Monday, November 22, 2010

The Battle Isn't Won...Yet

Since I've joined the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, I have been receiving updates on a piece of legislation that will certainly affect all our future agrarian adventures: The Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510). Last week I called my senators to thank them for supporting the Tester-Hagan amendment to S.510. But another round of calls is needed...

"Dear CFSA members: This email is to congratulate you, and to warn you.

Late last Friday we took a big leap forward in the fight to defend healthy small farms and local food producers from industrial-scale food safety regulation. After months of negotiations and grassroots pressure from you, the Senate agreed to insert the language of the Tester-Hagan amendment into the version of S.510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, that comes up for a vote on Nov. 29. Instead of requiring a separate vote, the protections for local, organic food in the Tester-Hagan amendment will automatically become law if Congress passes the “Manager’s Amendment” to S.510. We have come a long way from the terrible food safety bill passed by the House of Representatives last year, and CFSA members have been crucial in achieving in this success!

And now the lobbyists representing the biggest food processors, handlers, and distributors--the huge businesses that have a stranglehold on most of the American food system today, and that are responsible for the vast majority of foodborne illness outbreaks--are on the attack. Those lobbyists issued a letter last week denouncing the Tester-Hagan language and vowing to fight against it.

If those special interests can convince enough Senators to retreat from the agreement reached last Friday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be free to issue its planned regulations for on-farm produce safety. FDA's rules will likely cover every single farm in the country, regardless of size or market served, unless Congress requires the agency to follow the Tester-Hagan language.

The special interests have a full week to fight their campaign against sensible protections for local, organic food and farms. Don’t let them win it!

Thank NC Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan for successfully fighting to get the Tester-Hagan language in the Manager’s Amendment. And ask SC’s Senators Jim DeMint and Lindsay Graham to vote in favor of the Manager’s Amendment on Nov. 29. If you have friends in other parts of the country that care about local, organic food, especially in Virginia, Maryland, and Tennessee, please forward this information and ask them to call their Senators, too. To get your Senator’s contact information, go to, and type in your zip code. You can also call the Capitol Switchboard and ask to be directly connected to your Senator’s office: 202-224-3121.

When you call, the message is simple: “I am a constituent of Senator___________ and I am calling to ask him/her to vote for the Manager’s Amendment to S.510, the Food Safety Modernization Act because it includes the Tester-Hagan amendment. With this new language, the Manager’s Amendment will protect small farms and food entrepreneurs in the local food movement from industrial-scale regulations. Local food producers are already subject to state laws that protect consumers, and the Tester-Hagan amendment is vital to economic recovery, public health, and nutritional wellbeing because it allows state government to keep doing its job, and allows local food producers to keep creating more jobs.”

Thanks for everything you’ve done to get our movement this far. Let’s keep up the pressure.

Roland McReynolds, Esq.
Executive Director
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association"

Friday, September 10, 2010

It is finished.

RIP, brave Sussex.


Well, the Speckled Sussex showed up in the garage yesterday. She can walk, but most of the left side of her hind end is gone and/or mangled. The dead flesh is, um, crawling with those larvae that God hath ordained to clean up dead things. The vet hospital I called gave me a protocol to follow for treatment, but it did not kill the critters as expected.

Brave Sussex is peacefully resting in the garage, burning with fever and fighting for her life. She has lived this long, which is admirable, but I am seriously considering taking her to the block and burning the carcass.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I wondered when our first loss to predators would be. Last night some crafty critter made off with two of my hens--the speckled sussex and one of the partridge rocks. Yesterday the pen's position made the door impossible to secure in the usual way, so I used the rope attached to the front. It was not very tight.

This morning when we went out to the pen, the door was ajar. Two birds were gone. We did find some piles of feathers in three places, all of the speckled sussex. The partridge rock vanished without a trace.

I feel sick. The coop feels emptier. And it was my fault! That's the kicker.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My cup runneth over.

Me: Oh, it's 2:45 already! The Mission Thrift Store closes in 15 minutes. I really have to get there today.

[Jen gets in truck, speeds to town in 10 minutes.]

Me to Lady Behind the Counter: "I know you're about to close. I'll be quick."

Lady Behind the Counter: "Oh, take your time, dear. I'll close when you're done shopping."

[Jen makes a quick tour of the back room, doesn't see anything new.]

Me: Why did I come today? What is here? Oh, that's right, check the front room by the kitchen gadgets.

[Jen rounds the corner of the bookshelves and sees what it is she came to get: a nine-tray Excalibur dehydrator. Jen nearly screams, but keeps her cool. Striding forward, she picks it up and marches to the checkout.]

Me to Lady Behind the Counter: "How much for this? I don't see a price."

Lady Behind the Counter, With Furrowed Brow: "Hmmm..."

Me, Boldly: "I'll give you twenty bucks for it."

Lady Behind the Counter, Happily: "Sold! What is it, anyway?"

[Jen explains that it's a dehydrator that she's been wanting. Only then does she think to actually look inside it. All the trays and their plastic meshes are accounted for. No liners.]

Lady Behind the Counter, Plaintively: "Oh, I've been wanting one of those! I didn't see this when I came in today. My birthday is next week. You could give it to me."

[Jen explains that there are other dehydrators that come through the store--smaller, round ones--that will do as fine a job as this one.]

Lady Behind the Counter, Optimistically: "I will post a 'Wanted to Buy' add on my church's bulletin board. Someone probably has one to get rid of!"

Me: "Good thinking!"

Zack and I thought long and hard about purchasing a second Excalibur. A week ago we made the decision to go ahead and get one from the manufacturer on sale. But then my neighbor Margaret told me about a dehydrator she saw at the thrift store in Waynesville; she'd have a friend make inquiries and report back to me. As of this afternoon I still hadn't heard about the Waynesville one, and I still hadn't "pushed the button" on ordering the new one.

Why in the world would anyone need two nine-tray dehydrators? I've been making lots of yogurt, and I use the Excalibur to incubate the yogurt. But that leaves any other dehydrating to wait. Now, I'll be able to dehydrate in one and incubate in the other. Besides, "Two is one, one is none, and three means you can share." Now I have basic redundancy for my favorite method of food less than 10% of the sale price.

Call it luck if you want. I believe that I am blessed beyond measure by God, and that it's very often the little things, like finding this dehydrator, that remind me of this. I don't deserve ANY of the many, many blessings I've been given in this life. But I receive them with thankfulness and praise to God. My cup runneth over.

May I never love the gifts more than the Giver.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

First Egg!

One of my pullets is now officially a hen. I found a small but perfectly sound egg in the pen this morning when I went to move it. Hooray for chickens!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Flea Market Report

I took several cases of honey to the Tuesday Flea Market and sold 16 quarts. My set up was actually just outside the flea market with clear visibility to all cars and pedestrians coming and going. Selling out of the car trunk was a breeze! My display was invaded by ants briefly; squishing them by hand felt like a round of Whack-A-Mole.

One of the great things about selling face to face is making conversation with interesting people. I met a local blacksmith who offered to teach me about metal and tools! I've always wanted to know how to REALLY sharpen a knife, or any tool for that matter. Now to make the time to learn...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Still Selling Honey!

Zack and I went to the Farmer's Market yesterday and had pretty good sales. Again, quarts were slow. I will be going to the Tuesday Flea Market in Murphy this week with quarts ONLY.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Farmers Market & ANOTHER Thrift Store Score

Zack and I had a great time at the Murphy Farmer's Market today. We are thankful to Frances Juhlin for allowing us to set up under her tent and use her table. Pints sold well, surprisingly. Quarts were a little slow.

Whilst Zack manned the table, I headed off in search of thrills, er, bargains. My big score of the day was a working treadmill for $25! It's small and pretty rink dink, but it will do the job.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Yogurt Experiment

Yesterday afternoon I made some yogurt with a new-to-me recipe from Ricki Carroll's Home Cheese Making. Pectin was involved. I followed the directions pretty closely, but had a moment of "Did I get this too hot?" Anyway, as I was pouring the cooled mix into jars for incubation, I noticed what I thought was whey separation, an indicator that I had indeed cooked the solids.

Denial is useful sometimes. I put the jars in the Excalibur on 115 degrees and told myself that everything would be fine. Seven hours later, Zack removed the jars from the dehydrator and asked what was going on. Uh oh...

I'd made ricotta, sort of. We put the contents of the jars into jelly bags and hung them to drain overnight. This morning I hurried to the kitchen and discovered that Whatever It Was tasted pretty good! I will serve it on toast with honey drizzled on top.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thrift Store Score

Some people buy lottery tickets or head to the casino for thrills. I am a thrift store/yard sale enthusiast. There's no price for entry. The only cost is your time and gas. I've built "just looking" into my routine, so special trips are rare. But frequent visits are key; if you're going to win, you've got to play. And of course you're not going to win every time. Gamblers and thrifters know this.

Experience has taught me that there's some "luck" involved in a good day's hunt. Finding something that you've been looking for is great. What is especially satisfying is getting that item for a fraction of what it might sell for new. I think of that as "the kill." But the trophy doesn't hang on the wall in the living room. Chances are the treasure becomes part of your household inventory, and the story is told with pride to other thrifters.

Today as my neighbor and I walked into a local thrift store my eyes went straight to an electrical panel. We've been talking about running electricity out to the barn and installing a subpanel. New panels are expensive. This Sylvania panel was $2. That got my blood pumping. As I walked through the store I found a few other things: adjustable straps, classic milk jars, and... an electric uncapping knife, which is used in the honey extraction process. Never used. In the box. It worked when I plugged it in. I couldn't believe it. To purchase this new would be $98 from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm. My offer of $4 was accepted. And, as the cherry on top, I glanced at the pile of jeans and saw a pair of Ann Taylor Loft in my size.

When you're hot, you're hot!

2010 Honey Crop for Sale!

Woohoo! Time to sell some honey... 2010 honey is $6 per pint and $12 per quart.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What is an astro-widow, anyway?

When your spouse tucks you into bed with a kiss and then goes out to stare at the sky through a telescope, you are an astro-widow.

When your spouse greets the dog and chickens upon arriving home and THEN finds you for a hug and kiss, you are...