Foraging on the Homestead

I love all the seasons of the Keweenaw, but when it comes to foraging, oh my how summer does provide! Recently we had a filming here about Keweenaw foraging – for the show “Discovering” on 906 Outdoors. (We had a winter filming too, maybe you’d like to check it out!) After the filming (I’ll share the link on social when it’s ready!), I was reflecting on how I became a forager. I couldn’t quite put a finger on any specific experience or moment. More so that foraging sorta slowly sneaked its way into my life. It probably started with our move here to White Sky Woods. While the garden and fruit trees were just getting established, we foraged wild berries from all over our property. I probably didn’t call it foraging though, just picking. At the time, I had known through focusing on a natural foods diet, that some plants in nature were medicinal, such as raspberry leaf. I remember this being one of the first things foraged once we moved here, and it was so exciting that I blogged about it!

As we were out picking fruit, I started to see new plants I didn’t know. So, being the naturally curious person I am, I started out learning the identifications of many of the plants on our land – from trees to grasses and all the things between (I met a lot of amazing animal life along the way too). As I became more familiar with the plants we share our home with and developed the ability to identify them in various growing stages, I started to learn more about the properties of the plants and how they could benefit us and what we could do to provide for them. I fumbled a lot in the beginning, having problems with identification retention, but the more I was out with the land, the more it came to me quickly. On hikes out on the woods, I soon found myself looking at all the plants and naming them in my mind as I passed by them. I still do this today, like saying hi to people you know on a busy street.

Hello St. John’s Wort. Your sunny beautiful flower will be a source of mental wellness come the long, Keweenaw winter nights.

Still, after many years identifying plants on our land (going back over a decade now), there are some that stump me every spring when they come up and I have to refresh my memory. But, there are the “old standards” that have become a part of our foraging practice that I easily identify, harvest, and use for various purposes. The kids do too!

We do some foraging and harvesting for medicinal purposes, but for the most part, our focus is finding wild edibles and foraging that benefit our general wellness. Our favorites are the berries, but there is SO much more than that. This past winter we didn’t buy packaged tea because we had foraged enough from the land to provide our own healthy teas. Also, I created a few blends to sell at our farm stand.

When I’m out spending time with the land now, I think about how the land provides. I thank it. I think about what I can do to provide for it in return for its abundance. It’s a relationship of balance and respect and reciprocity. Just like one you would have with a partner or friend.

That is what the land is to me. While the food we forage is healthy for our bodies, the relationship with the land feeds my soul. We feed our body with food, and we can feed our soul with nature (vitamin N).

I thought about sourcing a whole bunch of beautiful pictures of nature for this post, but honestly, writing about the land has it calling to me. Now, it’s time for me to head up in the trees and forage Juneberries while watching my fingers get stained with the juices and listening and observing nature around me.

Peace, Love and Nature,

-L

July Digest 2020

07/06/20
Jacobsville, MI
White Sky Woods Homestead

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.

Bountiful wild foraging, several healthy litters of rabbits, progress on our homestead vacation rental and good feedback and sales from our first year farm stand have been some of the best highlights of the start of the summer season.  

Farm stand among the ferns and lupines.

The farm stand has been a rewarding new project. Every Saturday we sell 3 varieties of fresh baked bread and seasonally available produce fresh from our garden. We serve a very low population, seasonal, rural community, so bringing small amounts of fresh produce to sell each Saturday is our goal. Recently it’s been all about greens, but soon we’ll start having more variety such as snap peas, green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and more. We also sell jellies and jams made from hand-foraged wild edibles along with herbal teas, also sourced from hand-foraged wild edibles, all harvested in our own property.  We do everything on a small and personally sustainable scale.

Aphids, grasshoppers and maybe other pests in the garden, some struggles with root crops (maybe thanks to the aforementioned pests), a broken down chainsaw, lack of time and extreme heat have been some of the challenges of the summer season.

We are thankful to say in the past 3 years of gardens we haven’t had much problem with pests, but year 4 of the garden is giving us new challenges. The great news is that we have much more growing space with the new high tunnel so if we lose some crops while trying to naturally manage the pests, our harvest will hopefully still be on track. However, some of the harvest will be missing almost completely: our beets, rutabaga, and parsnip.  We’ve done several replantings and the best we can come up with is that the plants are being gobbled up by the grasshoppers or another pest immediately after emerging.  If anyone has had this problem in the past, we would be so thankful to hear from you on what the pest was and what natural solutions were implemented. 

If you haven’t already, how about following us on Facebook & Instagram?

Cheers! Peace, Love and Nature,

-L

May/June Digest 2020

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.

06/16/20
Jacobsville, MI
White Sky Woods Homestead

So much has been going on around here it’s hard to keep track of what’s been done, we just keep our eyes forward on the calendar and projects and spend most of the time doing the work and less time thinking about what there is to do. It’s been non-stop (and we hope that we feel some relief soon). But, in the past month we did have a major project that we are so excited to have completed – our high tunnel!  

Over a year and a half ago we started the application process for the NRCS high tunnel initiative grant. The high tunnel arrived by delivery on Saturday, 5/23 and about 1 ½ weeks later the project was complete. We managed to put most of the tunnel together with 1-2 people and then were so thankful to receive support from friends with a tractor to raise the bows to attach to the posts and again to install the cover for the roof. The high tunnel growing space is 30’x48’.

Once the high tunnel was built Tim created the planting rows, hooked up the drip tape watering system and I got to planting. Everything was planted in the garden by the time I started the high tunnel planting, it’ll be interesting to compare staggered plantings, ripening times, etc.

We’ll use the tunnel to extend our season on the front and back ends, as a place to plant sensitive plants (we just had an overnight frost on 6/13), increase our growing space, and allow us to produce more for ourselves and our community (produce for sale at our farm stand). The plants I’m most excited about in the high tunnel that we’ve struggled with outside are: eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and tomatillos. While many of these grow in the outdoor garden, there were extra challenges we’ve met along the way, including in some cases never getting to the point of mature fruits/vegetables.

Now that the garden and high tunnel are planted, watering and keeping up with the weeding needs our attention until the produce starts coming. Until then, we’ll redirect to finishing up our major project, the cabin for vacation rental.  This project has been going on for over a year and we are very eager to have the construction done, the cabin furnished, and to begin welcoming guests to stay on the homestead as a place to rest, get back to nature, or see what homesteading is like.

Be well,

-L

3 Year Anniversary

Today we’re celebrating our 3 year anniversary at White Sky Woods Homestead. If you don’t know the origin story check out the original announcement, or read a little recap around this time 3 years ago, check it out.

Reflecting on it by looking around the homestead, the amount of hard work we’ve put in and infrastructure we’ve established…it feels like it’s been much longer than 3 years. Yet, memories of what daily life was like prior to the move are still fresh, so it somehow also barely feels like 3 years.

These past few months of pandemic shut downs has, as a friend noted, underlined, bolded and exclamation pointed the confirmation of what the homestead means in our life. We didn’t need more reasons to be thankful for being here, but we found more during this time.

Usually this time of year we have a large gathering of friends for our Yurt Life Celebration, Anniversary party. Because of restrictions and adjusting to the “new normal”, the party is not planned….for now. Past parties have been great food (potluck style), good friends having good conversation, new friendships forming, kids playing (and maybe getting stung by wasps…let’s not have that again), garden tours, ponds and woods hikes, bonfire enjoyment, and last year we even had instruments sing-alongs by the fire.

In reflection of today, I gathered some photos to highlight a bit about life around here as it is today. I’ve taken thousands of photographs over the past 3 years, but I’ll just share a few recent ones ;).

Sometimes I just step back and wonder…how did we get so fortunate?

Drone image of the central homestead area in winter. Image courtesy of Kristin Ojaniemi.

There are many quaint moments.

Witt, one of our oxen in training, grazing near the yurt.

And plenty of WTH moments.

Juneberry the goat, stuck in her hay feeder.

There is beauty across the landscape.

Quarry pond at winter.

And beauty in the little things; you have to be willing to look closely to observe it.

Twelve-spotted Skimmer on alder branch.

There is eating what we grow, make from scratch and forage.

Counter-clockwise L to R: Sauteed stinging nettle and asparagus, homemade rustic bread, and pizza casserole made with garden goods. Our anniversary meal!

There is growing healthy and humanely raised food for others.

Rabbits.

We share this land with our wild friends.

White-tailed deer enjoying a fall snack in our wildflowers.

And what were most thankful for are all the friends we’ve made here on the Keweenaw along with the friends and family who’ve come to visit and enjoy this place with us.

It’s been a grand 3 years! Thank you for following our journey!

Peace, love and nature,
-L

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!

Find us on Facebook & Instagram to keep in touch!

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