A Tiny Homestead

We became homesteaders three years ago when we moved to our new home on a little over three acres. But, we were learning and practicing homesteading skills long before that. This podcast is about all kinds of homesteaders, and farmers, and bakers - what they do and why they do it. I’ll be interviewing people from all walks of life, different ages and stages, about their passion for doing old fashioned things in a newfangled way.

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Independence Gardens

21 minutes ago

21 minutes ago

Today I'm talking with Chonnie at Independence Gardens. You can follow them on Facebook as well.
00:00This is Mary Lewis at A Tiny Homestead, the podcast comprised entirely of conversations with homesteaders, cottage food producers, and crafters. If you're enjoying this podcast, please like, subscribe, share it with a friend, or leave a comment. Thank you. Today, I'm talking with Chonnie at Independence Gardens. Good morning, Chonnie. Good morning. How are you? I'm great. How are you? Good. Fantastic, actually. Good.
00:26I'm actually in Lewisville, Texas. So it's a town a little bit north of Dallas. It's kind of in a North Dallas area. Okay. I thought it was Texas, but I just wanted to make sure. All right. Well, tell me about yourself and Independence Gardens and what you guys do. So Independence Gardens is a local nonprofit that has roots in Lewisville, Texas. We've been around since 2013. And our overall mission is to provide children access to fresh food.
00:55through nutrition-based programs. And it includes sustainability programs. I was actually just recently had an opportunity to be at EarthX at 2024, that was held in Dallas. And I spoke about some of the programs that we had, specifically our Beanstalk project, which is our hydroponic system, which is a fairly new program for us. And so really it's just an opportunity for
01:22school communities to not only grow their own food, but to feed everyone in that school, in the heart of that school. And the program started in 2013. And I tell this story because nobody believes me. It started with a simple school lunch. And my daughter was in kindergarten at that time. And I just happened to be having lunch with her, of course, like everybody wants.
01:51first year of their child's public school years. And I remembered, right, our school lunch. I don't know if you remember your school lunch. Mine was like the best hamburger ever, right? It was the best hamburger I ever had. And, you know, everybody said it was kind of a hamburger, but not really a hamburger because it tasted like meat, but there were some additional fillers in it that made it. It was the best thing I remember when I was growing up.
02:17So when I had lunch with her and went through the line, she had, I remember this because she had chicken nuggets. She got her chocolate milk and it was green beans that did not look like green beans. And it was the weirdest color I'd ever seen. And I didn't really think much about it, but I should have had a warning when I went in to check in and the administrator asked me.
02:46if I brought her something to eat. And I'm like, absolutely not. I'm having lunch with her. And she said, well, maybe next time you can bring her something from either McDonald's or Chick-fil-A. And I'm like, that's odd. So as we went through the line and she kind of, you know, I saw these green beans. It was supposed to be green, but I don't know. I've never seen this color green beans before. She kind of picked her food a little bit, drank all of her chocolate milk of course.
03:14and basically threw about 80% of it away. I noticed that in every child around me as they threw away their food, and there was 80% of everything they had in their lunch tray they threw away. I understood why she was so hungry when she came home because she didn't eat. I left and I was checking out this administrator said,
03:42see maybe next time you need to bring her something else. And so I left that lunch. That's when I think the mission of the organization seeded itself because I could not consciously send my child to a place that is supposed to be the organization, the people that would nourish her mind and body when we can't even.
04:09solve the simplest things and that is what would they put in their body, right? To actually nourish their mind and get them on the path of success. And also, I couldn't believe that adults would actively say, I wouldn't eat that lunch. And then my thought is, then why are you feeding it to my child? So that's really, and I talk about her because she is going to be a senior this year, so she's graduating this year, and Independence Gardens started with her. And so that really just
04:37I surrounded myself with like-minded individuals and having a background in marketing and in health because I always say I started my journey in this sphere of food and health when I worked for the American Heart Association. So I was a marketing manager for them and I led part of the Heart Checkmark program. I don't know if you've ever seen it. It's on the...
05:05It's on the cheer-grows boxes and it's like a heart with a check mark on it. And so I was really plugged in with the importance of how food impacted your body. And also at that time as well, the school that she was in was 55% Title I school. So everyone and those children received free or reduced lunch.
05:33in food deserts. So believe it or not, there is still a food desert in the US and roughly, I think back then there was 44 communities in North Texas alone that really qualified for that. So that's really the background of who I am. I'm founder of Independence Gardens. I serve as founder and executive director. We are a fully volunteer organization. I have
06:01My amazing board members, some of them have been with me since 2013. So pretty, pretty long time. Because they believe as we do, right? If we can just give children access to fresh food, then they're able to make healthier food choices as they grow. And I am also on the flip side of that, I lead a pediatric organization locally.
06:31their ramifications when we do not feed our children the right kind of food. That's a lot, right? That's a lot. That's awesome though, because that was everything that I needed to know to keep asking questions. And to share two stories about school lunches. I'm going to share mine. I was in school, oh my goodness, I graduated over 30 years ago.
06:58I did not eat the school lunches because number one, I was a terribly picky child and did not like any foods. I was really skinny. And number two, I knew that if I bought a very fine juice and a single serving size bag of Doritos, I would still have $3 left at the end of each day. And I wanted pocket money more than I wanted lunch. So that worked out slick.
07:26And then the other story is my kids, two of my sons came home from school one day. I think the older one was still in middle school and the younger one was in elementary school. And they both came up to me and said, can we start taking lunches from the leftovers from dinner? And I said, of course you can. Why? And my older one said, because school lunches aren't food.
07:53And I thought, yeah, you can certainly start taking cold lunches to school. I didn't think they'd want to because I thought that they would think it wasn't cool to do that. But we got them some very neutral lunch box, soft sided lunch boxes, and they started taking leftovers from dinner the night before. And they were very happy with that because school lunches are not typically food. Isn't that crazy? That just blows my mind.
08:22I continuously hear stories like that. And it's actually, it's fairly recent too, I mean, because we have been around since 2013 and I've been advocating for ways for us to really address not only the school lunch issue and ensuring every child has access to fresh food, but the obesity epidemic as well.
08:52It's counterintuitive, right? If they don't have access to fresh food, then how are they obese? Well, it's actually interlinked because they're eating processed foods. Because first of all, it's a lot less expensive to purchase for a lot of these families. It's fresh food just basically rots a lot. It doesn't last as long as all the foods that they're buying.
09:19And we always get asked why schools, why even do it in that realm. And I like to kind of say schools are the heart of communities. Elementary schools are truly the heart of communities. They're full from different neighborhoods. They bring a lot of families together, a lot of different cultures. And I think in a lot of these kids, especially if they fall within the parameters of...
09:49free and reduced lunch, if they get SNAP benefits, then that's the only food that they get. Like 90% of what they eat, they get from school lunches. And so, whenever they're throwing 80% of that away, then they're literally not feeding their body anything. And so, as a parent, it really surprises me whenever we get those lovely letters saying,
10:15We're doing testing this week, right? You know, standardized testing this week. Please make sure that your child is getting sleep, that you're supportive of your child before it's successful. And then my pushback is, and why don't we look at whether we're feeding them in the morning? I mean, you cannot expect them to succeed when we're not even feeding them the right type of food and the right combination of food.
10:45to fuel their mind and their body. So that's been, and I mean, it's been an ongoing journey. So I didn't think I would still be here. If you would have asked me in 2013 what I would be doing in 2024, I'd probably say, I don't think I would be doing this. So this is a passion project for me, which is kind of why it's...
11:12My daughter is 17 and my other tier are not even elementary schools anymore, but I am actively still, I like to say, in the trenches and getting my hands dirty. As we're putting together outdoor learning spaces, edible spaces through our Apple project or going and talking and actively talking about the newest initiative, which is the Beanstalk Project, which is our hydroponic systems that we're putting in schools, because we have to be actively.
11:42involved in not only teaching our children the link between food security and water sustainability, because it's so interlinked right now. And it's that our population is just going to get bigger and our water resources shrinking. So we really have to find ways to be able to feed not only the population, our communities.
12:09but also in a responsible and sustainable way. And the food thing for me, by the way, it's not just about the growing because we have our Come and Eat It program, which is our chef driven program that we created in 2014 as a trademark program for us. And I have a lot of chef friends. And so I've been in the industry. So I understand their passion for ensuring and especially creating fresh food. And so since
12:37I think this past May, it's kind of our first post-COVID event that we've done. We had over 825 kids participate. And so we hold it one day out of the year. And this year we just pushed it back to National Nutrition Month, which is March. And so our goal is to really take that program nationally and that it's a program that every elementary school can have access to in the future. So that, you know, that we have, we have a ton happening and it's all...
13:06I really, I love to talk about my board because they're kind of the heart of who we are and without their passion and because there's a lot of good people and humans out there that are really passionate about ensuring children are equipped with all the resources they need to succeed. And part of that is ensuring healthy nutrition that goes into their body as well. Absolutely. I agree a million percent with you.
13:36Not just 100, a million. That's how big. How big I agree with you. Yes. So are you only in Texas or is this outside, is it the whole United States? So we're based in Texas, but our program is national. So we were built, we were founded on the premise that we would be a national program. We are in conversations with some school districts in Arizona.
14:05And that's kind of where our foray is. And we actually, we work directly with the school district, because if we can get the buying from the school districts and then it's easier to get it into every school, right? So it doesn't really cost any of the schools to get our programs in place. They just have to want it. And so we work with them. And it's an easy sell, right? But then you would think it's an easy sell.
14:34But it's the hardest thing to kind of get into schools. And I understand that and I get that because the school gardening, I like to say, is not a new thing. It's been around for forever. The reason that we're a little bit different is we build it on relationships. We're very relationship and collaborative driven, meaning that when we go into a school, we actively build a community.
15:00And we stay for three years. We have a commitment to stay with the school for three years. And that includes funding if it's available for them for the entirety of the three years. And, um, and then we, we continue to keep them in our network until they tell us to leave, right? Um, so we're able to bring this program because our, I always like to say is, um,
15:25You have to think big, especially when you're a nonprofit. Whenever I think whenever you minimize the way you're thinking, you just don't grow as an organization. And they are, I just, I just did this study the other day, cause I wanted to kind of see there's over, I want to say 60,000 plus elementary schools in the country. And we need to be in every one of them. Um, the reason I say that is because if we're in every one of them, then
15:54communities automatically have access to fresh food. And that's really what we are. I'm not going out and saying, you know, a company needs to change the way they do business because we have active partners in Aramark. So Aramark is a food service provider in K-12 here in some school districts in Texas. And there are active partners that we partner with them on ensuring food is readily available. And we're collaborating with Come and Eat It.
16:23And we're actually going to be doing a chef battle. This is the first time we're announcing it in this kind of format. The chef battle is called Food Fight 2024. And a food fight is going to be held at a local elementary school. And we're actually going to be sending out a national invitation next week to chefs to come in for this event. And they will be creating a dish.
16:53that is within the parameters of the National School Lunch Program, even down to the dollar amount that every child gets. There's going to be a secret ingredient because I have a lot of chefs that are competitive. They're going to have about roughly 45 minutes to an hour to create the dish in the school cafeteria kitchen. They get to present their food to
17:23third, fourth and fifth graders, because they're at the end of the day, they're the ones that's going to eat it. The reason we're putting this event is twofold, right? Like I say, you're asking if it's national. The fresh food access is a national problem. We have to really address it. The reason we're doing it is because it's twofold. We want to see if the current dollar amount that is being given to children when it comes in that the food program for in-school lunches is sufficient. Is it sufficient?
17:53Or, I think they just came down with new guidelines when it comes to, I want to say sugar and salt. And so, are those guidelines acceptable? And can we actively work with local farmers, with local organizations that are doing amazing work when it comes to sustainability, food access, whatever that looks like? And can...
18:21Can organizations, companies like Aramark or school districts actively partner and bring in more fresh food for these kids? How does that look like? And then if it's not, and if it's a total waste and these kids say, we hate this food, then we know, okay, then let's start the conversation is how do we increase the per child amount when it comes to fresh food?
18:49To me, it's kind of the cost of not doing that is astronomical because obesity costs, from a healthcare perspective, by the way, because I've seen the numbers, it costs the healthcare industry over a billion dollars in obesity alone. And that is coming from those preventable diseases like diabetes.
19:18heart disease and things of that nature that could be prevented when they're younger. But we don't look at it that way. We are actively doing things to what I like to say to put a band-aid on the problem versus just ripping the freaking band-aid off. Let's look at it. Let's just put things in place.
19:48work and the most impactful solutions are never the easy ones. So yeah, absolutely. So I love what you're telling me and that's awesome. But my next question is with your program, how does this work? Are the kids growing food to have in their school lunches at their schools on their school property or how does this work?
20:18So our Apple project is our, what we call our outdoor edible learning spaces. And we positioned it that way because whenever you say that there is a learning component to something, then teachers tend to buy in a little bit more, right? It's not extra work on them at all.
20:43And so whenever a school comes to us, say, hey, we want one of your programs in our school, I said, okay, and they want the outdoor learning space, the Apple project. We always build to scale. Like if there is a thousand kids in that school, we will build a big enough raised bed system that every child will have a 12 by 12. So each child will experience square foot gardening in their school, right?
21:10And so, and that's because, and we teach those concepts. So those concepts that we teach. So they'll grow it and then depending, it really is depending on partnerships. So in our agreement, we always say that we want them to be able to raise edible, whether it's fruits, vegetables, herbs, whatever. And then they're able to either take that home, they're able to do cooking programs in their school with it. So they're able to work with
21:37either their in-house school lunch program provider or like with Aramark, Aramark does a lot of food tastings when it comes to our products. So they'll do tastings at the school. I think they're going to do one with the hydroponic system, whatever they're going there. So they're going to do food tastings on that. And they're able to utilize that. And it's an active partnership because whenever we started this program,
22:06The school district was really hesitant, right? Because they weren't really sure, like why would we need that specifically? And they thought that it would be detrimental for the kids to be able to use the product. But I'm like, and I couldn't understand that reasoning. And then, but as we act, as we collaborated and our partnership grew, they really understood the importance of growing it, taking it home, and then doing cooking programs. So they do cooking programs
22:36of our products. They can use it if like because our hydroponic systems are located in the cafeteria so they can actively see it. The kids are able to pick off of that and eat it if they choose to do that. And if there is enough of the product is really kind of, you know, the concern is if there is enough product, then they're able to really utilize that in what they are serving.
23:05So, and if they don't use it, then families are able to go into the schools and bring it home. So, it is always a community garden-ish for us. We want to make sure that it's open to the parents. And so, the kids can actively go out there. And if they're out there learning about the root system and they just happen to see a strawberry growing, then they're able to pick that food and eat it, right? That's really the intent of that.
23:34And also, because if we're doing an outdoor space with them, we automatically build, we automatically plant an orchard for them. So we have, it's always six different fruit trees that we plant on their campuses. And so that way the families and anyone really can go in and grab the fruit that's growing. And a lot of our campuses do that. Like they actively will tell their...
24:03students or and then their teachers in their community, they'll send out information to their school community to come and get some food. And so, and then they're actively eating it. So one of our campuses is in Central Elementary. They have a couple of raised beds that they've done and that we've supported, we've actively supported this year. And that one is purely community.
24:30The kids can eat from it. They can use it if they want to in the cafeteria. Their families can come and get that food. We actively say use the food. What they don't use, because it's built into our agreement, 10% needs to be donated to a local food program.
24:58a percentage of what they're growing to a local food program as well. Okay. So who tends to these gardens and to the fruit trees? So we have, we actively work with their volunteers. So whenever we go into a school, we create what we call a team. So one of our board members will always sit on a quarterly meeting with
25:24their principal, a PTA or PTO member, and then the teachers that are either championing this on their campus. And the reason that we do that is because we know that their PTA, PTO members will always volunteer. So we do help them with that. We provide them with guidelines on
25:48This is seasonally what you can plant. This is kind of how when you can harvest. We provide seeds, we provide all of that if we have a signed agreement with that campus. So who takes care of it is the, let's say a fourth grade class will actively have a bed out there and then they'll come out there and they'll plant. And because it just directly aligns with what they're learning,
26:18then they're utilizing it both as a learning opportunity as well as a way to tend the garden. And some of our campuses have had afterschool programs or they've incorporated it in their 4-H program and they're the ones that take care of those gardens or those spaces in their campuses. So the kids are learning life skills, they're learning math, they're learning science, biology, they're learning.
26:45words because they have to be able to read the packages of the seeds to know what they're supposed to do with them. So it's just like a little microcosm of education outside at the raised bed. It is. And I think COVID really kind of gave us an opportunity to showcase the importance of being outside, right? And it's because for a while there, we were just all in inside. And I laugh because when we first put the program in...
27:15A teacher says, oh, great. We can teach our kindergartners the difference in the root system after they go to Google. I'm like, why would you go to Google? Go outside. Go outside and take out a plant and then draw it that way. Draw it and then you can actually actively teach them how to do that. Which is kind of why it's called an Outdoor Edible Learning Space.
27:44They get to do everything out there. I always like to say is, if you're in art class, go outside, draw something. Then you're getting not only that natural sunlight that we always do, everybody's saying that everybody's lacking vitamin D because the lack of sun that a lot of our kids are getting, but they get to be immersive and it's experiential learning. It's always, and they get the concepts a lot faster.
28:13Like they can tell you the root system because they picked the plant, they touched it, they felt it, and especially if it's basil or mint or something that smells great. So all of a sudden, it's sensory learning, right? And you're learning, you're using all of your senses to learn a single concept. And so children learn a lot faster that way.
28:39And we're seeing that, and which is why a lot, all of our programming actually is built on the experiential approach and that it's immersive. And so to us, that's the only way that they will actively embrace the program and they'll have fun with it because you have to have fun, right? I think that fun makes learning a whole lot easier. Yes. So. Yes. Okay. The elementary school that my kids went to. Mm-hmm.
29:08The principal that was there when they were in school, I cannot remember her name and I love her. It makes me crazy that I can't remember her name right now. She started an outdoor garden for the school. It wasn't to feed the school, it wasn't to feed the community, but it was to have the kids have a chance to learn about how to grow food in a raised bed garden. It wasn't as big as what you're talking about, but she started that.
29:37And she also started a backpack program for the weekends for kids that were on the free and reduced lunch scale. And some of the foods that they grew went home in the backpacks for the kids. So I have a tiny little experience with this, of your program on a much smaller scale. And I loved what she was doing and I love what you're doing. And
30:05We actually are going to be doing a farm to school thing on our homestead this fall, I think. I think. A principal of a private school emailed me a couple years ago and said, could you supply us with leafy greens, carrots, and radishes for the school year, for salads for the kids? And I'm in Minnesota. We don't grow those things in the wintertime because it's frozen here.
30:35So I'm not going to get into this too much because I've already talked about it a lot on the podcast, but we got a grant to build a heated winter greenhouse and the greenhouse framing is up. We have to get it sited in and roofed. And then this fall we can extend our growing and grow lettuces and baby spinach and carrots and radishes for the school. So we're doing our little tiny part too to try to help.
31:03When I talked with the principal, I said, you might want to approach some other places that are doing what we're doing because we're not going to be able to grow enough for all your kids. Right. And he said, I already have emails out. I was like, good, keep doing that. So you're not the only one who thinks this is important. And I didn't think that you thought that you were the only one. There are lots and lots of people who want to see things like this happen all over the place.
31:30And you know what I think that, and I've been kind of thinking about this because, um, so I'm very big on collaboration, like so, so big on collaboration. It's not even funny. And, and, um, I, I see the passion and the work that a lot of these nonprofits are doing, like there are so many of them.
31:54And but I've seen this in kind of the corporate world that sometimes we all get caught up in our little silos, right? And then we kind of like, oh, this is my program. This is, you know, what we do. I'm not going to share it because if I share it, then I'll share the additional resources. But what I've found out is, is that when we work together and we work collectively, we could do so much more.
32:24I've been actually thinking about, and maybe we did something that maybe you and I can maybe work on, is there is an EarthX, right? Maybe there's already something like this, and I don't know. I could be like, oh, you're recreating a wheel. EarthX started by Trammell S. Crow here in Dallas, Fort Worth, and it really brings, it started to kind of bring in all of the individuals, all the brains that it's trying to look at sustainability. But I think there's an opportunity to do it when it comes to food access.
32:54when it comes to what we're doing. And so I would like to put together like a conference so we could like collectively see what we could do to kind of move the needle. Because I think that, I don't think we're moving the needle fast enough, right? And I think the reason why we're not moving the needle fast enough is because we're all working individually. Like, and...
33:22I am the first person to say, man, if one of my volunteers, or donors would wanna support what you're doing, more power to you. Because if you're doing things in your world that is going to impact someone, and I think that is more important than having me keep that donor, right? And it's interesting, my board is like, Shawnee, stop saying that. I was like, no, but I absolutely believe that.
33:51that I think that the reason that we are not moving the needle, not only on food access, but on obesity is because we're doing it all wrong. We are literally doing it by ourselves and it's individualistic. And it's really hard for organizations to say, I want to actively collaborate with you. And my thing is, is like, I want to actively collaborate with you. How do I do that? How do I find partnership?
34:20And so one of the things we kind of started that with a local organization here. And I think she, Elizabeth Dry, if you've not heard, she has an organization called Promise of Peace. And she started in Dials for Worth. She moved to Mineola and she's doing amazing things in that little town in East Texas. She reached out to us because she knew she was moving and she wanted us to see what you think, continue her work here. Absolutely. But then we actively started helping support what she's doing in Mineola.
34:49And that was different for us because we're like, man, we're actively supporting another organization. I'm like, well, the reason that we're doing that is because we may not reach where she is in that community, but with our support, we're actively doing and helping her with her mission, right, in that realm. And so she's doing the similar things that we're doing, but we're actively partnering with her to do that.
35:17And then I really honestly think that there is an opportunity for us to get together and just specifically target that one thing when it comes to food access. And there is a nugget and a way to do that. But I'm happy to hear that people, that schools are reaching out to you because I think that's important.
35:47say, let's all get together and like, let's figure this out. And then if we could do that, then I think that we can move the needle a lot faster. Yeah, absolutely. Because the more bodies and the more minds that are aligned and working together, the more things get done. Yes, yes. It's so hard when it's just one or two people trying to do backbreaking, frustrating work and
36:15gardening can be backbreaking and paperwork for an organization can be the most frustrating thing on earth. So if you've got a bunch of people who are willing to balance and share the load, it makes it so much more doable. Yeah. And I think that there are opportunities and so I've been really thinking about that. One of those things that you kind of have to start thinking about.
36:43making choices when you're listening to your head, your heart and your gut, kind of, you know, what is it, what it's saying. And it's been kind of leading me to that point where I'm like, I think we need to actively get together and, you know, and, and, and, and, and partner with organizations that so we can, we can impact each other's mission and we can make an impact on that. So we're actually doing that. And we have an event that we're doing in June.
37:10And it is through a film called A Fine Line. So A Fine Line is a documentary by Joanna James, and she is an amazing individual that's out of New York. And it is actually looking at the hospitality and restaurant industry and how the needle has not moved for executive female chefs.
37:37it is harder for them to get an executive chef role because they're female. And it's called the fine line of women's spaces in the kitchen. And so we partnered with her five years ago. I think we brought Kat Korra in for our coming edit program. And we just ended when all of this was in my head and starting to kind of like, how do we collaborate at the Universal Line and we're bringing the film back here. I think they are going to be, PepsiCo is bringing the film down here for them. And we're doing a co-fundraising event that night.
38:07not only to highlight how they're empowering women in that role, but how fresh fruit access and what they do really aligns. It's in that alignment that I think works well with organizations like that. I'd love to see alignments happen like that all over the place.
38:36courageous enough to say, okay, I can do that. I'm not, you know, we can grow a lot better as an organization if we actively align. And I went to a breakfast where there was a nonprofit consultant there that says nonprofits will only grow if they align. Like, you have to align. I mean, you cannot, we cannot sit in our silos because we can't grow as much as we want to grow.
39:06So I would love to find ways to kind of align with individuals that you have been around. Because our goal is to take this program nationally and we want to be in 60,000 of the elementary schools. That is our goal. And so we're going to reach it and we're going to reach it one way or the other. And if that's through alignment, then I think we have succeeded. Yeah. Yep. Again.
39:35million percent agree with you. But it's hard, right? It's so difficult. It is hard because people are afraid of change. I'm not. I'm really not afraid of the unknown. My husband, on the other hand, is terrified of the unknown. Yeah, so is my husband. Isn't that crazy? And I don't know if it's a male-female thing or if it's just a him thing. But I'm the one who's always like, I was thinking we should do this.
40:05And he goes, no. And I know that he's afraid and I say, okay. And then I just work on him for a little while and I just here and there bring up things that I read about the thing that I think we should do. And so and so has tried this part of the thing I wanted to do and this is how it went. And eventually he thinks it's his idea and then he wants to do it. Wow. Yeah. And then he's not afraid of it anymore. But...
40:33But honestly, people are terrified of change. You get comfortable in the way that things are done and you stay there. And also people are terrified at the work involved in changing their paradigm. Yeah. So that's where the pushback comes from, I feel like. Is, and you know, and I...
40:59When I am sitting in a room of leaders and we're doing coaching and I'm talking about how they grow as an individual, we always talk about fear. Fear is one of those things that a lot of leaders and a lot of individuals will tell you is the number one thing that really holds back their growth.
41:28And so I have, I've read a book on John Maxwell where he's talking about failing forward, right? And so failing forward is a way for you to push through that fear. Because if you know that you're going to, because I think it's not even about the fear. I think it's the fear of not doing well in failure. Like it's, as humans, I think we don't like
41:56the option of feeling. And we intrinsically, as individuals, we say, oh my gosh, I'm failing, then I must not be doing well. But I think that there are lessons to be learned in failure. And so, and I didn't fail, but if you can fail forward and keep moving, then fear is just an afterthought, right? You're like, but it's hard because I, trust me, I wake up.
42:25some days when I'm like, I don't know if I'm doing this right. I don't know if I'm doing this correctly. I don't know why I'm doing this. And those thoughts come through my head. And then I meet people like you. And people like you will actively reach out in moments that I'm hesitating or I question what I'm doing correctly or incorrectly. But I think the universe puts people in your path.
42:55And especially if it's something that God has said that this is something that you will do because you will make an impact and sometimes you just have to stay on that path even if it's hard. It's always about the journey and we forget that sometimes. We always want the end result, right? But I think the fun is in the journey.
43:23But it's always the hardest, right? It's fun, but it's hard and you hate it when you're doing it. But when you're at the end of it, you're like, okay, that was hard, but now I'm here. But you're right. The fear, I think, is one of those things that even as individuals, whether or not we're leaders in our community or kids, like teaching kids to push their fears is really hard and difficult too. But when you garden though...
43:53It teaches you failure when you're like, okay, why is that thing not growing? Or what did I do wrong? And you start thinking of ways to kind of fix it and you start thinking outside the box. And I think that I always like to say is gardening for me and I was just out there this morning because I was planting lavender. I was like, okay, how do I?
44:19know, how do I do it? And you kind of get lost in that zone of, I got to think this through. But what I was actually doing is I got to think through this problem. I don't know what I'm doing. But you're right. Yeah. So fear is fear, but if we can kind of push through it, I think we're better off. Yeah. Gardening is the thing that will teach you the high of success and the low
44:48A failure. Yep, absolutely. And also, I think that people are afraid to make the big ask. I was talking with a lady months ago, and she's a celebrity in Twin Cities, Minneapolis, St. Paul.
45:09And she's on TV. And I had sent her an email because I saw something about her being big into gardening and homesteading and stuff. And I asked her to be a guest on my podcast. And I'm a baby podcaster. I just started this in August last year. And it felt like a big ask to email her cold and just say, this is what I'm doing. Would you chat with me? And she did. She went on my podcast. Her episode's released. Her name is Elizabeth Reese. She is the nicest woman. And she...
45:37I talked to her after and I said, I didn't think you'd say yes. And she said, oh, she said, always go for the big ask. She said, what's the worst that happens? The person says no. Right? And so I like hitched up my big girl pants and I emailed Joel Salatin, who is big in the homesteading and gardening and farming community. And I said, I'd really love to talk to someone from Polyphase Farms, which is his place.
46:06on my podcast about what you're doing. Joel emailed me directly back and said that he would be honored and delighted to be on my podcast. I almost fell out of my chair. I was so excited I had tears in my eyes because I did the big ask and I got a yes and it's out and it's wonderful and he's a super nice man. If you had asked me last year at this time, if I had ever thought about speaking with Joel Salatin,
46:35on a podcast, I would have laughed myself stupid. So it's fear. It's thinking that you're going to be rejected or you're going to get hurt or you're going to die. And none of those things is probably going to happen. No, it's really not. So I tell my daughter all the time, I said, ask. What are they going to do? Say no? Then if they say no, find somewhere else because...
47:03The no is not a no. No is just an unopened door somewhere else. I mean, that's all it is. And so, but you know what though, sometimes that's kind of intrinsically, I was introduced when I spoke a few years ago, somebody says, no is not in her vocabulary. It's true, it's not. And said, but man, whenever I get the, it feels like the 10th no ever,
47:32You're like, okay, maybe I'm doing this wrong. But it's that fear, right? I think we are our own worst enemy all the time. But I'm glad that you took that leap because that shows courage and I'm glad that you did that. So I'm very happy to hear that they're saying yes because
47:58And what it is though is, and you are surrounding yourself with passionate people like you are. I am. That could only be the best thing. Only best things will happen when you do that. Yeah. I am so grateful and so astounded at the number of people who have been like, yes, I would love to talk with you. And it really has nothing to do with me.
48:27It has everything to do with them. People who love what they're doing want to share about it. Yes, but I think more so is that when they share their journey and their passion and other people hear it, it gives those people listening to it the courage to do what they wanna do, right? Yes.
48:50And so, which is, I'm kind of glad that you reached out because I would, like, I can talk about this program all day long, but I think more so is that what I hear all the time is, we hear how passionate you are about your program. And it makes me think about some of the things that I want to do and I'm passionate about. And it kind of gives them that courage to try it, right? Because then they're pushing through the fear.
49:19So I think what you're doing is amazing first and foremost, because you're not only putting yourself out there, but you are giving a platform for individuals to be brave enough to talk about their passion and be open with you on why they're doing what they're doing and how you guys can do it together. So I just wanna thank you for doing exactly what you're doing. So.
49:49Well, you are absolutely welcome and I love what I'm doing and I keep saying that on any time this comes up, people are like, thank you for doing what you're doing. I'm like, I'm doing it because I'm selfish. I love doing this. And it's okay to be selfish. It's okay to do that. It's okay to say, you know what, I'm doing what I love and I'm like, great. So yeah, no, I just, I know how hard it is to get the word out about whatever it is that you're doing. And we went through it last year.
50:18We started a business, we were selling lip balms and candles and homemade cold press, lie process, whatever soap, and selling at the farmers market and selling at our farm stand. And I'm not going to lie, we did not make a whole lot of money because trying to market yourself with a low budget is not the easiest thing ever. And I was like, if I was having trouble getting the word out, I know everybody else is having trouble.
50:46I'm going to start a podcast and let people talk about what they do because that seems like a brilliant idea. It is. And it is a brilliant idea. So it's actually an amazing idea. And I'm glad that you're doing that because then whatever... Because people always ask about the podcast that has been kind of brewing on our end. I'm like, I don't have the time for that right now. Clearly, it's just not happening right now. But then...
51:14I'm getting connected with people like you and then I see the value of that. So I may come and ask you to come be on our podcast to let us know what you're doing when it comes to homesteading because I'm not very familiar with that, by the way. Like homesteading, I need to be more familiar with that. I don't exactly know what goes into that. I can nutshell it for you. Homesteading is wanting to do everything yourself so that you don't have to pay the man.
51:43for what you need. It really is. I honestly we and the thing that I'm discovering is that a lot of the people that I have interviewed, they had a need that needed to be filled that they could fill themselves. Like I talked to a lady who has a kid who has like psoriasis or eczema or something and they couldn't find anything on the market to ease that up.
52:13And so she made her own lotions and her own soaps and it helped. And then people were like, can I buy some from you for mine? And it was just a need that they had that they figured out how to fix for themselves and then other people wanted the thing they made. And I may have to get that from you because my daughter has eczema and it's so, she's had it for forever. So, but.
52:39I love that because my husband and I were just talking about the possibility of like, what about home setting? Because there's a good thing that can you do that? And so I don't know. I don't know if because we kind of live in like a suburban area in North, far North Dallas. So I guess I should go ahead and research what would give us, you know,
53:06homesteading, right? And so, you know, what would that look like? And so, because he's like, you're turning the backyard into a farm. Uh-huh. I said, yes, I am. Can I have chickens too? I don't know. And so, he's like, I don't think we can do that. So, I don't know if HOA will allow to do that. So, I have to look into that because I am, like one of the things that, just from a personal perspective, I want to do is, because my mom is a doctor, by the way, and that's kind of how I'm going
53:36I got into the whole herbal thing, the herbal medication that has been around for thousands of years, right? I want to be able to build that. I want to be able to build it and then take it to a school like, you know, schools in Arizona and say, let's see what the Native Americans in this area were using for thousands of years when it comes to medication.
54:01And so I'm getting all these books because I want to be able to recreate it and say, okay, I don't necessarily, if I have a headache, I can just make this tea and then I can brew it because it's been shown by thousands of years of trials that that's what they did. And so that's what I'm doing. So that's one of my personal things because I'm all about...
54:29seeing if I can impact my health because I, I, I, unfortunately I have, I'm pre-pregnancy dispositioned because of my family for like type two diabetes, heart disease, et cetera, and things like that. So I want to be able to say, okay, I can't believe that there is not something in nature that can help that or even help alleviate it. So I'm not so dependent on medication, right? I just, I don't want to do that. So if you know of someone, because I'm really putting this together and I'm...
54:56documenting it and then I want to be able to put it as part of what Independence Gardens does that we're culturally really exploring how they're impacted, how different cultures have impacted food in a positive way when it comes to health. Yeah. You don't want to know. Let me know. So, I'm looking. Okay. I want you to come back a year from now and talk to me because I want to see what you're up to a year from now. Okay. So, we'll have to do that.
55:25And we're almost at an hour and I try to keep these to half an hour, but I didn't want to cut you off because this was really fun and really interesting. Sorry, I left the talk. You should have cut me off at 30 minutes. No, no, no, no. No, it's fine. If I needed to, I would have. Okay. So, Chonnie, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me and I'm so impressed with what you've started with Independence Gardens. Thank you. And thank you for that. And I look forward to talking to you in a year.
55:53Yes, I will. We'll get it on the calendar at some point. I won't forget. I promise. Okay. I guess I should say, if you want to get to know our program, go to inde That would be good, right? Because my team was like, did you even mention the website? I'm like, yes, I did at the very end. I did. I promise. Yeah. And I'll put it in the description for the show too. So it'll be there. I appreciate you so much. So thank you for what you're doing. And if there is an opportunity for me to be able to help you in the future, please reach out and let me know.
56:23I'd be more than happy to do that. All right, thank you, Johnnie. Have a great day. Thank you, Mary. Have a good one. Bye.

4 days ago

Today I'm talking with self-described "A-team" of Egidio and Elisa Tinti, and Ryan, and Julie at New Beginnings Farmstead. You can follow them on Facebook as well.
00:00This is Mary Lewis at A Tiny Homestead, the podcast comprised entirely of conversations with homesteaders, cottage food producers, and crafters. Today I'm talking to the team from New Beginnings Farmstead. Why don't you guys introduce yourselves? I'm Elisa Tinti. And I'm Julie Noble. Ryan Kuhn. And Jiddy Tinti. Okay. So now that we've done that, I have never interviewed four people in a group at the same time, so this is going to be fun.
00:27Tell me about what you guys do at New Beginnings Farms, Ted. Are you, Alisa? Well, we are about 130 acres in upstate New York, and we purchased this farm in 2015. At the time, we were not married, and we were looking for someplace that was between both of our homes so that we could start a life together. And my husband was...
00:55born and raised up in the mountains and I was born and raised in the city of Kingston. So we had many challenges when we bought this farm. Okay. And so what did you want the farm for? What was your plan? We just wanted a place kind of in between where I was living at the time and where she was living in the city. A true city mouse, country mouse type of situation. I grew up around bears and snakes.
01:24farm folk and firewood and she thought not she did not. That's correct. So when we when we bought the farm, one of the first things, of course, you know, we're walking around looking at the place and it had been a dairy farm for probably over 100 years and sat vacant for about 10 years. And everything was pretty overgrown. And one of the things that I thought of right away with one of our very large barns was to have a wedding venue and.
01:55My husband, well, at the time we weren't married, but he said out loud, who in the world would want to be married in a barn? And little did he know that a year later, he'd be getting married in a barn. But that's how we met our friend here, Ryan Coon, who is now part of our family. Okay. So what do you guys do now? You host weddings, right? Host weddings. And our main...
02:22Agricultural production revolves around firewood and maple syrup. We have a decent size maple collection system in place. Julie signed on that way. That's how she came on. Her current position, full-time job, gives us a tremendous amount of knowledge. She brings knowledge to the farm that, short of us identifying maple trees, a lot of the maple production that we've started with was small.
02:48We still consider ourselves small as compared to some of the other ones, but we're up to over 500 taps and our collection system is running on vacuum. Every year, the four of us go up to a conference in upstate New York and we learn more and more and more and add more and more and more. I think of the entire team, I'm the only one that wants to stop or slow down our production.
03:17the three of them out in the woods with their hard hats on, tapping trees and having a good old time. And you can see the smiles on their faces just thinking about it. And in the Sugar Shack, it's really a Ryan show. He's the one who's got the evaporator under control. Okay, so what's Julie's background? I am a sustainability coordinator, but my background is in environmental education. So
03:43teaching about the outdoors, getting people outdoors. And I had some, I worked on another nature center before this and was doing maple production there as well and teaching about maple. So I came into an operation that was already well run and I feel as though I brought a little bit of fun and a little bit of knowledge and some organizational skills that maybe needed to be upped a little bit here. That's true. Everything's about a checklist, check boxes, whiteboards. We are
04:13very efficient when it comes to planning and test management. There's lots of singing and dancing and having a good time. Right, Ryan? Well, life is nothing without music. That's true. So Ryan is our sugar maker. He kind of took under his wing. So our first evaporator was really an old wood stove that we converted. Lisa and I tried to do it up in, I say the country, but about 20 minutes away from here where my family was...
04:43born and raised and we did some maple. It was fun. She got the bug once she entered that small batch of syrup in our local county fair and won, took home the blue ribbon. And at that point she considered herself a sugar maker and wanted to increase. So we built our first evaporator, old school, took a, you know, everything's about recycle, we knew we'd use. And we took an old oil tank and lined it, put a draft system in it, researched it, talked to a bunch of people.
05:10welded the pants together and started making maple on a very small batch system. And over the time we just outgrew it because they kept tapping trees without my knowledge. And we had way too much sap collected and not enough time to burn it, to boil it. So, you know, and, you know, we still use a wood fire evaporator. So a lot of that is, is, you know, the team you see really cuts the firewood, splits the firewood, stacks the firewood, moves the firewood.
05:38And then ultimately the last person to handle it before it goes into the evaporator is Ryan. And he has a pretty good system in place where he's constantly keeping the heat, monitoring the flame, got a good temperature control. And we've kind of modernized the system over the years. And at this point, I dare say fun, but it can be humorous at times. Yeah. There's an old saying about firewood heats you at least three times. That's right. At least twice we used to hear. Yeah, that's true.
06:07Okay. So you're in, are you in New York? New York. Upstate New York. Okay. And does Ryan want to say anything or is he the child of one of the bunch? I'm not the one that talks a lot. That's okay. That's fine. I just do the work. Yeah. Well, he's got plenty to say. He's got plenty to say. Ryan, Ryan showed up one day with his then fiance and they came here to.
06:36look around because they were looking for a place to get married. And that was in 20 probably 2016 when you showed up. Yeah, the end of 2016 I came down. My now wife said, let's go look at this place. I want to get married in a barn and have a country style wedding. And because she grew up in the country, I grew up in the country. So we roll in and it's it's raining in the driveway. It's a sheet of ice. And this poor guy is just wandering around and.
07:04trying to figure out what to do next. And they kept telling us, we're gonna do so much before you get married and we have all this work to do, all these projects to do, it's gonna be beautiful. So in thinking about it, I said, well, that's a lot of work. And I have a construction background as well. And seeing all the stuff that needed to be done, I said, I'd love to give you a hand. Do you think we could barter on this for the venue?
07:32This guy was a little reluctant because about six months later, five months later, I just showed up one day because Lisa said, he's not going to ask for the help. He just come. So I'm sad today. I showed up with my tools and that's really where it began. I never left. Never left. He quickly became part of, part of the family. We do have a very large extended, what we call our farm family.
08:01which everybody really helps out with doing everything for maple sugar and for the wedding events as well. And what this is what we call the A-Team. This is our core four, actually five, are my brother-in-law. Jeff is not with us today, but he's normally with us quite a bit. And so this is what we refer to as our A-Team.
08:31There's nothing we don't tackle. Electrical work, plumbing work, any type of construction, excavation. I mean, and you know, we don't hire anybody to do anything. We do it. Something needs to be built or moved or, you know, at one point Ryan was tied up on something. We were moving the chicken coop up the driveway. Julie wasn't one tractor and at least in the other. And I'm trying to direct them up this long driveway without falling to pieces and they made it. The driveway got chewed up into a couple of things.
09:00Without chickens in it just yes they are. No chickens were damaged. Yeah and you know we for a long time we had bees unfortunately that's last past winter took its toll on the last hive but we plan on having those back but yeah with you know 100 plus acres part of that about 20 of those acres is a solar field that we put in a two megawatt solar field in the back. We were believers in renewable energy and sustainability.
09:29before Julie entered the picture, but now it's clearly driven by a lot of that. We use, when we can, solar and charged battery backup vacuum systems for some of the lines in the back. And every time we install one, she claps her hand and gets excited and does a little sun dance. But it was... And she does all of our Girl Scout tours. And she is known for her enthusiasm. And people actually ask for her by name now because she is pretty animated with her.
09:59with her tours. We all play a very distinct role here on the farm and none of the pieces would come together if we all didn't work together on it. That's fantastic. They say that it takes a village to raise a child. I think it takes a village to run a farmstead too. That's right. And this is not even our full-time job. This is not what we do for a living. That's right. Yeah, we all have full-time jobs, right? This is all in addition. But we say we put in full-time hours, right? Every time. There's something going on almost every day.
10:28The idea to try to do more is never without suggestion. People come here, and although I refer to my wife as the mastermind, and I suggest, we have quite a few visitors, especially during the Maple Weekends, New York State Maple Producers, their association holds two weekends in March, and they promote Maple Weekend. We have, dare say, thousand people come over those two weekends, and mostly from New York City, since we're pretty close.
10:58And we give them tours, we talk about the process, we have a gift shop set up, and it just amazes me how many people really have no idea about maple production, you know? And if you're raised in the city, I can understand it a lot better now, but yeah, the first time I tapped a tree for my wife, she saw that stuff dripping out, she's like, this is great, but it's kind of thin.
11:21It's not like that. It's not quiet. Yeah, it's gonna take a little while. I still have trouble identifying maple trees. And I joke, when Julie's not giving the tour and Ryan is busy running the evaporator and so somehow my name gets thrown into it. When I give a tour, I start the conversation with my wife's from the city. She doesn't understand. I mean, we got here, she said, hey, is this a maple tree? And I go, no, that's an oak. What about this one? That's a birch. What about that one? I said, that's a telephone.
11:49I appreciate that. There's a lot of camaraderie around here. A lot of teasing. There's a lot of ball-busting. That was fun though. Unless we pick on Ryan. We're trying to get his feelings. You guys definitely sound like East Coast folk. I'm originally from Maine. And the camaraderie
12:19amongst you reminds me a lot of the stuff that I used to have when I lived there too. Do you miss it a little bit? A lot, I do. I do, but Minnesota is not the same, but I call it a lateral move because really, Minnesota has the same weather, we have pretty much the same trees, we have the same grass, we have the same sky. I'm just not half an hour from the ocean and half an
12:49So that's how I breathe through my sadness. But yeah, it's weird because the East Coast has a bad rep. People think that people from the East Coast are rude and we're not very hospitable. Yeah, that's true. And honestly, I...
13:16felt like when I moved to the Midwest, everybody is very nice, but there's not the conversations that start on the East Coast. Like if you stand in line at the grocery store on the East Coast, people are going to talk. Here, no, people just kind of don't talk to each other in those situations. And I was very confused.
13:45I made it my purpose in life to make someone smile anytime I interacted with them just because I could. Yeah, that's true. You have to prepare to go to the grocery store around here. You have to be in the mindset for socializing and it's an event. It is. It's an event. You always know somebody who's related to somebody or you run into, you know, it's a small town where we are in Kingston. Yeah.
14:11Yeah, every time I would interact with someone the first six months that I lived in Minnesota, I would try to get them to look in the eye or say hello or smile or something. And after about two months of this, my husband was like, what are you doing? Stop talking to people. I said, trying to get a reaction. Let me do this.
14:35That was the first husband. I'm on the third husband and third time is the charm. So we think second, so it's true. The two of us. Good. Good. So anyway, yeah, New England and the East Coast are a very different animal from the Midwest. My mom is from Illinois. She was born there and lived there until she was 19 and married my dad and moved to Maine. So whenever I'm like, what is with this Midwest thing, I call my mom and I'm
15:04I'm like, was it like this for you when you were living in Illinois? And she's like, oh yeah, that's how people are. I'm like, okay, good. I'm not crazy. At least not on that front. So yes, I do miss, I do miss Maine a lot, but I also love where I live now. So it all worked out in the end. What counts. Yeah. We were fortunate where we're just a few miles outside the city of Kingston on a major highway, I think, you know, it's actually a state route, right? So for us.
15:33It's easy for people to get here. We're very fortunate that the event venue actually worked out. You know, it was an old barn. The property was vacant for over 10 years and for sale for 10 years on the market. When we initially looked at it, you know, because everything was moved and the operating this dairy operation and moved a couple of miles down the road to a new place, everything was overgrown. If you had taken a look at the barn or the house or the other barn or the road,
16:03It was an absolute mess. And my first words out of my wife at the time, we pulled in the driveway, she jumped out with this huge smile on her face, all the energy in the world and said, what do you think, what do you think, really? What do you think? And I said, get back in the car. I said, I am not rebuilding my life at 50 years old. Come on, this is crazy. This house needs to be torn down. Let's go, get in the car. And we canceled the appointment with the realtor. And I said, no, this is, and it's a hundred and some acres. We can't, there's no way we can afford this.
16:33You want it about 40 acres. Yeah, I'd like 30 or 40. I mean, like you said, I was born in the country and I like my privacy to some degree. And, you know, and I honestly, this is a running joke here. You know, I lived off a county road and I thought that was busy. We're on a state highway here. Holy cow, it never stops. There's traffic all the time, 24 hours a day going down this thing. So it is an eye-opener for me. But what's nice is it is relatively private in the scheme of things. At any point, any one of us, once we're fed up with each other,
17:01can take a walk down the driveway and get lost in the woods. Or, you know, every so often we'll find Julie up in a tree just soaking up the sunshine. And we're on a rock, on a rock just laying there, just soaking it up. But we're very fortunate. Or if there's a wedding, she might be off crying somewhere. It's true. She cries at every wedding. Yeah. You know, and that's the other part of it too, is when we do the farm weddings, you know, we have no control over the weather, but we make the most accommodations. And that one, although you're seeing four of us here,
17:31you know, during maple weekends or even the production of the maple season or the weddings, you know, we've got full family force and it's 12 or 13 people that help us. And they all, you know, we have a certain location on our farm that we kind of stand around in case anybody needs anything. And but, you know, we built hay wagons off of stuff junk we pulled off the woods and we built it. We went out and, you know, she's saying, hey, we can take you in the back on the hay wagons. And we don't pay that. Ryan drives the other.
18:00And then so we make it work and it's very good. It's a very good time for everybody. And there's times of panic. There's certain times when there's changes being made less minute. And of course we try to focus on making it the best day for the bride and groom and their family. But occasionally, you know, things turn. And you know, we had a wedding cake fall down, start to melt. They delivered it early in the morning in this barn. And the heat, you know, it was a pretty warm day in September. And so Ryan and I became bakers.
18:29Right? We had it, we figured out how to put these wooden dowels in it and stand it back up and essentially Ryan saved the day, you know? So he didn't get the first piece of cake that still went to the bride and groom. What are you going to do? Yeah, necessity is the mother of invention for sure. Okay, so what else do you guys do there though besides the wedding stuff? Do you have animals?
18:59I'll speak for Lisa on this one, but you know, the only animal she ever had in her entire life growing up was a small squirrel, pet squirrel, right? Yeah. Dogs. I did. Wait, lookie. I had a pet squirrel. The look of them. See the looks of them. Dogs, right? Yeah, who does that? That's the whole story. Yeah, that's the whole story. Dogs, right? Yeah, that was it. That was it. Yeah. I had a mouse, a pet mouse at one point. I had pet mice too. Yeah, and they're super smart. Love mice. Dogs. Yeah.
19:29But Ryan and I grew up with snakes in the house and bears. No, Ryan did not grow up with snakes in the house. No, I didn't. Ryan has the same feeling I do. There's a snake in the house, you've got to burn my house down. He doesn't like snakes. So for us, the country living was not a big change. But for Lisa, that was a big change when she opened the door to go out front one morning and there was a big bear walking through the front lawn. And at that point, I think when you called me up in a panic saying,
19:59I have, we can't live here anymore. We got to move. Well, the first night the, uh, the power went out. And I, again, I was in the city and we did not have wells. So even if you didn't have power, you could run the water and flush the toilet. And suddenly on first night, I moved in with my kids, couldn't run the water, couldn't flush the toilet. And that whole background come, the reason I mentioned all that is because I pulled into driveway one day and now there's three sheep sitting in a barn. And, uh, I asked her where they come from. And she said, I rescued them from a meat bar. Yeah. And.
20:29So she's named them. Ross, Chams, and Joey. My kids named them. So from the friends show and they have now essentially become pets. Shear them twice a year. They are more pets than anything else. And we did have about 35 chickens at one point, lost a couple to the predators and bees. We had quite a few hives. We had up to 11 hives at one point. Produced the honey, that was pretty good.
20:58And we will do it again. We just, we need to, we need to regroup. Well, the location at the hives were really weren't, wasn't good. We live across from a large field that another farm is at. And it just, the way the wind kicks up, we felt that the hives weren't making it through the winter, but we've done honey. Um, we collect the wool from the sheep. So, although it's not a lot, we, uh, we do that and, uh, the chickens sold eggs for a little while and for a long time, uh, you know, people love that, right? You just have a good farm stand at the bottom. And, but in addition.
21:27Probably the biggest agricultural product for us is maple because it's a year long, even though we produce it for those three or four short months, the work continues on every month, whether it's making more trails or producing stuff with the maple that we did produce, cakes, right? Just cookies, cakes, whatever else you do with them. I try to make suggestions on what she should because we have enough work for these. And mind you, this is all after we do our normal day jobs. We all actually work for the city of Kingston.
21:57And so we do sometimes interact with one another at work during the day, and then we see each other here. So it's very interesting. Wow. That's a lot of togetherness right there. I think we love each other so much. And we all have very different jobs. Yeah. That's true. It makes for a good conversation. But sometimes the jobs intertwine. Sometimes.
22:27Okay, so you guys are a four person team. And so when one of you has a new idea for the farmstead, how does that go? We like, I like to think that the A team doesn't have a hierarchy. It clearly does have a hierarchy. So we, the three of us tend to default with the ideas. So that can be. So usually if I have an idea, I'll like.
22:57I usually talk to him first and he never likes any of my ideas ever, ever. So then I will usually try to get one of them on my side. And if I can get one, then there's a possibility. So there's been a lot of iterations of things that could happen here that we've shut down immediately. They shut me down all the time. Camping, growing Christmas trees, growing hemp. That was a thing for a little while. So one of the first things that Lisa wanted to do when we were talking about
23:26cultural product was to grow hops. Hops, right? Hops. There's a small microbrewery type of environment around the Catskills. And she's like, we have a field, we can do this. And then once we started researching it... Well, no, we went to, we took a class. At Cornell Co-op, right? Yes, we drove like three hours for a class and we didn't get halfway through and I leaned over and said, we're not growing.
23:55So, we're out of here. We had lunch break and we left. It was like, that's not happening. But it's funny because when people show up here- But you don't know until you, you know. I knew, I knew, because all of this involves work. In some cases, unnecessary work. But yeah, so when people show up, they're like, man, this is amazing. If you had, I go, please, please don't say another thing. Don't ask, don't, we've had suggestions about clamping sites and cabins and, you know.
24:24what our property sits at the edge of the O&W rail trail that goes essentially part of the state line really. And so we have people coming off the rail trail through our fields into our property and enjoying the woods and stuff. And we recognize we're just stewards of the land. We own it as long as we're paying taxes on it. But when we came here, we cleaned it all up, took a bunch of trash and garbage from the old farmers that were here for years, took it out of here and cleaned it up. And...
24:53Every so often we come across a tire or an old engine or transmission. And we try to hide it from Julie. But, but for the most part, I mean, just the location is really, really nice. We have decent neighbors. Um, you know, really the, we try to keep it to a minimum. I mean, the only noise we make occasionally is the music before 10 o'clock and, uh, that plays during the events and, uh, chainsaws and that's pretty much it, you know? So everything we do, uh, our meatball operation has included the use of them.
25:22versus osmosis pump so we can reduce both the emissions that the wood burns from the wood burning and the amount of firewood we burn as well. So Minnesota is a maple state, right? They produce it? Yes. So yeah, you can understand. I mean, there's producers around us that use fossil fuel or gas to do it. And just because of the essentially unlimited fuel source through firewood on this property, I mean, there's more debt stand. And we work with a forester.
25:52Lori Raskin and DHW and she does a fantastic job coming out every year and marking out the property and we also work with the DEC, New York State DEC, to maintain a forestry plan. We just got a certification as an American tree farm as well. So you know we're just trying to show the neighbors and everybody around here, anyone who shows up, that we are invested. We're not doing it really. I mean I say for our own pleasure, it is and it isn't, you know.
26:22As much as I will say, I hate to do the amount of work that we've done. I'm amazed by what we've gotten completed only because of the friends and family we have that we've been able to be so blessed. And, but it has, this has now become like the central point of collection for, for all of at least farm and family events, right? Like this is it, right? So, and we're blessed that way. And for us, we just, we just had our first grandchild between us and it was just, he's
26:51I can't wait to get them on a four wheeler and start riding through the woods. Yup. Um, make sure that mom is okay with that for you. Yeah. Yari. Well, she, you know, my daughter had her a four wheeler when she was young. She was fine. I'll give him a helmet this time. Okay. Ryan has a very little one as well. So we enjoy them. Yeah. Um,
27:20my granddaughter, my first son, he's actually my stepson, but he's the first of three boys, is married now. He got married in September. And his wife has a daughter from a previous marriage. And when I met said daughter, she was like eight, I think. And we had had a huge load of firewood brought in, logs to be cut up. And they were really big around logs.
27:51little girl wanted to climb on the logs and it was the first time we'd met that met her, met her mom and it was scaring the living hell out of me to have her get up on those logs and I basically told her to get down because I didn't want to break a leg and spend the last four days that they were here in a cast and come to find out my stepson was irritated with me for telling her to get down but he never told me.
28:20And I was just like, I don't want her to break a leg. That would be a horrible memory from visiting the soon to be grandparents from Minnesota. I'm just, I'm just trying to protect this little girl. And my husband was like, from now on, when they visit, why don't you talk to the kid that is ours and find out what she's allowed to do. And then you guys can come to some consensus about what she's allowed to do. I was like, yeah, that's probably a good plan.
28:49Yep. So that's the only reason I say make sure mom's okay with that. Yeah, I get that a lot. She was fine with it when I was, I was raised. We also had a little girl who was climbing logs and falls down a lot. Well, we were splitting wood and the logs would crawl up. I had to get them down. We were taking turns moving the books. She got them down. Yeah, she got them down. All right.
29:16What I also didn't know is this little girl has been brought up around, um, dairy cows and steers and, you know, the whole bit. And I had no knowledge of this. Had I known, I might've not been nearly as afraid for her. So yeah, mom's, moms are, are one of two. We're either super, super worried or we're like, eh, if they don't break anything, they're probably fine. You're not bleeding.
29:46Okay, so we got, we're almost at 30 minutes, but I have a question for you guys. I have two actually. What's your favorite thing about working at the farmstead?
30:01Um, my favorite thing is really.
30:08not really the working part. I just like being together and planning it. We do a lot of, we have coffee meetings and we plan out what is the plan, what's the next plan, what's going to happen next weekend. So I enjoy that. Okay. My favorite, the reason that I keep coming here is that it gets my mind off of the rest of my life. Although
30:33Although all of us happen to work in the same place and live in the same community, we don't tend to talk shop. And whatever we're doing here, whether it's splitting wood or tapping trees or running a wedding or whatever it is, we need to be fully present and fully mindful and it is an escape from everything else that I do on a normal basis and that is what brings me a lot of pleasure. Yeah. I, I have the same. I.
31:02I'm a task oriented person. I like having a list of things to do. I like to set out and do it. We have everything we need here. As a JDO mentioned, we, we don't sub anything out. All the work is done here. We have all the tools, we have all the heavy equipment. So you just show up and go to work and it just removes you from the world where the news is awful and sometimes the people are awful and you could just come here and forget about everything. Get lost in the woods.
31:31And at the end of the day, feel accomplished and know that you've, you committed yourself to something better and, um, can relax and distress be part of nature. Yeah. I think that's a big, similar situation, right? Because we all have what I consider to be high stress jobs at the end of the day. We can be us, right? We can talk about things here that we normally wouldn't be able to talk about in our other capacities. It just doesn't happen. And, you know, essentially it's sometimes they
32:00they mix and match, you know, people that are from Kingston or the other area, they recognize us from time to time and go, Hey, aren't you them? You know, we get that sometimes, but when they see us, you know, we're all cleaned up now, but I got to tell you, I asked my wife, can I be in my regular farm clothes? And she said, absolutely not. There's a Cameron Bob, who was just a microphone to be different. So part of it is that, and that's what I enjoy. I enjoy coming here and I say, come at home, but coming here and working and really looking forward to working with everybody here.
32:29The plans are different. Certainly there's always, you know, we have four people with four different opinions. Mine usually is the most reserved. Hey, do we really have to build that big? Can we build it smaller? Really? Oh yeah. But at the same time, it's like, that's what I appreciate the most is that there's four different opinions and that's we can bounce off ideas and everybody has a reason why or why not we shouldn't do something or how we should do it.
32:56And I think that's a big part of what we do. That's very important. I love that. Ryan used to say, I just love coming here because it's like one big sandbox. All right. If we have, I have all the machinery, the dozers, excavators, and we started with nothing and we were just fortunate to be able to, you know, even with the machine over here, right, and buy something and say, he's like, man, that's a nice machine. I go, yeah, except the clutch is bad on it. We're going to have to split it. That's why I got a good deal. And we'd spent a couple of nights over the course of, uh, you know, time to.
33:24take it all apart and get the manual and wrench it back together and got it working, you know, and more so than not, that was always the case. So we're fortunate. So yeah, I think we're on agreement, right? It just gives us an idea.
33:37Okay. So is there anything that's a least favorite thing about the farmstead? My least favorite thing is that I get zero cell phone service here, which means people text me all the way. And as I drive home, I get flooded with all this information and texts and phone calls. But at the same time, it's also fantastic because that means I am fully disconnected while I'm here.
34:04Anybody else? I don't have a least favorite. I wouldn't keep coming back if I had anything I didn't like. Some days are better than others. Some days there's some trying ideas that get passed across the table. And some creative persuasion to push those ideas or pull from one side to the other. But it's all good. Otherwise, I wouldn't be here. Probably one of the things I like the least
34:33It's January or February and it's really, really cold and we have to go into the woods and I have hand warmers and gloves. Julie says all the time, there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. And I keep trying and trying to tell myself, that's the truth. But that would probably be the only thing that I really don't look forward to is when it's.
35:02ridiculously cold and windy and we still have to go in the woods. It doesn't matter. Yeah. To me, I think we set somewhat of an unrealistic goal sometimes. I know I'm guilty of it. They used to call me all kind of ambitious. We're going to get this set, we're going to do the roof, we're going to put the truss down, get the gutters in, we're going to get it all finished, and then we're going to get trenched. And then at the end of the day, we get maybe two-thirds of the way. Daylight's setting and I'm frustrated because we still...
35:27need to get all this done thinking, okay, one day we got to be back to work and we only have another day to get it. So there's a level of frustration on it. The older I get, the more I realize my mind's thinking one thing, my body's not translating that anymore like it used to. So, but overall we recognize we are absolutely a hundred percent blessed with what we do. We've had some setbacks time to time. In addition to the maple production and the sheep and the bees and everything else, this house and these barns were essentially full rebuild.
35:57The house didn't pass inspection. It should have been torn down. It's on a stone foundation and there was no heat. The electric had to be redone. We did everything. And unlike some of the other people that are fortunate enough to have the funds or whatever, we didn't and we just were able to afford the property and put it all together. So we're very thankful. And every time I look around, I see the amount of work that we did and go,
36:24My wife will forget, Alisa will go, what are you looking at? I'm going, do you remember that that door wasn't there? She's like, oh my gosh, you're right. What do you want for dinner? I understand because when we moved here, there was a huge pole barn. There was a useless two car garage and it still stands and it's still useless, can't open the doors and it's not worth fixing. There's a small one car garage that we use as a woodshed, our house, and that was it. That's what was here.
36:54And now there's an on property farm stand that we had put in for us, because we're not nearly as ingenious as you people, but we love it anyway. And we have a chicken coop and we have a heated greenhouse going up this spring. So I look around at this place now and I'm like, God damn, how did this happen? So I get it.
37:23All right, guys, this was really fun and I don't want to keep you because, you know, I'm trying real hard to keep this podcast at 30 minutes, but I keep creeping over a little bit. So, appreciate your time. Thank you so much and have a great evening. Thank you. Thank you for having us. Yep. Bye.

5 days ago

Today I'm talking with Jonathan at Woodland Worm Company. You can also follow on Facebook.
00:00This is Mary Lewis at A Tiny Homestead. The podcast comprised entirely of conversations with homesteaders, cottage food producers, and crafters. Today I'm talking with Jonathan at Woodland Worm Company. Hi, Jonathan, how are you today? Great, how are you doing? I'm good. I've been looking forward to this interview because I have not talked to anyone about earthworms before. Awesome. So tell me about yourself and Woodland Worm Company. So I am...
00:29I am the owner of Woodland Worm Co. We were formerly Wiggle Worm Farms, but we changed the name just recently actually, because it just kind of better suits where we wanna go and the direction we wanna take the business. So the Woodland Worm Co. is a relatively new name. I am a, I like to say I'm a jack of all trades, but master of none.
00:58I have a really varied background, none of which is actually in worm farming. I'm an accountant, diesel mechanic, drummer, you name it, I can do it, I can fix basically anything. But I found myself in a place where I didn't have anything to be passionate about two years ago.
01:27believe it or not, I stumbled across the Facebook post from a friend of mine that's Liz out in California. And he was just talking about random odd jobs or random weird family histories. And one of the folks, one of his friends,
01:49put up a comment basically saying, yeah, my dad used to be a worm farmer. And I didn't know that was even a thing, to be honest with you. And so he, that guy's father wrote a book with his uncle back in the 70s. And I found the book amazingly twice online and I bought it. And it showed up in the mail one day while I was at work. And my wife said,
02:19earthworms. And yeah, and I said yes, I did. And then a month later, I had worms. And here we are now. So two years later, I'm, I built the business. And we're really, really very in its infancy right now. So it's interesting, fun, exciting, and busy. I bet. So, so tell me.
02:47Tell me how you begin raising earthworms.
02:53So there's, when it comes to raising worms, there's different methods that you can do, but it all really comes down to a few, several key elements, right? The earthworms that I raise and most of the industry raise are composting worms. So they live within the first six inches of the soil.
03:21right, they're horizontal movers, they don't really go up and down, they don't burrow up and down. They burrow horizontally and they eat the dead and decaying material that's on the surface of the ground. So if you know you really just need good food, which is usually for us, we feed compost.
03:47um finished leaf compost and a grain mix or worm chow if you will and uh plenty of moisture and really you just give them a place where they can grow and be happy and not overpopulated and the worms they do their thing. It's really not complicated but it's easy to make it complicated. Okay and then
04:14I guess my next question is, do you have bins that you have them in or do you have them outside in the ground or how does it work? So I tried several different breeds of worms before I actually started selling. My focus with the business is I want to build soil and make the soil great in your gardens.
04:43so we can all eat better and eat healthier. So my focus is on producing the best worm castings there are. The way of which I raise, I use a breed called African nightcrawlers. And where I'm at in the country, we have really cold winters, so they don't survive outside. So I raise them,
05:12temperature controlled environment in my basement and they are raised in three and a half gallon buckets and I stack them about, oh, I got 60 buckets per pallet. So yeah. Wow. Okay. And you're in Pennsylvania. That's why it's cold. Yeah. All right. And then tell me about why the castings are good. If anyone doesn't know, earthworm castings are basically earthworm poop.
05:41exactly it. It's it castings I didn't come up with the name someone did somewhere along the line. It's it's a warm fertilizer. It's just it's a soil amendment. What's good about them is think of it kind of like a probiotic for your soil. Right castings are they are living. There's organisms inside.
06:10in those castings and that fertilizer, what you put into the soil, what happens is those worms break down all the micronutrients that create all this life in their poop and all that life is also breaking down other, it's breaking everything down in the soil.
06:38to a point where your plants can then absorb it through their roots. So the poop is really just a vehicle if you think of it that way, of which you can infuse a lot of good things for your soil environment. All different types of microorganisms are in there that will, they just,
07:07benefits of it far outweigh the work. Okay, so how do you collect the casting? So do you just do you just scoop out the dirt that they've lived in? Or how does it work? So the process that I use it's if you the best way that I can put it is it's I create a manufacturing environment to produce the maximum amount of worm castings.
07:37for the worms that I have in the space that I have. So what I use, I use a mechanical sifter that has two screens on it. It's a quarter inch screen first, and I'll take a bucket and dump that on. And whatever passes through that quarter inch screen is, I'm sorry, what's left on that quarter inch screen rather, are all the worms.
08:06and uneaten food stuffs that are too big to pass through. And so then I remove that screen and then I have an eighth inch screen below that. And the only thing that passes through that eighth inch screen is the castings themselves. The cocoons that the worms have, they won't pass through.
08:33maybe sometimes you get like little tiny baby worms will pass through or little types little tiny pieces of Compost will pass through but it's very minimal And okay, so basically you're mining for gold because because yours
08:51Yeah, yes, actually, if you would search some bigger operations, these guys are using tronels just like in Gold Rush. I don't know if you're going to get any type of copyright thing, but if anybody's seen that show, it's kind of like that just on a small scale, really small scale. Okay. Your place must be a favorite with the local fishermen because you sell the worms as well, yes? I do. I sell fishing bait.
09:21That's not as popular with the guys because right now where I am with the business, it's all about letting people know that I am actually here. That's the most difficult part I have found. The worms are easy and the worms are the fun part, but letting folks know that I exist in their neighborhood, that's really difficult, I have found.
09:48Marketing is always the hardest part of starting a business. Always. Oh, it true words haven't been spoken because it's difficult to do and it's costly and it's an investment that for me, I had to be comfortable with making that investment for not a lot of immediate return. So the first year
10:17was very slow, very difficult, and I was really just keeping the worms alive. This year, it's taken off a lot better than what I had planned to the point that I can't produce enough now. I'm selling out before I even have a harvest. And I harvest every two weeks. So I'm at the point where I have to add.
10:44breed and I have to add more production units to keep up with the demand for castings. Who are you selling to? I mostly sell to home gardeners. They're my biggest customer. And then I have a few commercial gardeners and flower growers in the area that they'll buy much more quantities. They'll buy what I call bulk.
11:11So 40 gallons or more at a shot. So I sell 40 gallon increments and also half yard and four yard super sacks. Okay. Well, it sounds like you got your marketing figured out that I still don't feel like I do. I don't think you ever do really. Um, I have a few folks right recently. I've had a lot of interest in, um, a lot of
11:40marijuana growers have been taking an interest, which is something I wasn't expecting. So that's pretty neat. And yeah, it's been really fun so far. I am not up to date on my laws regarding marijuana right now. I know Minnesota just passed their law back last summer that we can have pot if we'd like it. We can grow it if we'd like it, but they're very small quantities allowed.
12:08What's the law in Pennsylvania? I actually don't really know what the law is. In Pennsylvania, I don't believe you need to have a medical marijuana card. Okay. And you can grow, I believe the home grower can have one plant which can be consumed. Most of the folks that have reached out to me are from New York. So
12:37I think the laws are much, are a lot easier than the commonwealth in New York. Okay. I was just curious because not all states allow it, but more states are coming on board. So yeah, it's actually becoming quite a popular thing now, which is pretty neat. You know, I think there's a lot of benefits to it and not to get political, but I do. I think there's a lot of health benefits that.
13:06You know, it just makes people a lot more comfortable, especially if they're in a lot of pain. I personally know of a guy that's, he use, he medicates with marijuana and he has just a lot of physical and nerve issues and it helps him even just sleep, right? And it's like, wow, like you need this to just live. And so I think that there's a lot of great
13:34benefits. I think there's a lot of potential there. I think there's a lot of trade and revenue that can be generated for a lot of other businesses. And there's just a lot of opportunity that I feel kind of like has to be explored in a way. Yeah, it's a window that's been closed for a very long time. Unfortunately, yes. Yep. Okay. So...
14:02to get off that subject and on to the next. Not that it matters, it's not a big deal. I just was curious because you brought it up. Do you guys have the jumping worms in Pennsylvania that we have in Minnesota?
14:17We do, to my knowledge. I have not seen any. Okay. In fact, I know very little about those jumping worms. I hear they are just terrible for the soil. And I really hear that they cause a lot of damage, but I'm not really up to par with that.
14:42I hear the same thing. I have not seen one here yet. But I'm real, real aware when someone has, let's say, iris rhizomes they're trying to get rid of and they want to give them away. If I'm going to take them, I make sure that I shake all the dirt off the rhizomes before I put them in because the last thing I want to do is put jumping worms in my three-acre property because that would be really bad. Yeah, listen, if there are anything like the worms that I...
15:14they will breed fast. The composters breed amazingly fast. And if you, I can see the, I can understand the fear really, if you put one in there, then it's gonna just be a steady slope, right? If you let them slip in, so super important. Yep, so anybody out there, somebody offers you roots of plants to put in.
15:41and you have jumping worms in your state and it's been confirmed, be real careful. But listen, honestly, it's.
15:52It's an opportunity then to create better soil, right? Like you can then amend the soil. Now I don't know if there's been any studies about this, but I'm sure there's ways to amend it. I just don't know what those ways are. Yeah, I just want to keep our dirt, our soil, the way it is right now. I don't want to mess with it because it's putting out really good produce every summer. Oh, it's fantastic.
16:18I'd like to stay where we are at with that level. Thank you very much. Great. Okay. So, I swear I saw something about horses on your website. Yes. We have, they are pets. And another, one of the benefits of getting into worm farming is that your worms will eat your manure. Mm-hmm.
16:47So I have, going back to an earlier question, I tried three different breeds of worms. I have red wigglers and I also have European night crawlers. Those two I keep outside in outside bins and I compost our horse manure. And that's what I feed those guys. And oh boy, do they love it. They love it.
17:17I would imagine. So I don't want to, you don't have to tell me specifically the answer to this question, but do you have a lot of land or a little land or what? We have currently just under seven acres.
17:35four of the seven are wooded. So there's really not much that I can do with that. The rest is used currently with composting our gardens, our chickens, sheep, and our horses. Nicole Sook Okay, so you are a homesteader too. You're not just a worm wrangler. You have critters.
18:04completely build this into a completely sustainable environment. We want to produce food. We want to be able to feed all of our animals on the same property. Now we can't do that here, right? I don't have enough land to make hay and do all that. But what we are doing right now is
18:31We're making the best of what we can and we're trying to do everything possible that we can to just stay in our little bubble. Yep. And we love it. You know, I truly enjoy it. When you see your vegetables popping up and they're going crazy, it's like, wow. Like, man, you can feed your whole family then.
19:00of tomato sauce and whatever you want to make out of just tomatoes for an entire year. And there's, I just think there's something to that, you know? It's magic. It really is. We have tomato babies, siblings, that are about four inches tall on our kitchen table right now. And every morning the grow light gets turned on and I stand there and look at them and I'm like, you guys are going to be making tomatoes here in about three months. I'm so excited.
19:30Yeah, they will pop, right? Yep. And we have baby basils coming and I've said a billion times on this podcast and I'm going to say it again, I love basil. I use it in a lot of food that I cook. And the little baby basils are cute. When they come up, they're just two little leaves and they're very dark green and I love them. I don't know why, but every time I see them, when we put the seeds in and they sprout, I just stand there and look at them and think, man, this is magic.
20:00May 15th we start putting things into the actual garden and by June 1st everything is in and it's starting to do what it does and I stand there and look at that garden and it just it doesn't look like anything that it's gonna look like in two months and so I take the snapshot in my head of what it looks like June 1st
20:25and then come August 1st, I'm like, you guys did so great. Yeah, it's really incredible. It really is. My wife and I, we were looking at our garden, especially the tomatoes, and we just saw them, they were the biggest tomato plants we ever had. And they were taller than we were, and now we're short people, so that's not much to say. But...
20:55It was, it was just truly amazing. And I just haven't, I was in awe of how much, how much they were producing and how well they were growing and we even planted, we just put seeds right into the ground and they were, they did so well, so well, which is just an indication of your soil's health. Right?
21:24If you have soil that is good, you will grow just the most beautiful, beautiful plants. They really will. It's amazing. Yeah. And not to take away from your business, because I think that worm castings is brilliant for fertilizer, but we use chicken manure and we use goat manure in our garden. And honestly, any manure that isn't...
21:51I don't know, a dog or a cat or I guess any animal that eats meat, it's always great. And I'm not even sure that dog poop is a terrible fertilizer. I don't know why we don't use all manure as fertilizer. Maybe you do. I'm not really sure. I know typically.
22:20You know, you're using horse manure or cow manure, but I believe that's usually the focus because of what they're eating, right? They're eating what we are harvesting from the ground already. And then you're just taking that and you're putting it back into the earth, right? You're taking the nutrients that are in that fertilizer and you're putting that back right into the thing that you're gonna grow more.
22:49and more food for your animals. The ultimate recycling system, yeah. Yeah, exactly. And that's why a lot of folks, a lot of farmers, especially now, are going no-till, right? Like they don't like tilling up the earth because it just destroys everything. You zap the earth of the nutrients, you kill literally everything in there. And if you go no-till, you're putting a whole lot of fertilizer down. And I think
23:18I think that there's something to that. I really do. And even folks that just do rotational grazing, right? And they're not making hay or they're not doing other crops. They're just rotating their animals through pasture land at the appropriate times. And that is, there's research out there that is just showing that that is such a great way of farming.
23:47It's completely revolving and sustainable. Yeah, and there's so many different ways to farm. I mean, there's the hugelkultur thing. There's no till. There's what we do. We till it like twice in the fall after we pull everything out with our little tractor. And then we put the hay and the chicken droppings on top of it all winter. And it cools the manure down and then we just plant in the spring.
24:16There's so many ways to do it. And I don't know. I don't know if there's a best way or if, if you're just trying your best, good on ya. You know, it's funny. I, I, I purchased my hay from a really good friend of mine. And I had told him that, you know, we have some property at a, at a, at a vacation home. And I have been working this land, trying to get it to.
24:45to grow my own hay and do my own hay operation up there. And I had asked the guy and I said, how do you make really great hay? And you know what's funny? All he said was, I just try my best. And you know what, such a simple answer, but so much truth in that, right? That's all you can do is just try your best. And if it doesn't work, you know what you're doing? You make a change, you make an adjustment.
25:14and you see what happens. I love that. I love that experimentation. I love that problem solving that comes with growing your own food because not everything is going to work and you're going to have ups and downs and you're gonna have mess ups. And I just like that. I like that process of learning. It excites me. Yeah.
25:41I am a lifelong learner. I have perpetual curiosity. I can't stop myself. I can't help it. And so when we bought this place three and a half, almost four years ago, I'm going to start saying almost four years ago, we bought it in August of 2020. I was so excited because we knew enough to not be dangerous, but we didn't know enough to be bored. That's great. That's a great way of putting it. I like that.
26:10And so it was really exciting because there was nothing here. It was a, a, a clean slate for us to start brand new. And this is our fourth spring here and so excited to get going on things. And we're in Minnesota, you're in Pennsylvania, you know, that you can't really get stuff in the ground outside until after danger of the last hard frost. So.
26:36So we still have like a month and a half to go. And my husband's chomping to the bit because he's the gardener. Yeah. Yeah, I totally get it. It's that you never know when, unfortunately when that last frost is going to be. And I tell you what, the past two years we messed that up. Oops. You know, you just went too early and then you get a random cold snap. And you're like, oh no. And so totally get it. Totally get it.
27:06Yeah, that's why we plant our stuff from seed because we stagger plant and that way if we lose some of them, we have more to put in. Right, right. It just saves us a lot of heartache and a lot of money because last I checked at the nurseries I think two or three springs ago, a tomato seedling was like $5 and a pack of seeds is like a buck and a half. So you do the math. You know how this goes. Yeah.
27:36store and I saw tomato seedling for eight dollars. Oh my. Can you believe that? And they couldn't keep them on the shelf. Yeah, and that's because people don't, I think people don't realize they can start them from seed in their house. Yes. It's very easy to do as well. Yep. You know. Yeah, it really is.
28:00So anyway, so what's the plan for Woodland Worm Company? Are you guys gonna stay at the place that you're at and just keep expanding there? Are you gonna eventually maybe look for a bigger place with more pasture land? Yeah, so the dream is to move up to the, where our property is, our vacation property is. We want to...
28:32We want to have a fully, a farm that people could come and visit and be interactive. They can do all the things there, pick pumpkins, you know, apples, everything. We want them to be able to come enjoy themselves. We have dreams of having like a play place there that the kids can, their kids can go, they can grab a bite to eat or whatever, you know.
29:00they can sit down have some lunch and just enjoy themselves. And that's something that we really enjoy going to places like that. And we want to offer that to other people. We want to invite folks to our home and just kind of be part of the family. And that's our vision. So we won't always
29:29The next step is to build the business, the worm casting business to a point that is sustainable enough that we can move and handle that move. I don't know how quite yet, but we'll figure that out. Okay, so is teaching people about this stuff in your plan? Absolutely. Good.
29:59I went to a worm farm down in Phoenix, Arizona, back in January, and it was for a worm business conference, believe it or not. They actually have those. The place that hosted us was called the Arizona Worm Farm. And if anybody has a second, I highly encourage to check them out if you ever visit Phoenix.
30:28totally go check them out. They are an amazing, it's an amazing educational experience. They are the most open people about how they do things, why they do things, when they do things, and they really just love to share the information that they have, and they are just committed to the same thing.
30:58values that I believe you and I have, right? They just want to have a self-sustaining place, and they want to grow great things, and they want to help the people in the city of Phoenix grow just wonderful plants in a place where you it's really difficult to grow, actually. Yes, yes it is. My son just moved to Nebraska from Phoenix back in December.
31:27because he could not grow a hot pepper, let alone anything else on his little property that he had. He tried for like three years and he just was like, we need to be back in the Midwest. You know what? It's, I was shocked. This place is in the middle of a, their neighbors are, they do traditional farming techniques. I believe they farm cotton.
31:57And so you'll have cotton farm on either side of this farm and the soil on those farms, it's just this dry, really light colored, just no health in that soil. And they were working those fields while I was even there. And then you look at the worm farm and what they've been doing with their own compost that they make and sell.
32:25and put into their own ground. And it looks like you would be in a different part of the country. It's night and day different, yeah. Truly the most amazing thing, and it was jaw dropping for me. And I have to be honest, going there gave me the vision and it gave me the...
32:52It let me know that it's possible. Like what I want to do is possible. And if someone in Phoenix can do it, you can do it anywhere in this country. I, I'm convinced of it. Yeah. And I think had he had he had that idea or had seen something about it, he might've tried it, but I also think that they really just wanted to move back to the Midwest, so it's all good. They're only like five, five, six hours away now, instead of.
33:21a day's drive away. So it's great. Jonathan, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today. I'm going to wrap this up because I usually try to keep these to half an hour. Absolutely. Thank you for having me. Yeah. I love what you're doing. Keep on keeping on. Thanks. All right. Have a great day. Thank you. You too. Bye.

6 days ago

Today I'm talking with Amy at The Minnesota Marshmallow. You can follow her on Facebook as well.
I was so inspired by Amy's description of the mint cookie marshmallows that I ordered some. Fantastic as a treat and even better in my coffee!
00:00This is Mary Lewis at A Tiny Homestead, the podcast comprised entirely of conversations with homesteaders, cottage food producers, and crafters. Today I'm talking with Amy at the Minnesota Marshmallow. Good afternoon, Amy. How are you? Doing really good. How are you? I'm good. I'm dying to know the story about you and the Minnesota Marshmallow. Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for interviewing me today.
00:24Idea originally was something that I always had wanted, uh, growing up through high school. Um, the big dream was to have a restaurant and this was kind of my niche for the, the back and have this really authentic bonfire type setting where people would come up to like a little silver bullet trailer and get some marshmallows and some hot cocoa or, you know, and just kind of enjoy some, some family space and.
00:50you know, providing that in kind of a different setting that just isn't out there yet. And, um, I joined the military right out of high school and I've just been chasing that dream and I wanted to retire. And meanwhile, we got hit with COVID and I was sitting with a friend outside of bonfire one night and I said, you know, I know I've said it a lot, but we should have like a juicy Lucy of marshmallows. Like all these toppings should be on the inside and all warm and gooey. And she's like, you literally can't.
01:18talk about this anymore until you start making it." I was like, well, no time like the present, I guess. I hopped in the kitchen and watched some videos trying to figure out how do you even do that. Within four weeks, I had gotten carried away and started with just a vanilla and a strawberry. Then I started doing orange. Then I started doing hot fudge mamas.
01:47Caramel ones and just the creativity was oozing at that point with excitement and I was bringing them up to the Air Force base and handing them out to friends and I'm like, I have so many marshmallows. I don't know what to do with these. So if you don't like them, you can just throw them away. But if you do like them, like let me know or if you have a suggestion and I should change something. And so I was just peddling marshmallows everywhere I went on base because I had just had so many at that time.
02:15Um, next thing I knew, I was getting messages from friends and coworkers and they're like, Hey, make this one again. Can I get that for the weekend? And, um, another friend was like, you should just make this like a fun side hobby. And I was like, yeah, it has been really fun. So, um, I had just graduated college and decided like, I have a new, new thing where I can like pour my energy into. And so it just kind of focused on that through 2020 and, um, at
02:44After I started the company in August of 2020, I had Mike and Jen's hot cocoa reach out and say like, we should sit down. We want to meet you. And I'm like, me? You want to meet me? I've only been doing this for like four weeks. And, um, that was really exciting and got to sit down with them and they, I'm kind of walking in their footsteps as far as like learning how to start a business and create it. And now here we are almost four years later and 70 flavors and just having a lot of fun with it.
03:14That's fantastic. I do understand the, you want to talk to me question because like a month ago, a publicist for an author emailed me out of the blue and was like, we'd love to be a guest on your podcast, the author. And I was like, okay. And I actually went and researched because I didn't know if it was something that was not good, if it was like spam or a trick.
03:44And it wasn't, it was not a trick. And I interviewed the author and she's a really neat lady. So it worked out great, but I understand that you want to talk to me. Why? Yes, absolutely. That was kind of like, Oh my gosh, like you want to have like dinner with me? And I was just like, that's really cool. I was like, okay. And, um, ever since then, um, it's Dean and Amanda, they've been so, I could not ask for better mentors. Um, Dean started his.
04:13hot cocoa company from, you know, Cottage Food Law of Minnesota, and then was able to expand and grow, and now they're all throughout the United States and Mexico, and it's so amazing to have had them in my corner from the start, just to like, run questions by, or you hit an obstacle, and you're just like, what do I do? You know? So, I was very grateful for them, and having someone to like...
04:38you know, teach you kind of like, or guide you saying like, oh, we hit that obstacle, try this or something. Yeah, I did my homework on you. I went and looked at your website and you were, or you still are in the Air Force, is that right? Yes, yeah. My husband and I have both been in for almost 15 years now and we're both pushing to stay until retirement. So we've got a little...
05:04a toddler in our home now too. Our son Ryder is just amazing and we're learning on how to balance many careers. His career, my career, our business, he also does racing and so we've got a very jam-packed family life. It sounds like it. So are you originally from Minnesota? Yes, I'm originally from the cities. I went active duty Air Force.
05:29three months after graduating high school and stayed active duty for eight years. And when I saw there was an opening here in Duluth, I decided to put all the chips in the center of the table and try something new and see what the guard was like. And I absolutely love it. And I'm very grateful for my military experience and my military family here. Fantastic. Okay. So is the Minnesota marshmallow business, is it a standalone business?
05:59brick and mortar business or is it from your home? So I originally started with the Minnesota cottage food law, but I think we were like maybe six to eight months in when I had reached out to another local bakery and asked if I could rent their kitchen when they were closed. So I originally jumped into a small local bakery to use their commercial kitchen, which allowed me then to go wholesale and work with other companies.
06:26From there, I now privately own a kitchen out in Proctor, Minnesota. And I have partnered with the Proctor Speedway and they have a massive large kitchen area to use which has been so wonderful for our expanding and Christmas time rush and everything because the racetrack here uses the kitchen from May to about October which...
06:52They only use it one day a week, so it's allowed me a lot of flexibility and not having to work really late at night after other businesses are closed or share the kitchen during the daytime. So that's been so wonderful to have this opportunity. Okay. So, you don't actually have a store. You wholesale and ship? Is that how that works? Yeah. Yes. We go to tons of events throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.
07:18Bayfield Apple Festival, we've got tons down here in the Duluth and the Bayfront Park, Warren's Cranberry Festival. We kind of have jumped around finding like what are our best spots over the last four years and so we do a lot of that. Our original trailer we used for those events along with weddings. We just sold that trailer and we bought a new trailer for weddings and catering and large events which...
07:47is brand new and super shiny and we're super in love with it. We just got that about a month ago and we are in the works right now to create our other first and actual mobile food trailer and we're excited to launch that new idea coming forward. Nice. See, I love stories like yours because you had this dream when you were younger and then somebody said, put up or shut up basically to you. Exactly. And you were like, okay.
08:17fine, I'll make them." And then you figure it out and you made them and then you did it at home and then you found a place where you could have a commercial kitchen and now you're doing this. And I feel like creative people are the ones who say, why not? And who if they meet, I don't know, a stumbling block, they say, how can I work around this? And not everyone is a creative. I'm...
08:44It's fine. You don't have to be a creative, but creatives think differently. Yes, absolutely agree with that. And starting a business is not for the weak. So when they say the support small business, like, man, it's a, it's a fight, but it's worthwhile. And it's exciting. And if you look at failures as learning and you actually grasp for failure,
09:08because that means that you're growing and you're getting better. Every time you find that you fail, it just is an opportunity instead of like looking at it negatively, then you are bound for success. Put it that way. Yeah, absolutely. I agree completely. So marshmallows are not my favorite treat. I'm not going to lie. I do like a s'more once a summer out by the fire. That's fine. And my son actually bought a huge box of peeps the other day.
09:39I had Neet and a Peep in years and I was like, oh Peeps, they're like crunchy sugar and squishy in the middle. He was like, no, they're great. They're sitting on the table and two days later I said, can I try one? He's like, you said you hated them and I'm like, yeah, I know what I said, but let me try one, maybe they're different now. Right. I bit into it and they don't make them the same way. They're very, very soft in the middle. I remember them having more bounce.
10:09to the bite. Yeah. There's really weird now and they were weird then. So, so marshmallow peeps not so much. Um, what I want to know is every time I see someone make marshmallows like on a cooking show or I saw yours and they're the same thing, they're square. They're not rounded on the edges. Is there a reason for that? Yeah. So when you're looking at
10:39typically pour them into a pan or some type of mold. And I always tell my customers when we're out at shows or people are taste testing that sticky is the business. Expect to have sticky fingers. And a large challenge for a lot of marshmallow makers is the sticky factor. And when you're trying to pour them in different types of molds, like you would see a peep or something else, yeah, that's a lot of work. But for us to push out faster production,
11:09When we put them in a pan, it really simplifies our process and allowing us as exact measurements as you can possibly get. I know a lot of other marshmallow companies have really fancy cutters and we've tried some of those different ideas. We hand cut ours still to this day. Once you pour them in a pan and you cut them like brownies, if you were to visualize that, that's how you come up with your square marshmallow.
11:38What are the ingredients in a marshmallow? It's gelatin and sugar and what else? Yeah, so your base for a marshmallow is you're going to have gelatin and water. You'll start with that in your mixing bowl and then for what we call your hot sugar, that's going to be white sugar, the granulated sugar and typically caro syrup. I know some people are in favor or not in favor of caro syrup and there are other ingredients you can tailor to that.
12:06But you'll use caro syrup and water and that is kind of your simple basis start and I call that like my blank canvas and you'll heat those up, mix them together and that's when you can start playing around with your flavors, colors, all that kind of stuff. Once you're finished mixing them, you pour them into a pan and you'll let them sit for about 10 hours and then after that 10 hours you'll, you can pull them out and start cutting them and packaging them. So
12:34It's a lengthy process, very lengthy process. Yeah, and you're dealing with hot sugar, right? Yes, very hot. Yes, hot sugar scares me to death. I will work with it only under pressure, only if I've been begged to make something that requires me to work with it. Oh, yes. Yeah. It's once in a while you get a hot sugar burn when you miss the pot or you're grabbing it, but it's kind of part of what we expect here in the kitchen.
13:04Yeah. And I'm sure that you saw worse injuries or pain in the air force than you probably have in your kitchen. Once in a while. Yeah. Okay. So I saw that you have thin mint marshmallows. How does that work? Oh my gosh. So that was kind of my springtime flavor. I love, love thin mints, love them so much. So I was like...
13:31I have to integrate these into a marshmallow somehow. So I load up with the thin mints and we get them all chopped up and then I get kind of like a minty base for my marshmallow and scatter the cookie pieces throughout the marshmallow and let her set and cut. I really love that one in hot cocoa. If you're a minty person, you can even add that to your coffee. And my favorite way to eat that one is on the s'mores and you heat it up and it's really hard to find.
14:00I used to love those honey graham chocolate graham crackers, but pairing that if you can find a chocolate graham cracker is like icing on the cake. It's so yummy. Yeah, I bet. I loved in mint cookies. I made some back years ago, like 10 years ago, and it was not Girl Scout cookie season. And I desperately wanted a thin mint cookie. I was like, how can I make this happen? I can cook. I know I can do this. And I picked up those chocolate wafer cookies, the really thin ones at the grocery store.
14:29Oh yeah. And I melted some chocolate and I add some, I think it was coconut oil, I think, and some peppermint extract or spearmint. I don't remember what it was. And melted the chocolate all together with the coconut oil and the extract and dipped the cookies in it and put them on parchment paper and just let them sit. And my kitchen smelled like thin mint cookies. I was like, I think I got it. And my kids ate every...
14:57last one of the 40 that I did. That's amazing. That sounds delicious. I got one cookie, one thin mint cookie out of the whole batch. I was like, you guys, you're monsters. Okay. Fine. Eat the cookies. Fine. Made them for me. It's always good problems to have instead of like, yeah, mom, this is good. And then you're left with like 39 out of your 40 cookies. And you're like, yeah, I'm sure it was really good then. Yeah. I had the neighbor girl come over.
15:27And there was one left. I lied. The kids didn't eat the rest of them. There was one left. And I had to come over and I said, this is the last cookie out of 40. I have tried one. You're a Girl Scout. You sell Girl Scout cookies. Taste this and tell me if it tastes like a Girl Scout cookie, thin mint. And she bit into it and she was like, oh my God, you did it. I'm like, yep, sure did. That is so cool. He was probably, I don't know, 10 at the time.
15:53And the look on her face was priceless. I just, I wish I had taken a picture of her biting into that cookie. Those are some of your like most honest feedback when you ask kids, like you might not like the answer they have to say. So if you get a good compliment from like a 10 year old, you're doing really good. Yeah. And if she had said, this is not great. I would have been like, then I will never make them again. Cause I trust you. Oh, that's funny. But yeah, there's nothing like a Thin Mint Girl Scout cookie and
16:21They don't make them like they used to. I'm 54, so I remember when I sold Girl Scout cookies when I was a Girl Scout. And the cookie, the cookie was thicker and the chocolate coating was thicker. They were a bigger cookie. Mm-hmm. Yeah. And now there's these little tiny cookies. I'm like, I can't afford to pay this much money for a little tiny cookie. Holy cow. I know. Yeah. So anyway, long story short, Thin Mint cookies are awesome. I bet your Thin Mint, your Thin Mint marshmallows are fantastic.
16:51Yes, our mint lovers are in love with them. The thing I love about marshmallows is the mouthfeel because they're bouncy, but they're smooth at the same time. Yes. It's funny you mention that because through the past four years, I went from thinking like, I'm going to be the first person to create a flavored marshmallow.
17:16At that time, I wasn't aware. Like there's lots of other little smaller companies kind of doing what we're doing just in their hometowns or something like that. And so I've tried, you know, some of theirs and that, you know, everyone kind of has, you know, like there, I like to say they're different spaghetti sauce and everyone's going to think their spaghetti sauce is the best spaghetti sauce. So everyone has a different unique texture or flavor that they, you know, roll with. And
17:42One thing that I take a lot of pride in in my company, which is it makes it more hard for myself, is I keep a really short shelf life on mine. Like I said, it's a little bit more stressful because you're going to have to make more and rotate them on the shelves a lot faster with your wholesale accounts and stuff. But at the same time, I take a lot of pride in that really, really soft, fresh flavor, that fresh texture.
18:09And I think it's like one of the things that I'm really proud that like helps separate me from some other companies and something I've always stood by there. Because you're right, that texture and that softness goes a long way. That's your secret sauce. That's how you keep your sauce different. What's the biggest batch that you've made of one flavor? Oh my gosh. So I just started using a whole bar mixer.
18:37I still keep it really small. I like to make things difficult for myself. But we got this Hobart mixer and it was able to create four times the amount that I would in a normal smaller mixer batch. So we were able to create around 224 marshmallows in one batch. But as far as how many I've made in one day, I know that we've made, hold on, I have to do some math really quickly here.
19:08me go back. My best day baking, which is like, oh, like 12 hours on your feet, constant moving with mixers. It's quite stressful. 42 batches times my 54 marshmallows. My record has been 2268 marshmallows in one day. Wow.
19:30And did that count wrapping them and everything? Or is that just how many marshmallows? That's just the baking day. Then we get into packaging and stickering and we do all our stickers by hand and it's processed. So do you, do you have a day a week where you can just maybe take a few hours and, and rest? Depends on the type of year or time of year. Earlier in the year, I like to call it my diet season. Sales kind of.
19:56You know, go a little bit slower after Christmas, which I am so grateful for because I love having a break after Christmas season. Um, but later in the year, um, last year, I think we were tracking from around October through Christmas. Um, it worked about 65 days straight to keep up with our demand. So it was pretty, pretty intense then. So we're typically in here for, I'd say.
20:24Maybe on some of those, those days were eight to 10 hours a day, including weekends and events and traveling. So.
20:34You have heard of hobby burnout, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I did quit my full-time job less than a year into starting the marshmallows. There was such a demand for them. And when I was working my job at the Air Force, I was working roughly like 7 a.m. to 4.30, and I would get off work and I would go home, and I'd have customers come to my home and pick them up. And...
21:03I'd kind of cut off pickup times around like seven or eight o'clock. In the meantime, I would start baking my marshmallows and I was baking until about 11 PM and then getting up at about three or four o'clock in the morning to start cutting and packaging those before I would go to work the next day. I just kept that going like all week and I think there was just this high of excitement and it's working and I can't believe I'm doing it.
21:30It just never somehow got tired. It was easier by the way, not having kids at that time. Yeah, it just, it was going well. And I just thought to myself, if I'm ever going to take, take a leap of faith, then it's something that I'm just going to have to try it right now. And you know what, if we crash and burn in three months or six months or a year, then like, you can't look back and say like, Oh, I regret never trying. So we just, I just tried and went for it. And here we are four years later. So.
21:59Yeah, I just, I, I, back in my younger days, I would go and go and go and go and go too. Um, just, just a hint. Once you get past 45, that go, go, go gets up and goes. Oh my gosh. Yeah. Especially, uh, our son is now like about 20 months old and that's a game changer. My gosh. He keeps me so on my toes. I'm after like, he goes down to bed around eight o'clock. I'm just like.
22:25I haven't the energy for anything. And I always tell people emails my Achilles heel, because I don't want to start reading emails at 8 PM anymore. And soon as we get back up in the morning and drop him off, it's right back to the kitchen and the mixer. So it's a balance for sure. I try really hard not to look at my phone after six o'clock at night, because if I do, somebody is going to email me.
22:50And it's going to be what I think is important. And it's going to be something that gets my brain going. And I'm going to be up until 2 thinking about it. So I tried really hard to stop at 6 o'clock at night. And I messed up the other day and read an email at dinnertime at 5. And I can't say what the news was, but it was really exciting and really probably good for my podcast. And I didn't sleep. Like,
23:19I went to bed about eight and I read, because I usually read for an hour before I go to sleep just to shut my brain off. I tried and I barely slept because I was so excited about this particular news. And my husband looked at me the next morning and he said, you didn't sleep, did you? You laid there all night and thought about this, didn't you? And I was like, yep, couldn't help it. He said, were you up a couple of times last night? I said, yeah, because tossing and turning would probably keep you awake. So I just went downstairs and he's like, oh my God, honey.
23:48He said, you can't let this do this to you. I was like, no, this is great. This is great news. And he was like, yeah, but you need sleep. I was like, yeah, I'll sleep when I'm dead. It's okay. Oh yeah, totally get that. That's, you know, kind of going back to how you open with like the creativeness, once you kind of get that creative idea or that excitement, man, it's hard to shut it off. Mm-hmm, oh yeah. And I...
24:13I wish I could say what the good news was, but I don't want to jinx it. I will be able to talk about it after this Thursday. So I want to share it, but it will ruin the surprise for everybody. So I'm just going to be quiet about it, but it just kept me up all night. I was that lit up about it. So I totally get it. I had another question about marshmallow stuff. Oh, so do you see yourself doing this for a long time?
24:43like for years? Yeah, definitely. We have kind of talked like, what is our five-year plan? What's our 10-year plan? Like, what does this look like? And each year we're learning and growing more. And in the last six months, I have experienced kind of like having employees and that was so nice to be able to like have some help. And so that was kind of a stepping stone for us and kind of going in the right direction.
25:13Um, yeah, there, there's definitely some long-term goals and with this new food truck, I'm hoping, um, we're not going to totally release exactly what we're doing in there yet, but we are hoping with the success, um, once we get that, um, here and get to get started with it and working in the trailer, we're hoping to smooth the wrinkles out for the next two years and then eventually, uh, maybe take that to, uh, the state fair here in Minnesota and put all our chips in the table and see how that goes. And.
25:42from there, who knows what our possibilities are. But like I said, we're going to continue to keep growing and someday I think it would be super, super awesome to be like a household name down the road. But we've got a lot of learning to do between now and then. So we'll just keep doing what we can every day. That's a great plan. And I hope you get to be at the State Fair. I think that you would have so much fun with that. You will also be destroyed at the end of the day, but you're already destroyed at the end of the day. So why not? Yeah. Yep.
26:11Awesome. So I've been to Duluth once and it's gorgeous and it sort of reminds me of the pictures and videos that I've seen of San Francisco because everything is built up the hill. Yes. Yeah, Duluth has been absolutely beautiful. Before I moved here, I think I had visited maybe two or three times in my childhood. So when I came out here, I was like, oh, I
26:38Yeah, I wasn't really sure what to expect. And the funny part was, I don't know if when you visited, you got to go down to like Canal Park or at all. But I did. Yes. Yeah. My first time up here as an adult after I moved here, I got my dog, my German Shepherd and decided we're going to head down to the lake the first day we have to get down to the lake. And I had gotten in really early to Canal Park way down there at the end, which is actually where my husband and I got married this last year.
27:07We, my dog and I are out playing in the water and there's like barely anybody out there and you know, silly outsider. I'm just like, I found the best kept secret and all of Duluth. This is gorgeous. I'm so happy I moved here. People just hadn't showed up yet, but fall here is one of my favorite times and there's so many trees and hiking trails and seeing all the colors change. Like you just can't beat it. Just love it.
27:34Yeah, and it's a pretty big population for the city of Duluth, right? Yeah. I think we're upwards of like 80,000 for our quote unquote small town up here. Yeah. So you've got a built in audience for your marshmallows. So that's great. Yeah, definitely. We've got tons of wholesale accounts, like throughout the Duluth and upper Wisconsin areas here and people are very familiar with our brand, which it make it was
28:00pretty shy. I don't know the first couple times I'd be somewhere and someone's like, wait, you make Minnesota marshmallows? And I'm like, yeah. And they're like, oh my gosh, my kid loves those. And it's just like this like super exciting slash shy, you know, kind of really awesome kind of experience or feeling when you're like, wow, people know me like, oh, that's kind of cool. It's super weird when that happens. Yes. My friend.
28:28listens to my podcast, my friend who lives five miles from here. And she and her husband came over to visit. Hi, Tracy. If you're listening, hi, Tracy. I keep telling them, I'm going to say her name and I figured I should. But they came over for dinner and she was like, your pot, you're keeping me company on the way to work every day. And I was like, I am. And she said, yeah, she said, whenever you release a new podcast, I just listen to it on the drive to work. Oh, that's so cool. Yeah, we have, we've had some friends that
28:58We've got accounts out in like Grand Rapids and International Falls and they'll run up there and they'll be out exploring and have no idea that we've got a storefront up there. And they'll be like, take a picture and send it to me. And they're like, oh my gosh, I can't believe it. Look what we just came across. And it's just a cool, exciting feeling. Yeah, it's bizarre, but it's great. It's one of those surreal moments where you know you did the thing, but you forget that other people will see it.
29:27Yes, exactly. Absolutely. Yeah, it's crazy. We have a friend I think last summer too that was doing some house sitting or had visited someone up in I think like north of Two Harbors somewhere and they said, I couldn't believe it. We went in their fridge and they had Minnesota Marshmallows in there. I was like, that's awesome. I feel like we're like on that little tiptoe way to like household name at least maybe for our small town, maybe for us, but it was cool.
29:56Yeah, and on that note, on your website, you ship your marshmallows, right? Sure do, absolutely. At first, we were kind of nervous because sometimes if someone's got a package that's sitting on their steps all day, I'm like, oh my gosh, what am I going to do? How am I going to make sure they don't melt? And we've done some packaging changes and everything like that, and we get them down there and it's, yeah, they've made the travels all good so far. So we're thankful for that.
30:26I may have to look at your website and see if you have any thin mint marshmallows and order some. I might have to. There you go. Yeah, we're just about to launch out our spring menu, our spring and summer menu. For spring, we have our thin mint marshmallows, we call them mint marshmallows. We have our Uffta and Uffta is kind of like that Caramel Delight girl scout flavor. So we've got toasted
30:55cookie pieces, the whole lot in there. We named that one Ufta. And we've also got Orange Dream, kind of like a dreamsicle, chocolate chip cookie. We just closed out our Easter flavor for Jelly Bean. I thought that one was so much fun because every time you take a bite and you get a new Jelly Bean, you'd get kind of a new fun flavor. But we'll have Pistachio. Our Campfire Chata is kind of one of our adult flavors. It's a rum chata with butterscotch caramel swirls.
31:23Coming up we've got lemon blueberry donut drizzle. We've got a donut madness We've got strawberry or raspberry lemonade ones for those that have more of like that fruity sweet tooth And we've also got toasty mousse which is Hot fudge and peanut butter swirled together with chocolate chips on the top for our coffee fans we offer a boozy Bailey's and
31:45Our number one seller is, we call it Bigfoot Bites, and that's got Oreos, peanut butter, chocolate chip cookies, and fudge all in one sweet treat. Good Lord. Yes. Yeah, yeah. How big is each marshmallow, like inches? Yeah, they're a little over an inch on each marshmallow, about an inch and a quarter, I think. So they're a bite. Yes. You'll definitely at least get a minimum of two bites, but I have seen people eat the whole thing in one, and it's pretty cute.
32:15Yeah. Wow. You are amazing. I don't even know how you came up with all those different kinds, but I'm sitting here with my mouth watering and I don't even really have a sweet tooth. So if you're making my mouth water over marshmallows, it sounds really good. Thank you. Yeah, I like to blame that on my overactive sweet tooth. Yeah, I really like salt and sour. I really like chips and pickles. You should do a pickle marshmallow.
32:43My daughter would lose her mind. She drinks pickle juice out of the jar. She loves pickles so much. So you should try making a pickle marshmallow. That would be interesting. That would be very interesting. There's sweet pickles. You could do a sweet pickle marshmallow. Yeah. You could call it like the relish the experience or the something relish. Yeah, exactly. I think that'd be really fun. I just gave you a new idea to drive you crazy. Sorry. There we go.
33:12All right, Amy. Well, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and I wish you all the success in the world with your marshmallow making. Oh, thank you so much and I appreciate the interview. This was really fun. Thank you. You're welcome. Have a great day. You too. Thanks. All right. Bye. Bye-bye.

7 days ago

Today I'm talking with Rob at The Wegener Farm.
00:00This is Mary Lewis at A Tiny Homestead. The podcast comprises entirely of conversations with homesteaders, cottage food producers, and crafters. Today I'm talking with Rob at the Wegner Farm. Good morning, Rob, how are you? Good morning, Mary, I'm good. How are you doing? Good, how are things in Michigan? That's a beautiful day here in Michigan, finally. We had a little snow yesterday morning, which always sets you back mentally a bit here, but it's beautiful this morning, so.
00:29We're loving it. Yeah, it's April. Spring is coming. It's going to get here sooner than we think. It's beautiful here today in Minnesota too. So tell me about what you guys do at the farm. Okay, so at the Waggoner Farm, we're an organic, certified organic regenerative farm. We focus really on, you know, you've heard it called probably dirt, farming the dirt.
00:57uh... move away from the idea of uh... feeding plants and rather uh... think about feeding the food web in the in the soil itself so we've been very big since the beginning on treating treating the soil right and it'll grow the plants and uh... and they'll be great and uh... so far so good that we've been at this now this will be our fourth year uh... we started the first year on this property which was new to us
01:24with only 10 CSA customers, just to see, and mostly, by the way, friends and family who were fairly low risk, in case it didn't work. And year two, we went to 50. Year three, we went to 120. And this year, we'll be 130 CSA members, as well as some wholesale relationships and possibly a couple of restaurants. Wow. That is, that's huge.
01:54Um, yeah, anyone who's never run a CSA does not have any idea the work that goes into it. We did it for two years, three years, and we only had nine people at our highest number. And it's a lot of work and it's a lot of pressure because you want things to go right. Yeah, you've, uh, you're right about the pressure because basically, you know, the model.
02:22is such that the people, you know, they've paid you and now you better deliver, you know, and deliver well or the model falls down. Sorry about the dogs. Okay. I have one too. She does the same thing. Yeah. But our CSA members are great. They're people that are like-minded about looking for quality food.
02:51Excuse me, let me just close this. Yeah.
02:58at looking for quality food and not being, let's say satisfied or comfortable, but with the way the food system works and the way commercial farming works. We have a lot of visitors to the farm who I think also realize that USDA organic labeling is nice, but really transparency into seeing how things work is really where it's at.
03:27And we love to have people at the farm. We have some chickens that free range around the house. Kids love them. They're friendly, and they can feed them. And it really is an interesting, at CSA Pickup, a real interesting sense of community as people come to get their boxes every week. Yeah, we had baby bunnies two springs ago. And they were just big enough that the people who came to pick up their CSAs could hold them and pet them.
03:57That was a big hit here. We don't do rabbits anymore. I've already talked about this a billion times, but our rabbits were stupid. They did not understand that they were supposed to make babies. So we weren't going to let them. Rabbits that didn't make babies, I didn't think that it was possible. They were broken. There's something wrong with these rabbits. So we decided that feeding them with no return was not a good investment. So we no longer have rabbits, and that's OK. You were saying feeding the dirt. So.
04:26when you take care of the soil, the soil is fantastic. It grows fantastic food. So the soil is great. It feeds the plants. The plants are great. And then the plants feed us, which is great. Yeah, and I think this is what gets lost in the commercial food system, honestly, now. Two things, I think, make a world of difference. Actually, probably three. One is.
04:55When you are not trying to feed plants directly with synthetically produced fertilizers, plants get what they should be in terms of all of the micro and macro nutrients that the food web creates. These vegetables are just different. They're better for you. They taste better.
05:22We also use varieties that are not bred to be trucked from Mexico. And those varieties that are bred to be trucked from Mexico have been hybridized through the years to be tough. You know, and the result is that the flavor and the nutrition has been bred out of these plants and vegetables. And it's just unfortunate. And
05:51I would say to anybody listening, if you're not already connected with a local farmer, get connected. What you will learn about how things are supposed to taste, and just blow your doors off. Yeah, absolutely. And I am right there with you because we used to wait and wait and wait in the summertime for the tomatoes to come in at the farmer's market.
06:17We grew tomatoes, but our tomatoes were usually later coming in than the farmer's market tomatoes. So about the end of June, we would go over to the farmer's market every Saturday morning and be like, do you have tomatoes yet? Sometimes we got the first ripe tomato out of our little garden, but usually we bought them from the farmer's market because buying tomatoes at the store is something that I only want to do, and I really don't even want to do it, in January and February because they just...
06:45don't taste like anything. It's the reason people don't like tomatoes, I'm convinced. Anybody who doesn't like tomatoes, if I ask them, have you ever had one from a farm, they would tell you, no, I get them from the supermarket. That's because those orange plasticky things in the supermarket are not really, they don't taste like tomatoes. No, and I would pick cherry tomatoes out of a salad if I got a salad at a restaurant because I knew they would be terrible. And I thought I hated cherry tomatoes now.
07:16And then we started growing our own and I tried one and I was like, oh, I can finally have them in my salad again. Yay. Exactly. And you know, I thought I've known that about tomatoes since I was a little kid because my mom always grew a garden. My grandparents always grew gardens with tomatoes. What I didn't realize is it's also true of eggs. It's also true of basically anything that we produce.
07:45intended to live the what they give you in terms of food is just a different it's just a different thing. Yeah. So did you always want to do what you're doing or was was it new? Were you working on it before? Oh, man. So, let's see the the genesis story of the Wagner farm. So by my family generations ago actually came here as German immigrants and they were farmers, potato farmers and
08:14later on, row crop farmers. When I was 12, I was driving massive farm equipment, helping on my uncle's farm and my grandpa's farm, where I worked the summers. But it was never something that people aspired to be. It was the thing you thought of as what you could do if you couldn't do anything else. And I think that's really, really unfortunate. So I spent my life in corporate America, where I still am, by the way. I still work at...
08:43farm career, which I'm approaching hopefully retirement age here before too long. But after years of that, in the year 2020, my 14-year-old daughter passed away from complications from a very, from a rare disease. In January, and then in March in 2020, the world shut down because of COVID.
09:09And the grocery store shelves, you know, started to be empty. And it was really, really, if anyone can recall that time, it was really quite a shock to our, you know, to our thinking about food and health and both spiritual and physical. And at the same time, the business that I'm in also was, became more and more challenging to the point where I thought I just don't, I don't want to do this anymore.
09:36You know, my basically my day job is helping people finance cars that they don't really need. And is that a legacy that I want to leave behind? And I stumbled across actually JM Fortier's book, The Market Gardener, and started to watch some YouTube videos. People like Connor Crickmore and the NeverSink Farm in New York. And a few other examples of farmers that were able to create.
10:06actually a nice living and a nice community around this method of farming, which they basically got from Europe. These 30 inch beds and human scale without a lot of heavy equipment and without a lot of huge capital investment. I just thought that was the coolest thing. So I took some master courses and we started to build up the farm. We started the first shop for property.
10:33We found the property here. We started to build the farm up. There was nothing here. Um, it was, it was an 18 acre lawn basically. So, um, yeah, so that's how we got started. And, and man, it was so much fun that first year I was, uh, we still lived in our, in our other house. So it was a 20 minute drive to the farm, um, every morning and evening to take care of things and I just loved it.
11:00We moved now to the farmhouse which we renovated since. It's a significantly smaller house than we lived in before and made quite a lifestyle change to live out here on the farm. And it's just, it's really been quite fantastic. That is a beautiful story. And I'm sorry about your loss. That's sad, I'm sorry. So yeah, COVID again.
11:26COVID keeps coming up because a lot of the people I've talked to made changes right around when COVID hit. And it really did change how a lot of people viewed their world, not necessarily the world, but their little part of the world. And I know that we were still living in our little house in Jordan, Minnesota in town when everything kind of got shut down.
11:56We had always been kind of aware that it was smart to keep at least two weeks of food, you know, ready to have in case for some reason we had a massive ice storm and could not drive to the store. And so when things kind of got shut down, we were okay. I was definitely anxious about what
12:25My husband actually worked as a, he was outsourced from his job to an account that was a bunch of hospitals. And so he couldn't work from home. So he was still going out into the world, into hospitals every day while all that was going on. Yeah. And he was so worried he was going to bring COVID home to me and the kid. And so he was constantly stressed.
12:55And he said, honey, he said, I'm so glad that we have always lived as if there might be a problem around the corner that we're not foreseeing. He said, because if I had to worry about you running to the store to get stuff and being exposed, he said, I don't know how I would be functioning right now. And I didn't realize how stressed he was until like a month after.
13:21whatever the date was that the government said, okay, everybody started masking up. Don't go, you don't have to, blah, blah, blah. And he was just getting quieter and quieter and quieter with every week that passed. And I finally said, what's up with you? And he said, I just, he said, I don't know what's going to happen.
13:41And I said, oh, that's why you're being so quiet. And he said, yeah, he said, I'm trying really hard to not be panicked by this. He said, but this is a real thing. This is scary. He said, yeah, it really is. So for us, it basically cemented that we wanted to be more capable of growing our own stuff. And we had a small garden at the old house, but...
14:09It wasn't enough to put away stuff for the winter, you know? So we ended up buying a place in August of 2020. And we were really lucky because we were on the beginning swing of the housing boom that happened. So if we'd waited even six months, we would not have been able to go. So yeah, COVID was weird. Well, it certainly changed things.
14:38I don't really want to do it again anytime soon. It was... No, no, hopefully not in our lifetime, right? It's kind of a statistical inevitability. It will happen. So I think it's, I hope that people start to change a little bit the way they live as you mentioned, not thinking about being able to or needing to be able to run out to program or whatever for dinner tonight.
15:08Instead, have enough to sustain for a while. It's good for all of us. Yeah. And don't get me wrong, I do appreciate a Subway sandwich now and then because Subway makes them differently than I would. And I'm not saying everyone has to cook every meal that they eat every day from scratch all the time, but it's really good to know how to do those things. Right.
15:38All right. So what else do you guys do? So you grow produce, you have a CSA. Do you have anything except chickens? We do have chickens. Yeah, we have got, so we have 400 layers. Actually, I had to euthanize our entire flock last year because we got a contracted a disease. No, I'm not going to remember the name of it. It's a very long name. Not, not bird flu, not. And interestingly enough, the state of Michigan.
16:08because of how contagious this particular disease was, we had to euthanize the flock, which was a bummer for sure. We have no idea how it got on the farm. So just a lesson for anyone who might be listening, I think the only way we can sort it is that we bought six hens from a local farmer that was not necessarily a certified hatchery.
16:36you do take a risk. You know, so the only thing, this particular disease only affects chickens, pheasants, and peacocks. So it didn't come in on a wild bird or something like that. So we're pretty certain it must have come in on those chickens. And because some of these diseases that affect poultry can be sort of without any symptoms for a very long time. And then suddenly for whatever reason, they
17:06manifest themselves. Anyway, long story, but we had to euthanize our flock and we just got 400 new hens this year from a place in Fort Wayne that we deal with. So shout out to it's Wayne Trace Farms, by the way, in Fort Wayne. Tracy's great. And she supplies us with all of our hens other than those that I mentioned that we bought that I'm sure was a source for the problem.
17:33She's great and we, so now we have 400 hens that are just starting to lay, which is nice. It was a very quiet period on the farm when we didn't have chickens and it was really a bummer. Now we got them back, it feels right. And also my wife is, she's the crazy chicken lady, so she's turned into this because this is her connection to the farm. She loves to buy exotic breeds.
18:00and raise them. So we're going to get our first batch of those exotic new exotic chicks now here next week. It's not insanity. It's passion. She calls herself the crazy chicken lady so I can call her that. Okay, good. Yeah, I have a hard time with the whole crazy chicken lady, crazy cat lady, crazy horse lady thing.
18:30I love cats and I love dogs and if I had my way I would have kittens around all the time, I would have puppies around all the time because I love them. So I don't have kittens and puppies around all the time because that becomes expensive and takes up a ton of time. And kittens and puppies don't really give back anything except love.
18:56And love's great, but I don't need to be loved by 25 pups and a thousand kittens. I'm good. So, so yes, I think that there are people who might go slightly overboard. I think it becomes overboard when you can no longer handle it and you're never, you're not taking care of the animals in the way that they deserve anymore. That's, that's where it becomes the crazy part. Yeah, for sure. So I, I just.
19:23Every time somebody says crazy cat lady, I'm like, but are they crazy? Really? Well, I'll just give you an example. She's out wallpapering their coop right now. They have to have a pretty place to live. Yeah. I'm sure she thinks I'm the crazy vegetable guy, so maybe that's fair. Yeah. I don't call my husband the crazy gardening dude, but it's close. He loves it.
19:53And right now he and the kid are out putting up the framing for the walls on our heated winter greenhouse that we're building right now. Oh, very nice. Yes, I'm very excited. We've been excited since we found out we were going to do it. And we have baby plants on our kitchen table right now. And as soon as that greenhouse is done, the baby plants are going outside early this year, which is great. Yeah, very good.
20:22We're excited. Congratulations. Yeah, it's a lovely project and it's gonna allow us to extend our growing season this fall. So, don't have enough words and I don't actually have all, I don't think words have been invented yet for how excited we are about this project. It does change the game for sure. We started here in year one with a 30 by 72 hoop house, you know, we went with.
20:50basically full automation. So there's climate control inside and the rest. We bought a speckin' one in year two, so that first one was 70 by 30, the second one's 120 by 30. Last year we added a heated propagation house, so that one's 26 by 36. And now actually I just came in from building our second caterpillar tunnel.
21:18So we keep, you know, there's really, it makes a huge difference to be able to put things under cover even if they're not heated. The sun does a whole lot in terms of keeping things warm. As long as you can keep them from freezing, the sun will keep it warm there during the day. So that's, it makes all the difference in the world. Yeah, last spring, I'm sorry, last fall, our barn cat had kittens and
21:47once they were big enough to be out wandering around, she would direct them into the small hoop house greenhouse that we had up because it was warm in there. And we'd go in there and they'd just be playing because it was so warm. It was really cute. Okay. So do you have any other animals or is it just the chickens in your gardens? We don't. We want to. But...
22:17My wife and I both work full-time jobs, so there is a certain limitation when it comes to time. I was fortunate enough here, which this is something else I'm really proud of, that the first second year actually that we did this, I found an intern, a young lady who was a sustainability major at Grand Valley State University, one of the local Michigan colleges. And
22:44She started year one on the farm and just kind of found a passion for farming. So she came back in our, in last year and ran the farm. She was a production manager, you know, 23 year old college graduate, um, starting farming. And, you know, just looking back at what it was like when I was a young, a young guy working on my, um, uncle's farm, you know, and basically being told this isn't what you want to do for a living. I think it's really.
23:11fantastic to try and close that loop and show Riley that, yeah, you can actually make quite a nice living doing this and have a different lifestyle than just heading into the corporate jungle every day. So Riley's back again this year, again, managing production and learning a little bit more about the business side of things. So...
23:36I'm pretty excited about that. I'm looking for Riley 2.0 because I'm sure Riley at some point is on her way to owning her own farm and I'd love to have another Riley at this point to try and help develop their passion. Riley will be ready to run her own farm pretty soon. She understands what needs to happen and how it all works. I'm pretty proud of that actually.
24:03She's part of the group of kids that I refer to as the light and the hope of the future. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Our son is 22 and he still lives with us and he is, he's getting a very nice education in how to build buildings and how to grow food and how to take care of chickens. And we call him the intern who gets paid with room and board right now. There you go. Yeah, it's a paid internship.
24:32Yep. And he loves it. I mean, he'll say that he doesn't. He'll say that he would really like to, I don't know, do something else eventually. But every morning when he gets up and he actually slept, because he's got some insomnia issues going on right now, he gets up and he's like, did dad check the wood stove before he left? And it's a yes or a no. And if it's a no, he's like, okay. And he goes up and
25:01puts on his shoes and jacket and stuff and heads out and makes sure the wood stove is fed. And that's important too on the homestead. So he chips in all the time. And I'm so proud of him because I don't know that he really, really wanted to move here. He had a job at a comic book store that he really loved. It was within walking distance of where we lived.
25:31He loved his job. And sometimes I feel bad that we left because it's half an hour away and he can't drive right now. Whole bunch of stuff about the kid that I'm not allowed to say. There's a reason he's not allowed to drive and it's beyond his control. So sometimes I'm afraid that he feels trapped, but.
25:56He seems to have adjusted well and he really does like helping dad out on the quote unquote farm. So it's working out okay. So do you have other kids? While we had just the two and as I mentioned, my daughter passed away in 2020. I have Matthew who's now 15 who is actually out making sandbags as we speak. So he's maybe not so enthusiastic about it.
26:25Which is, I am hoping that he grows into it still, I guess. And my hope was when we bought the farm that he would, you know, he was enthusiastic when we bought it. And I think he's, well, he's 15. He'd rather play video games than work. So. That sounds about right. Yeah. Makes him, I think, pretty normal. Even though we hope for more, you know? Yeah, but you never know who he's gonna become. I have, I have four kids.
26:55and they all have turned out to be really, really good people.
27:02There's nothing bad I can really say about them, so they're good people. I'm also their mommy, I'm going to say they're good people, but you know how that goes. Okay, so you mentioned video games and stuff here. One of the things that's most interesting to me about this wave of folks who decided to move out of the cities and...
27:30start growing their own food and raising animals and stuff is that every time I talk with them, I watched a bunch of YouTube videos to learn what I didn't know. And it is so incredibly interesting to me that we are using this pretty, I don't have a word, intense is the wrong word, this technology that is so high.
28:00tech to learn about old school things and then implement those old school things. Because it sounds like you've done the same thing. You've watched videos and stuff to learn how to do things. Yeah. And I guess I never thought about it that way, but it is interesting how the circle closes, right? And I think it's just I view these channels like YouTube as...
28:29really just democratizing education. And there's a whole lot of people out there willing to contribute because they also have a passion for what they're doing. I think it goes farther. I mean, I think, for example, both JM Fortier who's in Conor Crickmore, who are both kind of pioneers in their own right about this sort of farm approach.
28:53definitely have a passion and want to teach other people. You know, and JM is actually now working on a big research farm, you know, as to try and help find better ways to do some of this stuff. But you can also connect with these folks personally and in exchange.
29:15they make a living doing it, right? So both JM and Connor have master classes, which by the way, I highly, highly recommend. Because if you're going to try and do this farming gig, the systems that you need to have in place to be efficient are absolutely the key. Because it's the whole thing is based on intensive use of space and
29:40and lots and growing lots of stuff. You know, like for example, we grew 50,000 pounds of food last year on our little 1.3 acres. And this year, this year we'll grow another 30% more in the same space. So it is it is a little bit democratizing education, you don't have to go to university anymore to learn this, you can learn it directly from the practitioner, which I think is really great. Yeah, and not end up with them.
30:09hundreds of thousand dollars student loans to pay back to. Right. Right. My basic, I love Elon Musk's approach to it. If this, he says, uh, if you can't learn it on YouTube, it's probably not worth knowing. So, yeah, my daughter has a two year degree in something, just the basic beginner degree, you know, and I had asked her a couple of years ago if she was going to go back to continue and
30:39There she didn't even miss a beat. She was crying immediately and I was like what is wrong and she said mom She said I'm still paying my student loans from the two-year degree that I'm never actually going to use She said I'm never going to spend money to go back to a college class in my life that's that's how much it bothered her and I felt so bad for her and
31:07I don't have the money to pay her student loans off. If I did, I'd do it. She did end up taking an online course to learn computer coding, and she loves it. And she's been doing like freelance stuff with that for the last few years. And that didn't cost her nearly as much money, and it was an accelerated course, and she loved it. So maybe, maybe the idea is that we don't have to spend.
31:36hundreds of thousands of dollars for an education anymore. We just need to know where to learn the information from. Right, right. So. Right. Agreed. Yeah, it was a rough patch for her and she is incredibly bright. And I think that she just felt like she had wasted her time and her money on that degree because she thought she was supposed to get it. So yeah, it's really hard.
32:06when the world tells you go to school, get straight A's, and then go to college and get straight A's and then try to find a job in the field you went to school for because it's not as easy as it sounds. For sure not. So anyway, I could talk about that for months. I have had long conversations with other friends who have kids who have been through the college path and we're pretty much all on the same page.
32:36So anyway, Rob, I'm really, I don't know, I got a lot going on today, so I'm gonna keep this short. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. I appreciate it. Thank you, Mary. Appreciate it, appreciate you too. Appreciate what you're doing. I'm trying to get you guys' information out to the world as much as I can. Thank you. All right, have a great day. Thank you. Bye.

The Old Farmers Almanac

Monday May 13, 2024

Monday May 13, 2024

Today I'm talking with Carol at The Old Farmers Almanac about gardening by the phases of the moon, frost dates, and the history of the almanac. You can follow on Facebook, as well.
00:00This is Mary Lewis at A Tiny Homestead, the podcast comprised entirely of conversations with homesteaders, cottage food producers, and crafters. Today I'm talking with Carol at the Old Farmer's Almanac. Hi, Carol. How are you doing today? I'm good. How are you doing, Mary? I'm great. Thank you for being here. Tell me about yourself and about what the Old Farmer's Almanac is.
00:23Well, the Almanac is ultimately really a calendar and a calendar of the heavens. And so, you know, old farmers or new farmers tend to need calendars because we like to know what's going on and what we need to be planning ahead for. But yeah, the greatest thing about the Almanac, I think, is that it's 232 going on 233 years old. So I'm the newest editor. I'm the 14th editor. I'm the second female editor.
00:51of the almanac in all those years. So it's quite an honor and a responsibility. But I think we just see that there's such a resurgence and an interest in all of the things that the almanac is about, whether it's gardening and farming or astronomy or folklore or home remedies, those sorts of things. People are really paying more attention to those. So it's a great place to be.
01:18Yankee Publishing is our home publisher and I worked here 20 years ago on a different publication for Yankee Magazine. So it's a bit of a homecoming for me. I've always been a fan of the Almanac. So it's great to be here. Very nice. So can you tell me where the Almanacs, actually before we even get there, there are two farmers' Almanacs. The old farmers' Almanac is the original? Yes.
01:45So who puts out the other one? Not that I want to give them any press, but I don't know. We don't know a lot about them either, honestly. They are out of Maine. We are out of Dublin, New Hampshire. And the farmer, not the old farmers, the other one is, I think it started in the 80s or 90s. It's not that old. I think distribution-wise, they are pretty much in New England, whereas we are...
02:13you know, all of North America. And I think they sell about, maybe their publication is about 300,000, you know, and we sell almost 3 million. So it's a little different, you know, I think, but again, like almanacs, when we started our almanac, there was many almanacs and really ours just kind of, well, we know that the weather was more accurate and we know that we were more entertaining. That's why we stuck around. So.
02:42Honestly, there was always almanacs. So it's really kind of great that there are more than less, because some are regional, some are really specific to a certain aspect of almanacs typically. So good competition to have, I guess. So you guys are the old farmer's almanac, and you've been around for over 200 years, you said? Yes, 1792, first year. All right. So I have a little tiny story to share about your publication.
03:12I think that the old farmer's almanac was probably one of the first things I read when I was six years old. I think. Cool. So, yeah, my dad bought it every year because he grew a garden and he needed to know when the safe time to plant was and when the full moon was going to be and all those things that are in there. You mentioned weather.
03:40the coming weather is going to be. Are you at liberty to share that? Of course. And so yes, that's really what has been, I think, anybody who plants things in the ground, we're always pretty obsessed with the weather. What's it going to do? And so that's true for since, really, if you think back, people that are now homesteaders like yourself or farmers or if they aren't, it's only a couple of generations back that all of us were farmers.
04:10The weather is of key importance. And as we have weirder weather too, we get a lot of more interest in it. And so from the beginning, it's been about data. It's been about this special formula. And so our founder, Robert B. Thomas, whose birthday is coming up, he really believed in and studied astronomy and planet science and pinned his algorithms and his data.
04:40data at that time, of course, what he had to three sciences. And sunspot, sun science, sunspot activity is really the one that I think sets us apart in terms of our long range forecasting. We also use climate science and meteorology, but it's really that idea of layering the data that we have in those three science areas, one on top of each other and looking at patterns across...
05:08that very large data set. And of course, in those days, we do have Robert B. Thomas' hand calculations. And these days we can crunch even more data, even more data is available. But to be more nuanced about it, for sun science, the sun is in its 25th cycle that it's been recorded and these cycles are 12, 13.
05:35more, sometimes years old, years. And so this worth the very end of the 25th cycle, and it's quite a crazy cycle. It's been tons of sunspot activity, which does impact our weather. And so yeah, that's from the, from time beginning, that's how it's been done. And now we, we work with, you know, premier weather forecasters who use our same formula from the beginning. But of course, like I said, so much more data to go by.
06:04At the same time, we are finding lots of aberrations. There was three La Niña years and now we're in El Niño. And because they don't typically come that many in a row, that's had some differences and not as predictable, I think. So we've had to do some art and science. Yeah, this winter in Minnesota,
06:32was the strangest winter I have ever seen. Tell me what happened. Nothing. Nothing happened. Basically, last winter, we got piled with snow. Two winters ago. This winter, I think if we got a foot of snow, we were lucky. And it rained like crazy yesterday. Yesterday, the winds were almost tornado.
07:01number wind gusts and it poured all day. It would have been two and a half feet of snow if it had been snow. It's just been the craziest, weirdest winter of my entire life. And I grew up in Maine. I've lived in Minnesota for over 25 years now. And there were some crazy winters in Maine, but this was not the winter we were expecting this 23, 24.
07:29It's same here. We thought it was, we had, we probably predicted the right amount of precipitation. Um, I'm guessing in a lot of places this year, but not the right kind of precipitation. It was definitely less cold than we predicted. And so, um, many places where we predicted, you know, crazy white outs, it was really a wet out. The idea being, and you know, a lot of that is that, that the jet stream is when it's slow, it does, it does kind of crazy things.
07:59And that's what we're seeing. It's been a slower, wavier jet stream for a while. And so that affects different, different teleconnections is the word. Yeah. And you can't win them all. It's a prediction. It's not set in stone. So I appreciate what you guys try to do. And when you get it dead on, that's awesome. Yeah. But what's the prediction for the summer? Do you know that off the top of your head? Because I haven't actually looked yet.
08:29Um, for Minnesota. Sure. Um, and I kind of think of you, let me just look at my farmers. I'm like, well, I have it because I was on the phone with Canada and really you, you're kind of, it depends on where you are in Minnesota. Are you, I was trying to figure out if you're in Northern Minnesota? No, we are about an hour Southwest of the twin cities. So you're not quite in the prairies, I guess I would say. And it's, it's pretty flat and there's a lot of cornfields. So my, my idea of a prairie, it fits it pretty well.
08:59So I'm going to, I think what you're describing is what we are seeing, especially even in Southern Canada, which is, you know, just really north of you and also where you are, is that it's a bit of an aberration. So that there's kind of what our weather forecasters have been talking to us about our winter and fall hangovers. So winter's hanging on a little bit more where you are and going a little bit later, whether that's rain or snow. And then you're getting a drier, warmer fall.
09:29Okay. So that's what we're predicting for that area. And then, you know, like everywhere, probably a little bit warmer than average temperatures this summer. Great. I'm very excited about this. Last summer, we had rain from mid-May until I think the end of June. How did your garden grow? Our garden did okay.
09:57Our potatoes did not do great because we had them in raised beds. And I don't know what you know about gardening, but when you have raised beds, sometimes they don't get watered as often as say the big old open garden does. And it was very, very dry from the end of June until September. So our potatoes did not do well, but the rest of the garden did pretty good.
10:27I just was trying to figure out what we're looking at for this year because I have tomato babies on my kitchen table right now. I have basil babies on my kitchen table right now. And my husband is just dying to get things in the ground. And I told him, I said, it's only April 17th, hun. I said, we never plant anything until at least May 15th, so just relax. And you know, at almanac.com, you can just...
10:53punch in your zip code and then it'll tell you by plant, you know, what is your frost date and your best moon by the moon planting date. Yeah. And what does the moon have to do with all of this? Because I figure that's a good question that most people won't know about. It's my favorite topic. What's the moon got to do with it? It's got everything to do with it though. We were just...
11:17talking among the editors yesterday and how there was a new study that also shows that Mars affects our tides, but I can't tell you about that just yet. Okay. But the moon, so you live in the landlocked area, so you don't maybe see it as much, but if you're on the coast, a tide is going to be higher during the full moon. And so-
11:41what moon gardening or gardening by the phases of the moon takes into account is saying the water that the moon moves, just like it moves the ocean, water is in the ground. We are, what are we, 60, 70 percent water? Plants are 90 percent water. And so it's this idea that there is a tide, you know, even the earth and the water underneath the earth.
12:10is subject to being influenced by the moon's effect. And so how that operates is it's saying that when the moon is waxing, when the moon is growing in its light in the sky, that water is drawn up and out. And so that's a time to plant certain crops. You know, it's a time to plant things that you want to grow up and out. So, but we would say then during a waning phase,
12:39as the light is retreating, that means the water is also being drawn back into the earth. So root crops would be the best thing to be planted at that time to just take advantage of that natural essentially tide that's in all water. So that's a very basic way of thinking about it. And then there are, in terms of astronomically...
13:07you know, the zodiac has an astronomical as well as a, um, astrology component, but the astronomical one is also something that people tend to layer over, um, this idea of the moon phases and get even more intricate with their, with their planting. But that's the idea. And it's also, you know, applies to kind of the tasks of gardening is where, you know, those first two weeks of a new moon, um, it's a time to be planting and starting. And then as the new, as the full moon passes.
13:37That's a time to be cleaning up and revisiting that cycle. So it's really just about that cycle. Does that kind of make sense? Yeah. So it's no different really than the whole planning for the seasons. You're planning for the moon cycle as well. Yes. Okay. Cool. So is the Old Farmer's Almanac still in print? Because I think I saw it for sale at Fleet Farm a couple years ago.
14:05But I haven't actually noticed lately because I've been busy doing other things and my husband will look things up online instead of going and buying a copy because we're terrible people. So, is it still in print? Yes, we print almost three million copies a year. Yes, it's about 10 bucks, so it's still a great bargain. But it's great. You can find awesome information on almanac.com. And we have hundreds and hundreds and thousands of pages. And really for...
14:35particular plants. If it's like, okay, I want to plant hydrangea. Okay, I want hot peppers. We have just wonderful grow guides for each and every vegetable and flower that we have up there. So great resource. We don't duplicate much online that we have in the issue. We don't give away our whole forecast, for instance, online. We have people buy that and there's reference sections that you could find in different places, but wouldn't be sort of
15:04There's a whole set of features that doesn't go online. And I'm trying to think what other pieces of it. Oh, the farmer's calendars and the calendar itself, you know, so that piece isn't online. But lots of the growing resources are and a lot of sky-watching resources and planetary resources are online. Okay. The reason I asked is because there's so many print publications that have gone...
15:32away from print, but you can find them online instead. And I love that you guys still have one you can actually hold in your hand and flip the pages with your fingers. Yeah, totally. People love it. And you know, it's, the newsstand has gone away, just to speak a little bit about the business. You know, it's like if you go to your grocery store, say, you know, there's very few magazines or there's not maybe even like a periodical section anymore. So we've done a lot of creative things.
15:59and to be in different marketplaces. And it's really been a success that way so that people can find us in a lot of different spots. Yeah, I'm gonna go out on a little bit of a limb again. I try not to go too far out because I don't wanna make anybody really angry, but I was late to the e-reader.
16:21I really did not want to read things on a tablet or on a computer screen. I loved books. I loved libraries. I loved bookstores. And ever since I finally caved and bought my first Nook e-reader, and I don't even know if Barnes & Noble is still doing that, but I don't spend a lot of time with an actual book or magazine or newspaper in my hand anymore because I just read it on my tablet.
16:51I feel like a traitor because I really did love hard copy words. So I guess it's okay because it doesn't necessarily matter how you're getting the words into your brain to get the ideas flowing. But I kind of miss the smell of a good library and a good bookstore. That's funny. I used to work at a library before this job, so I get your drift. Yeah.
17:20But we do offer an e-version for your Nook or your Kindle. So that's definitely doable for people. But yeah, lots of people really like the print. I think that we've been thinking about the newer audience and younger readers and thinking about it'd be kind of fun to do a little video. I think we'll do one in the fall about how to use the Almanac because it's got some really quirky stuff in it that you don't find online. That's just pretty neat. How you...
17:49kind of walk through the days of the year and what symbols and stuff we have. So we've been thinking about that just to refresh, you know. That would be fun. Yeah. So, okay, so do you, are you familiar with the beginning history of the old farmer's almanac? Yes. I mean, pretty much so, you know, I can tell you what I know. How did it start?
18:17Robert B. Thomas was our founder. In fact, I was just reading about him the other day. He's an interesting fellow. He was really self, well, the time, you know, in 1780s, 1770, I think he started the Almanac, well, he started in 1792, and I wanna say he was maybe 25. He was the editor for 40-something more years, which he lived a good long life for those times. And so his father, he wrote that his father,
18:46really was their main educator and that he was very educated and that they were lucky in that they had a lot of books in their home. Back in those days, you might have the Bible and an almanac, maybe one of the earliest ones, but Benjamin Franklin was an almanac editor slash creator. So at the time, this was the next piece of information that people really needed after the
19:16You know, as Robert B. Thomas was gaining his own education, he was fascinated by astronomy. And he kept seeing, if you read his writing, he'd see these almanacs and he's like, I can do better. You know, I can do better. And so he was really quite a go-getter. And so he did. He got his almanac off the ground. And as I said, I think really, when we look back, he committed himself to that science about the long range forecasting.
19:45And he did have a lot of successes and a lot of right things that happened. But also he wanted his Almanac to be entertaining because, okay, you know, it's an early, it's an early homestead. And, you know, this book gives you something to look at every single day of the year. There's information, many pieces of it really. So, so he was really an innovator.
20:13I think when it came to Almanacs, there were Almanacs, but he committed himself to his being really great and different. So those are the beginnings. It's fun. I don't think that we're really, we're not doing pictures, but we have the old Almanacs here in the office and it's just so interesting to me how some of the same things, like we've done green manure stories since the beginning. And how to grow. Of course, we started as a New England.
20:42product and your main person from your origins, but the idea of growing wheat or hay in New England, how to do it, who had to feed their livestock. So yeah, I think it's kind of interesting to me when I even go back 200 years, 150 years, how relevant that information is still. It's amazing. Yeah, absolutely. It's... Okay.
21:08Again, I'm going to say something that people are probably going to get yelled at about. If you're doing it the way that it was done 200 years ago, it's probably good.
21:20Yeah, I don't know if you know, I think permaculture is a word we use these days. And to me, you know, having experience with biodynamic farming and organic farming and these different ideas, permaculture really describes to me what was happening here, you know, when people became and came to settle this country. So yeah, that idea of
21:46having things locally available and sharing knowledge with your neighbors is really, it's really, it's something that hasn't grown old. No, it's where it's at, as my daughter would say jokingly because she thinks that's a very old fashioned phrase. Okay, so in the Old Farmer's Almanac, it's about the phases of the moon and how to...
22:14use those to plant. It's about growing things. It's about weather. Are there any like stories in it at all? Totally. Totally. Yes? Okay. So this year we've got, well it's the year of the grain. And so we talk about how to grow grains. So you know there's that. We do farmer profiles all over North America. So we talk to farmers whether they're date farmers or dairy farmers or small
22:43We really have a smattering across Canada and the US. So those are really interesting to see again, how farming at different levels is taking old ways and refreshing them. We always have a ton of food stories. So we've got a great pancake story in the 2024 issue. And fishing is another area where we have a big following. And so we have a cool story on just...
23:11having a fun fishing outing. We always have our maps and our calendars. This year we had a great story on leap day because it was a leap year and the eclipse because of the eclipse. And then, you know, sometimes you'll just see, like I said, okay, green manure. Well, this, we always have tons of growing stories, but we do, we have like the perfect seed germination recipe because we all know if you don't get that right, you're really in trouble. You never do enough tomatoes. Like we don't, you know, we...
23:41We have a great story on toast, how to make the best bread for toast. But I think tomatoes is almost something you'll find always in our issue, either that or the garden guide. So people always want homegrown tomatoes, so there's always tips there. And then we have recipe and essay contests. So we have reader recipes and essays, and those are really fun and usually delicious recipes. Cool. Yeah. The germination thing. My kid wanted to do.
24:11the baby lettuces, because he likes to eat them when they're just a little tiny. And he got a flat bucket. I think it was probably supposed to be a cat litter box, but it's clean. So he threw some compost from our compost pile in there and he spread the lettuce seeds in and he got one lettuce plant out of like 40 seeds. And I think that it was probably a package of seeds from four or five years ago. And maybe it's just not good.
24:41So I asked him the other day if he wanted to replant them and he was like, nah, he said, I was waiting until dad plants the garden. I was to get him out of the garden. I was like, okay, that's fine. And the kid is 22. It's not like he's five. It wasn't like this was a new concept to him. He was like, I'm going to try to grow some. I was like, you do that. That's fine. So yeah. It's the first step and it's the hardest sometimes. Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
25:11my husband put in the tomato seeds and basil seeds. The basil seeds took like two and a half weeks to pop up. I was like, they're supposed to be up at 10 days. And he says, I don't know what's going on. And now they're basil. You know, I could kill the baby plants by pulling the two leaves off of every one, but I'm not gonna do that. But they look like basil plants, so. Did you do, do you have any grow lights? Or are you using like a just sunny window?
25:40Oh no, we have a grow light. We have a long grow light that's hung from the kitchen light fixture above the table and everything's coming in great. Tomatoes are like five inches tall and they've only been in for three weeks. So, they're doing great. And boy, life really, really changed the game. Even the small one, like I've been seeing them for sale, you know, whatever, discounters and you know, for people that...
26:07It's just such a jump on the season. It's just, and it's also, I feel like having that light on and around and seeing little baby things grow is just the perfect antidote to a late spring. Yeah, it saves us from our winter depression because by the end of February in Minnesota, we're like, oh my God, I need green plants. This is terrible help. So we just put them in and they grow. It's amazing.
26:31Okay, so I have one more thing that I would like to share from our experience. And you can tell me what you think about it. When we bought this place back in 2020, we moved in August. So it was way too late to start a garden. And that does not mean that my husband did not start prepping for the following spring. He's the gardener. He loves it. But, uh,
26:56It was really hard because there was nothing here. It was a blank slate. So that was great because we could make it we wanted it to be. But that first spring was rough because there were no flowers coming up because the person that owned it before wasn't a flower gardener and it killed me. Cause I had flowers at the old place like crazy and having nothing coming up in May was heartbreaking. So, so I guess.
27:25As someone who's very steeped in all of this, if someone was looking for, I don't know, a bigger property, like say, going from a tenth of an acre to an acre, going from five acres to 10 or 20, when is a good time to make that jump during the year? Because I think we did it right because we moved in August, we knew the first year was going to be building it up.
27:55And so August seemed like a good timeframe, not that we planned it that way. But do you have any suggestions? Oh gosh. And I mean, in this market, it's kind of like, can you pick when you do anything? Well, the planning part. Yeah. Well, yeah, that's such an interesting question. I guess because you don't know what's there. You know, I actually, the last place I've been, I'm moving to be closer to my job, which is great, but.
28:24I also purchased in August and so I could see that some things were coming up or had been up earlier in the year, but it really wasn't until the following spring that I got a good sense of what was there and was able to plan. So the biggest plan I could really make was for a vegetable garden because there hadn't been one. So that from scratch gave me time, which was nice. There was an herb garden and an herb space there, so I was able to do that right away.
28:52but I did take the time to really think about and plan my vegetable garden and get it set up well. So that was one, I think, advantage to having it from scratch. But yeah, it's so many factors, Mary. Like I think like if you're gonna add a greenhouse, like, you know, needing to plan and really wanting to know where does the shade fall all year long before I put up a structure? Yeah. You know, so I think there's a lot of factors that go into it.
29:20I guess ideally my feeling would be January's when we all start to really want to plan. So it'd be nice to move in the late fall or winter, even though it's not a great place, time to move, but then have all that time to settle in and plan so that at least your house on the inside is okay so when you're ready to step out.
29:44Yeah, yeah, that too. Our realtor is actually a family friend now. We love her. She told me back years ago that September is the most popular month for people to be moving into a new place because the school year is starting in September. Right. And I feel like it's not just the school year. I feel like it's the time where
30:12where summer's pretty much over and you're getting into your fall routine and then the holiday routine and then January hits and you have time to breathe again. Yes. So, maybe we did it at exactly the right time because it worked out perfectly. We had all the time in the world to get everything moved in, to get things put away, to get through the holiday season. And then January hit and my husband said, so.
30:40we now have room for a humongous garden. What are we going to do? I was like, I think you're going to garden. He said, yes, I understand that. And this is a relationship we have. He does not call me a smart ass when I say things like that. And when he asks me obvious questions, I don't say, thank you Captain Obvious. So, but we think it real loud. It's very funny. But he had time, and I had time to sit down.
31:04and draw up the plan and figure out what we wanted to grow and what we needed to do to get those things started. One other thing that might be nice about that time of year too is if you do know or there aren't flowers, you can put in bulbs. So you have something when the spring wakes up. Yeah, we did not do that. We actually put in bulbs the following fall, I think.
31:32No, maybe we did. Maybe we put in tulips that first fall because I knew it was going to destroy me come spring when there were no peonies. But yeah, right now we've got daffodils blooming and we've got tulips that should be blooming in a week and we have many, many peonies that will be coming in June. I'm very excited about my peonies because we had tons where we used to live and now we don't have tons, we have many.
32:02Well, I bet with the lack of flowers when you first got there, it really makes a difference for the pollinators. I think I've been to lots of places that are food focused and I think, oh, just put in some butterfly bush or some echinacea or coneflower, get some pollinators. Yeah. We tried putting in echinacea and prairie fireweed or whatever it is that grows native to Minnesota and flots.
32:32and some other things. And then the drought hit and because we put them where they weren't obvious, they didn't get watered. So we spent probably $120 on native plants and they all died. I was so sad. Those expensive lessons. Yeah, we're not going to do that again. Next time I'm going to be like, okay, so we're putting them where we remember where they are so we remember to water them. But
32:58There is a man who lives a mile and a half away, maybe two miles away, who keeps honeybees. So we are never without honeybees, which is wonderful. It's good to know your neighbors and then you know what resources they're gonna share by accident. But yeah, it's, I don't know. The reason I asked about the when is the best time of year to make the jump is because
33:26We had already been gardening at our old place. We had already been making things from scratch. We had already been freezing produce, and now we can produce, because we can, can produce. And we knew enough that it wasn't that hard to shift from a 10th of an acre lot in town to a three acre lot five miles outside of town. It was a natural progression for us. But...
33:52I feel like there's probably people who are watching this homesteading movement that started back when COVID happened, who don't necessarily have the experience where it would be a natural progression for them to make the jump. So I was hoping that maybe by saying, is there a good time for that jump, that that would help them.
34:18Well, that is a great time, as you know, as you described. And, but I also think, like I see, like you said, this, this movement, I see, I see a lot more people just adding raised beds in their yard for starters. Like when I drive around, I see that. And are we just, um, we just, uh, issued our third book in our handbook series, the container gardeners handbook and that, and container gardening is really. Just soaring because people can do that anywhere on a patio or on a balcony, you know, but there's this.
34:47just really desire to be growing our own food and herbs and things like that. So, so, you know, yes, I think that it's wonderful for people to think now if they want to make that leap, you know, now's the time to plan that for the fall. But there's also opportunities, you know, all around the year for people that, that want to, you know, that don't have the means, more the desire to move that can still have things at their fingertips, you know, that we know that it's just not, it's beyond.
35:16It's beyond growing your own food. We know that, you know, touching the earth is like an antidepressant and flowers and scents and tastes are as well. Yeah. Yep. Absolutely. You don't have to live. You don't have to live in a certain place to grow things. You can grow things on your kitchen window sill if you want to. Absolutely. So. All right. Well, um.
35:43I tell me the old farmers almanac website address, please. Yes, it's simply almanac.com. Nice, simple, really simple. Good. All right. And are you guys on Facebook? Do you have a Facebook page or group or something? Yes, we're on Instagram and we're on Pinterest and Facebook as the old farmers almanac and did I say Instagram and YouTube also we have a wonderful grow veg is our partner in our garden planner. And there's
36:12great videos, growing videos that are also on almanac.com. Fantastic. All right, Carol, thank you so much for talking with me today. I really wanted to talk to someone at your place about this, because my podcast is called A Tiny Homestead, and I knew about the almanac. And I was like, not everybody knows about the almanac. I need to get somebody from them to talk to me about it. Thanks for having me, Mary. You're welcome. Have a great day. You too.
36:41Alright, bye.

Short Stack Ranch

Friday May 10, 2024

Friday May 10, 2024

Today I'm talking with Therese at Short Stack Ranch.
00:00This is Mary Lewis at A Tiny Homestead, the podcast comprised entirely of conversations with homesteaders, cottage food producers, and crafters. Today I'm talking with Therese at Shortstack Ranch. Good morning, Therese. How are you? Good morning. I'm doing very well. Thank you. Good. You're in California? I am. We are in Northern California, just a little bit north of Sacramento. Okay. Well, tell me about yourself in Shortstack Ranch.
00:26So the short stack ranch, I retired from 25 years with the California Department of Corrections about two years ago, and it had always been my dream to have comfort care minis, you know? And I never really thought it would happen, but I've also been heavily involved since I was in college with Special Olympics.
00:50And everything just kind of fell together. I was gifted two beautiful miniature horses by a wonderful woman, Sharon Mariam, who had had them both for 15 and 30 years, but she's been involved in the mini world for about 35 years. And I had asked her to mentor me and she is luckily was just trying to get out of the mini world because of age and other commitments and things like that.
01:18So she mentored me, very special to me. So it just kind of grew. We ended up getting Kenny and Kevin, and then we got two goats that were supposedly pregnant, and they were supposed to be due any minute, and 58 days later, my one goat was not pregnant at all, and the other goat had four, which is...
01:46incredibly unusual. You know, they only have two teats and really can only, you know, manage about two. Well, we ended up bottle feeding three of them, which is just like a newborn baby every three hours. Bottle feeding those guys. And then in that process, we got kind of every a whole bunch of stuff happened at once. Kevin suffered a pretty bad.
02:15well, a very bad injury. He had fallen and he suffered a spinal cord injury to his neck. And we did not think that he would make it. He did not stand for almost 10 days. He was completely paralyzed from the neck down. And he was such a fighter. Limus Basin Medical Equine Facility was amazing because he was so little. He was under 200 pounds. We could
02:45It took us about, he got out of the intensive care about 58 days later and was walking with a limp, but we worked on his physical therapy. And in the meantime, we ended up getting two donkeys from a kill pen that were very badly neglected, could barely walk, one had one eye. So that was Bailey and Baxter.
03:14And then we had heard about a gentleman who had passed away and left five minis behind with nobody to take them. And over the course of the next two months, we ended up getting four of those. One had passed while it was still at the sanctuary. And so that was Sophia and Rose. And goodness gracious, I'm kind of spacing out. Chandler.
03:41his, which we changed his name to Wyatt and Jesse. So we had those four. Yes. And so we now had this zoo basically. And we also have two great Danes that are very, very large, a silver lab that was rescued and a cat that came with the house that we rent. Very nice. That's the short back ranch
04:11We sadly did end up losing Kevin. He just succumbed to his injuries. Just wasn't strong enough a couple months ago. And Wyatt, who was 32, also passed. But they both had wonderful end of life here with all of their buddies around. And we've had, you know, I have friends and family and just people that I know and my Special Olympic athletes come by and
04:41Everybody loves on them. They're just incredible. We've taken some of them to memory care facilities. I'm learning how to do that. It's a process. Everything is every day is a learning process. A couple of them starred in a in a manger scene at one of the local churches and were part of a play. So it's been it's been crazy.
05:10Not at all what I had thought would happen when I ventured into this. You know, we, we, it is a financial burden, that's for sure. But it is one that, you know, I look at my life and I'm like, Oh my gosh, this, it couldn't be any better. You know, it's just happy. I have, I have so many questions.
05:36So is it, are you registered as a 501c3 nonprofit or how are you doing that? I am working on that. I'm not super good with that kind of stuff. I'm that likes hanging out with the horses and doesn't like paperwork, I'll admit it. But we are in the process of doing that.
05:59It is, we kind of had to take a break. We had some pretty bad storms out here and it was about a month after we finished building everything, my poor husband built everything. We had a really bad storm of hurricane level winds and it took away all of our barns and all of our fencing. So we are literally in the process, if anybody's been following us on Facebook and Instagram of rebuilding. And it's, you know, everything happens for a reason. We've met so many wonderful people along the way.
06:29We did have a friend of mine set up a GoFundMe for Kevin's expenses, because they were upwards of 20,000. Yeah. But, you know, God provides. We certainly feel that God provides. And it's just, you know, we're working on that. I'm trying to find the right way to go about it, you know? But there's been, right now, it's just get themselves and get their homes back.
06:56to where they're back in stalls and all of that. And then that's gonna be my next adventure of getting that squared down. Cause it's all, this has happened literally, it's almost a year on May 26th is when I took Kenny and Kevin. And so we're not even in 365 days into this. So it's a lot has happened in that short period of time.
07:22Yeah, I'm guessing that the name Shortstack Ranch is because all of your rescues are minis. Yes, my dog came up with that and did a logo for me. So we got that done. And yeah, so and it's funny because our Great Danes are actually larger than our horses and our donkeys. Oh, yeah, absolutely. Great Danes are moose dogs. They're humongous.
07:51Danes, so they're even bigger. We have one that's close to 200 pounds. Wow. I can't even imagine. Our dog weighs 35 pounds. So they're, they're like seven times bigger than she is. That would be crazy. When we got the great Danes, we had a little Boston and they were all so close. I mean, it's every, all of our animals just.
08:19just cuddle and are just wonderful together to see their interaction from all sizes. The Danes love the horses. Anytime they're out, that's where they're heading. And it's funny because they're runners. They like to run, so we don't let them out off leash. We have a pretty large, almost an acre fenced in for just the dogs. And they do happen to sneak away. We just go out to the barn and there they are. They want to be with their buddies.
08:49Yeah, yeah, they think they can play with them, but I don't know how that would go because they play rough. Yeah. Yeah. So how big is a mini horse on average? On the average, so there's some standards from the AMH, which is the American Miniature Horse Registry, AMHR. And it's 27 inches, there's different, different ones. My smallest one was 27 inches. That was Wyatt. He was barely 150 pounds.
09:19Up to 38 inches, I have one that would be Jesse that's on the tallest side. And then the rest are all within the 30 inch, 31 inch range. So they're short guys. They're short guys. They are. Okay. I got hooked on watching Katie Van Slyke on Facebook and her mini horse just had a baby like three days ago.
09:49That's kind of how I started. I started following her and with Poppy and Petunia. Yes, yes. And it's like my guilty pleasure. I get up in the morning early and it's still dark out and the house is quiet. And I have my coffee and I flip on the local news and I'll pull up Katie and see what she's posted overnight. It's terrible. I feel like a stalker.
10:18West Coast, it's later. So I get like in the middle of the night, I'll wake up and I look and I see has she posted, you know, and it's like, it's happened. And by the time I get up and I do the same thing, when I'm getting ready, I have my coffee and I just put the horses out. But I, that's the first place I go is who was born? What's up? But yes, her little guy with Karen, it is incredible how tiny they really are. And it's, it's
10:46very hard to tell until you actually see them, you know, standing up. And Katie's a tall, she's a tall girl. So yeah. Yeah. I think that that that new baby squirt is about the same size as my dog. That's what I'm guessing. He's taller, but I'm assuming he's probably 35 pounds. Yeah. I mean, he barely, he comes up to her knees and the other.
11:15up to her waist. So yeah. Yeah. Wyatt, if you look at the pictures at the short stack ranch, Wyatt, when we brought him home, he was, he's below my waist. I mean, his, literally his, his back is to my thigh. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It makes me want one, but then I think he probably, they probably eat a lot and feed is expensive. So I'm probably not ever going to have a mini horse. I just
11:45they don't. They are very manageable. They don't eat a lot. No, they don't. They, you know, they eat one to two percent of their body weight in hay and then they get some supplements in grain. But, you know, Kenny is my chunky dunk. He's, I call him my king. He looks at food and he gets fat.
12:08And the rest, the rest get kind of normal. They're, they're a little bit harder keepers, which means that they don't put on weight as fast. Kimmy gets a quarter cup of grain and a, and a quarter pound of hay morning and night. Wow. Okay. Nothing. Now the others get, um, about a quarter of a flake, but a flake, if you just, you want to, they need, they need a partner. Um, and, uh,
12:36Yeah, it is. And the vet bills and the farrier bills are much lower because they're tiny. They do have some other specific needs, you know, as far as how they work and what they can eat and how you manage them. But they're there. You could easily do to. Yeah. Fine. And you can decide.
13:00My husband would not be happy with me if I was like, I think we should get too many horses and we should get them as babies. He would be like, you are out of your mind. No. No, but that's how it starts. Maybe start with some baby goats. The miniature goats are pretty cute too.
13:23Yeah, I don't know. I am so on the fence about any more critters. We have the dog, we have three barn cats, and we have like 18 or 19 chickens. And we have a 3.1 acre property. You have plenty of them. With house and big pole barn and the whole bit. And I'm not letting you off the hook. Yeah, I don't know. We...
13:48We have a lot going on right now. So I think I'm going to wait until this winter to float any more new ideas to him, cause he's going to be like, no, no, no, no, no. And now my husband has literally almost every day for a year. I've been a farm boy. Yup. But it is, it is very, um, very fulfilling and heartwarming, but you know, but it is a commitment. Um, you know, you, you can't.
14:17go anywhere past five o'clock, you can't go anywhere early in the morning. You know, I mean, you have to have some kind of a backup system. You know, we don't vacation. I mean, we have, you know, 14 animals. Where are we going to go that somebody's going to come and watch 14 animals? Yeah. If you have a high school near you, maybe a high school student who's interested in animal husbandry and ag might want to come.
14:43We've actually talked about that. We have a couple people who say that, you know, we have a great friend that does it, but we like people to spend the night at the house. And then then that puts you into the 18 and over age. And it's funny because everybody has a dog or everybody, you know, think, well, you can't bring your dogs, but we do have options and we have we have gone away. It's just one of those things to where I will admit, I just want to get back home. I miss them so much. They are definitely I am still obsessed.
15:14with them. I go out and I just sit out there with a glass of wine in my chair and I sit in the pasture and they snuggle and nuzzle and kiss and my donkeys literally sit on my lap. Yeah, their donkeys are like the most Velcro dogs you've ever seen. They're amazing. But yeah, it's certainly been a wonderful thing that I never thought I would do.
15:42until I started watching Katie, because she is literally my inspiration. I was retiring and I started having a little bit more time because working for corrections, you don't have your phone with you a lot, things like that. And it was like, oh, well, and I started following her and I'm like, oh my gosh, I want this. And I was going to get the mini cows, but to find them in a rescue situation, because that was something that was very important
16:11to rescue is fault. And then it's going to sound kind of funny, but I don't really like cow manure. No problem with horse and goat. It's just easy. I don't mind picking it up. I don't mind dealing with it. But cow patties are not my favorite thing. And so we ended up going with more horses and no cow.
16:41Well, maybe the perfect mini cow who needs to be saved will find you. That could be, you know, I find that if you open the doors, things happen. And what's happened here with this whole crazy thing. Yeah. Well, I think it's wonderful that you're doing this. I don't know that I have.
17:07the energy or the patience to do anything like that. So I'm glad there's people in the world like you who do. Well, thank you. Yeah, it is.
17:17We I'm 60 and so it's kind of funny literally in my will I have set up for them because I don't want them to be in the situation to how I got them. You know, so the other thing about rescuing older like my youngest is 15 is their life expectancy is about 30 to 35. So it's a huge commitment. It's much bigger than getting a dog, you know, and the minis, they live longer than normal horses.
17:45I should say not normal, but standard size horses. Yeah. And it is a big commitment. And that was one of the things that was very important to my husband and I is to ensure that they have a place to go and they are financially able to be taken care of as well as our family, if anything happens to us, because we don't want them just left on property like we found many of our.
18:13Yeah, that kind of defeats the purpose of all the work that you've done. So I can understand why you want to make sure that they're taken care of. Yeah. So, yep. Okay. So what's the plan for short stack ranch long term? Long term is to get everything rebuilt. We are getting close. We just literally yesterday finished fencing the perimeter.
18:39and got the grass mowed because you can't put them just straight out on the grass. It's too rich. So there today, they are going to go out for their first time for a couple hours on the grass and have some, you know, back to instead of the temporary pasture that I had for them, which was more of a pen, get that room to move, get everything rebuilt, and then start, you know, I've been working with them and Sharon comes out, she'll be out here later today. And we
19:09are working with some of these rescues to see what their mannerisms are even more.
19:21I only take two that I'm more comfortable with, but get the others a little bit more accustomed to different environments and possibly have them do different things such as driving, you know, which is pulling a cart and just getting it more set up to where people can come and visit and get their hearts warmed by just having them love on them.
19:50and visit, not just necessarily the people you talked about before. That's what we would like. We don't want to make a business out of it. We're very, very blessed. We rent our property. Our landlord, when we were looking, his ad said, small dogs considered.
20:20photo and just said, if this is a deal breaker, just let us know and we won't bother you anymore. And they said, well, come on out. And then a year later, like I said, they agreed to this. So we do want to keep things manageable, you know, as far as not just have this be, you know, like just a ton of people all the time. But people that need it, it's a very small town. Lincoln is a very small town, so I don't see it being anything crazy. But
20:49We've had a couple Girl Scout troops come by. That's been wonderful. We've had a home school group from here in Lincoln. They've come by. So it's more of that trust factor and I've got to get the liability insurance and all of those things are business side of it. Yeah, that's really important. Yeah. So that's why we've mostly stuck with people that we know so far. But that's...
21:18The hope for the future is to expand that, to have it to where, you know, by appointment, people can come by and spend some time with these wonderful animals. That's awesome. So are there other mini animals that you're considering getting? No, I'm good right now. That was the agreement with the lovely landlord that, you know, we are, we're at our max. And financially.
21:47It's perfect. It's a manageable. This is very manageable versus getting a lot more. And I'd really more like to just work on having this group be the best that they can be. There's a long ways to go with one of them. We literally couldn't even, like he wouldn't even let you touch him. And now he snuggles up to me. Jesse is quite, he was very, very skittish. We would have to sedate him to do his farrier work.
22:15And he's just, he's just come so far in just a couple months. And so I'm really looking forward to just expanding what these guys can do and, and fully exploring that. Yeah, it's amazing what love and feeding an animal will do to turn them around. Um, we have, I've sort of mentioned the cat before, but we have a black barn cat. He's a male and we got him from, yep. We got him from the Humane Society.
22:46Yes. And he, they told us flat out when we adopted him that he was a feral stray cat and that people at the Humane Society were afraid to touch him, get near him because he would scratch and hiss. And they said that he will never be friendly when you take him home, put some water and some food in something. And we made him like a box, a wood box that was big enough for him to have a food bowl and a water bowl.
23:16And they said, put him in the box, let's keep him in the box, wherever his house is going to be, wherever he's going to live for like two days, and then let him go. And if he stays, great. And if he doesn't, you're out of luck. Because he was just not, not friendly at all. And our son bonded with him. And now Satan will come up to me and ask for pets and rub against my ankles. And we just tried to let him.
23:45make the moves and we made sure that he had food every morning. We don't feed him at night because we want him to hunt. We want him to hunt the mice in the barn. Yeah, we have Oreo. We give him a little bit, but he came with the house and yeah, we just give him a little bit of food and he brings me a present every day. Yeah, so they told us we would never be able to pet this cat.
24:14to give him a wide berth and just let him be a barn cat. And he is the loveliest kitty. He's really nice.
24:24So love goes a long way. Yeah, and that's the rules that I follow. If they don't wanna do something unless it's going to harm them, it'd be a danger. I don't force anything. When we in the storm, we were trying to move them and it was literally 10 o'clock at night and it was horrible rain and wind. And we were trying to get them out of where they were to a secure area.
24:50And one of them didn't want to go. And it was the only time I've had to, you know, like, come on, you're going to, you're going to do this. And I, I twitched him a little bit with the rope on his bottom to get him moving because he was just, he was afraid, but I didn't have time to coax him through it. And we just don't believe in that. And I will, with Jesse, he's my skittish one that he would not come to you at all. And.
25:15And now it's, I just ask him, you know, I'm like, I hold the rope and I hold his halter and, and he'll, if he turns his back to me, I just go do something else and wait until he looks at me. And then it's some easiest pie and he gives me permission. And, you know, luckily we have the time and the pain, the time and the patients, and there's no rush to do that. You know, unlike when, you know, if there's an emergency or you, or you have to have a horse or any animal do anything,
25:45That's our philosophy is listen to them, look at them and reward good behavior and just take everything slow and stop. Be prepared to just stop. I mean, he's half clipped right now because he was great about letting us clip most of his body and then it was like, okay, I'm done. I've never had this done before. I think I've been really good, but I'm done now. And we're like, all right, and we just stopped. And so he's running around looking kind of awkward, but...
26:15you know, we're going to work on it again today and take it nice and slow. And it's, but it's so cool when they connect with you and go, I trust you. It's not like he has to be, um, informal where to be on the ranch. So he's good. Exactly. So, you know, it's like, you don't want to get groomed today. Well, we won't force it. Uh-huh. Exactly. Yeah. I try to post at least once a day.
26:44so that people can see, you know, we just, we just, the last couple months or a couple weeks opened up the short stack ranch Facebook page instead of having it on my own personal page where I have about 1200 friends, but trying to get, you know, it's hard to work with sometimes with Facebook. I'm still, I'm not super tech savvy. So I'm like, well, how do I make this? So what you see me,
27:11video tapering, I fall, I, you know, every, it's pretty funny. I've sat on a, I was sitting on a salt block one time and they, you know, they were being so cuddly that I fell over and you know, and you can just see the phone flying through the air and you know, but people get a kick out of it. They just, you know, there's, there's no editing. Those are the best videos. Yeah. Yeah. But so it's, I try to let everybody know at least once a day we...
27:40We took a little bit of a break when we were doing the rebuilding because there's not a whole lot when I'm just taking them from their stalls to this outdoor pen. It's just not super exciting. All day long, instead of playing with them, which is what I usually do, we were working and rebuilding. There wasn't a lot of content, so I went back and did some of the history of the short stack ranch and how it started to get new people on the same page, up to speed.
28:09Yeah, so, you know, follow along anybody who wants to know what's going on in the crazy place out here in in northern California.
28:22rewarding. I can't even express how blessed we are. Yeah, I have one more question. The mini horses and the mini donkeys, do they actually hang out in the same space and do they get along? Yes, they do. I mean, it just depends on the attitudes. I have a true mare and you know mares can be mares. It's kind of that bad word. I had the...
28:49I have the two females, one is very, very docile and my oldest, she's 30, that's Sophia. She rules the roost. If she comes, she'll turn around and she's got teeth bared, but then she's the snuggle. So she manages the herd, which is pretty funny. But we did take our time and introduced through fencing and then just short periods of time with observation, all of that. But they all...
29:17The only time that there's an issue is for attention or for treats, you know, and we're working on it. Yeah. So we're... Just like kids. Yes. They are, and they're all toddlers. No matter what their age, they're all toddlers. Yeah. Okay. Well, Therese, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and Hodge. You're welcome. Bye.

Turnbull Clan Homestead

Wednesday May 08, 2024

Wednesday May 08, 2024

Today I'm talking with Brandy at Turnbull Clan Homestead.
00:00This is Mary Lewis at A Tiny Homestead, the podcast comprised entirely of conversations with homesteaders, cottage food producers, and crafters. Today I'm talking with Brandy at Turnbull Clan Homestead. Good morning, Brandy. How are you? I am doing good, Mary. How are you? I'm great. I'm so curious about your place because I looked at your Facebook page and there's lots about bees. So I'm assuming that honeybees are your main thing that you do?
00:28Yes, ma'am. So long story short, my husband is active duty military. We were stationed out in Hawaii. And in 2020, during the height of COVID, we ended up buying our home sight unseen. And we got very lucky, bought the house and it was big enough that we were able to do all of the things. So being very pregnant at the time, I got home and started getting to work.
00:56started clearing off land. We've got now honey bees up until I got bit by a tick and contracted alpagel. We had meat rabbits and we have a greenhouse going up right now. And then we've also got a bunch of like bushes and plants and things like that. Rather than invasive species that were planted here, I went through and I dug everything up.
01:23and I planted more native species like elderberry and blueberries, the blackberries and raspberries and strawberries and things. And you're in Maryland, right? Yes, ma'am. I am in the heart of Southern Maryland. Okay. I thought so. Blueberries. I miss blueberries. I grew up in Maine. Blueberries grew all over my parents one acre property. So when blueberries were in, we were eating blueberries every day for weeks on end. Yes, ma'am.
01:51Yeah, kind of miss it. We're too far south in Minnesota where I live to have them grow. We've tried. We've tried buying blueberry plants and they just don't do well at all. Okay, so were you military as well? I was. I did 12 years in the service before I got back from my last appointment and I was a little bit too beat up to continue to serve. So I was medically separated. Uh-huh.
02:18Well, thank you for your service. My stepson was a US Marine for eight years. And he says once a Marine, always a Marine. So I guess he's still a Marine, but he is no longer active duty. He is, he is always a Marine. Once a Marine, always a Marine is correct. Yep. So, okay. So I also saw something about Mission Believe on or Be Leave on your Facebook page. And I really wanna know what that's about cause I hadn't heard of it.
02:48So Mission Believe is a nonprofit up in Taney Town, Maryland, and their whole focus is offering different modes of therapies to like military first, military veterans and first responders, police officers and the like. And their whole premise is bee therapy. There's a lot of things that can be said about working with bees.
03:15there have been studies done to show that the vibrations that they create when they're buzzing is actually calming for like your neural cortex and can actually bring you down out of like panic attacks and anxiety attacks and things like that and help with like PTSD and coping mechanisms and that the vibrations themselves can actually be healing on a deeper level than we ever thought. I know personally for myself
03:45Bee stings actually help with my arthritis. And there's a lot of information right now that's been going around and a lot of research that's been done to support bee venom therapy for chronic pain sufferers like myself. And what they do is they set first responders, military veterans, whoever has served our community up with a mentor and allows them to work with that mentor for a year learning about bees.
04:14basic husbandry and then at the end of that season, their mentor will actually gift them their first hive of bees at no cost to the veteran. That is amazing. I love that. I had no idea such a thing existed. I had no idea until I got out here and it's been amazing. I actually raise honey bees for them and go out and catch swarms whenever the opportunity arises and then I donate the bees back to them.
04:43Okay, so it's mission BEE as in A B leave. So it's BEE leave, but it's BEE leave. Is it national or is it just local to you? It's stationed here local to me. I believe that they are trying to get a larger footprint. There are several other operations that are similar to them in other parts of the country. I don't know if they have grown big enough to operate nationwide, but they are definitely working on it.
05:11That's fabulous. I hope that they get it to be nationwide because that would help so many people. It probably would not help me because bees raise my anxiety. I'm still mildly afraid of anything that stings. So for me, it would just raise my anxiety, but I also don't have PTSD and I'm not former military and I'm not former law enforcement or fire department or anything. So, so yay, I'm glad that the bees have a different job than just making honey. That's fantastic.
05:41Yes ma'am, that they do. Okay, so what else do you do at your homestead? As of right now, it's been kind of a mishmash. I decided that I was going to go back to college, so I'm doing the full-time college student right now and raising my kids. And outside of that, it's been getting ready for, you know, crops to go in the ground. I finally got my asparagus in the ground after three years of himing and hawing on it.
06:08And we've been working trying to get the property cleaned up because we've got a lot of invasive species that have been growing on the property just from the way things were set up in the neighborhood that we bought in. So it's been a lot of project reclamation working with the Maryland Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. There was one gentleman who came out last year. We have a beautiful chestnut oak tree as well as a couple white oaks here on the property.
06:38And every fall, this gentleman has been coming out and getting, we're talking like hundreds of pounds of chestnut acorns and white oak acorns. And he takes those back to the nursery, their Maryland Department of Natural Resources, to help with woodland reclamation projects around the state. Wow. You are set up for wonderful things. That's great.
07:08I was so smitten with the bee stuff that I was very focused on that. And I did talk to a lady who has kept honeybees for like eight years and her episode has already been released. So I can't really get into the bee stuff because I already did it not long ago. Already talked with someone. So was this your dream to have a homestead or is this new to you? So it was a dream.
07:37It was a pipe dream. I was like there, there was no way, you know, growing up the way that I grew up that I would ever live in, you know, the nice house with the creek running through the property and a big old garden and honeybees and flowers and plants. It was definitely, definitely a pipe dream of mine since I was little. And my husband and I, we've been working hard and finally paid off. We finally achieved our end goal and
08:06The fact that we've achieved it and we did it before we were 35 is just absolutely amazing. Yeah, that's fantastic because my husband and I had the same kind of dream and it took us until we were 50. So you're 15 years ahead of the game on us. Yes, ma'am. Do you love it? Does it make your soul sing? I absolutely love it. It definitely helps with my bad days. The bad days that I have, you know, they...
08:34absolutely cripple me between the chronic pain and the PTSD from, you know, 12 years in the military and doing multiple deployments overseas. It kind of helps me be at ease. It gives me that happy, safe feeling that even when I get into a panic attack and I'm like, oh my God, what is going on in my life? I can just look outside and I can see my flowering cherry tree in bloom and I can see the honey bees buzzing around.
09:04and that inner peace and that feeling of, you know, everything's okay in my life. That's lovely. I'm so glad that you have that because I know that you need it. It's really important for you. Yes ma'am, it is. Yeah. So is it full-blown spring in Maryland? Because it's not even close to full-blown spring here. Yes. Oh my gosh, it is definitely full-blown spring.
09:32flowering cherry tree has already put on all of its blooms and the blooms are starting to fall off and my tulips are in bloom. The calipair tree out in our front yard, which I desperately want to get rid of just because of how invasive they are, has already bloomed and then had the blooms fall off. The laurels are getting ready to start putting on and some of like the two blows and the tulip poplars and things like that are coming into bloom and...
10:02Hullin' is everywhere. People outside in our cars are green. Yeah, but does it smell good outside because everything's blooming? It smells amazing. Okay. It absolutely smells amazing. We're probably two weeks away from things starting to green up and put blossoms on. We have apple trees and we have peach trees. We actually put in peach trees that are cold hardy last year. So we're hoping to get maybe.
10:30Maybe some really pretty blooms this year and maybe peaches next year. Maybe. Yeah. Let's see what happens. Minnesota is a rough on peaches. Well, we'll see how they do. Yeah. If I had any guests, you probably got the Alberta peach cause they are definitely one of the more cold hardies, either that or the Havana, I believe. Is what it is. I have. Either Havana or Alberta's. I have no idea. My husband bought them at.
10:56someplace when he was out and was like, peach trees would be great. And I said, oh my God, okay, we'll see how that goes. And I don't remember what variety it was. He also bought cherry trees. I think it was last year. And he bought a cold, hardy, sweet cherry tree. And he bought two, actually. And it's really hard to find a cold, hardy, sweet cherry. They're usually sour, tart cherries that do well here.
11:25So he brought them home and he was telling me about it. And I said, can you bring me the tag? And he said, sure. So he went out and grabbed the tag that was on the branch of the tree, brought it in. And I said, you're gonna have to get a different variety to go with these. And he said, why? And I said, because they won't pollinate without a different variety. I said, they're like apple trees, they're related. And he said, okay, what should I get? And I said, I don't know, let me do some research.
11:54Come to find out the only other sweet cherry tree that is good for pollinating the ones we have is a Rainier cherry. Rainiers are very expensive cherry trees. That they are. I spent a lot of time out in Washington growing up and cherries are a big deal out there. You've got the pie cherries, the bean cherries, the Rainiers, the black cherries. Yup.
12:23So I said, you want to spend $60 on one reindeer cherry tree seedling whatever, sprout, I don't know what they're called, baby trees, to make the other cherries actually produce cherries? And he was like, yes, yes I do. I said okay. And I ordered one and it was shipped to us and it was healthy and fine and that got put in too. So we'll see how the cherries do as well.
12:50That is one thing that I want to get desperately for my homestead is cherry trees that actually produce cherries because all we have is the flowering cherry tree. And while it is absolutely beautiful and provides great food for my honey bees, like I would love to have some actual cherries. Uh huh. Yeah, we love cherries when it's cherry season here and that's coming soon for Minnesota when cherry season is as in when we can buy cherries at the grocery store.
13:19pounds and pounds of them. And we make cherry preserves, we make cherry pie. And there's only so much money we can put into buying cherries from the store. So when we hit our mark on how much money we can spend, then we try to make sure we use every single good cherry that we buy. And our cherry preserves are so good. I had had cherry preserves from the store and I was like, eh, it's okay.
13:49When you make it yourself, all that cherry flavor comes through and it's like eating cherries off the tree, but it's in a jam or jelly form. It's so yummy. I love it. Yeah. That is one big thing that we do a lot of here at home is we've got a dehydrator and we also do a lot of canning. And we are very blessed to be where we are because everything that we grow here, from the chicken eggs to...
14:18the meat birds that we raise, even the meat rabbits, because as soon as my allergy levels come back down, because when I got bit by that tick, I became allergic to everything mammal. I was having reactions to people cooking bacon. And it was full-blown anaphylaxis, like throat closing up the whole nine, haven't had a steak in probably about six months. I am so sorry. Yeah. It was heartbreaking.
14:48Messing with the rabbits going out to check on I'm doing health checks things like that You know the daily, you know going out and oh, you're such a cute little buddy And you know giving them all the love in the pets and everything like I was reacting and having Really really really bad anaphylaxis from it. So As soon as my allergy level comes back down, I'm fully fully planning to get back into the meat rabbits Yeah So I don't on what kind of tick was it?
15:18It was a Lone Star Tick. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yep. You can call me a conspiracy theorist, but back in 2002, this brand new mystery illness came out of nowhere called Alpha Gal. And it was like this mysterious illness that started out here on the Eastern Seaboard where people were getting bit by a tick and developing an allergy to meat. Now if you go back and you look back to 2002.
15:48during that time period, they were all about the global warming and blaming global warming on cow farts. I have my theories that maybe someone got up to something and maybe that's why we have this as a problem now because essentially right now there's close to a million people who have this allergy. If you start thinking about what that would do.
16:15to the global market on mammal meat. Because looking at greenhouse gas emissions far as vehicles to truck animals and this, that, and the other, meat is one of the higher CO2 emissions. Yeah, absolutely. So I have my theories and speculations. But.
16:39Yeah, as we all do about all kinds of things and I can't let you get into it on this and I can't get into it either. And if you want to talk about it another time over the phone, we can yak it up all you want because I have theories about COVID and I'm not going to share them in a public forum. So yeah, I'm trying to keep people interested, not mad. So let's not make my listeners angry today. Let's avoid that. I want them to be happy.
17:07Well, I'm really sorry that that happened to you. That's no fun. And I can relate because I developed an allergy two years ago to capsaicin, the thing that, that makes hot peppers hot. Yep. Yeah. I am also allergic to that. Yeah. All of a sudden I was eating something with chili powder in it and my lips got cold and then they went numb and then all of a sudden my throat felt really tight. And I was like, what the hell is going on here?
17:36And so the only thing I could think of was something in the chili. So I got some cornbread and ate that and drank some water and it got better, but I didn't eat the rest of the chili. And I asked my husband and my son if they were having any issues and they were like, no, it's great. It's a great chili. I'm like, okay. And then my husband put some hot pepper thing in something else he was making that I've eaten a million times like two weeks later, same thing.
18:04And I was like, I can't breathe. You know, to my husband, I was like, I can't breathe. And he said, are you kidding? I was like, no, I'm not kidding. And he says, oh, oh, okay. And he said, stop eating whatever you're eating. Stop eating dinner. I was like, yeah. He said, put your head down and see if you can take any kind of good breath in. And I could breathe, but it was really tight. And I pulled in as much as I could get. And he was like, okay, blow it out. And I did.
18:34do it again. And as I breathe in more, it was okay. But he said, I think you have an allergy to hot peppers. I was like, why in the hell would I have an allergy to hot peppers now? He's like, adults can develop allergies. I was like, no, no, no, no, no, no, I don't want this one. So it happens. I absolutely love spicy food.
19:02And I have figured out that I can get away with jalapenos if I Cut them in half and I scoop out the inner skin where all the oil is and I do okay with that I know if you were itching for spicy food You might want to give jalapenos a try cuz I I have carry capsaicin as much as other things No, even the littlest bit of jalapeno does it to me too. I've tried I feel so bad for you because like my allergy to capsaicin is bad
19:30But not that bad and it's an allergy that I've dealt with since I was like itty-bitty. Yeah, whenever we would have spicy food growing up, I'd go, my mouth hurts, my mouth hurts. And you know, my mom, you know being part of the generation that she was in was like, oh, you know, shut up, eat your food. And come to find out here just a couple months ago, they did a full allergy panel when I was having all those bad reactions not knowing that I had alpha-yell.
19:58And as it turns out, I am allergic to capsaicin. And I love spicy food. I just have to dose myself on Benadryl before I eat anything. Yeah, it's the most bizarre thing that I have ever had happen to me. You know, just out of the blue, no more peppers. I'm like, OK, sweet peppers are good. The one I can do, as long as I do it in moderation, is smoked paprika. That doesn't kick it. And I have no idea why.
20:27Have you tried cumin? Yep, cumin's okay. Cumin's okay. Nothing. But I can't do habaneros, I can't do jalapenos, I can't do any of the ones that make food taste good. It's very sad. But I'm sure I'll live. I'm sure there are way worse things that could have happened to me. I'm good on this one, it's okay. But the reason I mention it is because
20:56A lot of people don't know that you can develop a fast onset allergy as an adult. Oh yeah. Yep, it definitely happens. And that tick allergy, it was different. Like I had no idea what was causing it and it was causing all kinds of weird reactions. Everything from my skin like crawling and itching to like full on like...
21:23I was angry. Like I was big time angry and I don't get angry. Weird. So bizarre. Okay. All right. So I'm going to ask you the same question I ask every homesteader most of the time. Are you guys taking what you produce on your homestead and just using it to sustain yourselves or are you selling it, sharing it, whatever?
21:53So here in Maryland, as lovely as it is, you cannot sell eggs unless you have a permit. Okay. So we don't sell our eggs. We have a couple of close friends that we do give eggs to and there are a couple of families that we do barter our goods that we raise here with. Sure. So like the honey, we barter for milk, which has been amazing.
22:21And we also use it to pay debts occasionally. Like if we go and we pick up, like I've got a friend that I get beef from. Yeah. As a thank you of, Hey, well, thanks for giving me beef at like a super discount. Here's some honey as a thank you. So we'll do a lot of bargaining and trading, but most of what we raise here, just because we've been trying to keep it small and manageable because we have three really young kids.
22:50we keep most of it for ourselves except for that which we barter with. Okay, and I'm sort of stepping away from that question because that was a perfect answer. Thank you. How did your bees do this past winter? Because in Minnesota a lot of beekeepers lose hives in the winter because they just don't survive the cold. So I went into the winter with a very short-fused hive. So back in August,
23:18I was trying to go completely treatment free with my bees as in like no kind of like pesticide treatment for like Varroa or anything like that. And I was trying to see how it was going to go. And both of my hives that I had decided that they did not like that kind of life and I was deemed a negligent beekeeper because they just like up and left. They were gone. So I got back from my trip.
23:45down to Arizona and I had left with two hives worth of bees and came back and there was zero bees. Oh no. So I had to get a nucleus colony and it wasn't even really a nucleus colony. It was more like a package of bees, which the difference between a package and a nucleus is a nucleus will have babies like the actual honeybee brood and some food. What I had was not that.
24:15So I ended up having to feed them a bunch and luckily we had a late bloom of some of the hibiscus flowers that we have here on the homestead. So they were able to put back enough food to make it through the winter. But I went into the winter with one hive and I can probably say I had a hundred percent success rate in making it through the winter because I only had one hive to manage. Well that's helpful.
24:42I was wondering if the honeybees do better being kept in a hive in Maryland because you guys don't get as cold as we do, I would assume. Yeah, we had a couple like weird cold snaps where it went from, you know, 60, 70 degrees in the middle of wintertime down to like, we're talking like single digits and negatives with a windchill. But I had a thermal blanket on their hive, so they did okay. As far as
25:12because I went into the box earlier than I was expecting to need to go into the box this year. Just as like a quick little pop it open, see how much brood they had, see how many bees actually made it through the winter, see how the queen was doing. And at the beginning of this month, they already had full frames of brood. There was eggs and larva everywhere. I was super excited about that. They were what honey beekeepers will say, going gangbuster. Basically, they're about to explode.
25:42And it looked like they had decided that their queen was not up to par and they were going to dethrone her because I had some supersedure cells in the middle of my frames where they have decided that they don't like the current queen so they're about to crown a new queen. Nice. So it's a healthy, thriving hive. It is. It is very, very healthy. Good.
26:09I'm getting ready to go to Florida. So as a precaution, I put up some swarm traps. So they stay put. Yeah. Okay. So Varroa. Varroa is a mite, right? Yes, ma'am. Varroa is a small mite that lives on the honeybees and they will actually get down into the drone cells because the drone cells are bigger. So when the honeybees are growing those drones are the male bees.
26:37And the Varroa absolutely love going down into those cells and just kind of hanging out and reproducing. And then when the drone emerges, it carries with it the mites and then it affects all the other bees and it's a nightmare. Okay. So I keep, I've been hearing about Varroa mites for, oh my goodness, probably 15 years is when it, 15 years ago when I was, when it showed up on
27:05my radar, like when I noticed the stories about it, I think. Are there other things that can harm a hive? Are there bacteria or anything like that? Yeah, there's a bunch of different pathogens that can get into hives, like American fowl brood. If you get that in any of your hives, it's pretty much a death sentence for every hive you have on your property. And in some cases, every hive within about three to five miles of your home, because it's so infectious.
27:34And basically what it does is it gets in there and it just wreaks havoc and you end up with basically soured bees and they will develop this bacterial growth on them and It just it infects everything once you get it you have to burn all of your equipment replace anything that you had come in contact with those bees and There's no coming back from it. Oh Okay
28:02I thought there was something, but I just didn't know what the answer was. Yeah, American fowl brood. And are there other stinging insects that will ruin a hive? Yes. So we have a big problem with European hornets out here in Maryland. And anyone from this area can tell you that they are not pleasant creatures to deal with. And last year I lost two different hives.
28:31At the beginning of the spring, I had nine hives. I made some splits and donated a couple, sold a couple. The European Hornets decided that while I was in there doing this, they saw one of my weaker hives that I had made a split from. They wanted what they had in there because they had a pretty good stockpile of honey and some pollen and nectars and things like that in there. They completely decimated that hive.
28:59Because the size of a honeybee versus a European hornet is about a 10 to 1 size ratio in favor of the European hornet Those are the great big scary looking dudes, right? Yeah. Yeah, I don't want ever Quite as big as the Asian hornets, but they're they're pretty big like yeah Size comparison they're about two-thirds the size of an average adult thumb. Oh
29:26No, you can keep them in Maryland. I don't want them coming here. Yeah, some people will argue that they're pollinators. I mean, when you get down to it, the nitty-gritty of it, all bees are pollinators in one way or another. But these things are so big and so aggressive that my kids, when they're playing out in the front yard, if they see one, they will literally pick up a wiffle ball bat and swing at it.
29:55and you can hear it make contact. It's so harsh. Yeah, I'm... It's like, holy moly, man. Yeah, I'm getting the creepy crawlies up my back just thinking about it. I really, I am okay with honey bees because I love honey and I know that honey bees don't want to cause me harm. If I get stung, it's my own fault because I did something stupid. And bumblebees, same thing. They have a job. They pollinate my squash blossoms and my...
30:25They try on the tomato and the cucumber, but they're very big bumblebees here, so the honeybees actually do a better job of getting in there. I'm okay with honeybees and bumblebees. I hate paper wasps. I hate hornets. Little hornets, big hornets, doesn't matter. Hate them. I don't want anything to do with them. Yeah, as long as they're over doing their own thing and not bothering me, I'm fine with them. They're going to do what they're going to do.
30:54I am like super duper allergic to bee stings, which is funny because honey bees, I don't react nearly as bad to like when I get stung, I still kind of look like elephant man for a couple days. But I have not been stung by a wasp or a hornet yet since I developed my bee allergy and I am absolutely terrified that if I get stung by one, I'm going to end up in the hospital from it. Yeah. Yeah, it's.
31:20It's scary and you don't want to walk around being afraid to walk around outside, but you definitely have to be aware. So okay, well, Brandy, number one, I love your name. Number two, I assume that Turnbull Clan is a reference to your family and Homestead is Homestead? Yes. Yeah, Turnbull Clan, my husband's family is heavily Scottish and they actually have their own...
31:49little castle out in Scotland called Fatlip Castle. So the Turnbull Clan is homage to my husband's family being Scottish. Okay I always try to remember to ask and I try to ask the beginning about people's names for their places but I didn't do it this time. I'm gonna cut you loose because I know you're busy and you got kids to take care of and stuff to do. Thank you so much for your time and your knowledge about bees because that was really fun.
32:17Yes ma'am, I still have a ton more to learn. Like I'm only three years into my beekeeping journey. Honey bees was one of those things when we decided to do it. We were like, it's Thursday night, let's get bees, you know. And come, you know, Friday that next week we had bees. So nice. All right. Well, enjoy them and keep doing what you're doing because you're doing a good thing. All right. Well, thank you, Mary. I appreciate your time.
32:47and thank you for the invitation. Yeah absolutely have a great day. You too. Bye. Bye.

Acres Away

Monday May 06, 2024

Monday May 06, 2024

Today I'm talking with Jackie at Acres Away.
00:00This is Mary Lewis at A Tiny Homestead. The podcast comprised entirely of conversations with homesteaders, cottage food producers, and crafters. Today I'm talking with Jackie at Acres Away. Good afternoon, Jackie, how are you? Good afternoon, good, how are you doing? Good, so tell me about yourself and what you guys do at Acres Away. So we're just kind of a family hobby farm. My husband and I have always wanted animals. I grew up with animals, he did too.
00:27And when we had kids and moved to the country, we decided we were gonna, that's what we were going to do. So we bought, um, a house with 10 acres and a barn. And first thing we got was the horses. I grew up with horses, so that was a mandatory, um, and we just kind of expanded from there, had three daughters, and now we've got, um, just about everything you could have on a farm. We've had the horses, we've had pigs, all the birds, turkeys, chickens, ducks, quails. Um.
00:57goats, we have cows, and I also raise rabbits. Very nice, you have the whole menagerie. The whole thing, I think the only thing we haven't had are alpacas and sheep. And are you interested in doing those or is that just stuff you haven't done? Maybe the alpacas, I do like to crochet, so it would be neat to learn how to spin their fur, their wool, and make my own yarn.
01:24Same with the sheep, but I haven't heard from some friends that have sheep. I've heard they can be kind of temperamental. So I think for now we'll stick with what we've got and figured, you know, if we don't like something, we'll move on to a new animal. Yeah, that's what we did. We tried doing rabbits and it did not work out very well. So we did that for a year and then decided it really wasn't for us. Yeah. Yeah. I figure you got to try it. You know, if it doesn't work, it doesn't work, but you got to give it a shot. Yeah. It's funny in the over
01:5450 interviews I've done since the end of August, the word crochet has not come up and I'm kind of surprised because I like to crochet much better than I like to knit. I hate the sound of knitting needles clicking. And so that's interesting that the word crochet has not come up. That's it's something my aunt, I started crocheting when my aunt was crocheting. I was pregnant with my first daughter. So this would have been
02:2215 years ago, almost 15 years ago now. And I thought, well, if I can make some cute baby stuff, blankets and whatnot, and then it'd be a good thing to give as gifts, and it kind of took up my time because at the time I was able to stay at home, my husband was full-time in the army, so I was basically at home kind of twiddling my thumbs. And I thought, well, I can learn how to do this, and I'll make stuff, and I've made stuff for friends and sold a little bit, and it's kind of gone by the wayside.
02:48my husband retired from the army and then I went to work so once I went to work extra time for stuff like that with the animals kind of went away but once in a while I'll still pick up and you know make somebody a hat or make some mittens or a baby blanket if I've got a friend that's having a baby or family so yeah I definitely I could never get quite the hang of knitting my grandmother uh... was she knitted everything she would make hundreds of hats and mittens for
03:14like local hospitals and churches and things, but I never quite got the hang of the knitting. The crocheting is much easier for me. Yes, I agree. I tried knitting when I was a kid, like maybe 10 years old, because my mom knit, and I could never understand the knit one, purl two thing. I always messed it up. Yep. And with crocheting, once you have it down, once you have the basic stitches down,
03:42It's really simple and I think it's a great thing to do in the wintertime when it's cold outside and it's dark outside. Yep. I got into it because my kids were small and they would lose their scarves. Yep. And I was like, you know, I could probably just crochet them scarves and that way they have extras when they lose the ones they have. And then I can just make more as they lose those too. And it worked out great. Yep. You always have some extra.
04:09Yep, and they were little kids, so they loved all of the crazy variegated yarn colors. Mm-hmm, yep. So that made it fun.
04:19So I just I want to hit on crochet because I hadn't even thought about it until you mentioned it. Okay, so to support your hobby farm, do you guys sell anything that you produce? Not really. I wish we could. It's but it being we're in New York State and they have a lot of regulations about selling meat and and being like USDA certified and
04:47Even if you're an animal breeder, there's things I was just reading actually yesterday about having some kind of domestic animal permit and the taxes and things. It's really complicated. If I hooked up with somebody who's already doing it, maybe it would be less complicated, but I haven't really found anybody local to me that is either like kind of willing to share what they do. Actually where we are, there's a lot of Mennonites and they kind of have the corner.
05:14on a lot of those things. They have their bulk food stands and they do a lot of their sales. So without a mentor in that area, I don't really foresee us doing it. Although we are actually moving. We're moving to a larger property with bigger barns and I would really like for that property to pay for itself, at least a little bit.
05:41Hopefully I can find a mentor out in that area that's willing to say, you know, this is how you fill out this and these are the forms you're going to need. Um, this is who you have to talk to, to get something like that started and, and just see, just see what that process is going to be like, what startup costs are going to be like, but for now my husband's retired, so he gets a pension from the army, but we also, um, both work for the local school district. So that's how we, that's how we pay for stuff here.
06:07Yeah, and I wasn't being nosy. I just sometimes people do hobby farms as literally a hobby. They just really enjoy it. And then sometimes they do hobby farms or farms because they're trying to make some money from it. In Minnesota, we don't have a whole lot of restrictions. I mean, there are definitely regulations that are in place. But if we had those kind of restrictions that you're talking about, we probably wouldn't be living on three acres.
06:36and selling produce and eggs and all the things that we do because it wouldn't be worth it. It wouldn't be worth it for us to do it. We'll have people comment on Facebook or any other thing and say, oh, I'm glad you're a certified egg seller and you have your USDA inspection or you have your NPIP and things like that.
06:56And I know that there's ways to get around it. You know, you sell the eggs as not for human consumption and things like that. But you're always kind of watching. You're, you know, you never really know who's going to say something about. What you're trying to sell or whatever kind of trade you're trying to make. And so, you know, we try to be cautious and I generally only do like animal deals, like with the rabbits. If I sell a live rabbit, you know, it's, it's sold as a pet, even though our meat animals.
07:26I generally say like, oh yeah, this is going to be a freezer pet. And then they kind of, yep, yep, sure. And yeah, there's different ways to kind of word things so it sounds a little different. But you just have to be smart about it. I don't want to get in trouble. I don't want to get anybody else in trouble. But I'm originally from New Hampshire. To live for your die state. So I'm watching rules come down and listening to things. It kind of makes me go, huh.
07:55because I could have done it at home and I can't do it here. Yeah, I'm originally from Maine, so I was a neighbor for a while. Yeah. Nice. Yeah, and Maine has less restrictions as well. So in Maine, you can sell raw milk in a public venue. That would be cool. Yeah, there's none of that here. Not here either. No. No, we have to go to the farm where the cow lives, where the cow was milked, and where the cow's milk is in a cooler.
08:24on that property. We have to go get the from the farmer. So it's amazing how many things are regulated now that were an everyday occurrence not even a hundred years ago. Exactly. Exactly. I know there's some things we've learned things health wise, but how much of that really, how much of that decision gets to be left up to us and not somebody else?
08:52Yeah. And again, I think that we do need government. I think there are some very good reasons to have a government. Yeah. But I think that it gets in the way sometimes of really good things. So, and again, that's all I want to say on it because I do not want, I do not want anyone knocking on my door saying, why are you disparaging the United States government? I'm not. Yeah. I'm not. I'm just frustrated. It's okay. Relax. Yep. So.
09:21That would be really scary. I can't even imagine having that happen. That would be uncomfortable. Oh, I don't even want to. Nope. Nope, nope, nope. The government is great. I just don't want them telling me what socks to put on in the morning. If we're doing that, we're good. So anyway, um, you said you have horses. How many horses do you have? Uh, we have two and they, they're just riding horses.
09:46My kids, I grew up loving it. My kids don't so much, and I wonder if it's, because they've had access to the horses all their lives. I didn't, I had to go to lessons and I can only go once a week. And during the summers, we'd have our riding camps and things like that. So I had to work to get to be with the horses. My kids don't, so I'll ride. And it's more or less just for fun. We've done a couple of shows.
10:14And I always thought I would do more with them. But, you know, along the way you get married, you have the kids, you realize the kids take up more of your time than you initially thought they would. And those things kind of go by the wayside. I still like to go and take my horse's name is Shadow Facts. And I take Shadow Facts and we go for a nice trot around. And he still does a little bit of jumping and he'll chase cows. So he'll when I take him out now and we go into our pastures, you know, he'll walk around with the cows and that's kind of fun. But he's just now they're just backyard ponies.
10:44Yep. I have a little tiny story about horses. When I was in Girl Scouts a long time ago, we went somewhere on a Girl Scout field trip to someplace that had horses and we got to ride horses. And I was all good with getting on the horse and riding the horse. I was nervous because it's the first time I've been around horses. And I think I was probably eight, ten years old. I can't remember now. And my best friend was also in the same troop.
11:13And she got on the horse and she was doing everything right and something spoke the horse and I watched her get bucked off the horse. And that pretty much cemented the fact that I really didn't need to ride a horse again at that point in time. You know, I was just like, wow, my friend could have died and my best friend was my best friend. I loved her. And so I didn't really have the opportunity to try riding horses ever again.
11:42and I don't have it now either. I think that if I did have the opportunity to go somewhere where I knew the owners and I knew the horse was calm, I might try it again. But it's really interesting to me that when a traumatic event happens when you're a kid, and it didn't happen to me, but it happened to someone I loved very much, you get put off of the thing. You don't wanna do it again. So. Absolutely.
12:10I think it's a very brave thing for you to ride horses. And I understand that you grew up with it, but I still think it's a very brave thing. Yeah. He's my, the one I have, I used to be, my trainer used to call me the crash test dummy because he would put me on the ones that showed up at the barn. If it was a new purchase for him or somebody's new purchase, he'd be like, Jackie, I'll ride it. Let's see what happens. So I got so used to being tossed off. And I will say that is, that is one thing I can, I can ride a horse. I'm not.
12:39always pretty about it, but I can ride a horse and I've seen, I've fallen off more times than I can even remember. Probably sometimes I don't remember because I'm not being smart, not wearing a helmet if I wasn't. That's probably the one thing in my life that's been around since I was a kid and that stuck is I love the horses. I've been in some bad spills and my daughter actually got sent to the hospital. She got stomped on by a horse and it hurt her foot real bad.
13:08But through it all, that's been the sticker for me is having the horses. Yeah, and the thing is I love horses. We have friends who live about half an hour away and they have, but I think they still have two. I haven't talked to her in a while. One of them's name is Ginger and she is the friendliest, loveliest, most beautiful horse. And Ginger and I are friends. I like it when Ginger comes over and says hello and wants me to scratch her nose and scratch her neck. That's fine.
13:38But I just don't really have any huge desire to get on her back and tell her to go. So I also have no desire to get on a motorcycle either. I did that as a 16 year old and friend of a friend had a motorcycle and he was like, do you want to go on a ride? Have you ever been on a motorcycle? And I was like, sure. No, I haven't been. Hopped on behind him. He took me for like a three mile ride on the motorcycle. Got back. I got off, took the helmet off. And he was like,
14:06So what'd you think? And I was like, I think I like cars better. I think you have agreed. So maybe I'm just not a daredevil kind of girl. And I know that I'm not. I am a calculated risk girl and it's gonna take me some time to decide what it is I wanna risk myself over. And I'm good with that. Okay, so how many cows do you have?
14:31We just have three. So it was kind of, I hate to say impulse buy because we had spoken about it before. But there is a livestock auction not too far, just the next town over from us and we had the day off together. So we went to the livestock auction. We watched for a couple of weeks and then one week we went back and picked up two bull calves.
14:55One I thought was a heifer when they ran it through. Turned out it was not. A jersey bull calf and an Angus cross whatever bull calf. My jersey only cost us $25. Very nice. So I was like absolutely, I'm buying that jersey. So mine has since been steered and he is going into the freezer. My husband loves his bull calf. So he is still intact.
15:24much to my chagrin. He bought also a couple of heifer calves. Now we had kind of an incident with the one heifer calf and she passed away. Yeah, it was a bummer. The best thing we could come up with was she had an encapsulated infection and it burst because there was a scab on her leg. Actually, I'm friends with a...
15:51younger farm guy, his family's been in the dairy business for years and I said, would you come look at this calf because her leg swelled up real bad and the vet's not able to come out. So would you come and just see what you think? He reached down on her leg and found a plug and pulled it out and it was abscess and draining. So pumped her as full of antibiotics as we thought we should. She just went so fast. She probably was septic before we even knew what to do. So she passed, but we still have the one. Her name is Hella and she's—
16:21So in the wild, we have Stormbreaker and Hella. So we'll see. When we move to the bigger property, my steer, his name is Waldo, my steer is going in the freezer and we have the goats too and the buck for the goats, he's going to go because he's just not really a fit with our does. So they're going to go and we'll bring the bull calf and the heifer calf. And I'm hoping we can find some reasonably priced.
16:51two-year-old heifers that have maybe been bred before and freshened and done the whole thing so that there can be some experienced and maybe more friendly heifers around because I worry that that hella might be kind of wild. Yeah. So I don't know, I want to I want to experience it with an experienced heifer before before she goes. I want to know what I'm getting into. Yeah, that's a good plan. Um,
17:18I have a question about the jerseys. Are the jerseys the one that are kind of like rust colored with white? So my jersey is kind of a deer color. That's like the best way to describe it. And he's got kind of white around his eyes and a little brown nose. They look like a stuffed animal, but they're not fuzzy. Yeah. Yeah. He looks like a stuffed animal. Yeah. I love those ones. I just want to kiss their faces anytime I see them.
17:45the cutest little things. But my husband, see he was really, cause I kind of do everything, his critters are like the cows and the goats. And so even though I did help him with the bottle feeding, I didn't do it as often as he did it, cause usually I was taking care of my own critters at four o'clock in the morning. Yeah. So they love him. They don't love me. They tolerate me. But like if I go into the pasture, they walk up behind me and I'm sure they know, just like a horse would know, I'm sure they know that I'm.
18:13highly uncomfortable with them when they're like right up behind me and I'm not sure what they're doing. But they'll go play with my husband and everybody's fine. So I just, I don't go in the pasture by myself just in case somebody decides they don't like me. Yeah, animals are really funny. Our dog is, okay, I'm not going to get too far into this because I talk about the dog all the time, but this is relevant. I promise. She is a mini Australian shepherd.
18:40And Australian Shepherds and Border Collies are notorious for being very, their people focused. Like they love their people, their pack. And then they're very wary of anyone who's not part of their pack. And they're not mean, they're just very aware that that's a new person we need to find out if they're okay. And Maggie has been around all three of the people who live here since we brought her home. It's my husband and I and our 22-year-old son.
19:10And she adores my husband. Like if she has to pick one of us and he's home, she's going to pick dad to go love on or sit with or be next to. And I do not understand this because I'm the one who's been with her the most since we brought her home, but he's her favorite person. And I think it's because he leaves. He leaves for eight hours a day. So she misses him. So I think that's why.
19:39But I always think, why do you love him so much? I'm the one who's been with you your whole life. I don't get it. But my kids were the same with him too, with dad. Oh, OK. Yeah. He was their favorite person because he was gone eight hours a day. Yeah. And then they show up and they get to do all the fun stuff. Yeah, I'm familiar. Mm-hmm. Yeah, exactly. Oh, dad's home, so mom doesn't exist now. Yeah, unless you need a snack or something like that, then we're back into existence. Uh-huh.
20:08Exactly. So, okay, so did you say at the beginning of this, this is what you always wanted to do? Yes. When I was a kid, you know, my dad actually got me chickens and ducks when I was a kid and and I knew like, you know, I want to take care of animals. I want to have animals. I thought I was going to be a veterinarian, but that didn't quite work out. So, you know, I wanted to have
20:37animals in my life more than just a cat and a dog. I always knew that was something that was going to be, I was going to, I was going to need, you know, it probably sounds weird to people that don't, don't have the same connection with animals, but like I've, I've got to get up and, and take care of them. Like I go out and I feed my ducks and I just sit there with them and I go out and take care of the horses and I just, you know, stand there with them, watch them eat. It just, just got to have it. You are illustrating the
21:05difference between have to and get to for me. You get to. You wake up in the morning and I'm sure you're like, I get to go see the cows. I get to go see the goats and the ducks and whatever animal it is that you're gonna go take care of. I get to, not, oh, I have to go do this. Unless it's five degrees out and then it's just a have to. Yeah. When it's blowing snow in five degrees, I go, oh man, I have to. But.
21:32But yeah, days like today, you know, it's raining, it's not that nice out. But yeah, I get to go outside and I get to feed them and I get to see them and be there with them. So. Yeah. And you know, I know that you know that it is an honor and luxury to be able to do what you're doing and that you love it. Yep. Absolutely. Good. I love that. So tell me how you decided to name it Acres Away because I think anchor away or anchors away.
21:59Yep. So if you're familiar with the Finger Lakes area of New York, there's, I think it's like seven, I forget exactly. But there's like, it looks like scratch marks across the face of New York state. And they're called the Finger Lakes and we're like 10 miles from one of them. So I thought, you know, if we're ever going to, if we're going to market this place, if we ever do, whether we're doing horse stuff or if we're selling things or we have some kind of market, then.
22:27you know, instead of it being anchors away, because there's so many people that use the lake and have boats and things like that. And it's a double A. So thinking of like back when we had telephone books still, double A would be listed first in the phone book and acres away. Just like you said, it sounds like that anchors away. And so, you know, when somebody thinks of that, they would, oh yeah, that's a funny, it's just a funny connection. So that was my thought process. I used to work at a place called Aberus Arabians.
22:55And I always I asked the owner like why like I get it like friendly horses like I get what you're saying But she's like no think about it. You're first in the phone book and it sounds funny So it's gonna stick in your head better than it would if it was you know, Arabians are us or something You know, it just the sound of it would would attract attention and keep it kind of in your mind Yeah, it's amazing how the alphabet used to be really important the order of the alphabet and now nobody cares. No, no sure don't
23:22The good old days, I'm telling you, when there were library card, I don't know what they're called now, the cabinets that had the drawers that had the directory for the books and library. Yes, the card catalog. That's it. Thank you. Yes. You're welcome. Yes. And we still have library cards, but they're little plastic credit card-shaped things that we scan when we take out books. It's so weird. It is.
23:50I found one of my old library cards a couple of years ago and I was like, Oh, I didn't even know I still had this. And I showed it to my kid and he was like, what is that? I said, that's what library cards look like in the 1970s and early 1980s. He's like, Jesus, your old mom. I'm like, yeah, I know. 54 is ancient. It's terrible. No, it's not old. It's what is it? Like cars? It's like.
24:18Classic, I think. Classic, yes. Yes. And he's so funny too because I'm learning all about how to do a podcast. I have been learning about this for the last six, seven months because I just started it back in August. And at first I was like, how do I do this? How do I do that? And he's like, oh, this, do this, do that, do this. I'm like, okay, cool. And then I got into it after about four months and I had a question for him about what one of my statistic things meant on my...
24:47tracking stuff on my podcast. And I said, what does this mean? He said, I have no idea. Google it. There you go. He said, you are now ahead of me on what I know about this internet situation with the podcast. And I was like, Oh, okay. So I went and looked it up and I was like, this is what it says it means. And he's like, I don't even want to talk to you that fantastic.
25:13He said, keep doing what you're doing. He said, and I don't want to hear about it. He said, you are so far ahead of me on this that he said, this is ridiculous. I was like, okay, well, your mom, you can teach an old dog new tricks, apparently. Oh yeah. And he gave me the I, you know, the what. Yep. I don't like you right now. I was like, go play your games. I'm going to do some dishes. It has nothing to do with podcasts. He's like, okay, fine. So yeah, it's, it's funny how.
25:42technology has changed so incredibly just in the last 30 years. Yeah, yeah. And it makes it easier for everybody. I mean, I wouldn't be talking to you without this situation.
25:57Okay, so what's the plan for your acres away? Is it just gonna stay a hobby farm, or are you gonna try to look into the rules and regs and maybe make it try to support itself a little bit? I definitely wanna look into it supporting itself a bit. I'm not sure how. We have our own implements to cut hay, and we do that for ourselves now. We have a hay field and we bale our own hay.
26:25where we're going, we're going to have more acreage and probably the ability to sell some of our hay if we don't expand either our goats or the cows very much. So selling hay is a big thing. Every year, everybody needs hay. Everybody that's got a farm has got to have some hay, whether they're using it to feed something or they're using kind of the poorer quality or straw to bed down stuff.
26:49And it seems like every year, there's a shortage somewhere, whether it's because there's a drought in this part of the country or there's fire up in Canada or something, somebody's having a hard time getting a hold of hay. So if we can put in for that and help out there, that would be excellent. And then, you know, I just don't know, I do other little crafty things, but, you know, you find the crafts that yeah, you can make kind of a side hustle with crafts. Like I make jewelry.
27:18and kind of charm things with chicken eggshells and quail eggshells and feathers and the occasional rabbit poop because it's cute. It's funny and it makes people talk about it. You make a pair of earrings for $10. I'd have to sell a lot of $10 earrings to make any kind of money. It's just something I do because it's fun. I don't know. I just really need to think about it and see what...
27:45see what we can figure out once we're settled in the new place, see what's allowed, see where I can actually make money and if it's even worth it. Because if I'm paying taxes left and right and having to pay for this, that and the other kind of permit, is it even worth it at the end of the year to try to turn a profit? Or am I just better off feeding my family, which is just what we do now, feeding the family and maybe selling eggs to my neighbors instead of somebody I don't know?
28:13Yeah, and I don't think that any homestead has to be selling to the outside public. I just, I was just curious about what the plan is. So, the new place, is that on the near future radar or are you guys just getting started on looking? We're under contract where we're at right now and by summer, by the time it turns summer, we'll be in the new place. Yay!
28:40That's awesome. Congratulations. I'm trying not to be excited because we're like a Murphy's Law family. Like if it can go wrong, it does. So I'm excited. I am excited, but I am also, boy, I can't think of a good word for it, but. Anxious? Not so much anxious, but I'm glasses half, the glasses half something. I'm not sure if it's full or if it's half empty. But I'm just.
29:09I'm just going to wait before I get too excited. As long as everything goes the way it should and the way it's looking, we'll be there by summertime. But I just, I'll reserve my excitement for when we've unloaded the last box of items into the house. Yeah, when we bought this place three and a half years ago, we paid for the inspection ourselves because we didn't want that to be on the seller.
29:37I was really worried that something was going to pop up that made it a no-go, that we were not going to be able to buy it. The inspection man was really, really awesome. He showed up before we did and did his inspection of the property and the house. Then we showed up and I walked in and I said, so what's the bad news? He said, wow, way to be optimistic. I said, look.
30:03I said, this is important to me and I'm trying not to get my hopes up. So I had to come in that way. He said, the bad news is you got yourself a fine little house here. I said, really? He said, yep. He said, they did a fantastic job. He said, the wiring is great. They did a lovely job remodeling it. Everything looks solid. I hadn't been breathing deeply since we had made the offer and I was accepted until.
30:33after that. And then he said, but, and I went, uh-huh, here it comes. He says, I'm doing the radon test because in Minnesota, like seven out of 10 homes have a radon gas problem in their basements. And he said, I don't think it's going to be a problem. He said, but you might want to not quite exhale all the way until you get that. He said, if that's the kind of person you are. And I said, I am. He said, okay. He said, don't, don't, don't
31:03put all your eggs in that basket just yet. He said, put like 11 of the 12 dozen, 11 of the 12 in the dozen in the basket. He said, that's where I'm at. I said, okay. And we got the results from that back. And I thought that the radon levels were too high because every basement has some level of radon. Right. And I almost cried.
31:26And my realtor called shortly after I'd gotten the results. And she was like, so, did you see the radon results? And I said, yes. And she said, why do you sound sad? And I said, because it's bad, right? And she was like, no, you're good. I said, oh, okay. She said, you're good. You're gonna get the house of your dreams. I said, okay, fantastic. Now I can breathe. She said, yep. She said, go ahead and blow it all out. And I blew into the phone. She just laughed.
31:57But yeah, it's really hard because you can't get so excited that if something goes wrong, your heart is so broken, you can't function. Right, right. Yep. And that's how it would have been. So I'm right there with you. I did it. I lived it. You did. This is our second go around on this. We bought our first property 12 years ago where we are now. So now we're doing it again. And it's the same process, but we weren't homeowners before.
32:27and before the military was moving us. So it wasn't, you know, it wasn't kind of scary because we knew the military was gonna move us up. Now it's just us. Now it's just the family. So, and of course with the animals, it's even more, but I think we're making the right decision, you know, and even if it's not the right decision, we'll find a way to make it work. Yeah, as I was growing up, all I wanted to do was be a grownup.
32:53And then I got to be a grownup and I was like, wow, it's really hard being an adult. Yeah. I didn't sign up for all this, but okay. And it never ends. I mean, I look at things now and I'm like, we have to make what decision about what, where are the parents here? Yeah. My husband laughed. He said, honey, we are the parents now. I said, well, yes, I understand that, but isn't there a higher authority than
33:20than us who can make this decision. And he's like, no, we're it. I'm like, no, I don't want to do it. And we don't have one of those. So yeah, when an adult ear adult, yes, I'm going to put that in the lexicon of funny things that I'm going to say from now on. Um, jobby job is one of the funny things. Um, adult ear adult is now added and grins and giggles.
33:44I heard somebody say four grins and giggles the other day and I thought, wow, that's a much politer way than the way I usually say it. So, yep, yep. Grins and giggles now instead of the other one. I learned so much on this podcast. It's great. It's good. Yes, and I love words. So anytime I get a new word to add in, I'm very happy. Okay. Well, it's been about half an hour, Jackie. I really, really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.
34:12And I hope that whatever your dreams are for your hobby farm, I hope they all come true. Okay, thank you. Thanks for having me. Yep. Thanks. Bye. Bye.

Olde Skye Farms

Friday May 03, 2024

Friday May 03, 2024

Today I'm talking with Katy at Olde Skye Farms. You can follow them on Facebook as well.
00:00This is Mary Lewis at A Tiny Homestead, the podcast comprised entirely of conversations with homesteaders, cottage food producers, and crafters. Today I'm talking with Katie at Old Sky Farms. Good morning, Katy. How are you? Good morning. I'm good. How are you? I'm great. Tell me about yourself and Old Sky Farms because I know you have a lot going on right now. We do have a lot going on, but I feel like we're just getting started and don't know where to start, but we're starting.
00:29Yup. So we have, we moved from Florida almost two years ago to North Carolina. So we went from like 0.26 acres to 23. Nice. And it's been a lot of cleanup and fixing structures and getting things ready for livestock and animals and all of those sorts of things. But we're just now getting into agritourism. Yeah.
00:58and figuring out how to make that work for us on the farm. We just had our first big event, which was an Easter egg hunt, and that turned out pretty good. We have currently nine Nigerian dwarf goats. Three of them are, well, they're kind of babies. They're almost like teenagers now. And about 30 something.
01:25adult chickens and then of course it's chick season so we have probably like 20 chicks right now. And the next thing we're adding are Highland cows in May which we're really excited about. How many? Two babies so they're half siblings. Fun. Yeah we're really looking forward to that and the experiences that we could you know open up to people with them.
01:53Sure. Agrotourism is basically using what you have at your farm to have people come in and see how the farm works or having events at the farm. Yes? Yes. Yeah, exactly. We're still new to it too, but I did join. North Carolina has something called the Agrotourism Networking Association.
02:21So it's basically farms from all over the state that do all sorts of things like hay rides you pick or just come visit the farm for camp or field trips, things like that. The fun stuff. Yeah, the fun stuff. Okay. Yeah, and that's been a really good resource, especially just starting out. And they had their annual conference in February. And one of the main things learning was just like,
02:51There can be so many farms, but a family can visit each farm a different weekend and see something like experience something different completely. And just that there's room enough for everybody to succeed. Yeah. Okay, so I know what you were doing this morning because you told me in messages and I saw on Facebook, but can you tell the listeners what you and your husband were up to this morning? Yeah. So we were working on.
03:19converting what was cropland into pasture. So my husband spent all week using a chain drag in our UTV because we don't have a tractor yet to prep the soil. And this morning we were seeding it also with our UTV and then a hand spreader. So it's going to be a long day. Yeah, so what time were you guys up and at them to do this this morning? Well, I have a
03:46almost two-year-old daughter. So once my mom came to watch her, we went out. So probably, I mean, we were up around six, but probably got out there around eight. Okay. The reason I ask is because farming and homesteading and ranching, whatever term you want to use, is real work. It's not just, oh, yay, we're having baby cows or we're getting baby cows or, oh, the chicks are cute.
04:12It's a lot of work when you're doing it. It is a lot of work and yeah, I'm just very thankful for my husband too because it would just be a lot harder. So those that are doing it by themselves, I give them a lot of props. Yeah, I'm not doing it by myself. My husband and my 22-year-old son right this second are outside putting in the, I don't know what they're called. They're like pavers, but they're actually tall and they have an X in the top so that
04:42put things in that X to make a foundation. Oh, okay, yeah. The wood goes into the Xs and they're beginning the build on our heated greenhouse. I'm so excited. That is exciting. I had listened to one of your previous ones and I heard that you got a grant, which we're also working to try and get a grant for a hoop house to do producing stuff.
05:05Yep. And hoop houses are great, but I really, really, really wanted a solid greenhouse, if that makes sense. Because we've lost one hoop house to the wind and I was just like, I can't watch another one blow over. I will just cry. And so when I saw that there was a grant available and I told my husband about it, he was like, you should apply for that. Yeah, I think that's awesome. I said, okay, I'm going to apply for it. I didn't have a hope in hell.
05:33of getting it. I didn't think that we were ready. And apparently they did think we were ready. So they're starting the build today and they were supposed to start it a month ago, but then we got snow. So my husband was like, we're going to be hitting the starting the greenhouse first thing in the morning. He was telling me this last night. That's awesome.
05:55And I said, great. And I said, I'm going to be hitting the podcast with old sky farms at 10 o'clock in the morning. And he said, okay, well, we'll let the dog out with us and it'll be quiet. You can record and we're going to go build a greenhouse. I was like, yes. So very exciting things happening here too. And it is the, well, tomorrow's the last day of March. So we are all rolling into busy season. Yes. Yeah. But that's awesome about the greenhouse and that you're going to have it heated cause I'm sure it's pretty cold.
06:23It's very well, I don't know if you've heard me talk about this on the podcast, but this winter has not been terrible. We had a week in January where it was very, very cold, like minus teens, minus twenties, overnight. And it was only a week. And other than that, it's been an extended fall. Basically, we got maybe, I mean, this last snow probably brought us to a little over a foot of snow total for the winter.
06:54So this winter has been lovely as far as winters go, but it still hasn't been warm enough to grow anything in the ground outside. So we're real excited to be able to get the babies into the greenhouse, you know, the seedlings that were started in the kitchen and then extend the growing season into November, December later this year. Yeah, that's gonna be great for you guys.
07:22So it's really, really, really cool. And we're really excited and I should probably stop because I could talk about it for an hour. It's fine. That's awesome. It's good to have things you're excited about. Yeah. We want to, we, I got asked in an email from a person that is principal of a private, I think it's a religious school, like a church school, if we could supply them with leafy greens and carrots and stuff for sale.
07:52during the school year and this was like a year ago, over a year ago now. And I was like, I am so honored that you asked, but we don't grow anything in the wintertime because it's Minnesota. And he was like, oh yeah, I said, if you want stuff in the summer, we could certainly do that. And so I think this year we probably are going to be providing some stuff for that school for a take-home program while they prepare our school.
08:21I have to email him like Monday and confirm that. And I'm hoping that we do because that would be really fun. Yeah, that's awesome. And then hopefully this fall we'll be able to put in fall, you know, fall cold crop that they can use. But I had to ask him to make sure that he checked with the Ag Department here in the state because I said, I don't want to tell you we can do it.
08:51the government saying you can't do that. Right. So he did and it's all good and I'm hoping that we're going to be able to do it because it'll be farm to school, not just farm to table. Yeah, that's great. That's one of the things I really want to work on here is getting the kids out here, especially the ones that don't get to see farm life every day, like that don't know eggs come from chickens or milk comes from cows. I think it's really important. Oh, me too. Yeah.
09:21Me too. I didn't realize that there were people who didn't know the eggs came from chickens and came from cows. And when I heard about it, like probably 15, 20 years ago, I don't remember how I heard this story. But I had a moment of, are you kidding me? Right.
09:44I know there are little golden books about chickens and cows that get read to kids when they're little. That's true, yeah. I don't know. Every time someone says something like that or I say it, I feel like I'm insulting people who don't know. Right, because I don't want to make them feel bad. Things happen, but I want maybe to be the segue for them to learn about them. Yeah, let's go with that.
10:13And Lord knows I don't know everything about everything. There are every single day, every single day I learned something new that I'm like, Oh, huh, that's where that came from. So we have a big old brain in our heads. We only use about 10% of it consciously. There's 90% left that makes all these little connections in the back all the time and you go, Oh, that's where that came from. Right. Yeah. But anyway, uh, how did the planting go?
10:43You guys are going to do it all day? Yeah, we're good. I thought we could only go so fast with the UTV just because, you know, he's using the crank seed spreader. So I can't go, you know, really fast. So it will probably be after we're done here. We got to go back out. Okay. So I saw that you have an event coming up in July. What's that event? The summer camp? I think so. Something about biologist Katie.
11:12Yeah, which is so weird for me to say because I have a BS in biology, but I'm just not the type of person that likes to talk about myself like that. But I am a biologist, so part of that, what we were talking about introducing kids that don't know about the eggs come from chicken, milk comes from cows. But my love is ornithology and birds.
11:41the natural things. So I really wanted to bring that to kids this year. I think it would be a really good camp. So that's what we're going to try to do. Okay. And how do people sign up for it on your website? Yeah. So I'm working, right, one of the things we're working on is finding a platform for tickets that doesn't charge a crazy amount for the consumer and also doesn't charge to take money from us as well.
12:10Once I think I found a few that I'm working the kinks out, but it will be through our website which you can get to at oldskyfarms.com or also on Facebook. We have a link there as well. Okay. And is it a stay overnight camp or is it a day camp? No, it's a day camp. I'm actually due to give birth in June. Oh my. So
12:36The newest one is a boy, so he'll be probably attached to me during these camps, but it'll be from 8 to 1 and then Monday through Friday. Okay, and are you comfortable telling how much it costs to be part of it? Sure. We're going to do $250 per kid or per child and a $100 sibling discount. So if they have multiple children coming, trying to help the parents out a little bit.
13:06And it's a week? Yes. And we're going to have two weeks, but a week at a time. Yeah. OK. Awesome. That sounds like fun. Do you have other children? Yeah. So my daughter will be two in May. Oh, you are going to be a busy, busy mama in July. I'm a little nervous, but hopefully I can do it. Don't forget to get some sleep, because you want to be able to remember the time.
13:35with your two-year-old and your newborn. Yes, I know. I'm going to try. Well, thankfully, Kyle's going to take off he works full time in Raleigh. And I'll probably have a helper with me as well because that'll be a lot. Yeah, your husband's name is Kyle? Yes, Kyle. Mine too. Oh, really? That's awesome. Yeah. That's cool. Yeah, it's a family name. His grandparents on his mom's side is their last name.
14:04Oh, that's neat. Yeah, he's the only Kyle first name out of all the kids. There's also a cousin named Kylie She's a girl. Oh, that's cute Yeah, technically Kyle's first name is Brendan after his dad, but there was a lot of confusion So he went by his middle name Kyle. Mm-hmm. Yeah, I understand. You have no idea how much I understand And then at the summer camp, he's also he's a carpenter. So we're gonna spend
14:33a day doing building bluebird houses or some sort of wood project as well because I think that's super cool too. Nice. That's going to be fun for the kids. I hope so. Yeah. The reason I say I understand is because my name is Mary Evelyn, but I am actually known to my friends when I was younger and my family as Lynn because I was named after my both my grandmothers.
14:58Okay. My mom really wanted me to be Mary and my dad really wanted me to be Evelyn. And so they settled on Mary Evelyn, but within weeks they were calling me Lynn. Oh, that's cute. That's funny. And I kind of miss Lynn because that's the name I grew up being called. But I had so many times where I had to sign paperwork and I had to sign Mary E. Yeah. I finally was just like, nevermind. I'll still buy Mary. So.
15:26So one of these times I'm debating switching over to Lynn for personal stuff or like the podcast eventually. I don't know. It might be weird for people. But I totally get it. The whole name confusion thing. The name thing. Yeah. Yep. And there aren't very many people who are in that situation. So tell him I feel his pain about the nicknames and the other names.
15:51I will because he's told me many times his dad used to get mail and then he would get frustrated because it was actually for Kyle, not the dad. And then Kyle was always like, well, you named me. So what did you expect? So is he a Kyle Jr.? No, he's not a Kyle Jr. Sorry. No. Yeah. So it's Brendan Kyle. Okay. No Jr.
16:14I wander into the weirdest discussions with this podcast. Our names have nothing to do with homesteading, but here we are. Okay, so what else do you guys do? You said you have chickens and you're getting the Highlands, is that right? Yes, the Highland cows in May. So we have an egg stand out by the driveway that's self-serve. It's bright pink.
16:40so that people will hopefully stop and buy eggs because we have a surplus, which I'm sure almost everybody with chickens probably does right now. Oh, yeah. And then we are working on doing bees. We just signed up to do a bee class in our county to my husband built an elevated stand for the hive so that hopefully their flight path goes over people's heads instead of like.
17:08directly at them. That's helpful. Yeah, so that's one of the things and then we also want to do an apple orchard because around here you have to drive probably around an hour and a half to get to the closest you pick apple orchard. Yeah, so I think it would be really cool to have it'll be a high density apple orchard, so it's only going to be an acre, but a lot of trees. You can have a lot of trees on an acre. Yeah.
17:36I don't have you done any research into this yet? Yes. Yeah. Okay. We're still in the, you know, research planning, getting everything together stages. So we have like the types we want and you know, what goes, what can cross pollinate all those sorts of things. It's just getting to the final steps. Okay. We got apple trees when we moved here three and a half years ago.
18:03gave us six apple trees as a housewarming present. We've known him forever. And I had asked him if he had any babies for sale. And he was like, I've got Honey Golds and I've got Harrelson and I've got Regent. And I said, well, how much would you sell me some for to plant in our new place? And he was like, I'm not selling them to you. I'm giving them to you. That's really nice. I said, you don't have to do that. He was like, I want to.
18:30He said, I'm very excited for you guys. I was like, thank you. So my husband and my sons ran up and got them and we put them in the first fall. We were here. So we moved in in August, planted apple trees in October of 2020. We got our first edible apples last spring. So a year ago. So, and he said that we might get apples from the honey gold the following year, but, but they really do need time.
18:58activate to their new home and they need time to build up their reserves again. So I don't know if that holds true for all apple trees, but just keep in mind that you might not have apples for a couple of years. Oh yes, we know. Okay. Yeah, we've looked at it and we're going to have, I think he's calculated 210 apple trees and they're going to be the dwarf fruit apple trees. Good, yeah. But yeah, we know this.
19:28a few years at least to actually bear fruit. Yeah. Yeah, we were very happy to see the honey golds this spring, this fall, this past fall. Yeah, I'd be really excited too. And the other thing is that I'm assuming you've done the research on how to take care of the baby apples as they grow so that they don't get bug eaten. Yes. Yeah. Okay, good. Yeah, we're trying to make sure we kind of have...
19:55all of our bases covered, but I know once you start something, I'm sure something will come up that we didn't expect. Yeah, I rarely ever have advice for anyone I talk to on the podcast because you guys usually know more than I do, but having just gone through this over the last three years with these trees, and we're not growing an orchard, we just wanted apple trees. We've always wanted apple trees, so we've learned a couple things along the way.
20:19Yeah, no, we're completely, you know, noobs pretty much. So if any advice, I will take it. Okay. And bugs love baby apples. Okay. Good to know. It does not matter what kind of apple you plant. The bugs are going to find them. And the thing that we realized is that we had to spray them with something. Yeah. And so we looked into it and we found out that neem oil is actually pretty good at repelling the bugs.
20:48And neem oil is not a bad thing. I mean, I'd rather not put anything on them. But if we have to. Right, but sometimes you have to. And we've used the neem oil for, we have Japanese maple trees that got some bugs on them. So we use that for them too. Yeah, neem oil is a miracle thing. I didn't know about it until probably 10 years ago. And it seems to do the job on a lot of insects. Yeah.
21:18But anyway, whatever, we could we'd talk about that all day too, but we're not going to. So an apple orchard sounds absolutely wonderful. You guys are going to have the most lovely agri-tourism spot ever. I hope so. I mean, that's what we're, this is our forever dream. So we're hoping to make it self, you know, somewhat self-sufficient and make a little extra because I'm staying home with the babies. So we'll need it.
21:46That's amazing because not so many people have that. I don't want to use the word luxury, but I'm going to use it. I completely agree. I am privileged in that sense that I get to stay home. Yeah. And I feel like a lot of people choose this lifestyle because they can be with their kids. Right. Yeah. Like, I think everybody thinks their kids are probably the smartest kid in the world.
22:15And I'm not saying my daughter is, but I feel like if I hadn't had this time with her, I don't think she'd be where she is now, intelligence-wise. And just curiosity, like learning about the bugs and the trees and the birds and everything outside. Absolutely. My mom was a stay-at-home mom until I was 15, I think. And I'm the oldest of three. So my brother was probably 12. Yeah. He's the youngest. And...
22:44It was great because we left the house in the morning and she was home and we got home from school and she was home. We didn't end up doing that latchkey kid thing that people of my generation did. I'm 54 so you figured out 80. My mom was a single mom so I was often getting myself together on the bus and stuff. She's a nurse so it wasn't easy hours or anything.
23:12really happy and she's happy for me that I get to stay with my daughter. I bet she is. I bet she's elated for you because yeah it's such a special time from the time that they're born until they're about three. There's so much learning that's happening and yeah she's just a little sponge. I was just gonna say they're little sponges and they they soak up everything. They do. They really do. So the good things and the bad things.
23:41Oh yeah, of course. Of course. I remember the first time my daughter said a swear word. I think she was three, so that was pretty good. Yeah, you went longer than we have. Uh-huh. Because Teagan has already dropped some words. Yeah, I don't even remember what it was, but she said it and I looked at her. I was like, what? And she grinned at me and said it again. And I was like, let's not say that word. She said, but you say it. I was like, yes, I do. Okay.
24:09Maybe I should not say that word in front of you anymore ever again. That's cool. But parenting is an honor. I think for me it's an honor. And my kids are grown and I still just smile inside when my kids call and say, mom or mama or hey you, I did this thing or I have a problem or whatever and they want to talk it through with me.
24:39Yeah, that's amazing. I don't want to say I can't wait, but I am looking for, I'm just happy I get to be her mom and this other little one's mom. Yeah. Yep. How are you doing with having to do all the chores on the farm and being this close to do? Because I'm sure that you're feeling it. I am. Things are starting to get pretty sore now.
25:06I get I'm tired but you know most days when she goes down for a nap I end up napping too because that's just the only way I'm gonna get through the day. Good. Yeah. No, I'm doing okay. I'm good. Thank you. Yeah, you got to take care of yourself before you can take care of the other things. Yeah, that is that's a hard lesson to learn. You cannot do it all all the time. Right. Yeah. So. I think as women especially though we want to try.
25:36and just make everything happen, but it's not possible. There are only so many hours in the day and there are only so many energy reserves in your body. And if you add that up, you have to find a balance somewhere. Yeah, that's true. So been through it, been through three pregnancies, I remember. And I wasn't running a farm. I was growing a human and that was enough. That's enough.
26:04Yep, and I don't even say pregnant anymore. I say growing a human because when you put it in the terms of growing a human, the weight and the gravity of that... ..situation. ..feet is huge. It is, yes. Yeah. But anyway, okay, so what's the goal for the farm? I mean, I assume that you guys are trying to make it so that you live there forever and you raise your kids and you grow the farm while you grow your kids. Yeah.
26:33pretty much it. That's our ultimate goal just to be successful in creating enough income that hopefully Kyle can stay home and run the farm full time and not have to drive an hour to work every day and then come home and also do chores. So yeah, just to be successful and raise the kids here and learn about nature and farming and everything.
27:01I'm sure that you don't want this to run too long, so I've got one more big question for you and then we'll probably be good. How did you guys decide to do this? Because I didn't hear that when I asked you at the beginning. I probably didn't answer it. I don't know if I asked actually. No, I think you did. You told me how to start, but I probably went off in some random direction. That's okay. We always knew kind of that North Carolina was going to be our end state.
27:30because I'm originally from Southern Maryland. Kyle's originally from Prince Edward Island, Canada, and we lived in Florida for 13 years. So we definitely wanted to come North, but he wasn't willing to go all the way back North to PEI. And then North Carolina is only about three hours from where I'm from in Maryland. So that's how this ended up being.
27:58like the location we chose. As for like the farm, we knew we wanted acreage because in Florida, you're just where we were, you're just on top of each other and we wanted room to breathe and raise our children. And once we sold that house, we were able to purchase this with the land. So that's kind of how we had no idea where Wilson was or like what is here.
28:26But so far everybody's been very nice and welcoming. And our property, I mean, I think it's beautiful. It's something we just wanna keep working at. So is the entire area where you are really pretty? I think so. It's still a very large producer of tobacco. And we're in a rural part, but we're still like only an hour away from Raleigh, which is like the bigger,
28:56somewhat of a bigger city. But not everybody has the amount of land and I know we're very thankful to have what we have. Yeah. I've talked to a lot of people in North Carolina and South Carolina on this podcast because apparently that's where everybody goes to Homestead, who knows? Really? But it sounds like it's really beautiful. It sounds like the weather is pretty temperate, but winters aren't extremely cold, clearly.
29:26So one of the main things that we liked here was, excuse me, you can go, it kind of has everything. It has the farmland, it has a city, it has the coast, and then it also has the mountains. So if we wanted to do a weekend trip to any of those, we could do so in the same state. So I thought that was really cool. Yeah. I grew up in Maine and I was half an hour from the ocean and half an hour from the White
29:56That's awesome. So once I got a driver's license, I was like, I need to go see these places because that wasn't a thing we really, really did as a family because it costs money and everybody was doing different things when I was growing up. And now I live in Minnesota and the most exciting hill I know of doesn't exist in Minnesota. I haven't found it yet.
30:22And the biggest body of water is Lake Superior. And I think I've been there once and it's like looking out over the ocean, but it's not the ocean. So, so I kind of shifted from, from hilly ocean and mountains to flatlands and corn and alfalfa and I don't know, tree lines, I guess, cause there's not, where I live, there's not a whole lot of forest.
30:51as it were, its tree lines are on the farms. Okay. But anyway, Katy, I really appreciate you taking time out to talk with me and I know you got to get back to planting your field. So I'm going to let you go. Thanks so much. Thank you for having us. Yeah, have a great day. Thanks you too. Bye.

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