Category Archives: Aimee’s Journal

Breaking the Silence…and other such musings

Our blog has been silent the past few months, mostly the business of putting the farm to bed, getting kids back in school and taking on some new adventures occupied our time. We have also been much occupied, musing over the direction we want to take this little piece of land.  This will be our fifth spring here and while in some respects we have come a long way and in others I feel like we are in the same place we were four years ago.

Last year I pushed really hard to get our names out there and to grow enough produce to sell, we had a bumper crop of spring lettuce that was glorious and we were able to sell what we didn’t eat ourselves.  We also did very with eggs, sometimes I wasn’t even able to supply the demand for them.  But aside from that it was a bust, spring crops did well, summer and fall failed horribly.  We put so much time and effort into crops that either didn’t produce or were over run by bugs and field bind weed.  Organic farming is hard, so very hard.

When we bought this place four years ago we felt so drawn to this run down, un-loved piece of property.  We knew it was going to be something special, what we didn’t’ know is that it wouldn’t be exactly how we envisioned it.  There are other, bigger, plans for this place.  I’ve always felt this was going to be a space for healing, I figured it would come by providing good food to the surrounding community, and it still might, eventually, but I think it will be more than that.  So this year we are scaling back some.  Part of the garden, about a third, is going to spend the season covered in black plastic to kill the bind weed that has taken over, the next three years we will be doing that.  I am going to focus on my medicinal herbs, to expend my family’s personal herbal pharmacy and to share.  We are working on a major addition to the farm house, a dowdy house, for my in-laws to live so we can care for them in their elderly years. I am going to be working on expanding my holistic healthcare business, I am a footzoner, and I am taking classes to become a master herbalist. We plan on working on creating fertility in the area designated as the “peach orchard” and will be planting trees in the next few years and have great plans for a large raspberry patch that will eventually be open to the public as a “pick-your-own”.

Wonderful things are in the works for this little piece of heaven that is ours.  We hope to make is a place of peace and healing that people will want to come to.

Beans

I almost always plant a lot of green beans, they seems to grow well under any circumstance, and it seemed like this season it would be the same. Except it isn’t. Everything seemed to start off well, the beans popped right up and got big and strong at first, then they stalled a bit, and started to look a bit poorly. I got an organic fertilizer, and some of them perked up a bit, but not all and not for long.

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I love the look of pole beans in the garden, the vertical towers add dimension and depth.

A few weeks ago they looked big enough to start staking and a few started their journey up, but as you can see in the photo, they aren’t very lush and look a bit, sad.
IMG_6705The green beans were planted in one of the two beds that we didn’t sheet mulch.  We didn’t have time to get it done before planting season and I figured that since they were such a hardy and easy-going plant that they’d do just fine with a little manure raked in.  I was wrong.  I think they might be jealous of their neighbors, who are planted in several inches of good compost and mulched heavily with bark and leaves.  Who knew green beans could be such divas?

In reality, I think 4 seasons of planting have taken every bit of fertility the land could possibly give and she had nothing more. In the next week I plan on taking out half of the pole beans and giving the land a nice layer of compost and bunny manure and then I will plant some short season bush beans for a good fall crop.  The other half I will leave, they seem to be doing a bit better and I hope to still have towers of green in my garden.

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buds just starting on my purple bush beans.

 

Red Clover

Red Clover is another one of my favorite medicinal, nourishing herbs that I use on a regular basis, not only for the human body, but for the land. We have red cover planted in a few places here on the farm, in our back yard among the grasses and in the orchard meadow, we do that because clover is a legume and naturally fixes nitrogen in to the soil, along with deep roots and a lot of biomass, its a great ally to have in a permaculture landscape. But that is not what I want to focus on for this post (believe me, I will be writing more on the benefits of clover for the garden) I want to focus on the benefits clover has for the human body, specifically for the female human body.
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One of the most cherished of the fertility-increasing plants is red clover (Trifolium pratense). Common in fields and along roadsides, it has bright pink (not really red) blossoms from mid-summer into the chilly days of fall. A favorite flower of the honeybees, the tops (blossoms and appending leaves) are harvested on bright sunny days and eaten as is, or dried for medicinal use.

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Unlike soy, which is also a legume Red Clover has phytosterols:  “Phytosterols are hormone-like substances found in many plants that can be bio-converted in the human gut into active anti-cancer estrogens and other helpful anti-stress hormones”. 

Red Clover is also known to help with infertility and all hormone related issues in women.

 

…A favorite flower of the honeybees, the tops (blossoms and appending leaves) are harvested on bright sunny days and eaten as is, or dried for medicinal use. The raw blossoms are delicious in salads and nutritious when cooked with grains such as rice or millet.

To make a fertility-enhancing infusion, I take one ounce by weight of the dried blossoms (fresh won’t work for this application) and put them in a quart size canning jar. I fill the jar with boiling water, screw on a tight lid, and let it steep at room temperature overnight (or for at least four hours). Dozens of women have told me that they had successful pregnancies after drinking a cup or more (up to four cups) a day of red clover infusion.

It is especially helpful if there is scarring of the fallopian tubes, irregular menses, abnormal cells in the reproductive tract, or “unexplained” infertility. It may take several months for the full effect of this herb to come on and pregnancy may not occurs until you have used it for a year or two. You can improve the taste by including some dried peppermint (a spoonful or two) along with the dried clover blossoms when making your infusion. Treat the father of the child-to-be to some red clover infusion, too!

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IMG_6723When the clover gets tall and starts to blossom its time to harvest! Cover is a fun herb to harvest, especially for the little kids, its very simple, just pop the flower off.  My little ones like to recite the line “Mama had a baby and her head popped off!” while picking clover, they also like to snack on the blossoms as we gather. We get a big paper grocery sack and fill it up about half way full.  you have to be careful drying clover blossoms, they need a lot of air flow to dry without molding.  Some people suggest laying the blossoms in a basket in a single layer not touching.  I don’t have the room to dry herbs that way, so I put them the paper grocery sack and leave it on the kitchen counter where I see it often, and several times a day I give it a shake or stir. The paper helps wick away the moisture and stirring it often keeps the blossoms separate and allows for air flow. It takes about two weeks to dry in my neck of the woods, but we are dry, it  will take longer in more humid climates.

IMG_6721Red Clover is an infusion that I use in my regular rotation, I plan on making it my ally when I move from child bearing years to my menopausal years and beyond.
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More informaiton on the uses of Red Clover:

Herbal Information Sheet

Red Clover and Fibroids

Herbs for Fertility

Menopause 

 

 

Beautiful Dissapointment

This is a picture of our freshly harvested carrot bed, it is currently waiting for a fresh layer of compost and a new generation of carrots.  However, if you notice in the fore ground a nice little group of flowers. Those are carrot flowers, and there is a story.
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The thing with a carrot is that it is a bi-annual, meaning they live two years, the first year they grow and produce foliage, the second year they flower, make seeds and die. Most gardeners harvest carrots after the first season, when the root is nice and tender, before it flowers and the roots get hard and fibrous.  I am not a seed collector (yet) I buy all my seeds and I never save seeds so I have never and would never keep a stand of carrots into the second year for seeds, and even if I did collect seeds I wouldn’t need this many.

So why do I have carrots flowering in my garden?
IMG_6859I. Have. No. Idea. None, nada, ziltch.

I bought purple carrot seeds from a company I have bought from for years, and I have successfully grown this variety at least twice.  These flowers are from a first year planting.  My other carrots did well, but this variety decided to skip year one and go right into year two.
IMG_6860I was quite cross when I first realized what had happened and I almost pulled out every single one of them.  Then I got curious and decided to wait and see.  I’m glad I did.  They are a delightfully un-expected addition to my boring vegetable garden, waving  their pretty little colors in the breeze.
IMG_6861I’ve fallen in love, and I believe that these little flowers are going to make a seed collector out of me after all, I want to duplicate them next year all over the garden.

And it makes me wonder, maybe this wasn’t a mistake after all, maybe it was a gift…..
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Carrots, Beets and Cotts, Oh My!

One of my very favorite summer chores is canning.  I know, weird, but I love it.

There is something absolutely satisfying to me about sitting down, with a chipped enamel-wear dishpan and a piles of vegetables in front of me.  I carefully and quickly peel each vegetable, quietly channeling the energy of all my grandmothers before me who did the same chore to ensure her family’s survival for another year. It feels primal to me, that desire to provide food and comfort, while it is not longer necessary to preserve my own food, the drive to do so is in my bones and manifests in my flesh.
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The beets are all peeled and cold packed in jars, ready for the pressure caner, beets are a family favorite.
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IMG_6835Carrots washed and peeled, I love the soft, translucent orange and light yellow of the roots when I peel them. I had planned on having dark purple carrots as well, but they had a different surprise in mind for me, something I will write about later.
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Jars of raw packed carrots, they too will go in the pressure caner.  They come out the prefect texture for eating, my kids will eat them cold right out of the jar and they are soft enough for the babies to eat too.

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And last, but not the least by a long shot, a batch of sun ripened apricots fresh from a neighbors tree ready for the dehydrator. In the winter they will be soaked and cooked with buckwheat for a warm sweet breakfast, much like a breakfast my great-grandmothers would have served to their hungry loves on a cold winter morning.

Carrots and Beets

We had a killer crop of beets and carrots this year.  They loved the deep mulching methods we used this year and all our hard work sure paid off with the root vegetables.
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Fresh beets and carrots are absolutely the best and we all enjoy eating them fresh roasted or raw, but these lovely ladies are meant for canning, to be stored for food when the winter winds howl.  The first of August we will be planting our fall crop of beets and carrots, those will stay stored in the ground until the first hard frost and then they will be roasted for autumn dinners when the land turns golden and smells of earth and pumpkins.
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Goats on Pasture

The Goats are almost three months old now and fully weaned, its time they go to pasture and be trained on the line.
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Part of the purpose of our goats is weed control and sustainable grazing. Grazing animals can be very destructive to the land if their grazing isn’t focused and managed.  On the flip side, land that isn’t grazed by herbivores will become over grown and unhealthy, quickly pulling more from the soil then adding back.  They synergy between the grasslands and its herbivores is slowly becoming recognized and honored.
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When a herbivore eats the grass the roots of the grass die back a little, leaving organic matter and open channels in the soil for beneficial microbes to feast on and water to run down.  Then there is a flush of new grown, invigorating the grass, making it stronger and producing more roots to break up the soil and provide for those microbes I love so much.  In turn the herbivore leaves its manure, full of nutrients and seeds to further bless the land.  A pasture can be easily over grazed, if animals are kept on it continually with out a rest period, it becomes distressed and can’t sustain new growth. That is where management comes in.  We no longer have vast prairies with massive herds of buffalo and birds doing the job, we now have to facilitate the process, by using rotational grazing and letting the pasture rest in between grazing.
IMG_6694Here on our farm we don’t have vast pastures, we have small meadows and paddocks, but that same principle applies, just on a smaller scale.  We set the goats out daily to graze, watching carefully so as not to over tax the land and then move our animals so the plot can rest and rejuvenate, making it more fertile and productive.

Spring Babies

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We all love the babies here on the farm and the last of the spring babies have arrived!  Rabbits can be bred all year long, but they tend to struggle in the heat and a pregnancy only adds to the difficulty, so we take a break in the heat of the summer. We also take a break in the cold of the winter, not because it hard on the rabbits, they love the cold, but it is a bit more difficult to manage kits in the freezing weather, they need to be kept very warm and it is easy for a kit to chill and die very quickly. So here we are the very last litter of the spring birthing season, they get to hang out in the house with us during the heat of the day and in the evening they get to go be with mom until morning.  Rabbits only feed their babies once or twice a day and spend the rest of the time ignoring them.  It is a survival instinct, by only visiting the nest once a day they don’t attract predators to their babies. Once the baby’s eyes open, at about ten days, they will become adventurous and follow mom around.  When the babies are six weeks old they are separated by sex and moved into big grow out pens to wait until they are big enough to process.

How do I feel about processing our own meat. I don’t love it, and the day I do will be the day I quit eating meat. Rabbits are prey animals, they are meant to be eaten to fulfill the measure of their creation.  Our rabbits are very much loved and cared for and when the time is right humanly dispatched and processed, then eaten with much honor and thanksgiving.

Plantain, Nature’s Band-aid

Plantain is another favorite medicinal weed of mine. This plant can easily be found in lawns, cracks of sidewalks, along roadways and in abandoned fields. Plantain is native to Europe and Asia, and now can be found throughout North America.There are two main varieties of plantain: broad leaf and narrow leaf, both can be used medicinally and have the same action as each other.

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Broad leaf plantain

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Narrow leaf plantain

Here at Quail Run Farm we cultivate the narrow leaf plantain in our orchard meadow.  It is one of the plantings I use around the base of our fruit trees. Plantain is a “pioneer plant” when the soil is harsh or has been disturbed plantain likes to come in and clean things up, making the environment more suitable for other plants. That is why you will find plantain along sidewalks and roads, and one of the reasons I have chosen it for planting in the Orchard Meadow.  The land here is very abused, very infertile, lacking organic matter and vitality.  Plantain has a deep tap root, it will going down into the soil, nice and deep breaking up hard dirt and adding organic materials.  At the surface it is great for “chop and drop”, several times a year I can just cop the leaves and leave them right on the ground, thus adding organic matter and mulch, helping retain moisture and add fertility. However my favorite thing about plantain is its medicinal properties!
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One of plantain’s most common uses is as a poultice for stings, bites, scrapes and rashes. The simplest way to harness plantain’s healing powers is to crush a few fresh leaves, and apply to the affected area. Replace fresh leaves as necessary. The fresh plantain “juice” takes the pain away and seems to work wonders at staunching blood flow and closing wound edges. It’s also wonderfully refreshing and soothing to sunburn.

Plantain infusion (tea) can also be used as a soothing wash for sunburn, windburn, rashes, or wounds. To make a plantain infusion, simply add a small handful of fresh plantain leaves to a cup or two of water, and bring to a gentle boil. Turn off heat, and let steep, then strain out the leaves. The infusion is best when fresh, although it can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.

http://www.prairielandherbs.com/plantain.htm

Whenever my children have a cut or insect sting, I walk out to the meadow, pick a leaf and chew it up (my kids think that is so gross) and apply a bit of the macerated leaf to the wound and cover with a band-aid.  The pain and irritation go away quickly and in the case of a open sore, heals very fast.

Plantain leaf ointment can stop itching faster than anything I’ve ever used, and it eases even the most intense itches. From diaper rash to flea bites, eczema to dry skin, plantain turns tears of pain to smiles of relief. New mothers swear by plantain ointment as a diaper cream, both to prevent and to treat diaper rash. It relieves the itch of heat rash and poison ivy/oak rash, too.

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In the winter time, however, there is not fresh plantain available, it is sleeping deeply under the snow and frozen ground. My favorite way to preserve plantain for medical use is to make an infused oil.  It’s a very simple process that I will walk you through.

After picking the plantain leaves I do a quick shake to get dust off, but I do not wash the leaves.  Any water left on those leaves may promote spoiling while it is infusing, and because my orchard is not sprayed I don’t need to wash off any herbicide, and any other things that may be clinging to the leaves are good for our immune system and microbiology. I chop the leaves roughly and then pack them as tightly as I can in a quart canning jar, over that I pour olive oil, using a chop stick or butter knife to get out as many bubbles as I can.  The jar is then labeled with a date and stored in my pantry for six weeks.  When the six weeks are up the leaves are strained out and the oil is stored in a cool dark place.  This oil will be good for about a year.  The oil can also be used to make an ointment by adding bees wax, something I will be experimenting with this summer.

Plantain, another glorious weed, a treasure chest of healing right at our feet.
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Spring Greens

One of the first vegetables on the farm is lettuce, pretty little leaf lettuce.  It has a rather short growing season, when the fiery heat of the summer rolls in the lettuce likes to grow bitter and make seeds.  We are experimenting with methods to keep the lettuces cool and hopefully prolong the harvest.  But for now we will enjoy the pretty little fresh greens on our table and hope our customers do the same.
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