Scotch Collie History

Many of you already know our dogs, Kep and Finn, are Old Time Scotch Collies. However, it doesn’t seem I’ve shared what makes them so special to us.

We were extremely deliberate in choosing the farm dogs for Owl Moon Farm, and came across this breed in August, just after we moved to the farm. The wife of a colleague of Tripp’s has a breeding pair of these dogs, and is committed to reviving the breed. Old Time Scotch Collies {or, Scotch Collies, or Farm Collies, or Farm Shepherds} were once a dime a dozen. They are featured in agricultural works from 19th Century Europe:

Sheep Gathering in Glen Spean - Richard Ansdell 1872

Sheep Gathering in Glen Spean – Richard Ansdell 1872

Collies circa 1890

Collies circa 1890

And many, many photographs (and films!) from the early twentieth century in the US and the UK:

Collie helping with the sugaring - 1940

Collie helping with the sugaring – 1940

Beatrix Potter and her companion, Kep

Beatrix Potter and her companion, Kep

Known for their loyalty, biddability, and teachability, Old Time Collies were relied on for every job on the farm. They helped protect the livestock and children; they hunted rabbits, mice and other varmint; and of course, they helped the shepherd move his stock from place to place. They performed those duties in the Old Country, and the Scotch-Irish settlers brought them to the New World when they immigrated in the mid- to late-1800’s.

But, as the family farm started to decline, so did this once precious breed, and these well-rounded, dependable dogs were nearly lost. Luckily, there were a few breeders remaining in the late 1900’s that decided to rescue and revive the breed. There is a lot of history involved, so if you’d like to read more, I encourage you to visit Old-Time Farm Shepherd.

Our breeder was one of those folks that remembered having collie dogs around on a grandfather or uncle’s farm and committed to resurrecting the breed. Our pups are a result of that effort and we couldn’t be more pleased. Knowing that we are working side by side with a breed of dog that can likely be traced back to my own Scottish Highland ancestors…. Well, I get goosebumps every time I think about it.

 

Ladies Homestead Gathering

I have been leading the Doylestown, PA chapter of the National Ladies Homestead Gathering for a year and we have outgrown my house! A few weeks ago we did a canning demonstration at the Doylestown Farmer’s Market which was a great success. We used an induction burner to boil water for canning and prepared a fresh-fruit + simple syrup recipe for the market shoppers, which we sold for a fundraiser. Blueberries & Bay is one of the easiest canning recipes I’ve ever done, and the result is simple and yummy (see recipe below).

We talked to lots of people about our group, but the luckiest moment of the (very hot!) day came when we met Shawn Touhill of Sandy Ridge Farm and Market. He and his wife are the newest full-time farmers in Doylestown, and have generously offered to host our monthly Gatherings in the Community Room of their Farm Market! The market is a great fit for our group, and will give us the space we need to meet comfortably and to grow our Gathering. You can read more about the Touhill Family and Sandy Ridge Market here.

In addition to hosting our monthly Gatherings and any workshops we decide to do this year, Shawn is a great resource for farm-to-consumer marketing and I hope to learn much more about his business as a potential model for our own farm.

In other news: We are back on realtor.com every day searching for potential properties. We are feeling a new sense of urgency that has us buckling down on the small house renovations, and hoping to sell within the next year. We’ve looked all over, and currently our search is centered around Madison County, Virginia because it’s halfway between Gramma’s house and Grampa’s house, and because it borders the Shennandoah National Park and other preserved land. I’ve been doing some asking around and it seems like Madison County (or neighboring Rappahanock County) would be a good fit for our farmy family, so we’ll see!

Blueberries & Bay

Blueberries & Bay Canning RecipeIngredients
Approximately 3 quarts fresh or frozen blueberries
5 cups water
2 cups sugar
Bay leaves

Equipment
Waterbath canner
Jar lifter
Lid lifter
Ladle
Canning jars, sterilized
Unused canning lids
Canning jar rings

Directions

  1. Place canning lids in heat-safe pot or bowl and cover with boiling water to sanitize and soften the gum. Fill the waterbath canner and bring to a rolling boil.
  2. Heat water to boiling and add sugar, stirring to dissolve. Boil for 5 minutes and set aside. Place blueberries and one bay leaf into jars, leaving ½” headspace. Ladle hot syrup into jars, maintaining ½” headspace. Remove any air bubbles from jars before wiping the rims with a warm, damp dishcloth.
  3. Add lids and attach rings – tighten just until you feel resistance.
  4. Place jars into canner, insuring they are covered by at least 1” of water. Bring to a rolling boil and begin timing: 15 Minutes for ½ Pints and Pints; 20 Minutes for Quarts
  5. Carefully remove jars from canner and allow to cool on a towel-lined countertop.

Now, with your canned blueberries, you can make muffins, syrup, or just eat them on top of cereal, ice cream or yogurt. Enjoy!

Begging your forgiveness…

I don’t have any excuses other than LIFE. Life has prevented me from sharing it with you. It started with chickens. We have 15. We started with 16, arriving June 11, but one little girl was lost at about 3 weeks. I’m not sure what happened. One day everyone was fine, the next she was sitting very still, and 2 days later she was gone. The surviving 15 grew big and strong and now live outside in a moveable chicken house {“eggmobile”}. We asked for 4 roosters {1 each: Barred Rock, Buff Orpington, Dominique, Rhode Island Red} but it looks like we didn’t get a Rhody. The Barred Rock seems to be the bossman, but after attacking our daughter this weekend, he’s been put on Death Row. I’m still trying to decide if it would be better to eat him or keep him – he’s the largest and the only one that crows. So for now I don’t let the kids in the pen without me, and I’m trying to “train” him {read: putting my boot in his face whenever he comes near me; seems to be working so far}.

The garden was a huge success {for me}! I planted late, due to our move in April, but we were able to get LOTS of cucumbers and zucchinis, crook neck squash, Bennings Green Tint Squash {a scalloped variety}, and Sungold Cherry Tomatoes. I didn’t plant enough paste tomatoes to make anything substantial, and our larger tomatoes {Azoychka and Black Tula} just didn’t produce much. I was proud of the corn {Country Gentleman} until a few stalks broke {?} and I think the poor drainage and maybe poor sunlight of that corner of the garden led to under-development of the kernels. In August I planted kale, chard, kohlrabi, broccoli and cabbage all of which I hope to overwinter as long as possible. I also planted a few lettuces but I plan to harvest them before any significant cold weather. This weekend or next I will be building one or two cold frames to see what I can do with seed through the winter. Fingers crossed!

We are always searching for land and have visited a few more places:
Monterey, VA: Beautiful landscape, growing local food community. Nearly completely land-locked but huge mountainy mountains. Locals are currently driving an hour and a half to Wal-Mart for groceries every week because there is NO grocery store. No Co-Op, No library, No coffee shop. It’s not a tourist thoroughfare by any means and the only hotel in town is literally crumbling. Oh, and the tiny school system (200 kids, k-12) is shrinking, which tells me the town itself is dying. Very sad. With 30 other couples like us it could be saved, but I’m not sure how that happens…
Floyd, VA: We each spent time here before and after we met, and have always loved this little town. Our recent visit was lovely though very short. The land prices are great: $4,000/acre for most properties. Just 40 minutes from my Alma Mater, it’s high on my list of Towns I’d Love to Live In, but it seems like a lot of things we want to do are already being done by other farms in the area. They are even working on opening a heritage skills school with a grant from the government. Sheesh!

I’ve been looking a lot at Nelson County, VA, though we haven’t visited yet. Nelson County borders the Shenandoah National Park/Skyline Drive/Appalachian Trail so many of the properties we’ve found have amazing views. I have a couple good friends in Arrington, VA, so I might be able to gain some credibility in the community more quickly than other places…? Plus, there are three breweries and four wineries on the main highway through the county: lots of great things happening in the area, it seems. Only downside: land prices, still high at $6,000/acre.

The gist is: we’re still looking.

But the greatest news is that I have been working on our Mission/Vision and had two amazing brainstorming sessions over the past weekend. Basically, I’ve figured out how to focus my energy and my seemingly endless list of “what kind of things would I like to do on my farm?” into 6 categories: Food, Health, Family, Community, Spirit and Education.

We will make the connection between people and their FOOD, by building COMMUNITY, nourishing whole body HEALTH, strengthening the bonds of FAMILY, challenging the norms in EDUCATION all while honoring the SPIRIT.

No one part of our mission is more important than the other, so we could just as easily say: We will build COMMUNITY by making the connection between people and their FOOD, nourishing whole body HEALTH, etc, etc.

Owl Moon Farms Mission

And, lest you insist this is too much for one family, have no worries. I am starting to believe the only way to accomplish my dream farm goals is to enlist the help of one, or two, or four other families that share similar dreams. Between the lot of us, surely we can build something amazing. Stay tuned…

What Does Homesteading Mean to You?

For me, homesteading began with food. After reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, all I wanted to do was find, grow and eat local food. I was convinced the only way for my family to eat a grassfed turkey for Thanksgiving was to grow it myself. That’s the moment I became a farmer.

Unfortunately, I was still living smack-dab in the middle of suburbia, so raising livestock just wasn’t an option. While I waited for my farm dreams to come true, I focused my energy on things I could do immediately to feed my family more healthfully, while saving money, so that we could one day be able to live on a farm.

At that time, my oldest child was only a few months old, and we were drinking organic milk and eating organic vegetables, but we were still fully engaged in the industrial food system. I made it my goal to visit the Farmer’s Market every week that summer, and found a wide variety of foods I had never heard of. And boy, was it expensive! I realized immediately that if we were going to be purchasing real food, from real farmers, we were going to have to spend less in other areas of our life to make up the difference. And it was something I was committed to.

That summer was the first time I ever cooked a whole chicken, and after three years I can finally say I feel comfortable with that. We started out roasting the whole bird every time, but I felt we were wasting a lot of meat {not to mention the carcass} so last year I started cutting the bird before cooking it. Now we eat the breasts and tenders one night, the legs another night, and save the carcass for making stock.

The challenge of cooking a real, whole chicken was just the beginning of my journey to homesteading. In the kitchen, we started baking our own bread, making our own jam and apple butter, and eating fresh, local vegetables nearly every night of the week. One way we save money for fresh veggies is pretty simple: we purchase less meat, and instead rely on other non-meat forms of protein, like beans. I now have hundreds of delicious vegetarian recipes that allow my family to enjoy our meals together – and feel satisfied –without eating chicken breasts every night. Those three meals we get out of our Farmer’s Market chicken? They last us three weeks. We limit our dinners out, and buy almost no prepared foods, opting instead to make our own popcorn, rice crispy treats, fruit bars, and more. Making our own food means I know exactly what goes into everything, and allows me to eliminate sugar almost entirely. We don’t buy “instant” oatmeal, and rarely do we buy cereal. Instead we make our own oatmeal, granola, muffins, and scones and spend those dollars we save on pasture-raised chicken eggs which we enjoy almost every other day.

Rather than purchasing canned beans, we buy dry beans in bulk. They’re ridiculously affordable, and really not that hard to prepare, so I feel good knowing my kids are eating organic beans, organic rice, organic barley, and organic oats. We buy bushels of fruit when they’re in season, meaning we pay much less for “low-spray” fruit that was grown right around the corner – which is good for us, and good for the farmer who grew it.

But homesteading means more than just where you shop for groceries. To me, it’s a lifestyle. And what’s interesting is that a lot of our frugal family choices are ecologically-friendly too. We chose cloth diapers for our children because we couldn’t stand to send bags and bags of paper diapers to the landfills where they would never decompose, so we reduced our environmental impact while also saving thousands of dollars in disposable diapers. We use cloth napkins, towels and washcloths in the kitchen. The kids and I use cloth wipes at home, meaning we buy about ¼ the toilet paper we did two years ago. We shop at thrift stores and consignment stores for nearly everything for the kids and myself {My husband works a “real job” so he shops the big sales for his work clothes, or uses Christmas money to purchase new items}. Clothes, shoes, toys, books, canning jars, bookcases – whatever you need, you can probably find it used and for a lot less than what you would pay at a retail store. I still use Amazon for hard-to-find books, but purchase them used whenever possible. We utilize Craigslist for big-ticket items like our {1996 Ford F150} farm truck, our {1974 Massey Ferguson 135} tractor, and the trailer we’re using for our eggmobile. Every purchase is made with re-useability and longevity in mind. I absolutely abhor re-buying things, so I sometimes spend a little more now {say, $30 on a set of enamelware picnic plates} instead of spending more over time for something that will be thrown away.

We try to save money and do-it-ourselves in other ways too. We believe children deserve a better education than what is being offered in public schools today, but the cost of private school is insane, so instead, we plan to homeschool our two children. We will have the opportunity to spend countless hours of quality time with them, not just rushing them to and from the bus every day. We get to take extended vacations – any time of year, like during the “off-season” when attractions are easily half as expensive. We can really get to know them, and they us, as we grow and learn as a family.

We eliminate unnecessary expenses wherever we can and utilize free programs and events in town like story time at the library, music in the park, parades, festivals, etc. And though I can’t seem to get my husband to give up the television, we only pay for basic, basic subscription now. Don’t get me wrong, we both have iPhones {good luck trying to get mine away from me}. We choose to spend a little extra on our cell phones and instead gave up having a landline.

And now that we have moved to a place with a little more space – we’re doing more “real” homesteading. We built a garden and have planted mostly beans, some tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, squash and a few other things, with the hope that we can dry and can the excess to use over winter. This is our first real attempt at stocking a larder, so my expectations are very low. Saving seeds will allow us to spend less next year when it comes time to replant the garden. And eggs? The biggest expense in switching to a whole food, grassfed diet, is animal protein, and eggs are no exception. We were paying $4.00 per dozen in Georgia, $5.00 over the winter, and found a farmer at our local Farmer’s Market here in Pennsylvania that will sell them for $6.00/doz. For a family that now eats about 2 dozen eggs per week, it was easy to see what our second farm enterprise would be. Growing, feeding and caring for 12 laying hens will not be very cost-effective this year {we don’t expect to get eggs until late fall}, but with plans to feed our birds entirely on grass and then hatch out our own chicks next year, we hope to reduce our off-farm inputs dramatically in the future.

I have grand plans for our little farm {like, maybe someday it won’t be so little}, but in the mean time I’m doing everything I can to make living closer to home more comfortable and enjoyable. I experiment with everything in our CSA box; learning to cook once-foreign vegetables has become somewhat of a delight for me. I read books. All the time. I’m getting a thorough and enjoyable “free” education in composting, organic gardening, raising grassfed meat, raising chickens, living more sustainably, homeschooling, sewing, knitting, and more. I attend free seminars, did a few months worth of an un-paid internship last year, and have joined every club and Facebook Group I can find involved in the local food/local anything community where I now live. And I write this blog, where I can share my experience with you, and hope that you will share yours too.Image

So Much to Share!

Okay, first things first: my husband has accepted a job that requires our family relocate from Athens, GA to Pennsylvania – IN APRIL. We made our first trip up there this past weekend to scope out the area and searched for three straight days for a home to rent that is reasonably close to his new place of work. The problem is – he will be working out of western NJ for the majority of this year, and then from Central PA starting in the fall. That means, finding a place that is “reasonably close” means not really close at all. We’re talking about 45 minutes or more – each way. Coming from our current commute time of less than 15 minutes, that’s going to be a pretty huge adjustment for our family. We are working on a few different ideas to make it as easy as possible, but some compromises might mean putting some of our homesteading plans on hold. We have a few cats (and dogs) so finding a pet-friendly rental will be difficult to begin with. But finding one that allows for a substantial garden, laying hens and bees is probably going to be next to impossible. Luckily, we found one that’s for rent, allows pets, HAS CHICKENS, a GARDEN and BEE HIVES already in place! Only trouble is, it’s about 45 minutes to work. Right now it is #1 on our list, but we will most likely make at least one other trip north before making our decision.

Future (temporary) home of Owl Moon Farms?

NEXT: Tomorrow is my first day interning with Cyndi Ball of Lazy B Farm in Statham, Georgia. Cyndi and I met in July at the Ladies Homestead Gathering which she generously hosts in her home. I knew right away that she would be an important person in my journey to farming, and sure enough, over the past 6 months, I have grown to care for her, her farm, and her family very deeply. Truth be told – she was the first person I told about our possible move to PA way back in November. We had begun talking in September about me doing an internship beginning this month (now that both of my children are in a morning program two days a week) and it is this opportunity and her friendship that I will miss the most. BUT – we get to enjoy a few months of fun and sweat before we make our move, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ll be out there tomorrow and every Thursday until we leave this place, and you’ll hear all about it!

Folks, This Ain’t Normal was my favorite book of 2011. I loved it so much I sent a copy to my mom and one to my dad, insisting that it would change their lives. Well, Folks, I was RIGHT! Just two weeks into it and my Dad has made HUGE progress in taking his hard-earned money OUT of the Industrial Food Complex and has, in his own words, “begun to locate sources for local food; eggs, raw milk, produce, meat, butter. Grown locally, purchased right off the farm.” How cool is that?!?! I was so thrilled to read those words (in his entertaining blog, Tadventures©) that I had to call him straight away, grinning ear to ear. I have a couple of friends making the extra effort to eat locally, but it means so much to me to know my Dad is doing it too. Just last week I was telling a friend that my Dad and I had recently started talking food (he is, afterall, the first person I knew to own a modern pressure cooker, and the person that encouraged me to get one) and here he is going out, talking to farmers, and buying RAW MILK! [For pet consumption only, of course.] Needless to say, I’m beside myself excited to have such an important person on this journey with me.

Compostiong Class: I am two weeks into the 8-week program and am, therefore, 1/4 of a Master Composter. I hope that after this program I will be able to not only start and utilize my own compost, but have the depth and breadth of knowledge to teach others to do the same. Before the end of the class we have to present a project, it can be just about anything, to the group, showcasing what we’ve learned, and demonstrating how we will use that knowledge to teach others. I’ve asked Cyndi if I can present a Compost 101 for the LHG in March, so I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

One of the blogs I unabashedly adore is Soule Mama. Amanda Blake Soule is an author, an artist, a sewist (sewer just doesn’t seem right), a mother, a gardener, a homeschooler and an inspiration. I was introduced to her a long time ago I have no idea how, and have found her constantly weaving her way back into my life over the past two years or so. So I was reading her blog last week when I came across this:

And today I joined up. From the website:

Whole Food Kitchen will be a place for absorbing, exploring, and transforming. This workshop will teach and speak to a mostly plant-based diet, but is not exclusively vegan or vegetarian. You will find [the] classes infused with a non-dogmatic, inclusive approach to nutrition. In life and in food, [the] focus is on simplicity, patience, keeping it real, and common sense.

Having already committed myself to a local, whole foods diet, I think this workshop will do great things for my less-than-stellar abilities to come up with something to have for dinner, based on the seasonally-appropriate foods and bulk items I am able to procure through the local food co-op. I feel like I’m in college again – only this time I’m taking ALL the classes I LOVE! Plus, Heather has already inspired me to take back my pantry! LOOK: