Sunday, March 29, 2009

NO BOOTS!

Things are getting rough: in order to keep my sanity, it has come time to enforce two new rules that I've been putting off for awhile. Here's the first one:


I made this nifty little sign and taped it up on the door between our entryway and kitchen. I couldn't think of a better way to get the point across!

The second rule is no dogs on the couches. We never let them on our bed but love to cuddle with them on the couch. However, I want this to be a nice house and it isn't very nice when the couches smell and shed like dogs. I'd love to show you a picture of our two new (used), dog-free couches but they won't fit in our door so right now they sit in the shop. I'm thinking we may try to bring them in through our big bay window. Oh the joys of farmhouses with narrow doorways!

I am looking forward to not having dirty floors (or at least not as dirty). I have tried for a long time to keep shoes off of our nice wood floors but we didn't care about the linoleum until now. I just can't keep up and I'm sick of trying.

What's the shoe policy at your house? Any exceptions? How do you enforce it? I'm ready to be rued if I have to - I'm so sick of the mess!

Wide Awake!

Isn't it funny how I hit snooze 5 times on workdays and can still barely get up when I have to - and then this weekend I bounded out of bed by 7:30 AM all on my own, with no alarm at all!? My husband likes to say that he can work 14 hours on the farm and not feel as tired as after 8 hours on the clock.

This promises to be a productive day and I'll be back later on to post about it. Just thought I'd stop in and wish every one a good morning! Enjoy your day! :)

Friday, March 27, 2009

My Take On Forward Contracting

This is a little more technical than most of my posts and refers to grain farming. Not sure how many readers raise grain but this is something I learned about that I'd like to share.

So basically, we grow the corn, we take it to the elevator, and then we either sell it right away (if prices are good) or we start to incur storage costs on it and don't sell it until prices come back up. Supposedly, this is the first year in the last 10 where a farmer didn't make money by storing grain until after the 1st of the year. Of course that would happen during our first harvest year, why not!?

So since we are beginning field work and need $$$ to buy fertilizer and seed, we really need the money from last year's corn. Plus, we don't want to pay to store it much longer. However, prices are still low enough that I'm not convinced they will even cover the cost of growing that corn. So, there is another option available: forward contracting. Basically, we sell the corn today and a check is mailed to us. The check is for the current price ($3.42/bushel) times the # of bushels we have minus any unpaid storage AND minus, in our case, $0.37/bu for this forward contracting option. This storage costs will stop the day we sell. The $0.37 gives us the option to "sell" again in the next 3 months in order to benefit if prices go up.

Say in June prices go up to $4.00. We could "sell" then and get a check for the extra $0.58 x # of bu. We can only do that once and then our "contract" is done. I think. The downside is that if prices don't go up we would actually lose money. If prices go up $0.37 we would get back what it cost us to have the option but would come out the same as if we had sold outright at today's current prices.

Is this understandable? I know it is a confusing topic, so I thought I'd share what I know. Maybe someone will Google it and find this post. Do you see what crop farming makes me batty!? I hate gambling, and that is what we do in this line of work.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pigs?


Okay Abbie - this post is your fault!

So my interest in pigs has been sparked due to some strong recommendations in the comments section. Plus, to be honest, if I pick up one more book about lambing problems or starting seeds I just might go crazy. This lifestyle is enjoyable but even fun things can get monotonous. Since I can't bring myself to bring home any animal without reading at least one book about it I've purchased a great one about pigs titled Dirt Hog. You can read all about it over at The Beginning Farmer's blog because he just got done reading it. Basically it is the only real book I could find that focuses on raising pigs in a more natural setting. I'm not sure that our first pigs will be raised that way but I need to know how pigs might fit in to our farm since we're in the process of rebuilding our facilities. I am so excited to read this book. Like I said, I just need a change of pace.

In other pig-related news, I did call around to see what is available for heritage pigs in Michigan. I found some great folks over at Back Forty Acres and have to call them again to discuss some possibilities. They raise Tamworths which I hear have great mothering instincts meaning they do well without farrowing crates. I'd like to select a breed and get a couple of pigs to raise as feeders so we can see how we like the breed and the meat. Then maybe we can think about raising our own. We'll see what happens. I hate to make the whole thing more complicated than it has to be, but I can't stand feeling like I don't know how to take care of them.

By the way, if you're interested in this book you may have to buy it. I couldn't find it anywhere in Michigan through the library system and never came across a used copy online. I finally just paid full price through Amazon.com

What do you think about pigs? Or, what are you reading lately?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Farm Update

I'm still here! Haven't posted much this week due to the time change (I think!). I seem to be stuck in my old schedule and going to bed much later which means I've been dragging and tired all week. We've also been pretty busy, so I thought I'd fill you in with what we've been up to:

video

I know the video is a little dark but can you hear the little lamb sounds!? We had twins born yesterday. The mama had me worried as she started to have a vaginal prolapse a couple weeks ago. We fitted her with a harness truss, which is basically baling twine tied around her in a way that encourages her insides to stay in. The harness truss worked well, so well in fact that it was trying to hold the babies in! Brian came home to find feet poking out, cut the twine, and helped to deliver the first baby. Then, when he had me on the phone, another set of feet appeared! Both mama and babies are doing great, and she is showing great natural mothering instinct.

So, we only have one ewe left to lamb and I think she's getting close. She showed some aggression towards the other lambs so right now I have her in a lambing pen while the other mothers and babies can be together in the main pen. I hope that she is gentle with her own lambs or we may have some problems.

Today I went to my Dad's for a family gathering and bought a great little flatbed trailer from him. It will make a perfect base for an eggmobile. I'm expecting my order of heritage chicks in May which we will add to our layer flock. I also need to get in gear and build a pen for some broiler chicks, I've been talking about it for a long time and have a lot of interest already.

Brian is working like mad on the burnt shed now that warmer weather has come. He already filled one dumpster himself and is working on another. At first he planned to burn the old, singed lumber in his shop wood stove. Unfortunately, the foam they use to put out the fire also doesn't allow the wood to burn. He called the foam manufacturer and was told that the foam is biodegradable so no special disposal is necessary. I can't believe how much progress he is making! Right now we're still unsure of exactly how we want to rebuild but plan to put a new roof on the entire building, rebuild and expand the lean to on the back, and then add siding later on. We're still unsure if we're going to use the excess insurance money to build a separate building for livestock or use it elsewhere and then build as we can afford it.

Brian is also getting ready to start conventional farming for the year. He spread some fertilizer on our wheat this morning and has more to do when he gets the time. We're still not sure how much corn to plant since corn prices are soooo low, the current prices barely cover our expenses. We still have 3,000 bushels of corn from last fall that we've haven't sold yet. This is also the first spring we've had square bales of hay left. We have about a 1,000 to sell and have had a lot of calls from one little ad on craigslist.

I've been knitting like an addict in my "free" time. I have the tote bag for Brian's Mom done and one of the two handles knitted. Now I just have to finish the other handle and felt it! I have a lot of work to do on Brian's slippers yet and have started a pair of socks for him as well. It is such a great hobby - I highly recommend it!

I've also borrowed a lot of books on Once A Month Cooking from the library, went grocery shopping today, and plan to make a bunch of meals to freeze tomorrow. The idea has interested me for a long time so I hope it works out. Any tips from the pros?

Even with the joys of spring I feel a teeny tiny bit sad that the lazier days of winter are over. There's nothing lazy about summer on this farm! What about everyone else - are things getting hectic yet?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lamb #2 !!!



Look what I found this morning! Lily, one of the first two lambs we brought to the farm, now has her own lamb. This one is a ewe lamb, and she is jet black. I thought the other baby was black but she is more like gray compared to this little girl. Who knew!?

I'm off to work, just wanted to share the good news!

Monday, March 16, 2009

I Started My Seeds!


I'm not exactly sure if this was the right time to do it, but I did it. The weather will never be exactly right in Michigan anyway. Here's what I started on Sunday:

Snapdragons - 9 cells
Baby Dolls - 9 cells
Ping Tung eggplant - 9 cells
Long Purple eggplant - 9 cells
Amish Paste tomatoes - 36 cells

I used equal parts of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite as a starting mixture. The plastic cells and trays are being reused from last year.



I'll be starting another batch of tomatoes in a few weeks as well as some other flowers, my herbs, broccoli, and some others I've forgotten. Right now I have the tray down by our corn burner to stay warm. This next goal is to get Brian to hang up my new lights so the seedlings can go under there once they sprout. It feels like spring it finally here!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Git 'Er Done Update

I got quite a bit done during the week to make up for not doing much last weekend. We had a nice day where I opened up all the windows and stained a new batch of trim in the basement. Then I took advantage of the nice weather this weekend and took all that trim out on the porch to polyurethane it. Today I finished the trim in the kitchen, all but one piece that I need to do on a jigsaw so it fits around the countertop.

Speaking of the countertop, Brian & I finally put the endcaps on. Now you can't see the old butcher block counters that are underneath.



It doesn't quite cover everything from this angle but unless you're 3 years old it looks pretty good when you walk through the kitchen. It was not a fun project - you have to cut and file it to fit and then heat it up so it sticks. I have enough pictures to do a step-by-step tutorial, let me know if you need that info.

Remember me talking about painting the window frames? Here's a pic of what I painted (the reddish brown part).


Now here's how it looks with the new trim instead of the old stuff with 10+ layers of paint.


The original trim was a funny two piece configuration that was quite wide. To buy real trim that wide would have cost a fortune. Instead, I'm using 1x3 boards and then adding what they call "cove moulding". This means that I basically have to do everything with the boards, then go back and do it all with the edging again. Here's the edging I'm talking about.


Brian got a lot done too, he actually filled a 20 yard dumpster by himself this weekend. The weather is finally nice enough to start cleaning up the burnt part of the shed so we can start rebuilding. I'll post more about that (& pictures) later.

Here's a simple little change that makes a big difference:



That slimy soap bottle was driving me crazy! I was trying to hold out for a great find at a resale shop but my friend took me to Walmart before the knitting class and convinced me to buy that green bottle. It was $1.88 and made in China. Eww, but I have to admit it does match my kitchen pretty well.

Okay, just one more and then I'm done:


Finally, something a little more fun! I decorated our bedroom a little bit. My cousin got us this great frame for a wedding present and had a lot of the guests sign it. It is nice to read all the well wishes when I'm falling asleep.

So, I made progress on bedroom: decorate, kitchen: finish trim, and back room: new trim. Plus I can cross these off my list - kitchen: end caps on countertops & paint fridge.

How are your projects coming?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Knitting Fun

My Mom, knitting happily

Just thought I'd share a few pictures from that sock knitting class we took. Last Saturday was the last of 3 sessions. We were all sad that it was over! We all had our socks finished or almost finished and felt confident enough to start another pair on our own. I've already knitted a baby sock for my cousin and started on a pair for Brian. The project I'm working on in the picture is a large felted tote bag. That was technically a Christmas present for Brian's Mom only it still isn't quite finished.

Me

This afternoon I'm started a new class to make "felted clogs". They are like thick slip on slippers. The class is only two sessions and I thought it would be a great way to replace all the slippers Brian had that Maci chewed up. I'm also hoping to meet some new people since my Mom and my friend Steph were the only other people in the sock class.

Here's Steph!

What activity do you use as an excuse to get together with those you love? Have any knitting projects you want to share?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Brian's Tater Tot Surprise


Here's a great, and quick invention that Brian made up for dinner the other night. He was really craving nachos and we didn't have any chips. So instead...

First, he browned some hamburger with seasonings to taste. Then he spread out a layer of tater tot hashbrowns on a cookie sheet. He sprinkled the whole pound of burger over those and then sprinkled a generous amount of shredded cheese on top. Then he baked it in the oven

I'm not sure that the picture does it justice. It really looked quite appetizing even though I'm too picky to try it. He topped it with ketchup and had two helpings so it must have been good. I love it because it is so easy and quick! Plus, it was really fun to watch him make up something that he liked. I'll have to experiment with fresh shredded potatoes and see how that goes so I don't have to make a habit of buying the tater tots.

Any quick meals you want to share? Or substitutes to calm your cravings?

I Painted My Fridge!

After 1 coat

You guessed it - this is part of my Git 'Er Done 2009 project!

I was sick of looking at it, and a new one certainly wasn't in the budget. We got a new stainless steel & black stove in the fall so the dingy yellowish white fridge was sticking out like a sore thumb. I went to Lowe's and picked up Rustoleum brand Stainless Steel paint for appliances. It was the only roll-on appliance paint they had so I took it even though I was looking for black. I got the paint and rollers for under $30.

Supplies needed:
Window cleaner (could be homemade)
Washcloths
Drop cloth or old sheet to protect the floor
Foam rollers
Paint tray
Stir stick
Screwdriver to open & close can
Tape
Newspaper
Paint (obviously)
Gloves & long sleeves (or paint thinner to get your hands/arms clean!)

Lay the drop cloth around the base of the fridge. Clean the fridge with window cleaner and allow it to dry. Paint the seals and crevices first, then you can roll over them and make the edges smooth. Roll on the first coat. I left the paint on the roller and in the tray sit out while the first coat dried and it kept fine. You can go over the seals again while the first coat dries, then do a second coat.

Finished project

One important thing I learned is that this paint is a bit different than normal in that you can still see your roller marks when it dries. You know how normal paint all blends together when it dries? Not so much with this. You can still see the stripes so try to go over it all very lightly until you can hardly see the roller's path even when it is still wet. If stripes do show when it dries you can go over those areas a third time. I have a normal to large sized fridge and did 2 coats plus some on the front & sides, and I have a little paint left. I didn't do the top, it is tall enough that it doesn't show.

The results aren't perfect but we've had a few visitors since I painted it and no one has noticed it until I point it out. I guess that means they aren't walking in a thinking it looks hideous, and everyone said they liked it when I did point it out. I can see a few stripes on the one side but maybe that is because I know where to look. It'll be covered with pictures and memos again anyway.

Overall I would recommend this for sure if you have an efficient fridge in the wrong color or can't afford a new one yet. It was pretty easy to do and looks better than I expected.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ham: It's What's For Dinner


Since pig raising has fallen to the bottom of our list after getting our own lambs to market and raising broilers, we still buy ham from the store. Brian goes once week to the local meat market and gets lunch meat. A lot of their meat comes from local raisers so it is nice place to buy from. However, the costs add up even when we buy what's on sale, and you never really know if the special came from here or out of state.

Awhile back we picked up a ham at Meijer. Meijer is large chain store that has its headquarters here in Michigan. I really like the stores and they seem to carry a lot of locally grown and processed foods. Anyway, we bought a $20 fully cooked boneless ham at $2.79/pound. Here's what I got out of that:

10 thick ham "steaks" = 3 dinners for us plus leftovers for lunches
10 thinner slices = 2 weeks worth of lunch meat
2 end cuts chopped up = 1 batch of ham soup or stew

I froze them all in labeled bags for future use. We had the first set of ham steaks tonight and they were delicious! I'm sure I could find a better price per pound if I catch ham on sale, but I'm pretty happy with what we got this time. Brian spends about $5/week on lunch meat so we got $10/worth there, plus 4 dinner meals for the other $10. Not bad. :)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Git 'Er Done 2009


As many of you know, Brian & I bought his family's farm around Labor Day of 2007. We've been working on the house and yard since the early spring of that year, even before we bought it. Things are far from finished as we start 2009, and I don't want to deal with this again in 2010.

I've made a detailed list, room by room, of what projects need to be completed this year. I first posted about all this work in this post. I wanted to share my list but wasn't sure how to set it up. After reading over at Green Resolutions I really like the way she sets up her checklist and shows updates. I've decided to use a similar format for my project list. Thanks for the inspiration GR!

I'm going to title this segment "Git 'Er Done 2009". This will mostly be for my benefit, to keep me motivated and accountable. I'll try to include some before and after pictures and maybe even offer some good how-to advice. I avoid debt like the plague so these will all be pay as you go projects.

Feel free to read along. If you would like to join in, go ahead and grab the doodad, link over here, and post your updates whenever. I'll be doing most of my work on Saturdays. I started out working all day Sunday too but got burnout very quickly. I would recommend limiting yourself to one full day per week or a few hours here and there. You don't have to renovate your whole place, maybe you just have one small project you want to stay on track with.

In any case, I hope this is a valuable addition to the blog!

Okay, here's my master list. Red = done last year. Black = to be done. Blue = done in 2009.

Bedroom:
New bedding (received as wedding gift)
Paint walls & ceiling
Move closet (tear it out and rebuild in a different spot)
New TV (flatscreen - eliminated stand and gave us more floor space)

Mount lamp on wall
New trim
New curtains
Add 2nd clothes rod in closet
Cover hole for access to pipes (we cut this when changing plumbing in bathroom)

Rewire (and new switches/covers)
Decorate!
Curtain on closet
New light fixture
Headboard
Paint window frames

Bathroom:
Paint walls & ceiling
Eliminate old rust stains
New faucets/hardware
New shower curtain & rod

New curtain over window (in shower)
Curtain around base of sink
Refinish cabinet
Get a quote for recoating the tub
New trim
New lighting
Replace mirror (or make it look better)
Decorate!
Rewire (and new switches/covers)

Office
Find Brian a desk
Get a deal on a desk chair

Organize/rearrange
Paint walls & ceiling
Decorate!
New lighting
New curtains
Rewire

Kitchen
Removed wallpaper/patched/painted (Thanks Mom!!)
Refinished cabinets/rearranged them
New countertops
New trim (started)
New stove
New (used) dishwasher
New faucet

Paint window frames
Curtains in front of sink/trash

Finish trim
Baseboard for long cabinet
End caps on countertops
Paint baseboard on sink
Paint fridge
Hook up range hood
Rewire
New lighting

Back Room (entryway):
Paint walls/ceiling
New trim
Paint window frames
Refinish cabinet door
Build/buy a bench/shoe rack
Coat rack
Rewire
Clean off/organize stair shelf

Living Room
Paint walls & ceiling
Refinish trim
Decorate!
Have floor refinished
New area rug
Furniture

New light fixture
Curtains
Rewire
Make slipcovers for couches

Rabbit Room aka Guest Bedroom
Paint walls & ceiling
Furniture

Reorganize
Move rabbits out
Fix window screen (where rabbits chewed through it)
Touch up paint on trim
Decorate!
Rewire

Basement
Start cleaning/getting rid of everyone's junk
New washing machine
Buy laundry tub
Build corn storage bin
New corn stove

Finish cleaning
Install laundry tub
Install shower
New cabinets/tables/shelves (build or buy)
Dust/vacuum rafters
Clean out cistern (Baxter thinks it is his litterbox...gross)
Curtain @ base of stairs
Paint?
Rewire

Outside
Landscape around 1/2 house
Plant 2 pear trees (one died already)
Create garden
New porch roof
Tear our overgrown bushes
Repaired bad spot in shop roof
Built lean-to on back of shed (burned)
Get rid of lots of junk/scrap that is filling backyard
Install fence/plant pasture

Finish landscaping
Plant more fruit trees
Paint foundation of house
New exterior doors on house
Shutters?
Farm sign/flagpole/strawberries?
Flowers by mailbox/along road
Repair shed fire damage/build new
Finish/repair fences
Tear down little red barn
Paint new OSB on shop ceiling
Paint small shop door
Tear down garage?
New stonecrete in driveway?
Better plan for black walnuts (help!?)
Plant corn & pumpkins
Improve pasture
Poultry tractors/fence

I put question marks next to things that I'm not sure we'll get to or things that need more thought put in to them. I'll try to add links to specific posts as I go. You can always click on the above doodad on my sidebar to pull up all related posts.

Thanks for putting up with these long posts. I think this will really help me! I'd love to hear about your own home improvements.

Friday, March 6, 2009

This is why...

...I'm glad that new dog bed cover only cost me $1.


This is also why we needed a new cover in the first place. Once every few months the "puppy", now 1 1/2 years old, feels the need to destroy something. Bitter apple spray seemed to stop her from chewing up the bed at night. Unfortunately I left it lying too close to her cage today when I went to work (for her brothers to lay on) and she sucked it into her cage.


The good news is I might be able to fix it, the even better news is that if not I still have the other half of the sheet to make a new one from! This was at least sort of funny, much less tragic than a few weeks ago when Brian lost 2 pairs of slippers to the little mutt in the same week!

Family First?


This is a topic that weighs on my mind from time to time and I was wondering what you all thought about it. Are you the type that sticks by your family no matter what, or do you treasure your friends more than your blood relatives?

It's no secret that Brian and I have had some challenging days in our lives, and who hasn't? I've learned that sometimes on your hardest day it isn't your family that comes to save you. Sometimes it is a neighbor you've never met before, like the strangers who stopped and helped Brian pull so many things out of our burning barn. Sometimes it's the friends you don't see often enough that call and take your mind off your troubles.

I've seen some families stick by each other even after years of bad behavior and through lies, alcoholism, or other challenging times. Where do you draw the line? Do you always forgive and look the other way because he/she is your _____(aunt, father, son, etc.)?

I personally have found so much value in my friends, and parts of my family, that I don't see how blood changes things much. I'm not saying I don't value my family, but I don't think I'd base my best relationships on that at all. Thoughts?


BTW, these pictures are of some of the great "family" that came and helped us later on the day of the fire. When "the show was over" and everyone else had gone home these are the people who were there saying, "What else can we do?". It is hard to forget that! :)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Thrift Store Finds


There is a brand new Goodwill store in my town, and I love it!

First let me tell you about my breadmaker. It came from Brian's family's basement and was purchased over 20 years ago. It hadn't been used in about 17 years until I got it. I used it almost every day for a few months. Then, mysteriously, the little mixing paddle started going backwards. Hmm, not sure how to fix that and it doesn't mix the dough that way. Oh well, after 20 years it owes us nothing. I found this one that I like on Amazon.com but it out of stock and expensive. Brian told me to buy it, that I would use it more than anyone else he knows. I put it off... and put it off.

So now you will understand why I snatched the $6.99 breadmaker off the shelf at Goodwill so quickly that a couple of people gave me weird looks! After plugging it in, watching it go, and being informed of the 7 day return policy, I took it. It isn't fancy but will get us by until I can justify the new one. What a deal.

Next find: 2 very large (king?) sheets for $1.99 each. They just happen to match our bedding set almost exactly. I'm not sure that I would want to sleep on thrift store sheets, but I could never find fabric that cheap at Jo-Ann's. I used the blue sheet to make 2 curtains for our bedroom. They are much cuter than our old blinds. They aren't super functional but could be let down to block the window if needed. That will be very handy this year when there are beer drinking farmers in my backyard!


I used 1/2 of the second sheet to make a new cover for the dog bed. I sewed it like a pillow case with the opening in the middle of the bottom.

So...

Breadmaker $6.99
Curtains $1/each
Dog bed cover $1

Can't beat it! Want to share any of your great finds?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

New Egg Cartons


We're still not selling eggs but our small flock usually gives enough eggs for us plus an extra 2 dozen a week. We've been giving them to friends but haven't had much luck getting the cartons back. I went to the farm store and bought what they had. I paid .39 a piece for about a dozen cartons. I can buy them in bulk cheaper but don't need a lot right now.

I wanted our name on the new cartons but there wasn't a good spot for a business card so I printed out a little thing with our logo and contact info. I put quite a few on a page, cut them in strips, and glued them on the front of each carton.

They're not perfect but are a little more professional at least. I think I'd like the flat top cartons when we're actually selling eggs. I would like to charge a $0.25 or $0.50 "deposit" for cartons at that point. I'm not sure what our prices would be but for example, $2.50/dozen or $2/dozen with each carton you bring back. That way we would probably get lots of cartons back but wouldn't have to raise the prices to cover the costs.

Any thoughts on egg packaging? What do you like/dislike? What about prices, what is the going rate in your area for farm fresh eggs w/o antibiotics?

Joining Farm Bureau

This is another post I've been putting off just because I wanted to make it worthwhile. I still don't have a lot of information to offer you but want to share our experience thus far. We went ahead and joined the bureau 2 weeks ago. We do not carry FB insurance and so joined as "Regular Farmer Members". Actually we only signed Brian up. The dues were $45 for year and as his wife I can attend all the events anyway.

We signed up at the kickoff event. A handful of couples that we're friends with had already joined and encouraged us to check it out. We actually had a lot of fun at the kickoff. It started off with a couple of short presentations from some of the extension staff. They talked for about 20 minutes on the new A.C.R.E. program which Brian is interested in. It is basically a different type of subsidy program from what I understood. It was good to learn about anyway.

The organizers had hired a local company, "A Touch Of Vegas" to come in an do some casino games. Each person was given a ticket to get chips equivalent to, I think, $200. I personally have never gambled and never been to casino so I didn't think that would be much fun. Turns out I had a blast at the Roulette table and tied for overall winnings at $800! That got us a $50 gift card to Red Lobster. We both love there food and so we more than got back our dues already. They also passed out tickets for beer or mixed drinks. I wasn't too keen on drinking and gambling on a Sunday but did have fun!

If you're interested in joining FB I'm sure you'd like some more useful information. The website might help you. We also get the Michigan Farm News now so I will try to keep you updated on relevant issues. I like the paper because it lists all the current legislative proposals and where FB stands on the issues. I will say that from scanning the paper (we've gotten it for a few months) I disagree wholeheartedly with FB on a lot of topics. I need to do some more research before I point fingers. If you've read this blog much you know that although I live on a cash crop farm my thinking is much less mainstream. FB seems to favor conventional agriculture on a lot of points. Some of our friends that are quite active in the bureau are organic farmers so the organization must not be too discriminatory at the local level. Maybe I am wrong here, that is just my first impression.

Concerns aside, I think this is going to be a great thing for us to be apart of, even if the only benefit is a social life! It will be a good excuse to get together with friends, learn about ag. issues, and share with other young farmers what we are doing. This weekend was the Young Farmers' Conference downstate. We missed the registration this year but hope to attend next year.

I'll keep you posted on our experiences with the bureau. Any fellow members out there? Any experiences with the organization to share? I'd love to hear what you have to say.

BTW, I want to add that I'm not sure yet how the organization's infrastructure is set up. I don't like the idea of "the blind leading the blind" but I don't think farmer members get to vote on these issues. Not sure how that works. I'll keep you posted.

Howling Hill Seed Swap


I'm a little behind on this one but at last, have the time and motivation to post on it. I first heard of the Howling Hill Seed Swap over at Children in the Corn. Both are great blogs with tons of useful information. Head over and check them out if you haven't already.

Anyway, the basic idea is that an envelope of seeds is sent around. You can take what you want as long as you put back in the same amount of seeds. They have to be non-GMO seeds.

I received the package from Becca at BrightHaven Times, all the way from Florida! Her blog is new to me and looks to be quite interesting. The package is already on the way over to Farm Mom (of Children in the Corn, linked above) - she should have it early this week.

Above is the picture of what I selected to keep for myself. Since I already have most of my veggie seeds and have been putting off starting an herb garden I mostly took some herbs seeds. Now I have no excuse not to start growing my own herbs to flavor our food. I chose 8 partial packets in all:

Cilantro
Common Sage
Roman Chamomile
Peppermint
Rose-colored Snapdragon
Rosemary
Lavender
Thyme

Mmmm I can almost taste a home-raised Cilantro marinated steak already! All the seeds I put in came from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They are pictured below and include:

Long purple eggplant
Marketmore 76 cukes
Chelsea watermelon
Waltham 29 broccoli
Black Beauty zucchini
Moon & Stars watermelon
Sugar Baby watermelon
Danvers 126 Half Long carrots



Keep on eye on Howling Hill's blog if you'd like to join in next time. It is great fun, I'm glad I joined in!