Dreaming of a Farm?

If you’re a farmgirl at heart who’s planted in the city, you’ve probably dreamed about owning your own farm. Well, look what we discovered on our Farmgirl Connection chatroom from Barbara in Ithaca, NY (GreenSleeves2015):

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My parents have both passed away and it is time to sell their small farm (14+ acres) and Victorian home. It is located in Laurens, NY. It sits in a lovely rural spot, yet close to many conveniences. We hope there is someone out there looking for just such a terrific property, and I’d like to tell you a little about it. This farm is an excellent and exciting choice for a homestead, craft brewery, organic produce farm, or other home-based business. The house has 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, an extra kitchen with floor-to-ceiling built-in cabinets, an amazing amount of storage for an old (1880) home (6 lighted, walk-in closets), and gorgeous woodwork throughout. There is a 2 1/2-story barn, chicken house and detached garage. There are 70 blueberry bushes, fenced with netting, that yield about 200 quarts a year. The land and buildings have been well maintained. There is a stream on the property.

Interestingly, wild hops grow abundantly on the property—AND—there is a great need in NYS for more hops growers. There is a large new brewery going in Oneonta, and a hops processing plant is in the works. This could be a great opportunity for the right person or family. We’ve been told that a 5-acre, fully mature planting of hops could yield a $50,000 income per year. There is room for this, as well as much more on this excellent property. This link will take you to more information. We are not listed with a realtor, but are hoping to find the right family on our own.

If you’d like to make an appointment to see it, or just to ask more questions, please call Margaret at 607-432-8063.

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Just for fun, we thought you might like to see what farmgirls are saying on our chatroom about Barbara’s farm:

Nini, Pennsylvania (Ninibini) says:
Oh, BARBARA! First, let me say how sorry I am for your loss. So hard. And letting go of a family treasure such as their home and farm must be very, very difficult. Having said that, though, I think I’ve just seen my dream farm!!! What I wouldn’t give to be able to relocate and start a new life there… We were upstate New York last fall and I fell in love, absolute love. But I think I could live a little further south and be quite happy. If only… If only… Thank you for telling us about your parents’ beautiful home and farm. I pray that the perfect family will move in and be able to honor their hopes, dreams, and hard work… and the love they built there! God bless – I wish you the best! Hugs – Nini

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Laura, St Augustine, FL (RabbitGirl) says:
Hi Barbara – I am so sorry for the loss of your parents. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to have to sell their home.

I actually know where Laurens is. I graduated SUNY Oneonta a long time ago, but I imagine and hope it hasn’t changed all that much, so I wanted to offer a testimonial that Otsego County is absolutely gorgeous and rural and the kind of place any true Farmgirl would love. Your parents’ home is beautiful. If my life circumstances were different, I’d want it for myself.

Best wishes to you in finding the right family that will love and preserve your parents’ farm.
Laura

 

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food waste sculptures

We’ve talked about food waste.

Photo by Foerster via Wikimedia Commons

How to avoid it,

how entire cities are composting it,

and how some folks eat it.

But I recently discovered another use for food that has passed its prime.

Curious?

While you may not want to replicate this at home, I know you’ll appreciate the aesthetic. Lauren Purnell, a Canadian photography student living in London, has achieved social-media star status by crafting uniquely beautiful works of art from pitched produce.

Watch this video clip from CBS This Morning:

On second thought, moms might just want to recreate Lauren’s lovelies in their kitchens (using fresher veggies). Imagine how enticing they would be to pint-sized picky eaters.

Visit Lauren’s Culinary Canvas website to see more. Continue reading

The Little Store That Couldn’t

This post is for Winnie, who asked recently for an update on the status of our little store that moved home to my farm.

As it turns out, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work we’re doing before we get to the store. The store will eventually have a new roof that includes two cute little carports on each end (farm truck in one, Shasta trailer parked in the other, fully hooked up to power/water/electric) and a rocking-chair front porch. Inside will be a community bathroom, retro kitchen, and washer/dryer for farmstay guests.

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But first, what’s that peeking out from behind?

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Why, it’s my Airstream! She’s found a permanent home beneath her own carport, complete with concrete pad and water/sewer/electric hookups. When I took these photos, I’d just planted a “dryland pasture grass mix,” and since then, her new yard is green and lush. Winnie, she has a very old homestead apple tree right outside her door, as well as lots of indigenous plum trees in her new yard.

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The next few pics show all the work being done to essentially take apart and naturalize what we’ve always called our “upper garden,” which is located beside the little store. We’re taking out the deer fence and removing all the black felt and netting we had throughout for weed control in our large strawberry bed and raspberry patch.

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Our strawberry patch has been dramatically downsized to these two new raised beds in our “lower garden.” (The large strawberry patch was destroyed this spring when we had to reroute our sewer, water, and electrical lines.) In the distance, you can see a wall of tomatoes. We’re growing a market-garden patch of heirloom black cherry tomatoes to sell in town, and they’re just starting to come on. This whole patch was grown from seeds I saved from one little tomato I bought two summers ago. The first year, I grew a number of plants from the seeds of that one tomato, then I saved lots of seeds and offered them to my readers. I sent out around 80 envelopes full of seed.

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Lace Gardens

I mentioned “gardens in lace” in my space salad post, promising to tell you more.

So …

Photos by Jeroen Musch of De Makers Van via Dances with Wools, https://danceswithwool.wordpress.com

Believe your eyes.

Those are pics of LACE garden fences.

Yup, lace.

Like a dream come true, right? Doily heaven.

This artistic installment, a collaboration between Swiss landscape architect Anouk Vogel and creative design company De Makers Van, appeared in Amsterdam a few years ago, transforming the courtyard of a city housing block into an ethereal garden of white flowers and lace. It’s no surprise that the location has become a popular spot for wedding photos.

Little did I know …

  1. A) There is a flourishing lace fencing movement, mostly in Europe to date.
  2. B) Lace fencing is not only pretty, it’s pretty big business in places like Belgium and the Netherlands.

Well, now that I know, I hope the trend catches on here in the U.S. Leading the way is the Philadelphia University Design Center, which commissioned De Makers Van to craft a fence segment for their 2009 Lace in Translation exhibition.

Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia University Design Center via Facebook.com/designcenter

Mind you, this “lace” isn’t exactly what it appears to be. If you’re an old-school fabric fanatic like me, you’re thinking needle, cutwork, crochet … but, no.

Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia University Design Center via Facebook.com/designcenter

Rather than stitching thread to form a fence or weaving into an existing chain-link fence, De Makers Van’s creations are actually crafted using mysterious high-end galvanized metal wire that is “knitted” (don’t ask me how) to create lovely—and deceptively dainty—illusions of lace.

Look closely at this fence in Belgium:

Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia University Design Center via Facebook.com/designcenter

Remarkable, isn’t it? There are several more photos of fabulous fences here.

“In our projects, we often combine the sensitive and the small with the powerful, large, and industrial,” explains the De Makers Van team. “Fencing is a sign of how we have modified and cultivated our environment. Like brambles, fences are rising rampantly around us. What would happen if a patch of embroidered wire would meet with, and continue as, an industrial fence? Hostility versus kindness, industrial versus craft.”

A sound artistic sentiment, but I still want one for my garden, don’t you?

Until lace fencing goes mainstream, we may simply have to content ourselves with outbursts of crochet, knitting, and weaving to give our fences festive flair. I’m picturing something along the inspiring lines of Brooklyn yarn bomber London Kaye’s fleeting installments of urban joy:

What a wonderful way to give our yards and gardens a bit of flair all year round. Continue reading

Space Gardens

Gardens in buckets,

Gardens in lace,

Gardens on rooftops …

Gardens in space?

Captain Kirk never dared to dream such succulence.

Nevertheless, it’s not science fiction.

On August 10, astronauts at the International Space Station ate fresh food grown in space for the very first time. In a collapsible and expandable Veggie Unit dubbed Lada, the astronaut gardeners grew a real, live crop of red romaine lettuce out there among the stars, and the taste test was documented in live-stream fashion:

It turns out that growing veggies in space is not as easy as it is on Earth, what with the soil-free and sun-starved spaceship environs. Even so, astronaut Scott Kelly sowed a smattering of lettuce seeds on a fabricated “seed pillow” in early July, illuminated them with multicolored LED lights, and harvested leaves a month later.

Sure, it’s a little avant-garde in the realm of gardening, but it sure beats the Jetson’s Meal-o-Matic fare.

Image courtesy of Mike Licht via Flickr

Driven by more than mere curiosity (and serious cravings for fresh salad), NASA is experimenting with space-grown food in hopes that it might aid astronauts in extended expeditions through the galaxy.

Watch out, Mars, here we come.

Photo by Cmichel67 via Wikimedia Commons

P.S. If you’re “spacing” out and still wondering about the “gardens in lace” mentioned in line two, come back for tomorrow’s post! Continue reading

farm anatomy

As you  might know, I’ve been happily immersed in the charm of children’s literature …

(Who knew writing for kids would be THIS much fun?)

While frolicking in this wonderful world of whimsy, I’ve happened upon some gleefully green pastures, and here’s one I wanted to share:

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Farm Anatomy isn’t strictly a children’s book—the author, Julia Rothman, wrote it to explore the “curious parts and pieces of country life” for herself—but its bite-sized nibbles of fact and fancy certainly appeal to the inquisitive kid in all of us.

“From the shapes of squash varieties to the parts of a goat; from how a barn is constructed to what makes up a beehive, every corner of the barnyard is uncovered and celebrated.” (Amazon.com)

Of course, her adorable illustrations capture the interest of even the youngest readers, even if the facts flutter over their heads for now (sneak a peek here).

With over 200 pages of fabulous farm trivia, this is the sort of book that can be picked up time and again. In my professional opinion (as a farmer, firsthand) you should enjoy a routine bedtime reading rotation of Farm Anatomy and Moo-n Over Main Street Metropolis for best results.

What to expect?

Before you know it, your little city mouse will be crooning for a taste of the country and a tractor of her own while visions of Sally O’Mally dance in her dreams!

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farmers protest low prices

Can food get TOO cheap?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

While we might all like a bargain at the checkout, remember that behind all food, there is a farmer, and that farmer needs to make a living.

In Belgium, farmers recently took to the streets to protest low prices for milk, pork, and more. A convoy of hundreds of tractors blocked a major highway while famers burned piles of tires to bring awareness to their plight. Belgian famers are paid about 26 euro cents per liter of milk, but need 35–40 cents to just break even. Many farmers say low prices are pushing them to the edge of bankruptcy.

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photo © EPA

Protesting is nothing new to Belgian farmers; in 2009, dairy farmers sprayed nearly 800,000 gallons of fresh milk onto their fields in protest of low milk prices, and in 2012, thousands of angry farmers on hundreds of tractors sprayed fresh milk on the European Parliament in Brussels during two days of demonstrations.

Just last year, the European Union lifted a milk quota that had been in place for more than 30 years, allowing cheap surplus milk to flood the market. That, and a Russian food embargo banning imports of crops that had been shipped there for years caused a lopsided market, where demand is now smaller than supply. Farmers’ losses are estimated to be as high as 5.5 billion euros.

What to do? Belgian farmers have launched a national fair trade label they hope will help. Six other countries in the EU currently have fair trade guidelines that help farmers get a fair share of the profits. Similar protests in France recently led to an emergency government aid package worth 600 million euros in tax relief and loan guarantees. Belgian farmers are hoping for something similar. On September 7, European agriculture ministers are scheduled to meet in Brussels to address the problems. Continue reading

farm dreams

If you’re a city gal who’s always dreamed of owning a farm, you might like a new HGTV series called Farmhouse Life. Based on the model of the popular House Hunters series, Farmhouse Life follows potential buyers as they tour farm properties to buy around the U.S.

Historians in period dress at the Hillsman Farm House Museum, Virginia State Parks via Wikimedia Commons

“Families wishing for wide-open spaces head to the great outdoors to search for the luxury farmhouse of their dreams,” says HGTV’s website. “From hundreds of sprawling acres to classic, quaint country living, follow along as they look for the perfect homestead and discover some of the most affordable and beautiful locations, proving you don’t have to be a millionaire to live a Farmhouse Life.”

Spark your dreams of owning a farm Monday nights on HGTV.

Farmstead, East Earl Township, Lancaster County. by Nicholas via Wikimedia Commons

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Hitching a ride …

If you’re taking a road trip this summer, you might run into a strange-looking hitchhiker. But you don’t have to worry about giving this traveler a ride …

image, http://m.hitchbot.me

in fact, you’d be helping to make history!

hitchBOT is a robot from Ontario, Canada. She’s already traveled … on her own! … across Canada and Germany. Then, in her own words, “I took a much-needed arts and culture vacation in the Netherlands. But what can I say … I am a free-spirited robot that loves to keep busy!” (hitchBOT’s creators refer to her as “it,” but “it” has a distinctively female voice. And yep, you heard that right … hitchBOT speaks!)

hitchBOT is the brainchild of Dr. David Harris Smith, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies and Multimedia at McMaster University, and Dr. Frauke Zeller, Assistant Professor of Professional Communication at Ryerson University, who worked with a collaborative, interdisciplinary team of researchers from the fields of visual arts, engineering, computer science, and communication with an unusual goal in mind. “Usually, we are concerned whether we can trust robots,” says Zeller, “but this project takes it the other way around and asks: Can robots trust human beings?”

“We expect hitchBOT to be charming and trustworthy enough in its conversation to secure rides through Canada,” said Zeller at the beginning of the experiment. And, after the first three legs of her adventure, he reports, “hitchBOT was very well received as it made its way across Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands, proving that robots can, indeed, trust humans.”

Humans can pass hitchBOT along to another traveler, leave her at a restaurant or shop, or simply use her kickstand to leave her on the roadside with her thumb raised for a ride. “It has a really low-tech look to it, something we dubbed the ‘yard-sale aesthetic,'” said Harris Smith, to help deter thieves. “The head is actually an acrylic cake-saver. hitchBOT looks like somebody has cobbled together odds and ends, like pool noodles, bucket, cake saver, garden gloves, and Wellies.”

In her own words, hitchBOT adds, “I am approximately 3 feet tall and weigh about 25 pounds. I have camera vision, a microphone, and a speaker system, which gives me the ability to see, hear, and speak. I also have a sense of space, thanks to my 3G and GPS capabilities, and I am aware of where I am and where I want to go next. For my trip across America, my family has been kind enough to install a battery meter on my beer-bucket torso. It can tell my new friends how much energy I have left (so they can avoid a crankyBOT!) and whether it is difficult for me to understand them.”

image, http://m.hitchbot.me

On July 17, hitchBOT hit the road in America for a cross-country tour, starting at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. She’ll hitch her way to San Francisco, one ride at a time, to end up at the Exploratorium. In honor of her beer-bucket torso, she’s even prepared a bucket list of things she would like to see and do while traveling the U.S., including visiting Times Square in New York City, Millennium Park in Illinois, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, and the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

On your travels this summer, keep your eyes peeled for this unusual hitchhiker. And follow hitchBOT’s adventures at hitchBOT.me, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Rural TV

Hey, Jane!

Whether you’re out weeding the garden or haying the back 40, gather your gal pals and perk up your ears ’cause I have a nugget of news to share …

The Farmer’s Wife magazine, circa 1920

There’s a presidential election on the horizon.

“You called us in from the fields to announce the election, MJ?” sighs Jane. “Heck, every farmgirl from here to Hays knows THAT news. CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC … we hear the headlines, honey.”

Hold on, sisters.

The election isn’t my news (I knew you knew THAT news).

My news concerns your news—rather, where it comes from.

Come again?

The networks you mentioned (most networks, for that matter) are broadcast by mega media corporations, far and away from cropland, countryside, and rural citizens’ concerns. Urban journalists interview urbane politicians (including potential presidential candidates) who frequently focus on issues of interest to the metropolitan masses.

What say you? “Too true!”

Now that I’ve nabbed your attention, here’s my news for you to use:

RFD-TV, a 24-hour news network dedicated to rural programming via cable and satellite, just announced that it will expand into political coverage this month with a new series called “Rural Town Hall”. This hour-long show, scheduled to air on Monday and Thursday evenings, will feature one-on-one interviews with presidential hopefuls, targeting issues specific to agriculture, rural education, development, health care, and more.

“What’s really important to us is that no one perceives us as having a pony in this race,” Patrick Gottsch, founder and president of Rural Media Group, told Modern Farmer. “We’re not Republican, we’re not Democrat. We’re not liberal, we’re not conservative. We’re rural Americans, and we’re asking the questions that are important to rural America.”

Already thinking of questions you’d like to ask? Send ’em in!

That’s right—the network is gathering questions from viewers as well as organizations like the Future Farmers of America and 4-H. Contact the network here. Continue reading