I have had a great start to the month, and I hope that you have too!
I haven't had much time this year to work on any new farming skills, and I wasn't able to garden this year, but I have big plans for next year, and I still planning on widening my knowledge and being as self-sufficient as possible this Fall and Winter, starting with the harvest.
So as a start to my October, the twins and I went apple picking.
We ended up picking 105 lbs of apples, although 30 of those went to the restaurant, and 10 or so I gave to my mom, so I have about 60 lbs left to use for sauces, and rings, and pie filling.
Now I just have to figure out how to make room for all of the canned goods I will be making.
I also was able to spend some time on my boss' farm, learning to drive a tractor, and playing with chickens, and I finally was able to break in my boots.
It's been a while since I last posted, and I apologize for that. Things have been crazy the last few months, between moving, and work (night shift is a killer), and being a mother, I haven't really had much time to do anything extra, and that includes writing on here. Fortunately though, I have finally been moved off of noc shift, so my schedule won't be all messed up, and I will actually be awake during the day. I also have some great news! I just got a new job at a local restaurant, that I have been wanting to work at since I first heard it was opening three months ago. The restaurant sources many ingredients from local farms, hosts workshops on topics like jam making and worm composting, and has its own lending library, full of books on cooking, gardening, and farming. I am hoping that this opportunity will help launch me into the field I plan to go into. In my new role I am doing everything from waiting tables, to cooking, to inventory, and learning all of the ins and outs of running a business. I absolutely love my new job, and I enjoy meeting all of the new people I've been able to meet, locally and from around the world. I couldn't ask for a better boss, and it's great to be treated like a team member, and to know that my suggestions are taken seriously.
Daffodils are blooming, frogs are croaking, birds are singing, seed catalogues have been arriving daily, weather is warming, days are getting longer, and the Oregon rain is beginning in earnest. Spring is just around the corner!
This year I am really trying to actively learn about and get involved in farming as much as I can, and as part of this goal I attended the Oregon Small Farm Conference on the 22nd of last month. I have been meaning to go the last couple years, but something always seems to come up to prevent me from going. This year, however, I made the extra effort and was able to go, and I am so glad that I did.
The day started by listening to keynote speaker Michael Ableman, who is a well known farmer, author, and sustainable agriculture advocate. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him talk about his experiences running an organic orchard on a commune as a young man, as well as his work on his current farm, Foxglove Farm, his urban farming project in Vancouver B.C., Sole Food, and his beliefs about how the food and farming systems should be organized. I was enthralled with his speech, hanging onto his every word, and I probably could have listened to him all day. I think it was hard for me to comprehend though that there were actually people out there who thought so similarly to me and had so many of the same basic beliefs.
The rest of the day consisted of three different sessions (and a very tasty locally grown and catered lunch), during which you could learn about different farming-related topics of your choosing and ask questions. My first session was on the topic of community food systems, and centered around the importance small farms play in changing the way the food system is set up, supporting local economic growth, and in making healthy, fresh food more accessible to everyone. This topic coincided with the topic of my second session, selling directly to SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) recipients, and I found their suggestions and ideas very useful, and many times rather creative. For instance, doubling the amount of produce that can be purchased with SNAP benefits (ex: $10 worth of produce with $5 worth of SNAP funds), and covering the difference with money collected from fundraisers, such as a "pie walk" at the farmers' market.
The third session I attended was on using draft animals in farming, mostly horses, which I very much enjoyed listening to, and through this I was able to finally get contacts of people who are experienced in using draft horses and offer training. I plan on focusing on draft power, as opposed to tractor power, when I finally get my farm going, and I have been trying to find someone who will train me in working with them, so this was definitely a highlight of my day.
The day ended with a capnote session made up of a panel of four farmers, including Michael Ableman, who answered questions and talked about profitability on the farm. I definitely was able to get some great information throughout the day, that I will actually be able to use on my journey to starting my own farm, and I also was able to get some good contacts for internships and training. Most importantly though, I was able to spend the day among people who were equally as passionate about this way of life as I am, and it greatly motivated me to work more actively towards my goals.
I can proudly say I tried my hand at canning, and it was (mostly) a success. I have meaning to use my canner for the better part of two years, and I finally decided to buy some apples and try it out. I wasn't sure how many to use, and I figured that I should make a huge batch my first time, so I ended up buying around 20 apples to start off with.
After barely fitting the apple slices into two large pans, it definitely seemed like I was going to end up with more applesauce then I did, but I guess I didn't realize how much they would boil down.
I did have to adlib a little here and there. For example, I didn't have a foodmill, so I ended up using a sausage grinder/stuffer attachment on a mixer for this, and it did work surprisingly well. I also completely forgot about my canning funnel, and couldn't find it in time, so I did get a couple burnt fingers when I dropped boiling applesauce on them as I was trying to ladle it into the jars.
Luckily though, I didn't make any major mistakes and I ended up with for jars of delicious (if I do say so myself), homemade applesauce. I will just have to remember to be a little better prepared next time, in order to save my fingers.
So I haven't posted in a while, but I definitely have things to write about; pictures, and events, and even a tutorial to post, so bare with me as I get it all together and write it down. Looking forward to a new year of things to share! :)