3.31.2011

More on Ellen...

Tuesday I missed the birth of Ellen, and on Wednesday I had car trouble, so today I was finally able to get back out to the farm to see this beauty! Jason was able to capture my response to seeing Miss Ellen. It was a very magical moment. 
I got very emotional when I saw her - I actually felt as if I played a pretty significant part in this little girl. We got Ellie on February 1 of this year and with her came Eli - they are not brother and sister but are very close in age. This is our very first baby born on our About An Acre farm, so it is very sentimental and carries with it a sense of accomplishment.
Brutus is being carefully introduced to Ellen over a period of closely monitored time so that he is aware that Ellen is part of his family and he is to protect her as he does the others in the field.
The weather has been horrible the last few days and so cold for a newborn kid, that I have been a little concerned, but Ellie is an amazing mom and has been keeping Ellen warm and full of milk!
I am still at a loss for words on this exciting experience, so here are some more photos to tell the rest of the story. 





3.29.2011

Eli & Ellie bring brand new, teeny, tiny Ellen into the world!

I am still on my hunt for the PERFECT old truck.....the last truck I looked at I met Pastor David and that was a nice surprise, but I don't think anything could top the surprise I got today.....

Well, on the way to Augusta to look at this next truck, I get a picture text from Jason of what appears to be Ellie with a ......... teeny tiny solid white little baby goat kid???!!!!???? Oh my! I call him immediately and confirm that my eyes are not playing tricks on me..."Hello" - me: "Oh my god! oh my god! oh my god!! Ellie had her baby??" I am asking a million questions at the speed of light, firing one after the other, not even giving him a chance to really answer. I take a deep breath.....then calmly ask how Ellie is and if he had to help deliver the baby. He says he just walked out to the field and saw a little white spot waaaay out in the pasture - and it was Ellie and her newborn kid and she was a little doe. I texted Jason to see if he had named her. His reply: Ellen.

Well, I didn't end up getting that truck either but the ride there and back was so beautiful - pecan groves and cotton fields were everywhere. We drove for an hour and didn't even see a store. It sparked my desire to one day live in a place like this. Far from the strip malls, highways, and chain restaurants. It was very quiet out here. 

When I got back into Athens, I desperately wanted to see Ellen but unfortunately my car is still in the shop and being repaired from that dang deer last week...... Tomorrow I am getting out to the farm even if it means renting a vehicle! 

3.26.2011

Making New Friends While Learning About Sustainable Living: Pastor David

This morning I was really excited. You see, I had been sort-of looking for a farm ride - my car was not made to be driving through pastures and it is not a good hauler for feed, etc. I found the perfect truck about 18 times yesterday and I was going to look at one this morning. While I was there and getting ready to leave, a man named Pastor David pulled into the yard. He was picking up some cherry trees for his place. We started talking a bit and I handed him a card with our blog info on it. He looked at me and said this was really neat and that he and his wife had been trying to live off the land themselves. I was curious just like always and started asking question after question. Like all the other farmers, growers, and producers, I was intrigued by what I was hearing. I want to see his place. I am in Sandy Cross, GA and I really don't know that I have ever been here before or will have the chance to come back soon. I ask how far his place is from where we are, and it's just five minutes up the road. BINGO! 
We pull into the driveway and this place is gorgeous. Lush greenery everywhere and the crowing of a rooster adds to the whole farm feel. David and his wife have just enough hens for their personal use of eggs and they have built a really cool little coop that I forgot to take a photo of. We head out to the garden. It is pretty big and already thriving with little green patches. We talk about weed control and the time it takes to keep the weeds at bay in the spring when young plants are at their most vulnerable state. Seems there is no big secret about weeding. I have been hopeful that someone would have the answer I have been looking for, but so far it seems that most of my evenings will be spent . . . . weeding. 
We walk over to a black tank at the edge of the garden. He explains that the tank is just an old water heater painted black. This tank is next to his watering source for the garden. A hose goes into the tank and he explains that the water goes into this tank and throughout the course of the day, because it is painted black it absorbs the sunbeams and heats the water to about 85 - 90 degrees.
I am curious where he is going with this....I'm thinking there must be a secret about watering your garden with hot water... he then points down to the ground and shows me a hose that is coming from the tank. I follow it to the corner of the garden where there is a ......... SHOWER!! 
How freakin' cool?? What a great idea! He gets up early, takes a change of clothes and towel out, hangs in the shower stall, works in the garden getting filthy, and then takes a shower OUTSIDE with warm water! Genius!
Next stop - an old cattle milking station. He doesn't have his dairy cow anymore, but he explains to me how he milked her, etc. We walk a little further and he has this big machine with a big chute on it...not sure what this is. He starts explaining what it does....it is a feed grinder thing...you can place your old grains, corn, etc. and make your own feed with this!!! And it is from Sears Roebuck!! 
Well, I have had a very spur of the moment surprise educational lesson and it was super fun until the rain came in and forced me to leave. Thanks Pastor David!! I can't wait to come back out for a few more lessons.

3.22.2011

Water dilemma... the well or the creek?

Jason and I had been toying with the idea to use creek water for our artisan gardening. We even had a plan in place for the irrigation system and the water lines were in place. After some consideration, we decided it would be best to talk with the Department of Natural Resources and ask for their advice on the matter. The most sustainable way to water would be to use a well. We not only want to use the purest water possible, we also want to protect and preserve the environment while not having to resort to chemically treated water. The well wins!
Now onto bigger things - our raised beds! So far we have gotten all the beds we need and now need to screen our topsoil. Maybe you are wondering why we are choosing to use raised beds....well, mostly because I work full time aside from the farming, and my goal is to actually ENJOY artisan gardening instead of having to spend every waking minute pulling weeds when I am not at my day job. When you plow the ground and plant in the ground - and plan on growing WITHOUT the use of chemicals for weeds, etc., you might as well let that garden be your full time job and as much as I would LOVE to work in a garden all day, I have to spend my days in an office .... wah! Maybe one day that will be a possibility.....
We have created a nice little screening contraption and it seems to work pretty efficiently - it is definitely a great upper body work out! We have a mixture of topsoil plowed from the woods underneath a whole fall and winters collection of leaves - and it is gorgeous and black, and mixed with some compost and manure, these will be prime growing beds!
The other goal before the end of the day is to transplant asparagus. We were lucky enough to have several heirloom plants dug up and given to us by Emma and Harry from the orchards where we got the blueberries and peaches last summer. This couple is moving some goats to their old garden space and asparagus is very toxic to goats, so they told us we are free to come and dig up as much as we want since it can't stay where it is at. Thanks guys!! 
The whole time I am planting this asparagus, Jason has to constantly remind me "don't pat down the soil" - I have no idea why I keep doing this...maybe because it reminds me of making mud pies as a kid...who knows? Any way, we get all the plants in one box and now it is time to take care of the goats and chickens. 
Eli and Sugar have been moved out to the acre next to the garden space and the chickens are kind of "in transit" at the moment. Maybe this weekend or next we will have all the animals down there with Brutus as the watchman.
The eggs are collected, the goats are watered and spoiled with a little sweet feed, and now it is time to get home. The sun is setting and the daylight is coming to an end. On the way home, I hit a deer and luckily wasn't hurt, just some car damage - and MY EGGS SURVIVED!!! 
All in all, it was a very productive day and I can't wait to get back out there! Today I am heading out to Abby's Apiary to pick up some honey for some of our egg buyers. Anyone want some?

3.20.2011

Abby's Apiary

One of the goals for About An Acre, is to connect people trying to live more sustainable to others with the same goal. Through networking we are establishing options for people seeking certain things that otherwise might not be an easy find. Today I have scheduled a visit with a man named David Hutchinson who has a small apiary called Abby's Apiary. He is a completely natural, chemical-free, pesticide-free bee keeper and understands the importance of keeping the integrity of bee hives naturally resistant to today's pests and fungi. 
I am terrified of bees, but part of this blog is overcoming my fears and anxieties associated with gardening, farming, and sustainable living. 
Once we get to David's home, he shows us some uninhabited bee hives and explains certain ways he goes about pest control using natural means and basically just outsmarting the pest. He explains that bees produce propolis, a natural means for the keeping the hive more resistant to parasites and bacterial growth. This is a very sticky substance, and to more commercial bee keepers, this substance called propolis is a nuisance and is an undesirable trait and therefore, over the years beekeepers have selected against this trait due to the difficulty it added while working colonies; sticky hive tools, fingers, or gloves in warm weather while in cooler temperatures frames, lids, and inner covers cemented together. David, on the other hand, actually wants and allows the bees to use all natural means including the propolis to keep his hives thriving and healthy. 
We walk over to his truck where there is a hive recently relocated and there are a few bees stealing the honey. I am obviously a little scared and ask how often he gets stung. He explains that bees, like any other being, when aggravated or irritated will act out. They aren't "out to get me" by any means, and if they sting you, they must think you are a big threat. The key is to approach them calmly and in a relaxed state so that they don't feel threatened by you. 
I am now ready to go to an active hive. I am terrified at first but see that he is calmly (and without any protective gear) moving about the bees and pulling out honeycombs to show me what is happening in side. This is really amazing and actually very therapeutic. He goes on to explain that as a bee keeper, you don't make plans to go out and "do this or that", but that you go out and see what the bees are doing. You work around the bees and do what they will allow you to do. All in all, I left feeling that all these years I had bees all wrong. I have a greater respect for them now and am eager to learn more! 
Now about the honey....
At the time of our visit I asked about his honey. Right now he has sour wood, blackberry, and wildflower. I asked if he had any "regular" flavored honey.....HA! Goes to show I have only had store bought and never been subjected to raw, unheated, varietal honey. He explains that the flavor comes from where the hives are placed. For example he has a few hives out in one man's blackberry field. The man wants the bees because they pollinate his blackberries and in turn, Abby's Apiary gets some delicious blackberry honey! Wow - so much to learn and it is so exciting!


3.10.2011

The word is spreading quickly!! You CAN really make a difference!!

So I got a phone call from Coy Campbell King of Clay Gardens this morning in regards to our little farm. He was asking about what should be planted and when. Honestly, the gardening aspect of this project is all brand spankin' new to us here at the acre, and unfortunately I have no clue how to do it "right", since this is my first year even sowing a seed. I was however able to offer up some tips on raising chickens and goats though since we started the animal portion of our farm last year when we acquired goats and hatched our first chicks.
It is truly amazing that so many people have access to gardenspace, but yet so few people actually get out there and do it - but this is just another example of someone who is looking to the future of food and learning to grow and provide for themselves and family and friends - and this is all a possibility. All you need is about an acre! I can't wait to be able to follow Clay Gardens and their progression with the gardenspace and goats and chickens! 
Stay tuned as we follow others as the temperatures get warmer and more people decide to break ground and grow their own food.