Farm update: March 9

How are you doing? It’s probably been a whipsaw week where you live, too. Here we are trying our best to stay busy and avoid the headlines (easier said than done). A few things we’ve been up to, if you’d like to see:

Bees Coffee Filter 01 sml

The bees love coffee as much as we do!

One sure sign of warming weather (which is coming far too early, in our opinion) is enhanced bee activity. On warm, sunny days we’re seeing lots of bees buzzing in the compost pile (they particularly love our spent coffee filters) and also near one of our big trees that’s in early bud. The apple trees in the surrounding orchards haven’t bloomed yet, but it’s always nice to know that our resident bee population survived another winter.

Cabinet Handles 01 sml

Transformed with just a few coats of spray paint!

In the course of our renovations, we try our very best to repurpose and upcycle rather than purchase new. Recently, we discovered that instead of replacing these brass and “enamel” (read: plastic) cabinet pulls, we could update them with fancy spray paint in “oil-rubbed bronze” (even the name is fancy!). It would have cost hundreds of dollars to buy new pulls, and the difference after scuffing and painting is remarkable. We’re excited to share the complete before-and-after once we finish sanding, priming and painting the oak cabinets.

ATV Mower 01 sml

We’re serious farmers now!

Our biggest investment recently is this mower attachment for our ATV. We researched and vacillated and investigated and equivocated and ultimately decided that we couldn’t justify the $25K+ that a new tractor would cost, and a quality used tractor simply wasn’t to be found. We ended up purchasing this mower attachment (still expensive, but not as expensive) and hope to use it to successfully manage our land going forward. We have a lot of old growth in the pasture, and this mower mulches too, so we don’t have to worry about baling the debris; ideally, it will break down in situ. Our irrigation season starts April 1, and we’re looking forward to putting a lot of water on our pasture this year to see how well it rejuvenates. Ultimately we want to manage our pasture with rotational livestock grazing, but we’ve got quite a bit of work to do before we get there.

Baking Soda Vinegar 01 sml

Dear magical acid-base reaction: we love you.

Who remembers making volcanoes for elementary school science fairs? We do, and here’s a little related success story we’d like to share! As we’ve mentioned previously, we live in an unusual house – some of it was built in 1901 (a mere baby in England, but ancient in the U.S.), and it’s had additions, renovations and other modifications in the century-plus since. As such, it has some quirks. One quirk is that the master bathroom is built in an infuriating and illogical fashion that restricts access to the plumbing underneath, meaning we haven’t yet figured out a way to get to the pipes that doesn’t involve an excavator. The shower drain is regularly blocked (I shed like a Labrador!) and because we’re on a septic system, we have to be quite careful about pouring caustic chemicals down the pipes. Also, those poisons often don’t work and they’re most definitely harmful to both humans and wildlife.

A little noodling around Ye Olde YouTube revealed that creating a science-fair volcano (technically known as an acid-base reaction) with white vinegar and baking soda will unblock drains and keep the septic system healthy. We were admittedly skeptical, but followed the directions exactly and lo and behold IT WORKED! This is the kind of self-sufficiency we’re after out here on our little homestead: simple, elegant solutions that don’t cost very much money, don’t require an emergency call-out, don’t poison our environment and are actually effective. We’re believers! (P.S. If you’ve known about this witchcraft forever and are rolling your eyes right now at our childlike wonder, shhhhh.)

Friend Bars 01 sml

Easy, healthy, delicious and portable.

We’re rapidly approaching our busy season, when twelve-hour workdays – much of it spent outside – will be the norm rather than the exception. Because we don’t buy any packaged foods, I’m always testing new recipes for healthy, portable, shelf-stable snacks that I can make in bulk. I love this cookbook for energy bar recipes; like yogurt and granola, “energy bars” have a health halo that belies the fact that many have more sugar than candy bars. These knock-off KIND bars are one of my favorites; they’re loaded with nuts, seeds and dried fruit and are easy to customize. I usually make ours rather salty, since we tend more towards savory than sweet, and I cut them into small squares for easy grab-and-go snacks.

Canada Geese 01 sml

We’re off to start seeds. It’s madness out there, friends. Stay healthy, wash your hands and cook something nourishing for yourself and for others.

10 thoughts on “Farm update: March 9

  1. I’m starting to see your emails again now that my work is in a separate folder and I love them. The door handles look amazing and no more liquid plumr for me either!!! I’ve used the combo for science never thought of drains;)

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    • Hi Noell, we followed a tutorial that recommended pouring a generous amount of boiling water down the drain before and after the baking soda-vinegar combination. That worked for us, but please check back and let us know your results!

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  2. Always good to see bees out foraging this time of year. Sad to say, there was a large die off of bees around here this winter, a friend lost 4 out of 6 hives. Did you have a colony takeover your hive boxes? If it’s still empty, don’t to forget about the lemon grass oil to use as an attractant. Later April would be a good time to start, or when the orchards bring in pollinator bees. Looks like the mower will do the job, and the hardware looks great. New is not always better.

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    • Thanks, Jim! We haven’t see many bees around our hive yet but in a few weeks hope to see the orchards bringing in the travel hives for pollination. Maybe we’ll catch a swarm this year!

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  3. Believe it or not, I did know about the homemade drain cleaner. Back in the early 80’s, my mother-in-law wrote it down on a recipe card for me. She got it from a newspaper column, Hints from Heloise.

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