leaves and dirt are removed after each use of power equipment. Although cleaning is an extra step at the end of a long day of grounds maintenance, it's a step that elongates the life of the equipment and saves dollars in costly repairs.
Don't Discount The Owner's Manual
Although often discounted by a hurried user, the owner's manual is the roadmap to ensuring a long and satisfying relationship with power equipment. All equipment powered by two-cycle engines requires a carefully measured mix of oil and gas. Be sure to pay careful attention to the ratio of oil to gas indicated in the owner's manual. Better yet, try a pre-mixed gas and oil fuel, as it will minimize the potential of an improper ratio of oil to gas. One savvy manufacturer recently developed the nation's first-ever pre-mixed, ready-to-use gas and oil fuel for two-cycle engine equipment. Available in multiple ratios, these pre-mixed fuels guarantee the correct blend and eliminate the need for mixing proper ratios or filling and storing gas canisters whose fumes can overpower even the largest garage or shed. Further, gasoline — most often stored in vented containers — can lose octane and vapor pressure, attract water and, in some cases, separate into its base components. This deterioration occurs when the fuel is left unused in a vented container over the course of several months. Ethanol-free pre-mixed gas and oil fuel products have upwards of a two-year shelf life, eliminating concern about fuel deterioration and the need to continually drain and replace fuel and use fuel stabilizers. Storing power equipment is a simple, yet critical, way to demonstrate care. The storage area for power equipment should be dry and away from any potential water source to prevent rust and damage. Lastly, equipment should be put away with the engine facing down and, if possible, hung on a wall or in a location where it is protected from debris or accidental damage.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

 So, efficiency aside, I started tilling the garden today by hand...  We cannot afford to gas up the tiller, so I figured I'd just do it the old fashioned way! A lot of work, let me tell ya'! Last year we had 3 other beds we did by hand too.  this year it wasn't so bad, as the soil is doing really good! A primer for those of you who don't know how to till by hand:
Stage 1:

 Step 1:
   Start by digging a shovel fully into the soil.

Step 2:
Flip the soil in the shovel over and back into the small hole you just dug up.

stab the dirt clod first one way,


then the other.

Stage 2:
We used a Weed Witch for this job. Just break it all up into a good bed!

I really love getting out and doing it, now that the weather is permitting and the ground has finally dried up enough to do so!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

maybe starting a new blog???

I am thinking about starting a brother blog to this one entitled, "Big Momma's Blog". It would be a humorous blog about our chickens, from their fictitious point of view! this would be a blog mostly for those folks that buy our eggs already, just to give them a weekly chuckle, but what do y'all who are already subscribed to this blog think? Let me know!

My Friday lists keep growing!

Hooray for mid-week Fridays!  Now that my weekend has begun, I have so much planned.  Our weather here is finally giving the soil a chance to dry out, so I can till to my hearts content!  We have a garden party planned for my Queen's birthday. We are expecting our first baby goat in two weeks. Our greenhouse still has to be finished. Whew! And that's just the beginning few lines of my list! Expect pictures and videos!

    We received two new young laying hens yesterday from a neighbor down the road (THANK YOU ANNIE!) and they are already laying strong! They complement our flock nicely as far as coloring goes. The same friendly neighbor will also have some chicks to give us in a week or two, so things are getting pretty busy around here!

    Our weed-eater's carburetor is almost shot - learned only last year that small two-stroke engines need ethanol free gas.  But, I do plan on finding a way to convert it to veggie oil, so maybe now is a great time, since I will have it apart to repair the carb anyways.

    After the winter's destruction of our greenhouse, we have decided to start straight into the garden whilst it gets repairs. Here's to hoping for the best!

    I plan on making a movable goat pen with movable electric fence like they use on Polyface Farms.  Very sustainable. i recommend the book, "The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer" by Joel Salatin, to everyone. This was a wonderful read.  It fits right into what we are trying to accomplish here at Amber Fox Farms.  I am always looking out for inspiration and knowledge to create and maintain our farm as a sustainable homestead.  This book sent me farther in the right direction!
here's the permalink:
the sheer ecstasy of being a lunatic farmer
    and here's a link to the Polyface blog 'Hen House':
The PolyFace Hen House

    My Queen's Birthday Garden Party Extravaganza should be wonderful! I think it is a wonderful idea for a birthday party! what do you think? Let me know!  

Friday, May 4, 2012

Just found an interesting site. It is kind of like craigslist, only less convoluted. You post a 'want' and it tries to match you up with other people selling that want....  the layout seems pretty simple...


Sunday, April 29, 2012

On the road again...

Unfortunately, I get the pleasure of working forty-five minutes away from the homestead. The drive to work gives me plenty of time to try and figure out how to get our homestead self-sustainable... the drive home gives me lots of time to contemplate all the things I could of been doing on the farm...   But hey, until we are self-sustainable, I gotta' keep the bacon coming, right?   It does seem awfully depressing though,...  it seems like the only sunny days are the ones I'm at work on. And I miss so many things that happen when I am work! I have lots and lots of side projects in the works to get home: a novel I'm writing, eBay, adsense, managing Amber Fox Apothecary, prepping rain barrels to sell, selling eggs, the list goes on..  I once heard somewhere that to be optimal, you must have monthly income no less than three times your monthly rent or mortgage. Sounds right...   Wish me luck! And to all those out there struggling through the same or similar circumstances: Press on!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Everybody will visit eventually....

Here at our homestead, we schedule weekly clean-up chores that tend to get put off until the build-up is immense and all of a sudden we have guests scheduled to arrive. Sounds typical, doesn't it? Well, I am starting to realize I have to think like the guests are always ready to arrive...  that way, when I get time, I clean...   I found I can do more with my "to-do lists" if I actively look for the time to do it & schedule it among more enjoyable activities! How about vacuuming? No problem, let me read a chapter, then vacuum, then read another....  Dishes? Got it! Let me watch the podcast, do the dishes, then watch another....   Rewarding each and every chore harkens back to the days when I was a kid and my mom gave me an allowance....   Having great time management skills does slip away from you...  but like riding a bike, you just gotta get back on!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Snow day for spring?

Woke up this morning to a beautiful sight out my window: snow! Covering everything! An amazing snowfall,... but then, we went out front...... That is, we tried to... The snow had broken off the whole east side of our plum tree out front, this, compacted with the the, er,... compacted snow, has caved in our front porch's awning, making it a challenge to even get out the door. Trees are down all over... The chickens seem fine. The puppy dog loves it! But I am worried out about our trees... The plum only fruits every two years, and this was a fruiting year, so we will have to wait and see what this snow damage amounts to for our crop. The sacred Hawthorns in the back are bent and almost touching the ground in some places...

UPDATE: the snow has taken off the entire upper portion of the largest plum tree and the smallest has been completely uprooted. I will be attempting to re-root the smallest, but the largest will just have to be cleanly pruned so as to heal properly.

Our neighbor has declared this the worst snowstorm he's seen in 35 years. It took down a 100 year old apple on his side of the fence.

Will be updating further....