This winter

We are please to introduce our Onion Jam and our Wildflower Honey to the market! We have both of them for sale at our events, in our farm stand and will also have them for sale on the website! 

We lost one of our hives this year, and so we are feeling very appreciative for the Wildflower honey that we recieved this year!

This is a picture of our house in the Winter of 2013, 2 months after we moved in. Looking back at what we've done over the past 3 years, we feel amazed! And we feel very thankful for our strong backs and determined minds! 

Enjoy your holidays! Practice gratitude during this reflective time of year. Remember that we all are lucky to be healthy, to share food at our table and safe space in our community. Watch the full moon, smell the evergreens, take a deep breath in the cool even air,  cook by the fire and make something by hand for a loved one. Remember what its like to be a kid in nature and a kid at the holidays. Smile, giggle, daydream and imagine! 

We wish you all snuggly evenings by the fire, with friends and family and lots of really great food!  

Happy Winter Solstice!

With love and warmth,

The Farmer's Hands

Pedal to Plate, September 18th 2016

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Hey y’all!!!

 

Just a quick post about an awesome event that we and some of our incredibly talented and hard working farmer friends are putting on! It’s called Pedal to Plate, and it’s a biking tour of Madison County that culminates in a super delicious, all local Farm to Table Dinner! There is also an option for people to drive the tour. There will be 6 farm stops on the ride, each will offer a tour and a chance to ask questions and meet the farmers, we then all end up at Root Bottom Farm to share a meal together. Click on the link for more information and to sign up!

 

http://www.rootbottomfarm.com/pedaltoplate/ 

Plough to Pantry Article about The Farmer's Hands

For a Delightful Evening Put yourself in the Farmer's Hands

We are very excited to share the article that just came out in the summer edition of the Plough to Pantry Magazine! Peter Kent, the writer from Plough to Pantry and Sarah Jones Decker, Photographer from Plough to pantry, came out  and experienced our April Farm Dinner! We are thrilled that they enjoyed themselves! 

Read the Article here! 

We are on page 36 and 37! 

A very busy spring!

So we have had a busy busy spring! 

First of all, we got married on May 21st! The past year has been a haze of wedding planning, the business buzzing along and excitement! We had a small ceremony in a friends garden in Weaverville and then a big party at my parents 120 year old boarding house, filled with friends, family, fantastic food and perfect music! Needless to say, it was a dream.

It was truly a fairy tale, but most of all, we got to share our love and celebrate our love and our lives together with all of those we hold dear. We had friends and family travel from Maine, California, Washington DC, New York City, The Netherlands, Australia, Oregon, Florida and more! We felt totally blessed and completely awe-struck at how much love and light we felt on that day!

After several beautiful Farm Dinners, a buzzing, blooming and fruiting garden---we are happy to be back to the "normal" (whatever normal is...) swing of things. Thankful for the rain, and for the beautiful weather we have been having and the BLT's the are soon to come!

Just wanted to give a quick update-- we are happy, healthy, busy, sun burnt, freckled, and grinning from ear to ear! 

Meet Blackberry, Dandelion, and Hazel

Baby Hazel the day I brought him home!

Baby Hazel the day I brought him home!

A few months ago, and much to Ariel’s dismay, I decide to get rabbits! I had already spent a week over the winter building a shelter for them, building cages, and having the whole set up ready, but we didn't have the actual critters yet. So one day I just went ahead and got three of them, two does and a buck. I got quite the scolding look from Ariel when I showed her, cause we hadn’t really discussed it, and therefore we now have a rule: no new animals on the farm unless we have discussed it and agreed together that it is a good idea. 

 

So, rabbits. Yes, they are meat rabbits and the reason we got them is to breed them for meat and fur. I know that will put some of you off, as in this country rabbits are either thought of as pets or pests, but they are really tasty, are easy to raise, make no noise, take up very little space, and make amazing fertilizer that doesn’t need to be composted! Yes, you can put their droppings directly on your garden beds! I did a lot of research this past winter in order to convince Ariel that this is a good idea (see above) and was able to do just that. Mainly by saying that I will take care of them, and do the slaughter when it comes time to do so, etc etc….

A fully grown Hazel/

A fully grown Hazel/

 

Why rabbits for meat instead of chickens? Well, there are a number of reasons. Their meat is healthier than chicken, they are much easier to breed, as stated before, take up a lot less space, and eat a lot less. One doe can have up to 8 litters a year, with each litter averaging 8-12 kits (kits are baby rabbits), that’s 64 to 96 kits a year! Per doe! And we have two! This is an extremely aggressive breeding schedule and one that we won’t follow. Our plan is to breed each doe four to five times a year. This will give us about forty kits per doe, per year. That’s a lot of amazing home raised meat for the freezer, plus a lot of beautiful fur to sell or turn into the fluffiest moccasins you have ever seen.

A resting Blackberry

A resting Blackberry


So, how does this all work? Well, we have all heard the saying “breeding like rabbits,” and that’s because they are very efficient at it. Once bred, a doe will give birth in thirty days to 8-12 kits. There is always a small loss, and we feel that we will likely end up with 6-8 healthy rabbits per litter that will end up growing large enough to be butchered and eaten. After two weeks the kits are weaned and in some large scale rabbit breeding operations, the doe will be re-bred at this stage. We will leave the kits in with the mother for three weeks, and then give her two weeks to relax before breeding her again. The kits will be slaughter age in eight to twelve weeks and will yield 2-3 pounds of meat per animal. If we do a little math here: if we have an average littler size of eight kits per doe, and 5 litters each per year, then we will have eighty rabbits destined for the freezer! That is over two hundred pounds of healthy meat for us! My guess is that because this is our first year and we are still learning, we will end up with quite a bit less, not to mention that I am also planning on selling breeding stock. Yet even with that in mind, I am thinking we will get 150 to 200 pounds of rabbit meat in the freezer by this time next year! 

 A young Dandelion

 A young Dandelion


We have two breeds of rabbits, our buck, Hazel, is a sliver fox, and the two does, Blackberry and Dandelion, are Champagne D’Argent. As both names suggest, they are a beautiful silver color, Hazel being a little darker grey silver than the two does. They are all incredibly soft, especially now that they are growing in their winter fur. I chose these two breeds because they are overall greta rabbit breeds! They are a large size, are known to be healthy and have healthy litters, have a great conversion rate of feed to meat, and are absolutely beautiful. I am very much looking forward to learning how to tan their hides, so stay tuned for that! 


I am planning on breeding both does on the 9th of November, so I will let you all know how that goes, should be quite an interesting experience. 


P.S. Anybody know the source of their names? Reply in the comments…


Growing garlic, again!!

We planted so much garlic this year! 

 

Out of all the crops that we grew this year, I think the garlic did the best. I mean, it blew our minds! Hopefully it wasn't beginners luck, or the fact that we hadn’t grown garlic in that spot before, but it was simply beautiful! We had planted three varieties last October: Metichi, Romanian Red, and Persian Star. These are all hard neck varieties, which, as we talked about in the past, means that we get garlic scapes in the spring! Garlic scapes are the flower shoot of the garlic plant, and should be harvested before the flower bulb develops to make sure that the garlic bulb gets all the nutrients and grows as large as it can. The added benefit is that garlic scapes are delicious and can be used in many different ways. From simple sautéing them in some butter till browned and softened, and serving them on top of a grilled steak, to making a pesto, or pickling them. Their uses are pretty amazing! 

 

Garlic is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest ingredients to cook with. Not only is it delicious, and to me, is essential in a well balanced dish, but it is also highly nutritious! Studies have shown it helps regulate high cholesterol and high blood pressure, as well as aiding in the prevention of heart disease, heart attacks, and the hardening of the arteries. Some of those same studies have shown that garlic can help reduce the risk of some sorts of cancers, including stomach, prostate, lung, and breast cancer! (source, National Library of Medicine) So eat your garlic people!! 

 

Originally from Asia, garlic is now eaten in pretty much every culture on earth, just imagine Italian food without garlic! Or Spanish food! It is now extremely widely available, and most of it is grown in China. We have all eaten this garlic, it is bland, boring, and honestly just not that great. Especially once you taste locally grown garlic from your farmers market or better yet, your own grown garlic! Which not only tastes so much better, but is much more nutritious. So get to growing your own garlic! It’s really not that hard and you don’t need a lot of space to do it. But if you do want to, now is the time!

 

So, you may be asking, how do I grow garlic? Simple, as is true with the majority of the plants and crops that we grow, it’s all about preparation and making sure you have great soil to grow it in. Garlic loves loose soil that’s rich in organic matter. Like I mentioned before, our garlic did so well this past growing season, that we decide to grow three times as much, which means that if all goes well, we will have 350 heads of garlic next June! 

 

We created two beds for us to grow the garlic in, I had been adding our rabbit dropping to this bed for a few months now, as that makes amazing fertilizer and adds that organic matter that we now know is so important. When I was ready to plant, I turned these rabbit droppings into the soil with a shovel, leveled the beds and made three long trenches per bed. The spacing we use is five inches between heads of garlic, and eight inches between rows. In each row, I sprinkled some organic fertilizer and some organic compost, just the give the garlic the best start that it can get. In our area, garlic gets planted in the fall, will establish roots and maybe even shoot up a few of its first leaves, and then rest over the winter as soon as the temperature is consistently below freezing. As soon as the days lengthen and warm up in the spring, the garlic will kick back into gear and start growing again.You can plant in very early spring, if you want, but your garlic will be small, so planting in the fall is your best bet for some amazing garlic! Plus, being outside in the fall is the best! 

 

Now that you have the beds all ready to go, you need to get your garlic seed, or better know as garlic cloves. Yes, all you need to grow a full head of garlic is one clove of garlic! However, where you get this clove is super important. Do not try to grow garlic you bought at the grocery store, this garlic is usually treated so that it won’t grow, please it will be that tasteless stuff from China, and isn’t this all about growing some badass and amazing garlic? There are two ways to get your seed garlic, one is to save some garlic from your last crop and plant that. The others to purchase seed garlic from a local farm or from one of many amazing garlic farms that sell their garlic seed over the internet. They usually sell it buy the pound, but some will sell it by the half pound. Depending on the type of garlic you want to grow, and there are a lot, you can expect to get anywhere from 40 to 100 cloves of garlic from a pound. That means that you will get 40 to 100 fully formed heads of garlic form one pound of seed garlic! Not a bad conversion rate! 


Last year we bought our garlic, and this year we did a combination of the two ideas, as we wanted to grow a lot more, so we decided to buy more seed garlic, as well as use the biggest heads from this years harvest. We purchased three more varieties: Music, Russian Tzan, and a cool heirloom called Moroccan Creole. We now have six types of garlic in the ground. Very exciting! The farms that sell seed garlic will have great descriptions of the garlic, so you can choose the type you want for the garlic flavor you like. Our selection now runs from mild to fiery. 


The seed garlic usually comes in whole heads, you will need to break the heads apart to get the individual cloves, and do this gently and make sure there is still some of the paper skin around the clove. Plant each clove about four inches deep, the deeper you plant, the stronger the head will be and therefore the larger. Once all the seeds are in, cover them with more compost and then cover the whole bed with a layer of mulch. We used straw. Mulching is important because it will help retain moisture for the garlic, as well as protect it and act as a weed barrier. It will also supply nutrients as it slowly breaks down over the winter and spring. 


In the spring, when the garlic is small, you will need to weed. Young garlic doesn’t like to compete with weeds, so make sure the beds are weed free. We will also give the garlic a few rounds of fish emulsion in the spring and up until a month or so before harvest time. This gives the garlic a boost of nitrogen and really helps in developing healthy bulbs. So besides some weeding, which should be minor because you mulched in the fall, and some fertilizing, it’s really a low maintenance process.


As you can see, it’s rather simple! We will cover harvest, drying, and storing when the time comes, so till next year, happy garlic growing! 

Fall is here!

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39 degrees! That what we woke up to this morning, needless to say, I think that fall is officially in the air, and we couldn't be happier. This has been an amazing year (and we aren’t done yet!), but we are slowing down. We have prepped our large field for the winter, our kitchen garden has been almost fully planted with fall vegetables, the chickens and rabbits are ready for the cooler weather, and we have a huge pile of wood to chop.

 

We harvested everything we could from the large field, canned it, dried it, ate it, and preserved it. A few days of pulling weeds, row cover, plastic mulch, and mowing were followed by a day of tilling. We still don't have our own, which we will have next year, as it will make my life about a million times easier, so I rented one. We have decided to turn our large field into a grid work of permanent beds, with grass walk ways in between. After making the choice not to do the market anymore and only grow for ourselves, our dinner and workshops, and the farm stand, we realized we don't need nearly as much space. We also wanted to figure out a way to be able to manage the space we do have as easily as possible. As previously stated, I got really overwhelmed this past season, and this plan will eliminate that, well, mostly….

 

We now have 16 four foot by twenty-five foot beds, separated by 2 foot paths, just large enough for the push mower. These beds will be much easier to manage, weed, amend, grow in, and manage. I am really excited about this plan and I think we will be able to do a lot better next year! 

 

After these new beds were tilled, seeded them in cover crop, we discussed this last year round this time, but to sum up, cover crops are a great ways to add organic material to your soil by growing two types of plants together join the beds during the time that you wont be using them for vegetables. The two crops we use are a tall grower for lots of organic matter, and a legume for setting nitrogen in the soil. We made two mixes, one is a oats and field pea mix, the other is a winter rye and red clover mix. They are all coming up at the moment and we should have some great success, and we might even be able to use some of those grains next year!

Decisions, decisions, decisions.....

   It’s hard to admit that sometimes you just have no idea what you are doing… You think you do, but at the end of the day, you are just making a long series of educated guesses, shots in the dark, and leaps of blind faith, and this can be quite exhausting. The last few months have been rough, to be honest. When we embarked on this adventure and started this business, we decided that we wanted to try a lot of different things and whittle them down to what really works, what sort of works, and what is just a terrible idea. I stand behind this decision, and think it was the right one to make, as we have learnt a lot this way and are on a better path now, but it wasn’t easy. 

 

    I’m not going to bore you with all the details, so I’m just going to say that we have made some decisions that will make life here on the homestead a lot easier. For one, we have decided to not attend the local farmers market anymore. We were busting our butts on Friday and Saturday to get ready for the market, and the end up selling very little. There are four other produce vendors at our tiny market, and there is simply not enough traffic to make it worth our while. We have instead decided to focus that time and energy on our farm-stand, workshops, cooking classes, and our Farmer’s Hands to Table Supper Club. 

 

    We have also decide to cut back on production of vegetables, mainly because we are not selling at market anymore, but also, and just as importantly, I wasn’t able to keep up with everything by myself. Ariel works a full time job, and so the brunt of the work here falls on my shoulders, and it was simply too much. So we are no longer growing in the field that we leased form our neighbors, but are instead focussing on our 2 acre plot, which is more than enough to keep me busy form sun up to sun down. I am somewhat of a perfectionist and can get down and discouraged when things aren’t going as I feel they should, especially when I am trying so hard. I am also not very good at getting myself out of a funk when I get really deep into one, I seem to get myself into a viscous cycle, so all these decisions to simplify and focus have greatly improved my outlook, have given me new energy, and have improved my overall excitement for this amazing adventure we are on! 

 

    As I am sure you have noticed, the fact that we have taken on too much has kept me away form this blog, and that’s a shame, because I love telling the stories of what we are doing and what we are learning, and I was simply too overwhelmed to also write. Now that we have focused our energies, I have more time to write, tell stories, and get back to making videos! So stay tuned for lots of stories of our adventures in homesteading form the past few months! 

Bee swarm!!

I did not have any time to take any picture, so this isn't our swarm, but this is basically what it looked like...

I did not have any time to take any picture, so this isn't our swarm, but this is basically what it looked like...

One of my daily routines is to walk around the farm and just observe. I usually do this after lunch and it is a way for me to check up on things and to take some time to reflect and relax. I love seeing what has germinated, or started to fruit or set new leaves, it’s extremely peaceful, grounding, and puts everything into perspective.

 

It also alerts me to anything that might be wrong, and boy, did I discover something wrong the other day! I was checking on our Jerusalem Artichoke patch and I noticed a lot of bees buzzing around, more than I thought was normal, so I took a few steps forward and saw that there was a swarm of bees in one of our smaller apple trees. Considering that this tree was only 50 feet or so from our hives, I had to make the unfortunate assumption that they were our bees. 

 

Bees swarm in the spring. Basically what happens is that a hive, for a number of reasons, not enough food and overcrowding being the main ones, decides that there are too many bees in the colony, and they make a new queen. This queen will take about 60 percent of the bees and create a new colony somewhere else. They do this for the health of the original hive. The rest of the bees will remain behind and get to work rebuilding the colony now that they have a ton of space. 

 

Our situation was unique because we had only had these bees for about a month, and usually a colony doesn't get so big in such a short time that they decided to swarm, so we must have some very healthy bees! 

 

But I did not know this at the time and I was seriously freaking out and trying to figure out what to do. Luckily I have some friends here that know about bees and got some solid advice from them. Catch the swarm, was they all said, and that way you will go from having two hives to having three! 

 

Bee swarms are actually really docile, although they look a little frightening, with thousands of bees huddled together in a big clump on a branch of a tree. The reason they are so docile is because they are protecting their new queen. This queen was just born and isn't that strong yet nor can fly very well. That is why a swarm will always be rather close to the original hive, and it will remain there for a day or so while the queen gets stronger.

 

All you have to do to catch the swarm is to gently cut the branch on which all the bees are hanging on, take to it to a box or empty hive body, and shake all the bees into it. Hopefully the queen will be in the box, and all the other bees will stay with her, any bees that are loose and flying around will eventually make it into the box as well.  

 

All I had was an old cardboard box, so this was what put the bees in while I went to a friends house to get a cardboard bee box that would hold some frames. I transferred the swarm to this new box and left them in there for a day to let them settle down and start building comb on the new frames.

 

The next day I got a new hive set up and transferred the swarm, which is now my new colony of bees, to their new home. As of today they re doing great, and we have three happy and healthy hives helping us pollinate everything we are growing and creating delicious honey for themselves and us. 

 

This really was a crash course in bee keeping, and although it was rather stressful and exhausting, it was also really exciting. I did get stung once, and right in the belly button at that! I wouldn’t recommend it…..

Holy cow, have we been busy!!!!

Hey Ya’ll!! Sorry it has been a while since we last spoke, but we have been insanely busy the last few weeks, and it has been hard to find the time to write. So here goes, a series of updates on all that has happened in the last few weeks!

 

First, everything has been planted! This is huge and has been the bulk of our work over the past three weeks. We had two large areas plowed and tilled, then I spent days on my hands and knees picking out the last remaining clumps of grass and hundreds of pounds of rocks. This was a major pain to do, but will make life so much easier down the road, mainly because there will be less weeding to do. 

English peas doing great!!

English peas doing great!!

 

My dad and I then spent an afternoon with a tape measure and a spool of string and we measured out all the beds in the two fields. We had already made a plan over the winter, so once the beds were laid out, I was able to start planing. 

 

First we put in all of our brassica seed starts; cabbages, kales, collards, chards, etc. Then we seeded carrots, beets, turnips, lots more radishes and lettuces. We also got our pepper plants and our tomato plats in the ground. For those, we decided to lay out black plastic sheeting over the beds and plant through the plastic. This creates a weed barrier, and it also works to heat up the soil, giving the peppers and the tomatoes a head start.  We did the same with the beds in which we seeded melons, squashes (both summer and winter) and our cucumbers. All of these have since germinated and it’s great to see these bay plants doing so well already! 

Beans germinating along the drip irrigation.

Beans germinating along the drip irrigation.

Beans, corn, potatoes, and sweet potatoes have all been planted as well and are doing great. This is my first year planting corn, and I am really excited about that. We planted both sweet corn to eat fresh, and popping corn to dry, I hope it works out for us. 

 

And all of this doesn't even mention all the flowers we have planted!! At least 400 row feet of zinnias and sunflowers. About 150 dahlia tubers. Calendula, marigolds, nasturtium, love in a mist, Bells of Ireland, rudbeckia, forget me nots, celosia, cosmos, yarrow, foxglove, bee balm, and many many more. This place is going to pop with color this summer!


We also planted lots of medicinal herbs such as Valerian root, stinging nettle, horseradish, and chamomile, to name a few…..gosh, it’s making me sore and tired just thinking about it all! It does feel really good to have this all in the ground and growing, now it’s just a matter of maintaining it all and harvesting…..

Our garlic is doing great!! Looking forward to garlic scares any day now.

Our garlic is doing great!! Looking forward to garlic scares any day now.

Let me tell you about the birds and the bees....

So we got our bees on Friday! This is very exciting and a little bit nerve racking, as we have never kept bees ourselves. I worked with them a little when I was on the farm in Pennsylvania, and Ariel’s folks had bees when she was growing up, but that’s the extent of it, so this is a very new adventure for the both of us.

 

We spent a lot of time reading up on bees this winter and getting our equipment in place. We found some great used equipment on craigslist, and had it fumigated by the state to get rid of any foul brood, a decease that can easily wipe out a whole colony. We also gave the hives a fresh coat of paint as they had been painted cotton candy pink! A few of the frames need more foundation, the wax sheets that the bees use to build their comb, so we replaced those. I also got myself a bee proof jacket and veil the other day, so we are ready to go.

 

We have two hives set up on a nice level space at the end of one of our fields. They have a natural wind block on one side and some tall trees around so the hives will get some shade, and they have a large field to fly out and over when they leave the hive. Bees roam extremely far from home to search for food, and they like a nice open space to fly out over. We have the hives protected with electrical fencing, as we do have some bears around here, and it would be a shame to loose bees and equipment to a hungry bear. 

 

How do you get bees, you might be asking. Well, there are two main ways, one is to catch a swarm in the wild, but that requires some expertise. The other is to buy them from a local apiary, which is what we did. We ordered two nucs, or small colonies of bees, complete with a queen and frames full of comb, honey and brood. We got local bees that have been overwintered here in the mountains of Madison Co, so they will be well adapted to our area. 

 

We arrived early Friday morning at Wild Mountain Apiaries, located just a few miles from here, all giddy with excitement and ready to get our bees home and into their new home. Jon, the owner, was outside with a trailer that held about 60 or so boxes full of bees. There were a few bees flying around, but way less than I was expecting. After a quick chat with Jon, we put the hives in the back of the car, placed some items around them so they wouldn't topple over if we had to slam on the brakes or take a tight turn. The idea of a box full of thousands of bees opening up in an enclosed car did not seem like our idea of a good time…

 

I had the hives all ready to go, and had made a batch of sugar water before we left. This is just to give the bees a head start as the nectar flow hasn’t started yet, we just have dandelions and red buds starting to bloom around here, so the sugar water will help them get established and keep them fed until everything else comes into bloom. 

 

Ariel’s parents Scott and Joy, as well as our friend Joel, came over to help and to provide moral support, which was mainly for me… I have a  confession to make, I have a fear of bugs… I will flinch and contort myself in odd ways to get out of the way of a flying insect and I will nervously enter any dark or dusty or cob web invested out building, basement, hallway or shed, and the thought of going into a damp crawl space? Don’t even get me started….just one word: Jumping Spiders!! (well I guess that’s two), but who’s counting, they jump so high and in such unpredictable ways!!!!

 

But I digress… You might be wondering why somebody who has a fear of bugs would willingly thrust himself in the midst of thousands of them, with only some thin cotton and a veil to protect him…. and so am I!!! So if you have a good answer, I am all ears. 

 

Bee suits on, and a few breathing exercises later, Scott and I walked the buzzing boxes of bees over to the hives, had a quick consult on the plan, and opened up the first box. As soon as we did, any fear or doubt disappeared instantly! What I was seeing was simply astonishing. Thousands of bees, massing around each other and crawling every which way. They were so calm and beautiful to look at hat I just had to stop and stare. I took a few seconds to take this all in, before reaching down to grab the first frame. As delicately as I could, I picked up the frame, which was so much heavier than I thought, and I was able to slowly move it into the hive. Most of the bees just stuck to the frame, and I could see them working away. The next frame was the same and I couldn't believe how calm I was! The bees were just doing their thing and had no worries about us at all, and I got the distinct feeling that if I remained calm and cool, so would they. We moved all the frames into the two hives, placed the hive top feeder on top and filled it with the sugar water. Then the lid on top, and now we wait a week before going back in. 

 

I can’t wait to see what has happened inside during this week! I think my fear of bugs will be cured this way, there is actually a wasp in my office as I write, and it is just giving me a light nervous tick, instead of my usual reaction, which is to immediately grab a sledge hammer and blindly smash it to bits….

 

 

This same day was also an exciting one for our baby chicks! They are starting to look more and more like chickens everyday, and their feathers are almost completely grown in, which is nice, as they looked rather decrepit for a while there, as if somebody throw a handful of feathers mixed with embalmers glue at a bald, baby bird. 

 

We wanted to give them their first taste of the outside world, and we thought they were ready for it, so with much anticipation, some strategically placed cameras to capture that glorious moment the first chicken would come tumbling dow the ramp, I opened the door to their run and……. nothing…… 

 

I am not sure why I expected anything different, they run ever time they see me, and they see me all the time! So the idea that they would just run outside with the same reckless abandon kids have the first day the pool opens in summer was just foolish. I can’t say I wasn’t a little disappointed, but we took advantage of the extra help and clipped all their flight wings. This was pretty easy, expect that I was the one who had to catch the birds and then hand them through the small run door to Joy, so Ariel could clip they wings.


Once this was done, we let the birds walk around outside for a little while, which was nice, but they weren’t too comfortable, they all hung out together in a huddle, and after an hour to so, most had made their way back inside. The rest need a little coaxing. I think with time they will get more comfortable in the big world, which is great because it was really nice to see them walking around outside, eating grass and catching worms……

New Beginnings and New Ideas

Spring is a season of renewal, and rejuvenation which always feels imperative after a season of turning inward and reflecting. When springtime comes, I feel like I want to hang myself out on the clothes line and let my anxious mind, and my chilled bones be aired out by the cool spring breeze. It feels so refreshing to have a glimpse of spring, even if it's just a day or two of warmer weather, being able to open up the windows, let the fire die down and sit on the porch listening to the chorus of birds.

Right now, everything is wet. Every walkway, every field, every garden bed, everything! This has become quite frustrating for us because we are trying to prepare beds for spring. But instead they are mud piles, squishy mud and thick as glue! It’s time for a couple of very sunny and dry days, so we can clean out the grass from our newly tilled beds, prepare them, and then plow and disc our main field and our neighbors field in order to start planting and set out the irrigation. We are ready to get a move on it! I feel the excitement in my bones!

Currently we are tending our seed starts, our little chicks, and building rabbit hutches, farm stands, farm signs, fencing, painting bee hives, building tables, mulching, pruning fruit trees, planting trees, finishing our kitchen and more! It has been an amazingly productive year so far! When I think about how much we've accomplished, I think HOLY COW that's awesome and then I feel exhausted just thinking about it. Currently, we are preparing all of the structures that we will need throughout the year, as we wait for the ground to soak up the water and the plants to grow.

We are starting up the sign up process for weekly flower arrangement delivery CSA and the monthly Farmer's Hands to Table Supper Club. Both of these are services that can be subscribed, given as gifts, possibly done with work share. To explain a little more, we have include some more information about these services.

Flower CSA Membership

  • 12 week local and unique flower arrangement CSA.
  • (12 weeks) June 24th-September 23rd or (6 weeks) either June 24th to August 5th or August 5th to September 23rd
  • We grow special varieties of flowers to share with the community, and have unique country and playful arranging techniques. By supporting The Farmer's Hands Flower CSA you are supporting the passions of two young farmers and having the opportunity to provide yourself with fresh floral inspiration every week.
  • We always use flowers that we grow, but based on seasonality and availability. We supplement with unique greenery, leaves, dried flowers and woody plants when necessary.
  • The CSA will run from June 24th to September 23rd
  • Deliveries will happen on Wednesdays
  • Value of arrangements will average at about 15-20 dollars a week
  • Pay for arrangements plus a delivery fee to make up a full membership rate
  • Please provide us with a drop off location at your home that is shaded and protected from wind for the arrangement to be delivered.
  • The vases with the arrangements are rentals (therefore you must leave vases in your drop off location for us to pick up the following week)
  •  if you live farther than 20 minutes circumference around Asheville please email us and ask before purchasing

For more information check out our Flower CSA webpage

"The Farmer's Hands to Table" Supper Club

  • "The Farmer's Hands to Table" Supper Club will happen the third Saturday of the month
  • Reservations close the Monday before the Saturday event for preparation purposes
  • Meals are served family style, outside at our farm tables, under string lights and a canopy of leaves
  • Please make us aware of any food allergies at least 2 weeks before the event.
  • This is a dinner CSA, the purchase of a ticket enables us to buy seeds, grow vegetables and flowers and helps us create these wonderful events. By supporting The Farmer's Hands to Table dinner CSA you are supporting the passions of two young farmers to create a hand made life that they want to share with the world.

Some of the basics about the event:

  • BYOB
  • No dogs
  • No children under 13 
  • We will have a bonfire in our fire pit going during events
  • Our farm stand will be open during events where you can purchase vegetables, fruits, flowers, and eggs. Availability will vary based on seasonality.
  • By purchasing this ticket you are buying a share in The Farmer's Hands Homestead, and you are purchasing vegetables and flowers from our farm. This ticket is not payment for a service (that is our donation). 
  • Reimbursement policy-if event is canceled you get a credit for another dinner as reimbursement
  • Rain Policy: if it rains, we will reschedule for the following week

For more information check out our the Farm Dinners webpage

Vulnerable and Lucky

To be honest, we are busting our butts right now. We are working all day and working all evening to prepare for the upcoming season, and it’s pretty exhausting. 

When I think about how we are starting a business out of thin air, many words come to mind. Vulnerability.  It is takes a lot to explore your dreams, focus on an area and then slowly work in that direction until you feel like it’s time to just dive in head first. Waking up every morning and putting yourself out there by pursuing your dreams and sharing them with the rest of the world is daring. Not many people do it on their own. Some people spend their whole lives and never do it. Some wait till later on after an entire other career to pursue it. The truth of the matter is, that is daring, it’s tiring, it’s exhausting, it’s amazing, it’s exhilarating, it’s rewarding and it’s terrifying all at once. Gulp! It’s the vulnerability that makes the open and revealing act of following your own way so honest and truthful. In our opinion, one of the most honest ways to make a living is my creating something with your hands that comes from your heart. Creating something out of nothing, and whether it’s a piece of art, a piece of food or a magical bouquet of wildflowers and sweet peas, the creation came from the hands but has heart to it. Some days I feel like I'm bursting with this creative energy, and sometimes I want bake a pie, have a cup of coffee and curl up in a chair with my journal. I believe that once you've found a calling.

I don't know if everyone has but just one calling. Sebastiaan had a career in the culinary world for 14 years. He created phenomenal meals in top NYC restaurants for years and now he is just as enthused about raising chickens, flowers and hosting farm dinners on our land. People change, their callings evolve and I think as long as you are in tuned with yourself enough to recognize a need for a change then you will be able to find your next path. 

When I was a child I wanted to be a teacher, I practiced at the chalkboard in my bedroom teaching my stuffed animals and dolls. When I got older I wanted to be a writer; I wrote short stories in journals and entered in writing competitions and loved to sit for hours with my journal creating dream worlds of grandmothers and granddaughters living in old farm houses and having adventures together. When I was in middle school and high school I wanted to be an artist, more specifically a fashion designer. I went to SCAD for summer design programs and spent years in my bedroom sewing clothes and selling them on eBay, etsy, and the music festivals that I went to with my parents throughout the year. In the middle of my high school career, I fell in love with flowers. My dad gave me a field to grow flowers and I scattered several wildflower and pollinator seed mixes and cultivated them throughout the summer. I was in heaven, and I decided I would be a farmer. I went to Warren Wilson College and studied Agriculture and Forestry. I graduated and then went to work with a local florist to learn about flower arranging and event design. Currently I work for the Natural Resource Conservation Service, but with The Farmer's Hands I get to combine all of my dreams. I get to write on our blog about our experiences and lives, I get to be an artist and arrange flowers and design our on-farm events, I get to teach people with our videos, blog entries and workshops and I get to be a farmer and grow flowers. I am amazed at how when you find certain callings, they stay with you, you know that you love to do them for a reason and eventually you get to choose and create your own quilt-like calling that combines all of your loves just like we did.  

 

Sometimes, I just feel like I am the lucky one. I am lucky because I get to take the chance, develop an idea and run, run, run with it, as fast as I can until the wild winter wind catches my kite. I feel like I am the lucky one because I get to wake up beside my best friend every day and then we get to garden together, play music together and be silly and happy all day. I feel like I am the lucky one because we have amazing family and friend support, with amazing agricultural, and artistic advice with unwavering love and kindness. What I have realized it that yes, I am a lucky one. But we can all choose to be lucky, it’s all up to us.

 

Baby chicks on the farm!

We finally have some critters on the farm! Yesterday our order of baby chicks arrived in the mail, yes, the mail. It’s truly amazing to think about. These chicks were born three to four days ago, packed in a box with some food and straw, shipped via US mail to my local post office, where I picked them up first thing in the morning. It’s astonishing to think that these creatures, that are only a few days old, can take such a trip when we humans need 35-50 years to mature….if ever!

 

The post office here opens at 8:30, and at 8:30 and thirty seconds I was inside waiting to pick up my box of chicks. I could hear them pepping as soon as I walked in the door and told the postal worker that I was there to pick up the noisy box, which generated a smile and a chuckle on her part. Peeping and squeaking box in tow, I walked to my car and drove home. I had spent the hour earlier getting their space ready by making sure it was nice and warm with heat lights, (they need it at about 95 degrees), and having water and food ready. 

 

With extreme giddiness, I opened the lid of the surprisingly loud box to reveal 40 fluffy baby chicks that were so darn cute I had to giggle. We ordered 6 different varieties of chickens, all with different colorations ranging from off white to golden to streaked grey to almost completely black. I gently picked them up one by one and placed them in their new home, dipping their beaks in the water so that they could get a drink. It soon became apparent that the racket they were making was directly related to thirst and hunger. 

 

The box of chicks came with some specialty starter food, which was a powder that became a gel as soon as mixed with water. It’s full of vitamins and minerals that help get the baby chicks off to a strong start. The box also came with what I can only describe as “chicken gatorade”. It’s a vitamin and electrolyte powder that again, helps the birds get a strong start and rehydrates them quickly after their long journey. But seriously, it looks and smells like lemon gatorade…..


The babies are now happy in their new home, they made it through the first night, and are looking super great! I have been hanging with them a lot and petting them and playing with them a little to socialize them. I want them to grow up to be very friendly and docile chickens that will hang out on your shoulder and let you pet them. 


It feels really good to have these babies here and I am so incredibly excited about the adventure we are all about to embark upon. These girls are going to be with us for years, providing us with eggs, manure, company, entertainment, labor, and knowledge. It’s just too bad they won’t be this cute for very long.

Seeds: tiny miracles

One of the most exciting aspects of farming and growing your own food is the connection you make with the natural world. Being outside, getting dirt under your finger nails, braving the cold, and getting sunburnt are all therapeutic in their own way, and make you feel connected to the earth and the world around you. Farming lets you take the time to really appreciate how incredible our world really is, and nothing exemplifies this natural wonder like the transformation of a seed into a plant. 

 

We started a lot of seed this past weekend. Most of them were flower seeds that need a really long time to get strong enough to get planted outdoors, but we also planted a lot of leek seeds. I have never grown leeks before. They are my favorite alium and I am very excited about them and I look forward to sharing some of my favorite ways to prepare leeks: think melted leeks in tons and tons of butter.


While I was gently placing these tiny seeds into our prepared seeding trays, I couldn't help but marvel at the fact that those unassuming little seeds would turn into full size plants! Some of the seeds we planted, for example the Rudbuckia or Black Eyed Susans, are only a few millimeters in size, but once fully grown, the plants get huge and will be covered in beautiful yellow flowers. Or the leek seeds, no larger than an ant, will grow into tall, delicious leeks that will make the most amazing leek and potatoes soup ever. 


Over the next months we will be able to watch these seeds germinate, set their first true leaves, grow, establish, and harden, and finally produce flowers and vegetables for us and our table. This process is truly amazing to behold, and one that fils us with such joy and excitement, while also keeping us humbled to the miracle that is nature and the world of plants.

Reflections in a fire

A few weeks ago, we decided it was time. 

 

It was time to ignite the burn pile that had accumulated in the center of our field over the past year and a half. We moved out to the country in October 2013, and ever since then we have been working our butts off! Project after project, exciting idea after exciting idea; and the truth is, that it hasn't stopped yet! It is terribly fun to be full of ideas, enthusiasm for life and creativity. I love creating, I love being busy and feeling excited about projects. From remodeling bathrooms, pulling up carpet, tearing down walls, reopening old chimneys, tilling the yard to create a garden, building chicken coops and rabbit hutches and farm stands---the work is continuous and ever-flowing in waves of excitement and impending doom! 

 

So as spring starts to slowly approach, we decided after a long day of work that it was time. 

 

We had a fire permit, gathered buckets of water, two old rocking chairs and a couple of beers, and ignited our entertainment for the evening. We actively tended the fire, and laughed whole heartedly at the things that came up in the burn pile. What we didn't realize until we started the burn pile, were the contents of the burn pile. The contents that we had forgotten over the two and a half years that brought back such rich memories of this bright and magical time in our lives. We have been together for two and a half years, fell for each other quite quickly over writing letters to each other every day for four months until we both were able to live in the same town. After a year we looked for houses together, bought and moved into our first home. This is our first place together, our first true place of our own and our first time we've truly taken ownership of our lives and our dreams. The pile contained our first and second Christmas tree together, and wood from the floors and walls of our historic home built in the 1850's. The pile held broken old furniture, scrap wood from our raised garden beds, wood branches from a tree that came down during a tornado, and fruit wood from our first time pruning our fruit trees in the springtime. The list could go on for quite a while, but I will stop here. As we sat in our rocking chairs, looking out over the field, we felt so proud, so happy, and so nostalgic. We have accomplished so much in our first year, more than others accomplish in many years. We had started to truly create something special, something unique and something purely ours. The night drifted away as we sat, cheeks warmed by the fire and toes still nipped by the chill in the air. We reminisced, smiled, thinking of how truly lucky we are to have our love, our land and the warm glow of the past year still flickering past our eyes.

Madeleines de Commercy, video

We decided to make a video of me making some Madeleines. Unfortunately we did not get to enjoy them very much as our dog decide they were for her and ate them all. We will just have to make them again and keep them on a higher shelf :))