Eating Healthy Once Again

Nutrition is the Key to Good Health

Today I go to see my cardiologist.  I will be in his office in about four hours from now.  I had a conversation with my wife this morning regarding that visit and how I envisioned it would go.  Sadly, I do not think that my cardiologist really has my health as a top priority of his.  It is definitely not nearly important to him as it is to me.  I need to determine my best interests myself and not be mindfully captivated by what this so-called cardiology expert’s opinion of my health really is.

eating healthy
If I had spinach like this as a kid I would have eaten it everyday.

Everyday is a New Day

I have set down to determine what I should be doing, how I should be doing it, and when I will be doing it.  This mostly involves my lifestyle choices, primarily what I choose to eat.  Let me stress that just a little bit differently since it really is a life and death issue for me.  This mostly involves what food I put in my mouth.  My gut instinct is that our nutrition and eating habits are the number one most important factor in determining the state of our health.

As I contemplate this choice that we have, I have realized slowly but surely that our healthcare system, our food production system, and yes, even my cardiologist, have their own well-being as their primary concern in their lives.  I shouldn’t be so upset about this but I am somehow.  Follow along with me as we make the changes necessary to take control of our own lives in every way that we can.  This will primarily concern our health, but you will learn that I have discovered that everything in the universe of universes works together as an orchestration to make you who you are.

 

 

“Blind and unforeseen accidents do not occur in the cosmos. Neither do the celestial beings assist the lower being who refuses to act upon his light of truth.”

Immediate Health Benefits

Blood pressure, pulse, weight, and an EKG were completed rather quickly.  Everything looked good although I did not have my bloodwork completed.  This means no one really knows what my triglyceride levels are right now but they were really, REALLY bad when I had them done in May.

I had a brief conversation with my cardiologist.  He is a good doctor and a sweet man but as I stated, he ultimately is not interested in my health the way I am or the way I should be.  Everyone slips once in a while and eats something they shouldn’t although others are reckless and just don’t care.  I am more of the former.  Watch what happens now.

eating healthy
This was the haul for one day, much more than we could consume.

I am going to take control of my own well-being and personal health.  My life will be the way that I design it. Share with others the knowledge you learn about healthy eating, lifestyle, and general health.  I have new empowering beliefs.  You will accomplish any task that you decide to undertake.  I determine my own destiny by my decisions and my actions.

Peace, Love, and Farming.

 

 

Becoming Simple

Mastering Small, Simple Tasks

This past weekend was the first weekend where we had a chance to slow the pace down and relax a bit after all the chaos we have recently experienced.  I was able to get a number of small things done that had been bothering me only slightly.  For instance, the front driveway light on the lamppost was not working.  After trying three different bulbs, I determined I must have hit the electric line with the weed whacker.  Simple ten minute fix once I determined what the issue was. (More on this important topic here.)

I moved on to completing an important task of clearing off a storage rack and then moving it out of the way so I could fit the Mahindra tractor into the garage for winter storage.  I was originally concerned that I would not have enough room to maneuver around it once it was in there but I was pleasantly surprised once it was that I had ample room to navigate around the tool benches.

As we get to the time of year where we can slow down a bit I tend to read more and spend only slightly more time indoors depending on the weather.  I have been reading a book by Eliot Coleman The Winter Harvest Handbook.  This is a very insightful publication for anyone who is interested in farming or making their farming better.  While reading this book I had somewhat of an epiphany.  Over the course of my adult life I have had the habit of making tasks more complicated and difficult than they need to be.  I also have thought that someone would always be there to scrutinize my work and tell me that it was wrong or not good enough.  More on that at a later time.

Yesterday as I took inventory of my available seed stock I realized I had more than I needed on hand and didn’t need to order as much as I initially thought.  As I sat and pondered if the seed was still viable I also thought I will just put it in the starting process and see if it germinates.  If it does, that’s great. If it doesn’t, I will get some more.  How simpler could it be?

becoming simple
Child Tying Shoe

I have now become determined to simplify as many aspects of my life as possible.  Can’t get water to the greenhouse?  Put some water in a can or container and carry it to the greenhouse.  How simple is that?  All our plans don’t have to be 12 month plans, but they can be 21 day plans as that is the maturity to harvest with the radish seeds I have.

We have a tendency to get caught up in our own devices and always or almost always make tasks much more difficult as they need to be.  I have determined that 2017 will be the year of simplification for me and we shall do the most with the little that we have.

Leave a comment and let us know what you can do more of with less.

 

 

The Minute Details of Farming

Yearning to Have a Small Farm

Recent trends indicate that more younger people want a small farm. New farmers but might be discouraged by initial capital outlay, lack of resources, or a bevy of other challenges.  FiveDollarFarm started with an older couple that just flat out wanted to do something different.  Purchasing the land to farm was not so much an issue as the knowledge of how to farm which seemed to be wanting.  By sheer determination we decided to reclaim the knowledge that almost everyone in the world before us had known and utilized.  And what we couldn’t we would learn by trial and error.

Small Farm Important Lessons

One of the first important lessons we learned was about timing and we still don’t have it down completely but are much better off than we were originally.  Food can be grown in specific seasons and not when others arrive.  By most don’t know how long the “shoulder” seasons are and variety of crops that can be grown within them.  Crops such as cabbage, carrots, lettuces, beets, Brussels sprouts, and others can be grown the weather doesn’t instinctively seem conducive to do so.  In our opinion, many of these crops taste better having been grown in a colder season that includes a frost or two.

 

A Winter Garden

 

We are attempting to manage our timing for planting and harvesting on our small farm.  We also care for our crops with the use of technology through calendars and such, a benefit our grandparents never had.  They also did not have the distractions of answering phone calls and texts messages either.  We do utilize hand written notes and notebooks for records. We use the Google calendar mostly for remainders of upcoming events.

Another issue we have had to deal with on our small farm is quantity.  I have a tendency to plant a much greater quantity of each vegetable than we will ever consume. Field space was not available so many plants were discarded.  We are utilizing spreadsheets to plan quantities more effectively so that we are not nearly as wasteful.  An added benefit is that this process helps us to manage our space in the greenhouse better.  As an aside, it was a personal growth experience for me. I realized I had issue from my youth on wasting resources.  I determined I had to let this go and instead made a neuro-association to observe all the abundance that God has given us.  We also attempt to charitably contribute any excess we generate to local organizations or our church.  Thank you Tony Robbins for the guidance.  You can read about him here.

At some times during this fall we had counters full of tomatoes that we had difficulty consuming or finding the time to process by canning.  We did end up putting aside a significant amount of tomatoes and sauces from home canning.  We did not get a chance to make pickles as we normally do but we expect to be able to do that next year.

 

Canning Tomatoes

 

So as you see there are many challenges to be a new farmer.  That does not stop us here at FiveDollarFarm.  We provide for ourselves and our family through determination. We will assist those in need in our community.  If you a new to farming or live a rural lifestyle and have some advice for anyone, please leave a message below.  We would love to hear what you think.

 

End of Year Farm Report

Farm Report

Here it is in mid-October and I find myself online looking at all the many of varieties of tomatoes that are available for sale.  I quickly became frustrated and literally had to walk away from the computer and get myself a cup of coffee.  I did get back to it eventually after giving some thought to what I had learned this year about all the different things we did successfully and also the challenges we faced whilst growing our tomatoes and other crops.

First I will list some of the expectations I had for the tomatoes that we grew and what actually ended up happening to that particular concern or area of focus.  I must tell you that it was a difficult summer for our family as your patriarch and author had some difficult health challenges to deal with.  That in itself was a challenge and was definitely unexpected but thankfully my beautiful bride stepped in to save the day again. (She always does)  The reason I point this out is for a gentle reminder to all that “We plan and God laughs.”

 

Weeding and Watering

— Last year we recognized quite early that most of our disappointment came from two main areas that we did not focus on in particular.  Watering.  This was not just with our tomatoes but with all of our plants, mostly vegetables but some landscape perennials as well.  Weeding was the other.  How we dealt with it was not that extraordinary.  We created an infrastructure plan to provide water to our newly built greenhouse and growing area with plans to enhance it later on by drilling a well out in the growth area as we expect to grow and thrive in the future. For the weeding, we dedicated time to actually get out there and pull some weeds.  Also we learned of multiple efforts of some like Curtis Stone to grow in such a manner as to prohibit weeds from overtaking areas by methods I call “gang-cropping.”

The results while initially seeming unspectacular were actually quite good.  We had such a blessed abundance of items for consumption and even managed to sell some to our close friends.  The water project is not totally completed but is well on it’s way to making next year more successful.  We laid a polyethylene pipe from our surface well into a trench that runs to the greenhouse.  Both ends need to be plumbed, one with a shallow well jet pump and the other with a pressure tank  and piping needed for greenhouse and field.

Plant Spacing

— In the greenhouse we utilized boxes constructed of 2″ x 12″ lumber to grow in.  We bought 2 of these that were 12 feet long and cut off a 4 foot piece for the ends resulting in a 4′ x 8′ box.  We filled each with our special soil mixture of peat moss, decomposed double-ground  hardwood bark mulch, and composted horse manure.  However, in the box where the cucumbers were grown we put too many plants in one area and it quickly became overwhelming.  We pruned back the plants significantly but they may have made them grow even faster.  In the end we generated quite a large harvest but our technique is not recommended.  In the field the spacing seemed to work to our advantage as the close proximity of the plants blocked the sun so that weeds could not overtake the area.

A note about spacing as well in the greenhouse is worth mentioning here.  We are still learning how to best utilize the space in that resource as well.  Also added was a heat source being a “Warm Morning” coal heater that we found for sale cheaply.  We haven’t decided if we will heat the greenhouse all winter or just extend the shoulder seasons.  Stay tuned to see how it works out for us.

Simple box construction to grow hydroponic vegetables.

Variety Selection

–Another challenge we faced was my personal ambition to do too much all the time.  I wanted to grow a large variety of plants to have available for our own use as well as to sell to others.  Unfortunately, our learning curve reminded us that we are not that experienced with growing certain varieties.  This year some of our crops did very well and we learned how to grow them successfully.  For example, our tomatoes came our very well and we put up about 100 pints of tomatoes in a variety of forms such as pizza sauce.  I think our sauce came out much better than last year mostly because of the  way we processed it and secondly because of the variety we selected.  It is very satisfying to put food away for use later.  It gives me a great sense of independence.  We did have to deal with the cursed “tomato hornworm.”

By focusing on a smaller variety and learning them well we did much better with those particular plants like red beets, carrots, spinach, romaine lettuce, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts.  To think all that our grandparents knew how to do that we forgot in a mere two generations.

One other note on variety selection is that we were very successful with some tomato varieties.  I have gathered many seeds from the tomatoes that we successfully grew this year for use in our operation next year.  It doesn’t take much effort and your cost savings can end up being significant if you maintain your own varieties.  Eventually we may do some experimentation with plant genetics.

As we approach our downtime and off season now in the winter that is usually our planning time, I am thinking more about what needs to be done and how we should do it next year.  I remain very humbled knowing I am blessed with all the gifts that God has given to us.  Working on our farm is a priceless treasure that I would not trade for any item or any amount of money.

Leave a note with your thoughts and sign up for our email list to be notified when new information is available.

God bless.

 

 

Fall on a Farm

Orange is the Color of Fall

Fall harvest on our farm is a wonderful time.  So many things happen when autumn arrives on a farm even a small one like ours.  We have been blessed to learn so many new and improved concepts this growing season.  Our tomatoes have been outstanding this year and we have made a great quantity of sauces by canning tomatoes.  We have had to deal with some tomato pests such as the tomato hornworm.  We kept to our self-made promise to not use any chemical sprays on or near the food we intend to consume.

 

fall harvest

 

The children had a fun summer that included swimming almost every day.  Some days we had a difficult time getting them out of the pool for supper.  I have a great relief that the children can swim.  I won’t feel uneasy about them being around or in the water.  Much time was spent with them in the pool.

We did not get away for vacation this year as we have decided previously that we would stay here and prepare for our wedding celebration on the farm in October.  Friends and family will arrive mid-month to help us celebrate John and Michelle’s matrimony on a special fall day.  We are also having a gathering the next day following the reception before our families leave to head home.  It will be a nice fall time on the farm.

 

fall harvest

 

The days are getting shorter and the temperatures are going lower at night but still get quite warm in the middle of the day.  Plants put in the last great effort to store energy for winter dormancy.  It is a transition time that we love and stop to reflect on what we have accomplished and how to make constant and never-ending improvements in our farm and live personally.

Enjoy the Fall.

 

Information on Tomato Hornworm

 Tomato Hornworm

Tomato hornworm are causing much damage to our tomato plants.  It is best to simply remove them from the plant.  If you see small white rice-like objects hanging from the beast, leave them alone.  It is type of wasp egg that will hatch and kill the tomato hornworm.

Tomato Hornworm

I was startled when I first discovered these monsters destroying my plants.  But a quick search and a few discussions with some local old-timers put me at ease.  Simply pull them off the plants and let them die from starvation.  they can tear a tomato plant to shreds in a day or two if you let them.  They can be hard to see on the plant as they are camouflaged but simply look for where there are many missing leaves on your plants.  You will typically find one big one per plant.  They grow large very quickly.

Destruction of the Tomato Hornworm

tomato hornworm damage
Tomato Hornworm Damage

You can see here the damage cause by the pest.  If your plants are vibrant and you simply remove them, the plant will continue to do well and provide you with plenty of tomatoes.  In the fall after I removed all the plants, I tilled the earth where my plants had been.  They lay eggs in the ground which hatch and become a moth in the spring completing the life cycle.  Removing any larvae you find in the ground will reduce the chance that your infestation will be bad the next year.  We typically don’t plant tomatoes in the same area year-to-year.

tomato hornworm
Tomato Hornworm removed from plants

We hope this has been helpful to you in dealing with these types of pest in your garden.  Leave a comment on you deal with these little pests and whether you have another way of getting rid of them.

 

 

 

 

As Farming Goes …

Pastured Poultry Challenges

Our pastured poultry program faced a dramatic setback.  Right near the end of April as we attempted to employ our assertive poultry plan for the year, we were faced with the realities of nature and farming.  An animal of some nature, more than likely, a family of raccoons discovered our tasty, tender, chicken buffet in the back field.  Needless to say, we lost a significant number of birds over the course of three weeks.

Upon discovery of the massacre I was disheartened about what we were trying to accomplish here on our farm.  It was a tremendous setback.  There were differences of opinion of how we should proceed and whether we should proceed at all.  As I stated in my video documentation, “I refuse to give up.”

A New Approach

It was me.
It was me.

Finally I decided I would need to take measures to secure the birds so that this would not happen again. Once the raccoon found the pen it returned night after night.  After futile attempts to secure the pen that was built last summer,  I rebuilt the pen completely starting from scratch with all new lumber and construction methods to thwart the troublesome meddler.  Only the tufftex corrugated plastic cover panels were reused.

This morning as I approached the pen hopeful of sighting no mischief, I pondered what I would do had I met an unexpected sight of misfortune for the meatbirds we were caring for.  Sighting none I said a quick prayer of thanks to the owner of all who allows me to care for his creation.

Chicken Tractor

Farming Struggles Create Learning Opportunites

The associated problems this created by not getting the birds onto the field when they should have been were numerous.  The birds remained in an enclosed brooder that was really not adequate for their size. They were not getting fresh grass and bug, or sunlight. The chickens smelled like poop.  The first batch will have to be keepers because of these quality issues.

We have been disrupted from our original plan.  We are hopeful that we can get back on track with the planned outcome we had hoped for.  As farming goes, these are the challenges that we must meet and deal with on an almost daily basis.  To be adaptable to your surroundings and problem solve on a moment’s notice is essential to being a farmer.  Note that I did not say a “successful” farmer.  I believe you are either a farmer or you are not.

The farmers of old employed these same characteristics but we today enjoy the benefit of near instantaneous information at our fingertips.  The problem this creates is that the feedback loop has not changed much for our participatory nature.  No matter how hard you try, your tomato plant will not produce a fruit for you in the first week.  For me, this has curtailed my need for instant gratification.  Ironically, I can now experience moments when I feel as if I can almost slow time only because comparing it to our hurried technological lifestyles makes it so.

A Life’s Lesson

This has also helped me greatly manage my expectations which over time had come to be almost dubitable.  We have an inclination to not realize the power of a small task done repetitively on our thinking and thus our beliefs.  After a while, some might call this superstition but acknowledging this mechanism and harnessing its power can be life a life altering occurrence. Oh that the chicken should have such thoughts.

So the pen seems to be secure and  the lower back pain is subsiding. The notes for the next project for the farm are right in front of me.  They will be reviewed shortly.  I envy Curtis when he states that he has shifted from setup mode to production as I have not.  We will get there eventually.

We will review our expectations for this year’s poultry plan and make the necessary adjustments as required.  Hope which is confident expectation looms large at FiveDollarFarm.

Making Soil Blocks

Spring is the Busiest Time on the Farm

Making your own soil blocks can be a great money-saving idea. This is one of the busiest times of year at FiveDollarFarm. We are focusing on basic areas that will become habit once you start implementing them.  One of these areas is planting your own seeds in soil for the plants that you want to grow.  Whether those plants are part of a healthy diet or perennial plants or flowers for your landscape, you can save money by planting the seeds yourself.

You could go down to the local “China mart” store and buy your standard run-of-the-mill seed starter trays and bag of starting soil.  We have done that in the past but no longer.  A few years ago we began saving our small plastic 8 ounce yogurt cups.  These were great for us when we were just trying to feed our own family. We generally only planted about a dozen of each plant we wanted like cucumbers, tomatoes, and the like.  I still use them.  I am experimenting with seed germination rates or when I find some old seeds that I am not sure if they will germinate.  Our goal has been to use what we have instead of buying everything we need.  Reuse where you can to save some money and the planet.

Trying New Tools

One new thing we have tried this year to take our sustainability to a new level is the soil block maker that we purchased from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  We actually bought two block makers and the plug attachment for the larger one but generally we are only using the larger one.  The basic idea for these is to mix up some good seed starting soil and use the block maker to compress the soil into its own container for seed planting.  Brilliant!  Also, 50 soil blocks fit perfectly into a 1020 flat tray which is a standard plant tray.

 

soil blocks
Soil block makers from Johnny’s Selected Seeds

 

We also began using Johnny’s Selected Seeds almost exclusively for two important reasons.  First, they offer most of their seeds in a pelleted version which I found works nicely with the soil blocks as you can drop one pelleted seed into the dimple.  Secondly, I found that they generally have a higher germination rate that most other seed companies out there.

Another mistake we had made in the past was to plant multiple items into the same tray.  We didn’t know what some of them were when they began to germinate.  That could be quite confusing.  However, in the spirit of our own personal renaissance, we are challenging all rules that we know or were taught that limit our creativity or thinking.  In this spirit, I will sometimes happily surprise myself by intentionally NOT labeling a tray to discover something incredibly delightful when it spouts.

 

soil blocks
Seeds from Burpee found in the supermarket.

 

This post has a video associated with it so you can see the soil block maker in action.  If you have any questions about the block maker or suggestions that everyone can use please feel free to share them.  All comments are welcome.

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Baby Chicks in the Ohio Brooder

Ohio Brooder

On Wednesday, we put 61 Cornish Giant X meat birds into our newly built Ohio Brooder.  Last nights cold worried me that they would not be warm enough.  They seem to all be okay after five days.  As it shows in the video the chicks are very active.  They will stay in this brooder for approximately three weeks and then they will move out to the field in our pastured poultry chicken tractor.  When they are seven to eight weeks old we will begin the processing and make them available to our customers.

Stay tuned as we make more videos showing how we are raising our delicious pastured poultry for our clients.

 

Check out the video.

 

 

 

 

What Are We Lacking?

Life Well Lived

Do we all seek a life well lived?  An interesting thought occurred to me recently.   While  travelling and stopping in a bookstore, I noticed near the entrance of the store a table of books that were obviously placed there to grab customers attention and hoped to be purchased.  All the books related to health; eating, exercising, weight loss, etc.  Why is this such a popular topic?  An English high school teacher told me that books are written about subjects that are currently popular.

There are books to chose from.
There are books to chose from.

Hope and Change You Can Believe In

I began to ponder why this was such a popular subject.  Are Americans dissatisfied with their appearance or their weight, and their diets?  I think they are.  Our careers, marriages, families, and many other areas of our lives need so much help.  How many people want to but never really live their lives the way that they desire to?  Great changes can be made by merely making a decision to do so in the moment.  This is our personal power.  We all have a equal amount of it and no one has more than any other. Once a desire has been made the universe will conspire to make it happen.  Why don’t more people know this?  Sadness and disappointment follow many a man to the grave.

FiveDollarFarm will explore these topics more in-depth in the coming months.  Watch us strive to grow go food for local people.  Others will learn to do the same by our teaching.  We want everyone to have a healthy, wealthy, happy lifestyle.  Stick with us as we get full swing into the spring season and begin eating in season foods.  You won’t regret it.