April 2020 Digest

Originally written for and published by MSU Extension – Michigan Small Farm Newsletter. The monthly digest intends to give a quick snapshot of what’s going on around here on the homestead. Since many of our subscribers do not get that publication, I post the article here too.

05/02/20
Jacobsville, MI
White Sky Woods Homestead

It’s amazing what difference a month can make! The snow is gone. Green life is coming up from the ground, now we are just waiting for the trees to leaf out and really make it seem like spring here on the Keweenaw.

This week the focus will be hardening off and then planting some of our cole crops: broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage. Some snap peas and shelling peas have already been sown and another batch will be sown in another week. Carrots, parsnips and rutabaga seeds will find themselves in the ground in the upcoming days too. The garlic planted last fall and all our perennial plants are coming up nicely.

An exciting garden moment this spring was the harvest of our overwintered carrots and parsnips. Oh what a treat! Not only to go out there in the empty garden and pull out food, but the sweetness of the carrots and parsnips was out of this world!  It was our first year experimenting with overwintering these two crops in the ground and we will with certainty be doing it again and with a larger amount.

Carrots and parsnips after overwintering in the garden.

What we refer to as our north garden is almost completely cleaned up from the November snow storm. The fence is back in position, finally keeping the deer out!  All the downed branches have been cut and chipped and the last step is to remove the logs which will be used for firewood. It has several more plantings now too – 3 varieties of elderberry, 25 hazelnut, and 5 goji berries. Plus we’ve moved about 20 thornless blackberries plants from an unmaintained garden to the north garden along with some grapes. 

We are anxiously anticipating the coming of our high tunnel. It will be delivered in mid-May and then we’ll be spending the next few weeks assembling it. Along with this big project, we’re also working hard to finish up the work on the cabin in hopes to have it open this summer as a farm stay, AirBNB. Also in May and early June the remaining veggies will be planted in the garden and high tunnel. We’ve ramped up planting a bit in hopes to bring produce to our farm stand this year. It’s our first year with the farm stand! We are currently selling jams/jellies, fresh baked bread once a week, and soon wild-foraged herbal teas with the addition of fresh produce in the summer. In mid-May, we will also be expecting baby goats. Needless to say, May and early June are crunch time! We’re feeling the pressure as so many small farmers are, but the future is bright!

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Jacobsville Farm Stand (Guest Blog)

Note from Lisa: The following post is from a guest blogger, our 10-year old daughter, Flora.

Hi everyone! We have recently been working on building a farm stand! It is exciting to us because now we will offer our yummy homestead products to our local community. We will be sharing the farm stand with our neighbors Beth and Gene who own Circle Back Farm, they sell organic maple syrup. They have had a small maple syrup stand but this new one will be replacing it and will include produce and farm goods that our family grows and makes.

Here is how we built the farmstand:

First, my Dad and I did research on the internet to see what other farm stands looked like. We decided on what ours should look like and my Dad drafted a model on a computer program. I helped by taking notes on all the pieces and their measurements so we would be ready to build. Once we started building, we measured the lengths that our wood would have to be cut at and we cut the pieces of wood to their proper lengths. Next, we put the whole thing together with screws. The wood we used is milled by my Dad and is from local trees.

We had to do some problem solving on figuring out how our money slot was going to work. We also had to do some extra problem solving on how the roof was going to work and what it would be made of. Once we figured out we were going to make it out of metal, we had to cut the metal to the correct lengths. Then we had to stand on a ladder and screw the metal onto the roof frame. 

My favorite part of building the farm stand was the problem solving that was involved in building the farm stand. The reason I like the problem solving so much is because it really makes me think, come up with a new plan, and then test my new plan.

The farm stand will have jams and jellies, fresh produce, home baked bread, and hand foraged herbal tea from White Sky Woods. It will also have my favorite maple syrup from Circle Back Farm. There might be other new things during the season too!

The farm stand is be located on the side of the road near the mailbox at 40726 Red Rock Rd., Jacobsville. We hope you will come and check it out! 

This is me at the farm stand!

Note from Lisa: I’ll be posting product updates on Facebook and Instagram during the season. The early season will have our Forager’s Delight Fruit Spread for sale and 1 or more varieties of fresh baked rustic bread delivered by 10 a.m every Saturday (starting May 2nd). We also have duck eggs and rabbit available for sale, if interested in those, please contact me directly!

Real People, not Actors. 2 Videos to Watch this Weekend.

As we move into the second month of social distancing, we’re still keeping busy here. In a snapshot: we had a decent snowfall, I’ve been perfecting my rustic bread making skills (see below), also Tim took a break from the cabin and he and Flora built a produce stand (Flora is working on an upcoming blog post to tell you more about the produce stand!).

This kid loves bread!

We haven’t been bored, but I hear rumblings that others out there are. Might I humbly suggest some White Sky Woods entertainment? In the last two years we’ve met so many talented people, including a few that wanted to record and share our homestead journey. I see both of these videos as such a gift to us. Here are two videos you may enjoy watching:

The first program comes from 180 From Average. This video gives a tour of our homestead during our second summer of homesteading and shows a bit about yurt life.

This next one is from Kristin Ojaniemi, freelance videographer and producer at TV 6’s Discovering. It highlights a bit of what winter is like on the homestead, filmed mid-winter 2020. Take a snowshoe tour, forage, and meet the animals on the homestead tour!

Hope our friends, family, and followers are well, safe, and healthy!

Wishing you peace, love and time in nature,

-L

A New Pace

How are you doing? Physically? Emotionally? Well, I hope. In this last week I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with friends and family more than we normally would. Out of concern for one another and also because we have more time to connect. How nice to have more time for one another (even if it’s not face-to-face). I know more time isn’t everyone’s way of life right now, depending on one’s profession or other factors. I also understand that more time isn’t everyone’s thing or that this “new” way of daily life is challenging for many.

During the past 2 weeks and the weeks coming up, I’ve found our number of off-the-homestead responsibilities to drop considerably, and it’s been relieving to watch the schedule clear. Our family has been greatly enjoying having more time to be freely navigating our days. Also, let’s face it, while we are generally very involved in our community and socially, we also are really content just being here on the homestead. So, this social distancing and staying home thing hasn’t really been all that challenging for us. I’m so grateful for that, I know it is very different for others. In fact, it’s been such an unexpected opportunity to just slow down and enjoy a more reasonable pace of life.

Tim has been working diligently on the cabin, the progress is excellent! I keep taking pictures, but it’s hard to convey before and after through them, so I haven’t shared any on social media, yet.

The kids have been playing outside, listening to podcasts, attending so many awesome webinars just for kids and building everything imaginable with LEGO bricks.

I’ve been enjoying a more relaxed approached to my work and homeschool time (I’ve found that I have more peace in these things because I’m not having to rush to perform them within the constraints of all the other commitments). The ukulele I bought 2 years ago? I’m practicing it daily now! I am working through some canning that I didn’t have time to finish in fall, wild plum jelly and chokecherry jelly so far. I’m enjoying baking bread. Preparing our meals also has a much more relaxed approach because I’m not trying to cram it into a crazy busy day. I’ve even had time to just sit and read! This pace has been cathartic.

As a family we’ve spent a lot of time getting fresh air outdoors, and indoors playing games, reading out loud, and building puzzles together. We’ve been keeping busy with homeschool (our normal thing anyhow), but finding ourselves much more relaxed since we don’t have other commitments to run to. We get all the same stuff done, but at a more relaxed pace which puts everyone in a better mood. I thought this photo pretty much sums it up.

Dave (our dog) and Woodland.

Overall, this new pace has been a treat. Yes, we are feeling worry about the impact of COVID-19 on our family and friends and global society – the concern is constant. But I am hopeful that this time where we’re making history will result in some positive long-term change.

Friends, what have you been doing? Read any good books lately? How are you spending your time? Tell us in the comments below. Or find us on Facebook & Instagram to keep in touch!

Sincere wishes for the well-being of your whole self.

Peace, Love, & Nature,

-L

Name that tea! Really.

Right now many gardeners, homesteaders, and the like are getting jazzed about the upcoming planting season. But here I am with projects still lingering from the summer and fall harvest of 2019. Once I wrap these up, I know I’ll feel more clear and ready to accept the upcoming growing season! I’ve been wanting to do these lingering projects, but you know…..time. Left on my list includes:

Chokecherry juice and wild plum juice I made and froze that needs to be thawed for jelly making. Yum!

A huge bowl of frozen tomato sauce that needs to be thawed and canned (I ran out of jars at the end of the season).

A bin filled with mason jars packed full of various edibles and medicinals we foraged throughout the summer.

In most of these jars are “weeds” that are known by some for being a nuisance on their lawn, and by others for their healing properties. An example is Pineapple Weed. This relative of chamomile smells like pineapple when crushed and adds a bright, fruity flavor when brewed in a tea. I picked, washed, and dehydrated a bunch this summer and have been adding it to my loose berry leaf teas. Like true chamomile, it can be used for relaxation.

My long-term intention with my jars full of foraged and dehydrated goodies is to create small batches of unique herbal tea blends for my own enjoyment and ultimately to develop recipes that I can repeat and use to create product for sale. The herbal tea blends are for flavor enjoyment and general wellness (not specific medicinal use). The ingredients are 100% harvested at White Sky Woods. All winter long I’ve been enjoying my random blends; I haven’t had to buy any tea from the store!

It was time. I finally I sat down, measured, documented, mixed, and individually bagged two final recipes! They have been taste tested and approved and I hope to have a small amount of handcrafted herbal teas for sale this summer.

So here’s the thing, before I sell this product, both handcrafted blends need a name! Here’s where you come in. 😉 Below are the descriptions of each herbal tea blend. If you have a creative idea for a name that matches the product, please make your suggestion. If I use your suggestion, I’ll give/send you 10 bags of whichever herbal tea blend you prefer (or a combo including both). Read the descriptions below and send me an e-mail if you’re inspired with a name (or names)!

The first recipe’s flavor could be described as a warm and earthy blend. It was created with the idea of comfort and chasing the winter blues away. It includes: wild raspberry leaf, wild strawberry leaf, wild blueberry leaf, stinging nettle, St. John’s wort, and bergamot leaf.

The second recipe is bright and soothing – the taste of a relaxing summer day. It has a sweet scent and a would be delightful either hot or cold. It’s a blend of wild strawberry leaf, wild raspberry leaf, and pineapple weed.

Homemade herbal tea in my Grandma’s antique tea cup.

I’m looking forward to your name suggestions! For now, it’s tea time. Cheers!

-L

A Vision for 2020.

The new year is here! Anyone else feel surreal writing or saying 2020? Like it’s something out of a sci-fi novel from our youth? I do!

Morning of December 31, 2019. Rolling into the new year with some snow removal!

I’ve learned that New Year’s means different things to people. The most common meaning seems to do with “starting fresh” which results in things like quitting bad habits or changing things in one’s lifestyle. Another common meaning is about reflection. And another being setting goals for the new year. Or all of these things combined. What I tend to see are 2 core themes in these actions: Wanting MORE. Wanting BETTER.

I’ll be doing some reflection and goal setting too – for me personally and for the homestead. But, I’m going to avoid MORE and BETTER in these goals. Instead, I’m going to focus my perspective on gratitude and the feeling of abundance in what I/we do have. 2019, as with the previous homestead years, was a lot of work – and highly gratifying. Could there be more? Sure! But not without me pushing my well-being to the edge (or over, eek). Could there be better? Maybe. Perhaps an outsider may look at me or our homestead and find ways to be better, but honestly, I’m pretty happy with how things are. They seem to be working well for us.

By mid-2019 I knew one of my goals for 2020 was going to be “no new major projects – focus on what is.” Another goal is that I’d like to continue focusing on observing the natural world around me (which is something that happens as I’m doing just about anything). Last year we started building a database of observations at iNaturalist – the White Sky Woods Project. Together Tim and I had 309 observations of 224 species!

Neither of these goals is “more” or “better”, I’m down with that.

So, what was good for you in 2019? Can you find gratitude in what is and allow happiness in, even if the new year doesn’t have “more” or “better”?

Happy New Year!

Wishing you peace, love, and nature,

-L

Invitation to Experience the Homestead

From the moment our snowshoes landed on what was to become a property we could call our own, we felt a deep connection. We knew it was meant for us. 8 years later we had completed the yurt and moved here to start our new, radically different life as homesteaders. 2 years after that, the opportunity to purchase the neighboring property presented itself and we just couldn’t turn that down. Combined, we now have 240-acres of woods, pasture, wetland, ponds, with great biodiversity and interesting history including 2 ponds that were former Jacobsville Sandstone quarries.

Privately owned Quarry pond, site of former Jacobsville Sandstone Quarry. Jacobsville Sandstone was extracted locally between 1870 and 1915.

We invite our friends out and explore on hikes, enjoy the garden and the animals. As a family we wander, discover and catalog newly discovered plant and animal life, and simply enjoy the quiet, amazing place we have here.

I enjoy this amazing place and am delighted to see our friends enjoy it so well – I knew I wanted to share it with others in some capacity. We now have that opportunity, offering various tours as seasonally allowed. Some will be available via “AirBNB Experiences” bookings. Private tour bookings (other than what is offered via AirBNB) will also be available seasonally, listed on our Experiences page.

I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.

-Henry David Thoreau

We look forward to hosting you!

-L

Seasonal Changes, a Post from the Heart.

With over two feet of snow on the ground and negative temperatures arriving, even though winter solstice hasn’t arrived on the calendar yet, it’s safe to say winter is here.

Winter is a beautiful time of year on the homestead.

Calves and goat on pasture, after a snow.

Having always been a northern girl, I really do love the changes of the seasons. I can’t imagine living in a climate where seasonal changes are mild or unnoticable. Every new season hold excitement for me. Although you’d think that after 40 years I’d totally have this seasonal change thing nailed, right? Nope. Complete nope. Especially when it comes to winter. And I think it’s becoming harder.

We do have a lot of fun in the snow. We play.

Woodland enjoying a puff of snow he’s thrown on himself.

We snowshoe or go out for a daily walk. We explore.

We stay active shoveling, hauling wood, managing the animals and keeping their living spaces in working order, safe and warm. We continue to train the calves, putting them on light duty work. They recently helped haul back the holiday tree we cut down from our property – what a wonderful team they are.

But a few things have happened since Autumn changed to Winter.

My normal day of being outside in the sun for sometimes 10 hours a day, enjoying the beach, working the garden, harvesting the foods, preserving them and oogling of the beauty of providing the bulk of ones food – this has stopped.

It was a productive food preservation year. All the canning (5-6 deep on each shelf) plus the deep freezer stocked full of vegetables and meat.

Around the same time all that stopped, in mid-October we said goodbye to our dear family member, Quigley. At 14 1/2 years old, life was getting too hard for him. Saying goodbye was hard, adjusting to life without his sweet soul being by my side was torture. For weeks I dreaded entering the yurt without his happy greeting. Anything that was out of place or laying on the floor, registered in my brain as him. I cried daily…for quite a while. Those of you who know me, I don’t cry, it was pretty foreign to me. The grief feels different now, but it still hurts.

Forever my special guy.

By late October, it was almost always cloudy. My time outside was rarely met with the sun. I was spending a lot of time inside now, focused on my contract employment duties and full on in our day-to-day homeschool life.

One day during these seasonal and life impacting changes, I realized something. I was really sad. Not unhappy, I can see all the amazing things going on in my life around me, it’s just that I was somber and sorry feeling. A huge grey cloud was looming over, pulling from my energy and adding challenges (how I feel and perceive things, not physical ones) to my life that didn’t need to be there, that were just getting in the way.

I realized what shock my physical body had just gone through with the seasons changing. Going from active almost all waking hours and in the sun, to more restful indoor activites (although my mind at first told me this was lazy…ok, it still does). I realized what shock my emotional being had just gone through, tending to the kids and their education as my primary daily activity (I’m not gonna lie, being with the kids non-stop as Mama and teacher is hard for me) and also losing my best bud. The time when I was seeking the pleasure of having the comfort of his unconditional understanding and furry body to pet, he wasn’t there.

I know people generally don’t talk about feeling sad….but why not?! We don’t need to be alone in this. As someone who says more things aloud than I probably should, I will talk about it. People get sad. They get sad because of seasonal changes (seasonal affective disorder). They get sad because of a major life changes. Or, maybe minor ones. Maybe they just get sad and there doesn’t even need to be a reason.

When I realized how I was feeling, I said it. I told Tim and the kids, I told friends. Some didn’t respond…that’s okay, it can we be weird, not everyone can understand. Others showed care by saying or texting messages of love. One sent a small gift and made sure to pull me out of the house for quality friend time. Another invited me to her couch, handed me a box of Kleenex, asked how I was doing and listened without judgement. This, plus adding more outdoor physical activity daily (I NEED nature), short break times for just me, and loads of Vitamin D supplements cleared away that stupid grey cloud. Time probably helped too, since part of the stupid grey cloud is grief.

I don’t have the answers to getting rid of the cloud, but I know acceptance and talking to someone is a good start. I still have partly cloudy days. And that’s okay, mostly the sun is shining.

Wintry pond scene, blue skies.

To my friends and readers – I’m sending you love and I’m wishing you sunny days ahead. ♥

-L

Farm Animal “Triad of Balance”

An odd title for a blog, I know. But, as a homesteader I’ve learned that a balance is needed for having and caring for farm animals. I see myself needing and applying my self-made farm animal “Triad of Balance”. The triad goes like this:

1.) Care deeply for the well-being of the animals.

2.) Don’t get too attached to them.

3.) Remember their purpose.

We run a very frugal budget so we vow that everyone and everything that is on this homestead has a purpose. For instance, goats are for milk and mowing, not for pets. Do they get spoiled with extra attention and yummy fresh food treats? Yeah, they totally do. But ultimately their purpose here needs to be met, or they aren’t a match for here.

There have been a few times when my farm animal triad of balance was challenged. One specific instance that comes to mind is when we decided it was time to butcher Frannie, our mama pig. After knowing her for almost 2 years, seeing her birth and raise piglets, and attending to her care 2 or more times each day, parting with her was a bit tough. I still miss having her smiling face around. (Cue the farm animal “Triad of Balance” to help cope.)

Today was the first very cold day of the winter season here, around 12 degrees overnight. In the morning we went out for chores and everyone seemed to be doing fine except there was a bit of concern for Pixel, one of our original chickens. This past summer Pixel became the target for establishing the pecking order in the flock and was badly injured by too many pecks to the head (you guys, chickens can be cruel). We seperated her and gave her some special care in a seperate outdoor pen until she was better. But, she never was 100% better. She was unable to keep her balance sometimes and only one eye would open completly. But, she didn’t seem to be in pain and she was still laying her daily egg (even beyond the time period the other chickens gave up for the season). So, she moved in with the ducks and rabbits and her co-habitation was a success for many months. This afternoon we found her dead. The cold must have been just too much. RIP Pixel. (Cue the farm animal “Triad of Balance” to help cope.)

Upon finding Pixel our daughter also recognized that one of our roosters, Big Boy, was out on the snow hopping around on one foot. She picked him up and saw that his one foot was completely frozen, unable to move. Upon this discovery, the kids came running to get help. Now, what were we to do with a rooster with a frozen foot? The temps aren’t increasing and leaving him in that condition would be certain death.

Honestely, I have formed some opinions of those who share their home with their farm animals. Sharing it with them at all, or for what I would consider to be too long of a time. Or, I’ve seen where people get attached and next thing they know they have their duck wrapped up in bed with them. That type of care may be for some, but that is not for me. I’m not keen on having duck poop in my bed. However, I do have a big heart for the well-being of our critters and I will do what I can within what I’ve established to be reasonable ways to help our animals. They deserve our care and attention just like a friend would.

So Big Boy came inside.

Examining the health of his foot.

Moving animals from temperature extremes can actually be very harmful to them. So, the kids brought him in and sat by the woodstove. Within 10 minutes his foot was thawed and he became mobile and very interested in exploring. His soft coo’ing and clucking was pretty sweet. But that was my cue to get him back outside and into an area where he’d be better protected from the cold. We fed him some leftover corn pone as a treat and out he went.

Chickens like corn pone.

Now, if my farm animal triad of balance was out of whack, that rooster might have joined us for dinner! Trust me, the kids would have not complained, ha! But, he’s an outdoor animal, he has a safe place to stay out there, and he’s better now.

Happy kids, healthy rooster.

Fingers crossed he stays in his sheltered and hay-filled area.

Wishing you peace, love and time in nature,

-Lisa

October 2019 Digest

Originally written for and published by MSU Extension – Michigan Small Farm Newsletter. The monthly digest intends to give a quick snapshot of what’s going on around here on the homestead. Since many of our subscribers do not get that publication, I post the article here too.

11/04/19
Jacobsville, MI
White Sky Woods Homestead

As the snow started falling a sigh of relief was released. The snow signifies that a much needed rest period is ahead! So much of the winter prep was completed in such a short period of time I can’t help but feel somewhat amazed at our family’s ability to work as a team.

For my own sake I wish I could report that the fall butchering is done, but there are a few left to go. The major project of butchering and selling young fryer rabbit is complete and buyers are lined up. I’ve been impressed with the interest and we are happy to bring healthy and humanely raised meat to our small community. Our rabbits are colony-raised on a pasture diet. They enjoy an ample “yard” space to hop around in and eat fresh grass and twigs naturally growing in their area. The rabbits are fed hay, fresh greens, garden veggies, and if needed, supplemental rabbit feed. For the next month they’ll be enjoying the plentiful pumpkins that volunteered themselves in the garden this year. The ducks, chickens and goats also like these. The calves could care less.

Looking back at the garden harvest, the most exciting part was our dried beans (yes, I get excited over beans!). We grew several varieties including: Calypso, Black Coco, Brown Dutch, Soldier, Tohya Soy, Scarlet Runner, and Cannellini.  We let them dry on the plant and then once shelled give them a final drying cycle inside before storing in glass jars. The favorites are Cannellini (white bean) and Black Coco (large black bean).

Beans, beautiful beans!

After a season of hard work, we’re ready to have a bit of downtime. The garden is at rest for the winter and the animals are all located in their winter pastures (much to their displeasure). Time to switch out our summer clothes for sweaters and long johns and our sandals for snowshoes. The daylight is short, giving us reason to shift into a slower pace.

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Cheers! Peace, Love and Nature,
-L