The Puppy and the Toilet Brush

What’s the last present that brought you unlimited joy?

Two weeks before Christmas, Russ and I climbed into the zombie truck and took a ride to Bishop, California. We aired up the tires, stashed emergency items under the seats, and told people where we were going. A big storm was predicted for that weekend, clogging up Donner Pass with snow and inundating the Reno area with rain.

We could have waited another weekend, but we’d already postponed this trip due to lack of funds. It was now or never.

My presents are rarely high-dollar. May through July get expensive: we pack in Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays for my husband and both kids, and my $150 massage license renewal into three months. By the time October rolls around, there isn’t much left; if there is, it’s used for canning season and stocking up for winter. So, this year’s birthday and Christmas were lumped together. And it was the most expensive present for anyone in the family.

Ripley was born on my birthday. Her mother is German Shepherd, her father a leopard Catahoula, both weighing 70 pounds.

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Each moment with her has been either joy or exasperation. Hot or cold. Because she has two speeds: sleeping or psycho. Her nicknames include Psycho Puppy, Monster, or Turd Bucket, depending on what she has just done. And she answers to all of them.

Gozer, our almost-four-year-old German Shepherd, is a great big brother. He rarely loses patience with her and loves to have a playmate. We didn’t expect such tolerance. Whenever Ripley is in Psycho Puppy mode, we can tell Gozer, “Hey, take the kid outside.” And he’ll lead her out into the yard to roughhouse.

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She loves toys, and we’ve bought a few for her, but her favorite is a toilet brush that she discovered on her second day home. And we let her have it because it was relatively clean, the damage was already done, and there were worse things she could be chewing on. (We do live on a farm.) Soon her second-favorite toy, a stick with yarn wrapped around it, got merged with the brush. She recently discovered that she can chase my 17-year-old son with the brush and he will run. It’s hilarious to watch this just-over-20-lb puppy chase an almost-grown kid around the yard because he doesn’t want to touch the brush.

Yesterday, while purchasing rabbit and chicken pellets at Green’s Feed, we also purchased a basted pork bone. I know, we should have bought three, for all three dogs. But I wanted to save the extra $20 for Zambia.

The bone went first to Ripley as Gozer looked on, an injured expression on his face. He and Tater got storebought bacon-Playdough-type treats. But it didn’t take long for Gozer to steal the bone. Ripley was not happy with that. She knew it had been given to her first. As Gozer lay on the floor, gnawing the bone, Ripley barked. She’d whine, look to us for help, then bark again. Finally, she decided to negotiate. Running outside, she grabbed her beloved toilet brush and dropped it beside Gozer. Then she barked, nudged the brush closer, and barked again.

Such a selfless offer. I wonder why Gozer didn’t want the toilet brush instead of the bone?

What gift have you received which has brought joy? I want to hear about it!

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2016 in a Chaotic Nutshell

Have you ever had a task you needed to do? And the more you put it off, the more it caused anxiety? Then months pass and you still haven’t done it?

For me, that’s writing a blog post.

I write almost daily, whether for Countryside or Backyard Poultry Magazines or one of my books. But writing about me? About what I’m up to, my goals or dreams? Or even the weekly farm mishap which resulted in animal poop spread everywhere it shouldn’t be? (Trust me, those are weekly.)

I haven’t been blogging. But I need to. Especially now that life is ramping up fast.

So, though I realize the well-intentioned futility of New Year’s Resolutions, it just happens to be New Year’s at the time that I decide I must blog weekly. Whether anyone reads it is another story. But I’ll do it. And I’ll try not to make every episode about poop.

Today is just going to be a roundup of what has happened this year.

On the Farm:

Though we have the same chickens and rabbits we’ve kept for a few years, this April we got turkeys. And we opened the door to a lot of turkey-related drama.

After settling six poults under Jerk, my ever-broody lavender amercaucana hen, we promptly lost two. Turkeys do that, they say. I was concerned because they weren’t all mine; four would go to Caidyn of Edlund Family Farm as soon as they were old enough to live outside without a mother. That meant, if I lost another of mine, I’d be raising a lone turkey. And turkeys can actually die of loneliness. I answered a Craigslist ad for newly hatched poults. My husband drove fifteen miles to choose some that weren’t dark (my hen is racist. Remind me to tell you that story sometime.)

Jerk raised the poults to eight weeks, at which point they contracted turkey rhinotracheitis. Essentially, a turkey cold. Which is a virus. Which can’t be cured with antibiotics. Which has to run its course. Through my connections with Countryside and Backyard Poultry, I received advice from Rhonda Crank of The Farmer’s Lamp.

Rhonda said, “Turkeys are so susceptible to respiratory issues until they reach a mature age. There really is nothing to do except keep their litter and living area as dry as possible. I would offer ACV water too, to help their immune systems. This is a virus so there are no medications for it. They should recover fine, but if (she) notices them becoming lethargic she may want to offer an antibiotic because secondary respiratory issues may be developing. You know I don’t medicate anything we’re going to eat. When we had a bout of this, we did ACV water, sprinkled in brewer’s yeast over their food, and kept things clean and dry. Ours did recover from this.”

And our turkeys did, as well. They received a couple penicillin shots when their snotty noses developed a foul odor. And though I agree with Rhonda about not medicating what we have to eat, there were going to be months between medication and slaughter. Russ and I decided to medicate.

Three turkeys went to Edlund Family Farm, where they became Thanksgiving dinner. We butchered one for a Christmas party and have two left.

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In the Garden:

“So how is your garden doing this year?”

“Ugh. I don’t want to talk about it.”

That was the response all around Reno in 2016, especially among those of us who are supposed to be good gardeners, making the desert bloom and flourish. The biggest problem was the weather. It was cold, with the final frost date on May 19th. Then, by June 1st, temperatures reached 100 degrees. Vegetables like temperate weather, 70-80 degrees. And we had probably 20 days of that during the entire growing season. It rained once between the first day of summer and the last, and that rain lasted not even fifteen minutes.

We brought in enough food to fill our four-person table, during the growing season. But we weren’t able to preserve a thing.

So, though our freezers are full from the pig I purchased for Russ’ birthday present, and from foods I found through extreme discount shopping skills, it is not full of vegetables. We are already purchasing produce from the store. I’m not happy about it, but that’s the life of a farmer. Even a small-scale urban farmer.

With the Family:

I like being able to say my family hasn’t had too much excitement. With turkey colds and gardening disasters, I love settling in with teenagers who aren’t getting drunk or pregnant. A husband who works his butt off to feed his family. General agreement that, the harder we work, the more we have (even if not everyone feels that way on the same day.)

Joe is 17 this year and will be graduating in June! We’re so excited! It’s been a long, hard road as he learned to tackle his high-functioning autism and got a handle on his place in the world. But he will graduate. And we’re so proud of him.

Sahara and Russ are also good. Sahara is still learning culinary skills in high school and Russ is still as supportive as ever. No matter how high I rise, he’s pushing at my feet to send me higher.

My Career:

Though I’ve been writing for Backyard Poultry’s blog since 2013, I signed my latest contract with Countryside Magazine in November of 2015, I feel this year has been the big push for my writing career. It’s when my name was in every print issue from March on forward. When I had strangers say, “Are you the Marissa Ames who writes for Countryside?” When I’d meet new friends on Facebook and they’d just happen to have an issue of Countryside on their coffee tables at the moment we made introductions.

2016 was the year I amped up my writing career, admitting that it wasn’t going to push further unless I did. It’s when I approached conventions and expos about press passes so I could find more to write about. When I attended meet-and-greets with big names in the agricultural and horticultural world.

And as far as my other career, as a massage therapist…so far, I’ve only had to cancel a few appointments when I went away for the National Heirloom Expo. But those clients were so happy for me that they were willing to reschedule.

And now, for two announcements which are super exciting and happening very soon:

I’m currently working on a new novel, which I feel has much more potential than the Tir Athair series ever did.

When people develop strange symptoms in Miami, it’s immediately blamed on drugs. Tremors and slurred speech develop into a need to scrape skin off. Some victims hallucinate and turn violent while others soon lose all motor function. And every victim dies. When the disease moves to America’s grain belt, epidemiologists argue whether it’s bacterial, viral, or parasitical. The terrifying truth is discovered too late, after most Americans are exposed: domestic terrorists have infected the country’s wheat with a prion causing an aggressive form of mad cow disease. Now Shiloh, a homesteading mother in Reno, Nevada, struggles to get her family out of the city and to a safe place where she can control their food and the dangers they face. This story is told from Shiloh’s snarky and imaginative viewpoint and is a wild ride full of tension, laughter, and enough scientific truth to make your skin crawl.

And the other announcement:

I’m going to Zambia in January! My friend Heidi, who is co-founder of the charity She Talks to the World, needs someone to consult on gardening and agricultural issues. They girls’ school, which the charity runs, has recently purchased twelve acres and needs to feed the girls and a community, in addition to providing a cash crop. This January trip is to assess the land before they build the school and to write a business plan to get everything going.

The whole project will take several years, as I travel back and forth to help build the farm, plant, and to teach the girls how to grow and harvest their food. And I’ll be documenting everything and writing a book, from which I’ll donate 100% profits back to the charity.

To read more about this, check out these links:

She Talks to the World

My plea on YouCaring to help fund the endeavor

My Patreon profile, where I’ll do most of my updates and hope for patronage to help as I craft the book.

And into 2017…

Whew! That’s just a digest of 2016. The fact that I’ve been unable to blog shows how busy I’ve really been. But I promise to give you something each week, even if it’s 500 words of the latest poop story (I told you, there are lots of those) to tide you over until I talk about Zambia or the book or something else way more exciting.

Thank you and happy new year!

Posted in Farm Updates, Gardening Articles, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

What are GMOs?

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What are GMOs? Are you avoiding them because someone said they’re bad, or do you actually know what they entail?

The Issue of Misinformation

Did you know you can now buy GMO-free hummus?

When I saw the ad, I gave my husband a funny look. “Does hummus even contain GMO products?” I’ve written articles on GMOs in regards to seed saving. Were there now GMO chickpeas to make this labeling necessary? Grabbing my phone, I Googled and confirmed what I already knew. “Unless they’re using corn oil instead of olive, it wouldn’t have GMOs anyway.”

My husband shrugged. “Well, they’re also selling it as gluten free.”

Traditional hummus has chickpeas, sesame paste called tahini, olive oil, salt, and maybe spices like garlic, roasted red peppers, or olive tapenade. It’s naturally going to be both non-GMO and gluten-free unless their proprietary recipe also contains stuff like sugar, corn syrup, corn oil, cornstarch, or wheat starch. This is another reason to know what you’re eating and read the label. You could be paying more for wording.

So what are GMOs?

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. It is a plant or animal that has been scientifically modified, within a lab, to contain genes from another plant or animal. It can also be called genetic engineering.

Haven’t people been genetically modifying foods for years?

Cross-breeding and genetic engineering are different. Cross-breeding involves introducing plants or animals that can naturally interbreed, through traditional methods. Such as letting an Angus bull into a herd of Jersey heifers. Or cross-pollinating a small yellow tomato with a robust red one, in hopes of creating a larger, more robust variety. You cannot cross-breed a plant or animal outside its own genus. A wolf can breed with a domesticated dog but a wolf cannot breed with a mountain lion.

Genetic engineering goes further than this. Corn can contain genes from carrots; tomatoes can contain genes from fish.

 

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Heirloom potato varieties

Why are scientists doing this?

The intentions behind GMOs are good. Golden Rice, for instance, would have beta-carotene, giving it the golden color. Cultivating Golden Rice in third-world countries could prevent 670,000 childhood deaths per year from vitamin A deficiency.

But the crops created for humanitarian purposes haven’t gone very far because of public opposition. Including Golden Rice. What have gone far, though, are crops created for commerce. Soybeans and corn which don’t die when Roundup herbicide is sprayed on them, for instance. The intentions are to reduce work for the farmer. No weeds, more commodity food. Other GMO crops have been developed to resist viruses which could devastate an entire industry. Or to reduce carcinogens created during high-temperature cooking.

Are GMOs safe?

So far, GMOs have not been found to be any more dangerous or unhealthy than the non-GMO version of the same food…unless the food contains genes from something to which you are allergic. Such as cabbage containing genes from Brazil nuts, since Brazil nuts don’t naturally have insect predators. And some labs have tried this: fish genes in a tomato is one of them. The fish genes would have made the tomato resistant to long and cold storage during shipment.

Luckily, smart people realized this is a problem and stopped those projects before they ever hit the market.

What about the herbicides you mentioned?

That’s a different story. Organic and non-GMO are two completely different things, though they are often confused. Non-GMO does not mean pesticide free. It means it has not been genetically engineered.

But the United States and Canada do not allow products labeled “100% Certified Organic” to contain any GMO ingredients. So eating foods with this label guarantees you won’t consume GMOs.

So why should I avoid GMOs?

Whether you avoid them or not is up to you. It’s up to your budget and your ethics.

Some people avoid GMOs simply because somebody else told them to. Someone said they are bad so people cry out about them, go on marches to protest them, and spread the word. But they do this without even knowing what they’re protesting.

The main reasons to avoid GMOs are because cultivation of these crops often involves unethical agricultural practices: Broad-spectrum herbicides sprayed on something intended for human consumption. Monoculture on commodity farms that leave no room for biodiversity. Disappearance of old heirloom crop varieties. Lengthy, air-tight contracts that can strip a farmer of his livelihood if he violates them in any way. Even if he simply violates them by growing crops that acquired the GMOs because of wind drift from another farm.

Where can I buy non-GMO seeds?

Anywhere. They are not available to the public. You cannot purchase them from seed supply companies because acquiring this seed means entering into these lengthy contracts. It’s something companies like Monsanto do with commodity farmers, not hobby farmers or gardeners. And if the seeds you purchase are from crops that do not yet have GMO versions, you’re completely safe.

The only way you can acquire GMO seed is if you receive it from someone who saved seed from a GMO crop or saved seed that was grown in very close proximity to a farm with GMO crops. And that is possible, especially with corn. That’s why companies like Baker Creek grow their heirloom corn in very isolated areas, because pollen can drift over a mile in the wind.

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Heirloom corn varieties

What foods are GMO?

  • 90% of all corn and soybeans grown commercially within the United States. If your food contains corn or soybeans in any form, it probably contains GMOs. Corn is also used extensively as food for almost all livestock.
  • Canola, which is used in cooking oil, margarine, and processed food. If the ingredients say “emulsifier,” it might be canola.
  • Sugarbeets. Unless your sugar specifically says it’s 100% cane sugar, it could contain beet sugar.
  • GMO alfalfa is available to feed animals. Livestock which may consume alfalfa include cattle, sheep, poultry, and rabbits.
  • Cotton, which is available in food form as cottonseed oil or within food for livestock.
  • Papaya, with GMOs specifically for insect resistance. Grown mostly in Hawaii, approved in the United States.
  • Several varieties of commercially grown potatoes. This is most likely to appear in processed foods like French fries.
  • Several varieties of commercially grown summer squash, like zucchini.
  • The first GMO apple has been approved for the market. It’s called Arctic and isn’t yet widely available.
  • AquAdvantage salmon was approved for food use in 2015.
  • GMO eggplant is approved only for Bangladesh. GMO sugarcane is only approved for Indonesia.
  • Though it’s not a food, tobacco was the first GMO crop.
  • GMO tomatoes have been created but are not approved by the USDA and therefore aren’t available. The same with beets (other than sugarbeets), rice, and flax.

How do I avoid GMOs?

Know which crops could be GMO. Why spend more on the “Non-GMO” hummus when the cheaper variety also doesn’t contain ingredients that could be GMO? Learn which foods could be culprit and purchase heirloom varieties of them, such as ancient creole corns or wild-caught salmon. Read labels. And if you can’t completely avoid them, learn why the crops have been modified. To avoid papaya mosaic virus? Or to resist Roundup? This allows you to make choices based on agricultural practices, which helps you avoid herbicide consumption.

Grow your own. If you have a little garden space, use it to cultivate the crops you’re trying to avoid. Great choices are heirloom potatoes or sweet corn.

Know your local farmer. Is she growing heirloom corn? Does she raise her beef using alfalfa and feed corn which are non-GMO? Purchase from her and spread the word. You’ll support her livelihood, create awareness, and feel more secure about your own diet.

What else can I do?

The two strongest things you can do are to stay educated and to vote with your wallet.

Currently, there is a huge battle for GMO labeling. The armies are food advocates vs. corporations, and the warriors are sitting within Senate and Congress.

If you don’t know which crops are GMO, it’s difficult to avoid them. And thinking that all foods are GMO just builds unnecessary panic. Eat a sweet potato instead of a potato. Eat quinoa instead of corn. And don’t go spreading misinformation. If you want your community to also avoid GMOs, tell them what GMOs are and why it’s a problem. Don’t just insist they avoid GMOs because “they are bad.”

Voting with your wallet means simply not purchasing products you don’t agree with. That March against Monsanto loses a lot of meaning if you go home and eat cornbread, or French fries cooked in canola oil, afterward. If you keep buying it, farmers keep growing it and corporations keep providing it. Consuming heirloom corn still supports farmers. And the more you buy the heirloom varieties, the more farmers will be convinced to invest in them.

 Again, whether you decide to avoid GMOs is a personal decision. But ensuring it’s an educated decision goes a long way.

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Hearty Oat-Nut Flatbreads

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This recipe came about when I was living off food storage for a month in order to get material for magazine articles. By day 15, all the store-bought bread, milk, and butter were long gone. Eggs would be, as well, if I didn’t have chickens roaming my backyard. I needed bread for quick sandwiches to keep my family from chowing down on all the other easily accessible foods and ignoring two fully stocked freezers and a pantry of mason jars. Luckily I keep a lot of grains, flours, and oils within the freezer beside the meat.

(Please excuse the quality of the photos. My photographer is rarely around for spontaneous cooking experiences.)

Allergies or dietary exclusions: The eggs and pecans can be omitted without affecting the success of the bread. Any sugars or fats/oils can be exchanged equally for other versions. This bread cannot be made gluten-free.

 

Hearty Oat-Nut Flatbreads

Makes 20-24 flatbreads

 

  • 3 cups bread or all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup flaxseed meal
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup pecan gems
  • 2 packages (1 and ½ tablespoons) active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ cup deeply flavored natural sugar such as honey, real maple syrup, raw sugar, or light molasses
  • ¼ cup oil, such as rendered lard, softened butter, or olive oil
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 cups warm water
  • Additional olive oil for rising

 

Regarding ingredients: Within this recipe, whole wheat flour, flaxseed meal, and rolled oats may be exchanged for equal volumes of other multigrain ingredients such as teff, rye, wheat germ, or cooked and cooled multigrain hot cereal. Do not exchange any white/bread flour unless you add a few tablespoons of vital wheat gluten to make the dough soft and stretchy. Eggs add rich protein and texture but omission will not cause bread failure. Pecans can be exchanged for any nuts or dried fruit, or they can be omitted, only affecting flavor and texture. Choose sugar based on allergies or desired flavor. Maple syrup makes an excellent complement to both oats and pecans. White sugar will help the yeast rise but it won’t add much flavor while molasses will be deep and noticeable. And though all oils can be used in equal volume, including palm oil or shortening, lard is a non-hydrogenated way to achieve the best texture.

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Mix all flours/oats. Within a large bowl, combine three cups flour with the nuts, yeast, and salt. Add sugar and oil then mix with electric beaters until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the warm water and blend until relatively smooth. Add both eggs and blend again. Slowly add the remaining flour, blending until the mixture is too thick for electric beaters.

Turn dough out onto a counter and work in the remaining flour. Kneed for ten minutes, adding additional flour as necessary to ensure dough is not sticky. Don’t knead for less time because ten minutes is necessary to work the gluten together to compensate for the non-gluten ingredients.

Place dough within a well-oiled bowl, turning dough so all surfaces are coated. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and set in a warm location to rise for one hour, until double.

Heat a griddle or skillet on medium-high. Pinch dough off into balls about the size of a chicken egg. On a well-floured surface, roll one ball as thinly as possible. Gently set round of dough onto the hot skillet. Cook for up to one minute, depending on individual stoves, or until the raised edges of the bottom surface are browned but the rest of the dough is not. Carefully flip bread over and cook another fifteen to thirty seconds. Immediately remove bread from the pan and allow it to cool on a plate. Repeat with all balls of dough.

Keep flatbreads soft and moist by allowing them to cool slightly then sliding into a zippered gallon-size freezer bag. Stack two or three flatbreads within the bag then flip the entire unit over and stack more flatbreads within. Keep turning with every few additions to allow the bread to steam and distribute moisture inside instead of drying in the open air. If you plan to serve the bread soon, keep them warm by placing the freezer bag inside a folded towel.

All natural bread will turn moldy in less than a week. Freeze, the same day, what you do not plan to consume. If it is frozen fresh, the bread will thaw to be almost as good as if it was just made.

Use the flatbreads for peanut butter sandwiches, meat fillings, or simply as a quick treat.

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Resolutions and Feminists (Or: Plans for 2016)

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New Year’s Resolutions are like feminists: if you ask most people about intentions behind the concept, they agree it’s an excellent idea. But the name itself has gotten a bad rep. So people use the word less and less until they stand up and take ownership for it.

But it’s okay to make goals at the start of the year. Or changes. Alter your behavior. Focus on something new. State, emphatically, that you intend to go down a different path. (Wait…aren’t those Resolutions?)

I think people are against negative feelings resulting from resolutions gone wrong. It’s like feminists who speak out against someone resistant to stop doing what he’s doing. Whether or not a change has to be made, the negative feelings remain. When New Year’s Resolutions are broken, people feel like failures. Or they spark guilt or alienation within someone completely unrelated to the resolution.

But if I say my “goal” is to lose twenty pounds, I get a resounding, “Good for you!” “Way to go!” “Best of luck!”

No matter what word you put on it, changes for the better affect more than just one person. Good ripples out, inspiring others. It’s never a bad idea to make good changes.

This year began with more goals than last year. I’m optimistic, acknowledging that you don’t reach high places without climbing there yourself. If I want to sell more books and acquire a larger following I have to spread my “brand” further. I need to give people more of what I want.

So far, these changes are planned for 2016:

  1. A homesteader’s club is in the works for the Reno/Sparks area. After we designate a public meeting place and schedule, it will be open to all people (until their behavior makes them no longer welcome.) It will be a source of education, networking, and support. Eventually we hope to start sub-groups like beekeeping, gardening, a focus on breeding endangered heritage animals, etc. We also want to market our products and services to each other, publish newsletters, and hold homesteading fairs within the community. Our first meeting is in February and we are going to move slowly so we do it right.
  2. I need a YouTube channel. Followers have requested one for years. I haven’t done it because I know nothing about making videos and I believe I don’t have the best stage presence. But several years of speaking at conventions has helped me improve on stage. I’ve teamed up with a young lady who hopes to focus on computers as her career and I hope we can grow together as we both get more followers.
  3. We need a physical product. Not just a book. I write and teach about making candles, cheese, and soaps. I advocate small-scale farming and purchasing local products. Helping low-income families is important because people have done it for me. So we’re going to start an online store. I’ve chosen two amazing women who have been on my “team” for a long time as I advertise and raise seedlings. They’re going to run my online store and benefit from sales. We’ll sell homesteading products: what you need to make the projects I teach. Beeswax, yarn purchased from small family farms, rennet for cheesemaking, aprons and potholders crafted by local families in need of a sales outlet. As we start small, we’ll just be online and at craft fairs. But I’m hoping to expand as demand increases.
  4. I need to write more. Already I’m crafting dozens of articles a month for Countryside and Backyard Poultry. But I need to write more for my fans. My blogs have been dismally silent lately because I focus on other endeavors. So in order to reach out more to my fans, I need to craft one blog post a week, for either or both websites, tweet at least once a week, and post on both Facebook pages at least once a week. If other homesteading authors would like a little outreach, I would love to have them guest-blog with a blurb on Facebook and Twitter. I’ll probably have to write this on my calendar because I have a strong habit of taking care of more immediate needs and pushing the smaller stuff back. But just as I’ve stopped following authors who wait years to put out another book, followers will turn to someone else if I’m not capturing their attention.

And if these goals…resolutions, or whatever…don’t come to fruition, I’ll try again next year. It’s a lot to take on in addition to everything I intend to keep doing. I have an amazing team, a supportive family, and loyal followers. It’ll be hard work but we can get it done.

I would love input. What goals do you have this year? What would you like to learn from Ames Family Farm? What products would you like to see?

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What’s Up?

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Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve sat down and written a post specifically for this blog. But I often get questions and comments from people seeking help with local zoning laws for livestock. Thank you for using Ames Family Farm as a resource.

I started Ames Family Farm about 2.5 years ago to secure the identity in case I proceeded with my crazy business ideas such as opening a greenhouse, creating a local homesteading educational circuit, or even just publishing a few books on the lifestyle. Soon after AFF went live, an editor from Backyard Poultry Magazine sought me out and invited me to blog for the magazine. I was flattered. After thinking it over for a short time I agreed. My posts have appeared on Backyard Poultry Magazine’s website for over two years now.

In October and November of the same year I became a published author. Life changed drastically. I was the same person but with more responsibilities. I still needed my day job and farm, and my family still needed me. In addition I had writing, editing, marketing, book signings, and public speaking engagements. September of 2014 brought the next novel, Vassal, into print. At that point I struggled with the promises I had made. I was stretched too far and had to choose. So that November I chose not to attempt NaNoWriMo, a huge month-long writing push that produced both Minstrel and Vassal. I regret that. I wish I had taken the opportunity to bring another book to life during a time when I didn’t have to garden.

January of 2015 brought delightful surprises: Finch Lee and Countryside Magazines asked me to write for them, and friends shared my name as the local resource for homesteading help. I gladly accepted. And as I chose new seed varieties and mentored budding homesteaders, I recognized that I’ve finally surrounded myself with what I love: writing, homesteading, helping people, and sharing with those I cherish.

one day harvest

So where are we now? As I write for all three outlets, I’ve decided to revitalize my Ames Family Farm site for my works in progress. At the same time I grapple with the harvest and pack as much food into storage as I can. The garden is going crazy. And so am I. But the season’s end is in sight and after that I’m back to writing.

Plans for Ames Family Farm: Thanks to the magazines my identity is snowballing. That’s a good thing! I’d like to become a local and national resource for information regarding small-scale and low-income urban homesteading. Expect more how-to articles focusing on a simpler, more natural way of doing things that save much more money than they cost. Whether these are original or reposted from the magazines, they’ll help you move toward self-reliance.

I want to help you. Want to learn something new? Do you have a question about livestock or zoning? A crop variety that you’d like to try but want some input? A product you’ve seen but want discussed before you shell out the money? Email me at americanvalkyrie@hotmail.com with your questions. I will try to test it out and write about it. Publication of the post may take awhile if testing involves several seasons. I’m also available to review products and write about them. (Homesteading products only. No multi-level-marketing, please.)

To keep information going I would like to open this blog up to guest writers. If you have a blog post you wish to include, please email me at americanvalkyrie@hotmail.com with your idea and we will go from there. Acceptable topics are gardening, homesteading, family life, sustainability, non-GMO and heirlooms, education, advocacy…and many more. Unacceptable topics include anything that’s meant to sell your product (especially if the product has no direct link to homesteading,) issues that have nothing to do with homesteading, offensive posts, or posts that are poorly written and need extensive editing. Other topics may be discussed through email. By guest writing, you’ll be able to include links to your websites, have a bio which also talks about your websites or businesses, and receive coverage on the Ames Family Farm Facebook page. I reserve the right to accept or decline any idea or blog post and to edit posts in regards to spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Canning Shelf 2

In November I’ll retreat from society and write the next book. I have three (three!) in the works:

Huntsman: The third book of Tir Athair, Huntsman takes place about twenty years after Vassal. A condemned man’s execution wagon makes a wrong turn at the market square and Jayce is offered a second chance with indentured servitude. The Saoiran king needs men to hunt a breed of golden bear that interferes with expanding civilization. But when Jayce arrives in Tir Saoirse he learns the truth of the hunting camp, the golden bear, and the mad queen behind the king’s demands, he becomes prey in a foreign kingdom. His only salvation may be the very “bear” he was hired to hunt.

(Working title PAH): I can’t tell you all my secrets but I can tell you this: PAH is book one of a three-book series that helps you homestead…in the city, with no money, using it to climb out of a poor situation. Or just because you want to. The PAH series will contain hacks, tips, and tricks so you can accomplish more than you thought possible in your environment.

(Working title Project 1712): Again, I can’t tell too many secrets until I have a copyright slapped onto my words. But Project 1712 will include a year of research plus historical references to discuss how our attempts to modernize and simplify our food have instead complicated our health when Mother Nature had it right all along.

Which one will be in print first? My muse has more control over that than anything. But since I’m finally working the jobs I love, I want to give my husband the same opportunity. And the fantasy fiction industry has a lot of competition. Homesteading is red hot right now. I’m leaning toward PAH or Project 1712.

I’m so excited about where AFF has gone since I started a whimsical blog without many expectations. Here’s to more exciting developments. Until next time…Happy Homesteading!

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Eat It Like You Grew It.

Finch Lee

The modern world has gone insane.

Atkins, Paleo, hCG. Is your head spinning yet? How do you eat to maintain optimal health? Trust Mother Nature! If you grew every item you consumed, she would align the priorities for you. Take a look:

Greens

greensThe Rundown: Greens fuel growth, protect our unborn children, and fight cancer. Nutritionists claim multivitamins are unnecessary if you eat a balanced diet with leafy greens.

Like You Grew It: Most greens can grow below freezing. Picked within 30 days of planting, lettuce produces until the hottest summer months. A 12-inch planter of loose-leaf lettuce can provide four large salads a week. Shallow roots thrive in just inches of soil, perfect for any gardener with a patch of sunshine. Swiss chard, the vegetable of the apocalypse, flourishes in the summer heat and still survives the winter. Dandelions and purslane, two of the most nutritious greens, are…

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