Read our farm blog by Heaven Sent Food and Fiber in Welling, OK, which features articles on a variety of topics.
Thank you for your continued support.
|Posted on January 7, 2016 at 9:25 PM||comments (2)|
Please check out this site and read the article. Very important for farmers to know.
|Posted on September 3, 2015 at 2:10 PM||comments (0)|
Hello Everyone. We finally got it done! It has been a long time coming. We hope you enjoy the new site and find it easier to navigate thru. The Consulting page is taking a little longer but we should have it ready soon. Keep checking back, I will be adding things and changing some. If you have a suggestion for us, please feel free to email us and let us know, also if you find an error that got past us, lol. Remember- Nobody is perfect, We can but strive for that.
Sue & Coleen
|Posted on September 3, 2015 at 1:25 PM||comments (0)|
Our yarns and fibers are available here, also. http://getstitchin.com/
|Posted on August 3, 2015 at 5:35 PM||comments (0)|
Price of a Dozen Eggs
One of our customers recently complimented us on our high quality eggs. She also asked us to bring the price down. I thought you might like to see the explanation that we sent to her.
Thank you for your compliment regarding our eggs. We work very hard to keep the quality up.
As to the price, one of the reasons we have high quality eggs is that we spend time, labor and money in the production of these eggs. To produce the 50 dozen eggs we list for coop members we:
Spend 13.5 hours per week or 88 hours per month. For the 50 dozen eggs at $5.75/dozen we make $287.50 total revenue. That is $3.26/hour if it was all given to labor, it is not.
Supplies for washing, candling, grading, labeling and packaging cost about $0.45/dozen.
We supplement their forage to provide adequate lysine and methionine and calcium for their shells, that's $2/dozen usually, with the heat and drought that is going up every month.
We also give my friend who helps me with the grading and candling gas money as they drive over an hour to get here to help me make sure we have high quality eggs.
There is the cost of electricity to the well pump to give them water and light the coop in low light months (to produce at peak efficiency they need 14 hours of light a day, so when the sun is going down earlier we give them some night light for a couple of hours to keep them laying)
The cost of each chick is $2.30/day old pullet and it costs approximately $13/chicken to raise them the 6 months it takes to get them to laying stage. We have to make this back to be able to rotate stock so that they are producing efficiently.
There is 9% sales tax that we pay for you
10% total revenue for coop fee
2.5% of total revenue for transportation fee to get them to you as we live near Tahlequah.
Therefore, we are making $1.17/hour for our work with this 50 dozen eggs in 109oF heat.
On average we will make about $22/chicken/year in our labor towards paying our farm expenses like mortgage, heating, electric, gas and all other things that our family needs to live.
We also pay a $50 license every year to be able to package and sell eggs away from the farm which is required by law.
I am sure you are now wondering why others charge different rates. Others may have less expenses in transportation for instance because they live near OKC. Also, many farmers don't know the cost of what they produce and what it will take to continue production and frequently are losing money producing items at the price they sell for. This is why many farmers eventually have to sell out or have outside jobs to pay for their farming habit. My husband works off farm as we are still setting up and many of our other products still do not break even. One of my friends says "it’s a lifestyle not a living." Unfortunately, like any business, if it does not pay for itself and for us to live eventually, we cannot keep farming. For now, we break even or make a little on some things not on others and take the loss over all. I left a high paying corporate job with American Airlines to do this, because I have a farming addiction. It is the only thing I want to do. Your compliment about our quality made my day! Thank you! I still need to pay bills however.
Now that I have completely bored you with the details, I hope this provides you with information that is helpful. Please feel free to let me know if there are other questions that you have regarding what we do and why we do it.
Thank you for your continued support.
|Posted on August 3, 2015 at 5:30 PM||comments (0)|
Squash Bug Control in a Southern Organic Garden (not certified)
Squash bugs have been the bane of my existence as a sustainable market gardener. Supposedly the easiest thing to grow and to have coming out your ears at harvest time, is not so easy when you don’t use Sevin dust. Sevin dust kills bees and with our bee hives, I just can’t take the risk. Besides, who wants all of those chemicals on their food? In the last couple of years, I have worked very diligently to have a good harvest of squash and actually had enough to take to market. Here’s what I have been doing as well as my observations (I haven’t seen many of these items listed anywhere – and trust me, I have done a ton of research on this, so if you use this info on your site, please link it back to this page and give me some credit for this eight year war).
Plant early! (or late – fall has less problems but that assumes you haven’t had any squash or related plants in your garden in the spring) On black plastic with irrigation if possible and cover with remee (floating row cover) to get the plants started very early. I start my transplants here in NE, OK the first week of March and plant in 3 to 4 weeks from a 4” pot (which is what I start them in). Don’t go beyond the 4 weeks, they won’t transplant well.
Make sure that your soil is well amended with organic matter. Squash plants love composted rabbit poop, but any high nitrogen (not too high) compost will do. They also need lots of potassium, phosphorus and calcium.
Make sure the plants have plenty of water and pick every 1 to 2 days when they start producing, picking the squash or zucchini small.
Start watching for squash bugs when the plants first start to flower. That seems to be the real point where the bugs like the plant.
Most often I have started seeing the squash bugs about the last of May (in an early, hot year like this one) or early June.
Some references tell you to use DE. I have never had luck with this. Or putting out a board near the plants for them to hide under, again, no luck for me on that one.
Scout for bugs in the morning and evening under the lowest leaves. Frequently, on the east side of your rows, go north to south, but check all over. Hand pick them off and drop them into a jar with a mix of dish soap and water to drown them. Pam Dawling says that squashing them near the plants puts out the smell (they are related to stink bugs) calling more squash bugs in. During the middle of the day they are very fast and fly from one plant to another.
Scrape off any eggs you see, initially they will be on the bottom of the leaf where the veins come together near the stem, later they will be anywhere and everywhere on the plant. Per the Dirt Doctor in TX, eggs hatch in one to two weeks; nymphs develop in four to six weeks with five molts. Frankly, I have seen references to many generations in the south and believe that we can get up to five generations in a hot, dry year, when they have been singed on the edges. A sign that the bugs have been sucking the juice from that leaf as well as leaving their toxin in its place.
Planting trap plants like Black Zucchini (one of their favorites) or Yellow Crookneck might make your scouting easier if you plant them away from the other plants you plan to harvest off of.
Plant varieties that they are not as fond of including: Dark Green Zucchini (as opposed to Black Zucchini which they are very attracted to and can be used as a trap crop); Futsu Winter Squash, Early Butternut Squash, Tatume Squash (used early as summer squash and late as winter squash), Cushaw and Trombocino Squash. Some of these I have tried and others I have seen listed as bug resistant. Most of the winter and vining ones are listed for resistance to borers rather than squash bugs, but seem to have more resistance to both.
The Dirt Doctor’s site says these are the natural predators: Parasitic flies, spiders, assassin bugs, birds (especially guineas and chickens) and snakes. I would add toads and frogs to this list.
Very healthy plants seem to have less damage and problems than others. Stress and drought bring on the bugs like no other.
Homestead Heritage uses icicle radishes surrounding the squash plant, others suggest marigolds or petunias as companion plants. I have yet to have any luck with any of these.
My father-in-law says to put whole wheat flour on the plants in the morning when the dew is on. Of course he lives in OH and we don’t have much dew down here in July.
I did seem to have some luck putting minced garlic around the stems/under the leaves of some plants, but that effect lasted only a month. I’ll have to try to do it monthly next year to see if it holds them off all season.
Pyrethrim (Pyganic) works on the nymphs but not on the adults. If you have nymphs you are already in late stages and likely to lose much of your planting. Don’t let it get to this.
I have tried pulling the lowest leaves off the plants to see if I could reduce their hiding spaces and therefore have less bugs, it only set the plants back – don’t try this!
Asking your neighbors not to put Sevin on (and therefore chase all the bugs to your organic garden – or kill your bees) doesn’t seem to help either…again the voice of experience. The neighbors would rather be trying to foist their non-organic zucchini off on you, while you lament the ever dying squash plants in your garden. But maybe your neighbors will work with you on this one (no offense to my neighbors who are really wonderful, just used to using chemicals).
Up north they may only have one generation of squash bugs and be able to control them by hand picking, but then they don’t usually have the heat and drought that these little buggers love.
The moral of this story: Keep planting (every 3 to 4 weeks to keep production at its peak). Eventually you will win and have some squash and zucchini, until next year anyway.
How do I know this all works, at least to some degree? I have plants that I set out in March that are 8 feet wide and still producing in the middle of one of the worst droughts in recent history and am still taking squash to market without using a synthetic chemical.
Good luck. I’ll be sweating right along with you while scouting for bugs and eggs tomorrow morning right after chores.
|Posted on August 3, 2015 at 5:25 PM||comments (0)|
Fleece Washing Instructions
Because we have Merino sheep and need to process about 100# of wool or more a year efficiently, we have been working on finding the best way to do so in a cottage business environment. The process that we have now will work for anyone who would like to process fine wool at home.
As anyone who has worked with wool knows, Merino is a wonderful, fine wool that is a joy to spin and use in projects from knitting to weaving. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to work with at home where you can save money by washing and processing it yourself because of the lanolin, dirt and suint (waxy substance that is dried sheep sweat). Yes, sheep are fun but dirty animals.
In the past, I tried many times to get a fleece really clean without using an excessive amount of water, time, and chemicals. The results were mediocre at best. Those attempts left me with a fleece that would still be considered “in the grease.”
Now we have beautiful clean fleeces in two washes of the entire fleece at once with little water and detergents you can find at your grocery store. Here’s how:
Please read the entire process before you begin. Do not ever pour the water over the fleece, go from hot to cold water or agitate the fleece in the water or you will felt the fleece and lose your investment.
Skirt your fleece heavily to remove all tags, areas of heavy vegetable matter and felted or coarse wool, if not already completed by breeder. Coated/covered fleeces definitely are worth the extra money you pay in buying/making the coats and having clean fleeces. It saves A LOT of time.
If possible wash immediately after shearing. [This process works on older fleeces as well where the suint (waxy buildup of sheep sweat and lanolin) has dried and hardened.]
Add a large amount of hot water in a large cooler that has a drain spout option, such that the fleece will be able to float in the water. Do not add water over the fleeces rather add the fleeces after the water is in the cooler. Add 150oF water from a stock pot on the stove. BE VERY CAREFUL THIS TEMPERATURE WATER CAN CAUSE SEVERE BURNS!
Add about 1/4c Dawn original and a 1/2c (more or less) rubbing alcohol to the water.
Add the fleece to the water (DO NOT AGITATE) but do carefully push the fleece in the water, and close the lid. Let soak 30 minutes or so. Make sure that the water is still hot when you take the fleece out. You will probably need heavy rubber gloves for this and a large veggie sieve works well for pulling all the fleece out of the water.
Make rinse water in a large sink, bucket or additional cooler – see #3. This water needs to be a similar temp to the wash water. It can be hotter, but NOT COOLER than the previous water/fleece.
Drain the water from the cooler and put the fleece in a strainer gently press water out. Place fleece in mesh bag and spin water out.
Add fleece to very hot rinse water (made the same way you made the water in the cooler without addition of detergent and alcohol). Let it sit while you make a new wash cooler of clean very hot water with dawn and a small amount of rubbing alcohol. See #3
Divide the fleece and put in lingerie bags, spin the fleece out.
Add the fleeces to the second wash water and follow steps #5-#9. In the last rinse water add 2T of hair conditioner to the rinse water to keep the fiber from becoming brittle. This process can be repeated until the fleece no longer feels greasy. It should, however, only take two washes.
Air dry on racks, or if you are in a hurry, use a food dehydrator to accelerate the process. A fan set beside a small space heater to circulate warm air helps the cooling process. Drying shelves made with plastic 1" square fencing stapled to 1x2 frames and set between shelves make great large drying racks for large fleeces or doing several at once.
|Posted on August 3, 2015 at 5:25 PM||comments (0)|
1 Pitcher Goat Cheese
I hate to wash dishes and I do mean hate, so I am always looking for ways to cut down on what I have to do. Chevre or goat cheese was one of those things that we love to eat but made the way I was taught (THANK YOU HOMESTEAD HERITAGE, ELMOTT, TX check out sustainlife.org) just took too many dishes for me.
My mother says that “necessity is the mother of invention", more likely it is “laziness is the motivator for innovation" so here’s my 1 Pitcher Goat Cheese Process…
When I bring in the raw goat milk from the milk house it is rapidly cooling from 104oF (or so) just out of the goat to approximately 85oF. That’s just the right temp to make goat cheese. I strain my milk then pour it into a 1 gallon plastic pitcher.
If you are buying it from someone you might let it warm up just to room temp (similar to how you would set up for buttermilk).
Add 1/4-1/2c of Old Recipe Bulgarian Style Buttermilk (or your own cultured buttermilk) to 1 gallon of raw goat milk. (Yes, they teach you exact proportions but that’s not my style so I just do an estimate.)
Add 1/4 tablet of Junket Rennet (dissolved in 2T cool water) to the buttermilk/raw milk mixture.
Stir just to mix up.
Cover with pitcher top, turn the top so that it is not open to air (or cover with a dish towel).
Let sit on the counter 8-24 hours (depends on the ambient temperature of your home) to let the curd set.
The shorter time will give you more of a sour cream consistency, longer will provide a drier cheese product, it’s your choice. If I start it in the morning after chores, I can usually turn the top to gently pour off the whey by evening, but if it’s cold it may have to sit overnight. (Save the whey for making bread or smoothies, it’s a great cultured/fermented drink!)
Once the whey from around the large curd mass is poured off you can cut the curd with a knife to get out more whey though the strainer portion of the top or use it like it is for a smoother texture.
Add salt (I like Himalayan Salt from Holiday Seasonings - http://holidayseasonings.com/) to taste and any herbs. Hubby’s favorite is pepper and minced garlic. The neighbors like Greek Seasoning. It’s also good with the mild curry seasoning from Holiday Seasonings.
Cover in the pitcher and store in the refrigerator for about 1 week or freeze. It holds VERY WELL in the freezer! Great to take out for party dips (add a packet of French Onion seasoning) or baked potatoes. Friends like it on pumpernickel bread.
This is going to cost you about 25% of the price of goat cheese at the grocery store. For instance we sell raw goat milk off the farm (OK law) for $6/gallon. 1 gallon of milk makes approximately 1# of goat cheese. Four ounces of goat cheese at my local grocery store runs about $6.
This will have none of that “goaty" flavor that you get in the grocery store cheeses. Get the milk fresh the day of and use it right away. I like this VERY MILD flavor and that goaty one too. Hubby DOES NOT like the goaty flavor at all. He’ll eat the cheese for about 3 days and if its not all gone by then, which it usually is, then I eat the rest. The cheese will generally get stronger over 2-5 days. It also depends on the type of goat you have and what they are eating at the time. Nubians don’t seem to give off that goaty flavor like Oberhasli (Swiss Alpine) and Toggenburg goats do in my opinion - others will disagree. Alfalfa, clover, good grass and grain also don’t give off a bad flavor. Wild onions, mustards and other weeds can change the flavor significantly. Ask the seller what type of goats they have and what the goats are eating.
Happy cheese making!
|Posted on August 3, 2015 at 5:25 PM||comments (0)|
What goes into the price of 1lb of local honey?
Why is local honey more expensive than imported you ask? Let me count the ways… Let’s say that we get 75# of honey (that’s what I have been averaging for the last 3 years) using my actual costs.
Licensing to sell at farmers markets: Cost per lb. = $4.66
Rental of commercial kitchen per lb. = $0.66
Bottles and required labeling per lb. = $1.10
Feed for bees when there’s no forage 7 months out of the year as it has been for the last 3 years in order to keep hives going (includes propane used for making bee syrup from real sugar not the corn syrup many commercial bee keepers feed and pollen substitute) per lb. = $6.00*
Replacement queens, pest control (primarily for hive beetle, mites), disease control (primarily Nosema) per lb. = $1.00
Equipment replacement per lb. = $0.20
Total costs just to try to keep bees going until we have a good year: $13.62/lb.
Charging $15/lb that leaves a total of $0.05/hour as payment for the bee keeper. Yes, you read that right. Even at that price per pound, it’s almost a losing proposition, but we have to keep our bees and people need the local honey for allergies so we do it anyway, hoping for a good year. This does not include the costs of improving the soil and seeding with plants that will produce honey and pollen to support the hives in future years…to include this cost the price would be unreachable for many.
*Unlike many bee keepers, we do not rob all of the honey, we leave 2 large brood boxes full and only take the “excess" or what would be excess in a regular year when there are rains enough to have some nectar available through the summer and fall honey made to keep them through the winter, but even with our 2-1/2 acre irrigated garden heavy in cucurbits (plants in the cucumber and melon family) and work to support other native plants that produce nectar and pollen, these last few years have been unbelievably difficult for keeping hives alive and honey production going, what little rain we have had from June on has not been enough.
Watch for a coming post on nectar and honey producing plants and their approximate bloom time. Not ever flower you see is a bee flower, in fact, most aren’t, and the ones that are, you may not want to be.