Category Archives: farm

9th Annual Immigrant and Minority Farmer Conference

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the 9th annual Immigrant and Minority farming conference. I have been on the planning committee for the past 3 years. This just makes me appreciate the conference more. Some of you may not know but farming is hard work, and it can be very isolating. It can also be emotionally draining especially when you run a CSA and you have customers that are depending on you but there is nothing you can do about the weather, little you can do about water and pests, well they can be overwhelming. You know the product you want to give but sometimes it just doesn’t happen and all you can do is pick-up and try again next year.

For new farmers starting out there is even more strain, couple that with language and cultural barriers and it is a wonder anyone farms. So why do we? It’s because this is who we are, we have to be growing stuff, we love seeing the process even when it doesn’t work out exactly like you expected. One farming friend of ours who has been farming for 6 years says one thing she loves about the conference is “I don’t feel like a failure here.”

Yes going to this conference is a lot like coming home. I only see some of these farmers once a year but it is fun to catch up and share experiences. Yes it was a great rejuvenating weekend. I am sad to see it go.

Juan Garcia of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) addresses the group.

Farmers visit the exhibits.

Here’s to a great year for all of us.

Meet Miracle

As Ma Ingalls would say, “there is no great loss without some small gain.” In this case it is a pretty big gain. The cold weather has been really hard on the animals. Couple that with the fact that last fall there was an “accidental” breeding, in the fact that my efforts to keep the male and female goats separated failed. I was really hoping that just because they were together that didn’t mean that there was any breeding. But last Wednesday night I was doing chores. I had suspicions but still convinced myself no there wasn’t an early breeding. But the next morning I found out that I was wrong. This little girl was nearly dead, her mother had cleaned her up but was unable to help her further until I arrived to do chores. I put her in my coat and rushed back to the house. I brought the hair dryer and heating pad and we were able to revive her.

Unfortunately there were 3 babies born that morning to 2 females. What are the odds right? Two babies did not survive. So it was definitely bitter sweet that this little girl made it. Now she is living in our house. There is no way we can introduce her back to the barn until temperatures are in at least the twenties consistently. With this winter I am assuming it will be 3-4 months.

Her mom really misses her and we have been milking both the mothers, though unfortunately one will not have babies returned to her.

It really threw me off last week. It was a big reminder that when you have animals you are responsible for so much. It has been a wonderful learning lesson for the children though. I am so proud of how there are stepping up and helping with the bottle feedings and playing with her and taking care of her. They were very sad about the babies that didn’t survive but are throwing all their efforts into this little girl they named Miracle.

She won’t be able to follow us around the house for too long but right now everyone in the family loves having her, even Hiro, our aging dog. He has seen a lot of new life come into this family and he loves all of it.

Very sad for our loss but happy for this gain.

Meet The Doeuns

I have to admit that after the Duck Dynasty fiasco around Christmas time I was curious so I watched the show for the first time and admittedly liked it. See I am attracted to real people, quirky people, funny people, people who are comfortable in their own skin. Even if I don’t agree with them. One thing I noticed on the show is when the family says, “You’re a Robertson” they all seem to have an idea of what that means.

I was reminded of one of my favorite movies, “Meet the Robinsons” where a young boy finds the family he always wanted in a surprising way. The Robinsons are definitely quirky but also perfect, they also have a family identity and slogan, “Keep Moving Forward.”

It got me thinking, who exactly are the Doeuns. I know the family that I grew up in was all about history and animals. The family Proeun grew up in was all about family, even extended family. But who are we?

I can tell you what we love–family, food, animals, and learning especially about the things previously mentioned. Family is a driving force for us. It is what brought us to farming, what drives us to pursue a simple life, it is fun, it is comforting.

Food is also a driving force. We love great food, especially with simple, fresh ingredients (which pretty much describes Cambodian food). I love cooking, baking and creating tasty food, now I have 3 little girls (and sometimes I can pull the boy away from TV to join us) who love cooking with mommy and we can combine two interests. Proeun’s and my idea of a great date night is cooking something together in the kitchen.

Animals also are a great passion. When our oldest was 3 we went to the State Fair’s “Miracle of Birth Center” the next 45 minutes were very stressful for this mama as he seemed on a mission to touch and look at every animal regardless of the crowds of where his parents were. When we moved to the farm we were advised not to get animals right away but that was a huge reason we wanted to move. Now we love learning about animals and how to better care for them. We might have a horse trainer in the family, maybe a veterinarian, who knows.

Learning is great. Our philosophy is that you should always be learning. Farming is great for challenging you mentally and physically. There is always something to learn. This is also why we homeschool, because we want to make sure the children have time to pursue their interests and get fired up about learning.

Finally we love the outdoors, though some of us more then others (we have a princess in our midst who would much rather stay inside but she humors us). We love being outdoors whether working, playing, learning or cooking.

Yes now I have a bit more of an idea of what it means to be a Doeun and I hope you do to.

Midwinter Fun

Seasonal living is pretty new to me. By seasonal living I mean enjoying the here and now for what it has to offer and not constantly looking forward to the next thing. For example enjoying home life, long evenings relaxing and crafting, comfort foods, stories and homeschool in full swing during the winter. And loving the long days, evenings playing outdoors, warm weather and hearty work of the summer months and everything in between. I really love it.

But this winter what can I say? As much as I love winter I am dreaming a bit of spring, a lot of spring. The polar vortex wasn’t as hard on us as I thought it would be. My chores outfit is perfect. Some great long johns I picked up at TJ Max ages ago, army fatigues from my dad, a carhart jacket from my mom, rubber boots from Fleet Farm a Fleece hood and lined work gloves from the local feed store and I was quite comfortable working outside. We stressed out quite a bit about the animals and even considered bringing them all to the garage but knew that wasn’t practical so we made them as comfortable as possible and hoped for the best and they did quite well actually. One morning I was out early and found out how the goats slept, sandwiched together, side by side in a long row alternating between heads and tails so each kept their neighbor’s backs warm. When they stood up the barn cats were under them!

Anyway this weekend gave us a bit of the winter joy back, yes I can handle this. One highlight of winter is sleep overs with grandma and grandpa. The children get so excited when my parents come for a visit, this weekend we had something special planned–snowshoeing.

As usual it took us longer to get everyone ready then to snow shoe, but it was still worth it. I told Proeun then only solution is not taking them outside which for one is not practical and doesn’t fit with our goals.

Even the dogs really enjoyed the snow.

It was such a nice break from the bitter cold and to actually be outside enjoying the weather. I am hoping to have it be a weekend tradition.

Yes it will good for spring to come, but with this little reprieve in the weather I am ready to carry on until then. In addition to school their are lots of fun things going on around here, more in the next couple months.

It is hard to believe we are already half way through January and soon CSA season will begin in earnest but planning has already begun around hear and our CSA shop is officially open. Pop on over to our CSA page or visit us on Local Harvest.

Welcome 2014

When we were preparing for our big move to our dream farm it was hard not to be frustrated by delays. Winter was coming and I was anxious to get settled. But delay after delay happened. Finally on New Year’s Eve three years ago we were ready to move. So on the first morning of our new year we woke-up to our dream come true. Now I know what a blessing all those delays were. Now the New Year will forever equal a New Life. I enjoy celebrating my holidays with quiet contemplation–reflection on what this day means to me. Last night I was lying in bed thinking how amazing our life is.

Today it is hard to see out the windows, they are so frosted over. The outside temperatures are not expected to climb out of the negative numbers for a couple days now. But we are celebrating our New Year with a special kind of ordinary–good food, cuddling, movies, games, crafting, reading, togetherness, all while living our dream. It’s a great life.

Last year at this time we set out to get healthy. Seemed like everything had been thrown out of whack a bit but the crazy upheavals no matter how good. Now in addition to looking forward I can look back to the good things this life has given, especially good health. Looking forward to another great year of continued growth. I hope all of you have a special dream or project to drive you forward to the good life.

Baby It’s Cold Outside

It sure is. This morning our thermostat said -10 degrees. Yes that is the temperature. We are pretty sheltered here by the woods but I have heard that the wind chill today is expected to reach -30. So what would make a 32 year old mother of 5 children want to leave a nice comfortable bed and house to go out into weather like that? Chores. I have to admit when reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder series and she would talk about chores I had no idea what that meant. Now I do. We currently have 12 goats, 35 chickens, 3 barn cats, 2 rabbits and 1 donkey, plus there are the 2 dogs and 2 indoor cats (but the children normally take care them). I have to admit, yesterday I was thinking that if we didn’t have all these animals that I would be able to sleep in and I wouldn’t have to chores on days like today. 

But then I would be missing out on a very important truth, “caring for animals makes us better people.” See when the weather is like this it is not just feed and water they need. I have to monitor body condition to ensure that they are getting enough calories to heat their body in a addition to normal body functions. I have to watch activity and make sure that they are not getting lethargic. I have to listen to their breathing and make sure it is not too labored. I might even have to check the condition of their poo if I expect a problem. The thing with animals is that they can’t tell you when things are going bad, you just have to know. 
I was thinking about the comparison with my children. For the most part they let me know when something is wrong. But not always right away. I can use my observation skills learned caring for the animals and apply it to my children. Even adult relationships often could use a little tender loving care and observation to catch a potential problem before it turns deadly. 
The truth of the matter is everyone wants to feel needed. But many do not understand that in serving and caring for others (animal or human) that is where we are really needed. I hope to teach these skills of observation and care to my children so that they will never question their worth. And there is a huge sense of empowerment when you do difficult tasks many are not willing to do. When I was outside this morning in 3 plus layers of clothes laboring so hard I was actually too warm at -10 I felt so strong, “Baby I got this.” 
I remember reading in Farmer Boy about temperatures dipping below -40 at night. Almanzo’s family was so wealthy they didn’t have room in the barns for all their animals so some of the yearlings were in the barn yard. At that temperature apparently sleeping animals can freeze solid without even knowing they were in danger in the first place. So Almanzo’s father would have to wake in the middle of the night, dress and go out with a whip to get the animals moving and blood pumping just to save them from freezing to death. I hope it doesn’t get to that but if it does I like to think I got that to. 


Last year the children and I read all the way through the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. After moving to a farm the stories had a special meaning to us as we compared our life with hers. One section that really struck me was the depiction of haymaking with her father. Charles Ingalls had no sons that lived so his work was especially hard but Laura was more then willing to step in and help.

When we purchased our farm I was desperate to get on something, anything, but Proeun wanted at least 20 tillable acres. We held out and got luckily. But last year getting cover crop on all that bare land was pretty expensive. And that was a necessary expense we had not counted on. But this year it paid off. Originally we planned on purchasing our own equipment and making our own hay. It couldn’t be as bad as what Laura experienced right? Well luckily reason won out and we decided to list our hay field on Craigslist with payment in hay. It wasn’t long before we started getting calls. So we made arrangements for a local farmer to manage our fields and pay us in hay.

It was baled just in time. It was a little drizzly the next morning when we went out to count the bales and figure our cut. Looks like we will have enough hay to feed the goats all the way through the winter and maybe a horse, not this year but we are hoping next. So yeah the cost last year really paid off. And I love the look of all those bales in our field.

Meet Susan and Sophie

I promised that my next post would focus on the really great parts of farming. I have to admit one of the highlights in my opinion is sharing my life with animals. I have always loved animals. My family always had at least a cat or two while I was growing up. Later we added a dog to the mix and one of the first things Proeun and I did when we got married was get a puppy. So yes I have always shared my life with animals and loved it.

We were advised to take it easy when we moved to the farm and not jump right into animals but getting more animals is something that we really looked forward to when we had more space.

I also really love hand crafts and the beauty of natural fibers. So a couple years ago when we went to the Shepherd’s Harvest Festival I started dreaming of fiber animals. At the time we didn’t have the farm yet so sheep, alpaca or anything large was out. Then I saw the angora rabbits. I wanted one so bad but with commuting to our farm and living in the city it just didn’t seem like the right time.

Then a couple weeks ago I got an email from a friend about angora bunnies that needed a new home and. . .

Susan and Sophie joined the family.

Sophie is the one with the black face and Susan the “blue.” The lady we got them from was also a fiber artist and she said she doesn’t even have to pluck them they just pull out their extra hair on their own once a month a make a nest. Then you just gather it up.

They are litter mates and get along with each other very well. I have to say the thing I hate the most about buying animals is taking them away from their homes and moms. But since we got them together they are adjusting well. Now I just need to get a drop spindle and start spinning. Can’t wait. They are still babies so no shedding yet but they are so cute, they are totally worth it.

Farm Walk

Even though it feels like fall is coming sooner rather then later nature keeps plugging away and growing even if it is a bit delayed from the spring. Talk now is of the summer that never was. I think we only had about 5 days of over 85 degree weather. But maybe it will surprise us and summer will return. I know that I am forever surprised by the goodness of the land even if it doesn’t do what I want it to all the time.

Long beans and cucumbers.

Chard starting to recover from the grasshoppers.

Cherry tomatoes starting.

Having way to much fun picking tomatoes.

Jack keeping watch over our fall greens.

Hope you enjoyed this little tour.

About Farm: CSA season begins

This week has been a very fulfilling week on the farm. We made the decision to delay the start of our CSA season one week and it has really paid off. With the warm weather, rain and sun our plants and family are really thriving. It is always a wonderful feeling when we are able to start eating out of our field again. So For today’s post I thought I would let you know some of the good things happening around here.

So proud of this field and my wonderful  husband who picked out the seeds, planted and tends it daily.

While we loved free ranging our chickens the fox problem was getting out of hand. We simply cannot afford to lose 1 or 2 chickens a day. So we decided to compromise and fence them. They are not quite so happy but at least they are not getting eaten and they are a lot easier to manage.

Had a surprise little bonus in the goat barn. I thought this little guy’s mother hadn’t been bred but then one day I noticed her utter just starting to get big and that night this little guy was here.

Our little garden outside the cooler. The previous owners had planted it and I am still learning what they all are. Plans are underway to expand to an herb and cutting flower garden next year.

Looking back over the first half of the year I am so happy with how things are going. Each year we have less and less large set up projects and it is easier to jump right in to the farming. Next week we begin CSA deliveries. So excited. And we almost sold out, just 2 shares left if you know anyone.