Category Archives: CSA

New Blog plus a look back

What a week! A few weeks ago I found out I would have to update our website, virtually redoing it with a new product. Then last week I found out I would have to do the same for the blog. Oy! Well luckily it didn’t end up being as bad as I thought thanks to our web hosting company’s (GoDaddy) awesome customer service. They walked me through the whole process and Voila, new blog. I am still tweaking it but so far I am loving it. One thing I love is the archives list. Going through the old blog and switching it over allowed me to reflect on my experiences along the way. I remember when Jack looked like this now he looks like this.

Jack 2014

 

I remember when Home was the Eastside of St. Paul and now Rush City is our home. When I started this blog I had 3 children, now their are 3 little Doeuns and my how they grew. Oh well, nothing like going through old posts to feel nostalgic. I hope you like the new blog and do check out the archives.

Joy in the Barn

There has been a lot on my mind lately. I don’t know if it is the uncertain economy catching up with local foods, a flux of new CSAs or crazy weather making consumers doubt the CSA model but our CSAs numbers are way down. I am honestly scrambling. Trying to figure out how we might make ends meet this year and if we will be able to afford to farm next year. As much as I try to keep this space positive there is so much uncertainty right now and it is weighing on me. It seems agriculture across the board is feeling the hit. My friends that raise goats are struggling. My friends that run CSAs are struggling. Anyone I know who is trying to make a way for themselves is struggling.

Luckily I have a bit of a retreat–the barn. I have said before I am a bit of a responsibility junky. I love caring for people, animals, things, a place. And that is just the life I get to live. Too bad you don’t get paid to live this life. Oh well, struggles make us stronger right?

So come with me on a little far tour.

Contentment among the animals.

Mavis bottle feeding Miracle for one of the last times. Miracle will be going to a new home next week. thanks Michelle!

Just like children baby goats (kids) find the funniest things entertaining. This tube is a favorite.

Don’t stick your tongue out young man.

Flower likes to keep track of everyone.

So yes there are plenty of good things going on in the barn. If you would like a quick tour of chore time check out our video below.

CSAs, Local Food and Co-ops Oh My!

What a great weekend. This weekend Proeun and I attended not one but 2 CSAs/Local Food Days at local co-ops. Proeun attended the Seward Co-op’s CSA Fair while I (Amy) attended the City Center Market’s “Meet Your Farmer” Day. While we love farming we don’t get a chance to hang out with other farmer’s and like minded folk that much and so these 2 events were especially rejuvenating. A couple things we learned were that Local Food and CSAs are a thriving, growing field. But still many farms are seeing there numbers down from last year. So if you have not signed up for a CSA yet make sure you do. Click here for our CSA information.

I had an opportunity to talk with some great farmers including Sapsucker Farm (maple syrup goodness!), Lovelight Herbs and Outstanding in Our Field. All the farmers I talked with were passionate, engaging and knowledgeable and completely quoteable. Here are some of my favorites.

John Ice of Outstanding had quite a few, ” We are all part of the Revolution.” “Organic Food is the cheapest you can buy once you factor in the other costs,” and “If you stop shopping at your grocery store they probably won’t miss you but if you shop with a farmer you and ensuring their success and you might even be saving their farm.”

Nikki of Lovelight is an amazing ball of energy and joy. Her motto is “Live, Love, Farm” and she really embodies it. I mentioned that we had been struggling with illness this winter and she just so happens to be offering a class on “Kitchen Herbs for Health” on May 3rd I will be attending.

Sorry I don’t have more quotes from Seward, but Proeun was bubbling over the joy when he came home and excitedly sharing stories of other farmers that he met. It feels amazing to be in such cool company. It is also a bit humbling. See everyone supports large farms whether they want to or not, whether they know it or not, through government subsidies and just the whole structure of food in this nation. But to support local, small farms you have to go out of your way. Maybe you try some new foods. Maybe things don’t go as you planned, maybe you are learning more about seasonal eating and how weather really does affect plants. But through it all you are supporting the Revolution. Those of us who are striving to grow food (really real food) in as healthy a way as possible but would also like to maintain a liveable wage–a liveable wage that is required to make sure the farm continues to the next year. So I am reminded how strong the movement (Revolution if you will) is but also how much it depends on customers to are willing to go out of their way to support something bigger. If you haven’t joined a CSA I hope you will consider ours.

A Tractor named Bessie

Anyone who knows me would have to agree I am a bit weird; or as Proeun would say, “crazy in a good way.” But when I found out that this little beauty was going to arrive on our farm today the thought came to me, “her name is Bessie.” I informed the family and while they already know I am a bit crazy they also know the name fits. But let me back up a bit.

This winter I took a Farm Financial Analysis class. I learned all sorts of great things, one thing the course talked about was, “new paint syndrome.” This is a syndrome Proeun and I do not have. We in the past have been all about doing things low-tech, often by hand and we also wanted to be able to pay cash for items used on the farm so we wouldn’t fall into a trap of debt.

However running 40 acres without a reliable tractor is a bit difficult to say the least. You must either hire out some of the labor like tilling or seeding for cover crops, (which is expensive and you are working with someone else’s schedule which is often not the best) or use time consuming hand tools that just don’t hold up that well under all the pressure.

As we prepare for organic certification we discovered other issues, like tractors that have been used in conventional fields must be thoroughly washed before they are used in organic fields. This may be difficult for anyone we would hire to work our fields.

So we talked about it and discussed ALOT and really did a lot of soul searching whether a big purchase like this would be good for the overall farm and we decided that it would. It would allow us to mechanize more of our farm, and therefore free up time for things like crop and soil improvement as well as just quality of life stuff. We are totally an outdoor family, but during the summer have little time to enjoy it. We live just miles from Proeun’s all time favorite fishing spot and we have been there 3 times since moving in. So we are really excited about Bessie. She means a lot to us, she is more then just a tractor.

We have a special thanks to Agstar for believing in us and making it possible for us to get Bessie. Our loan officer normally works with much bigger loans, like in the $12M range (talk about new paint) but told us he much prefers to do loans like ours, “because they make a huge difference to family’s and really change their life.” Thank-you for changing our life. And thank-you to all our CSA members past present and future who support our farm. We still have some shares available this year.

Sustainability on the Farm

I had a different post planned for today. I was going to talk about how wonderful the sun feels and how all of us are just soaking it up. I was going to describe playing outside as a family and the anticipation of spring. I was going to tell you how the children have been singing about spring and summer for 3 days now and how glad I am that it looks like this winter will be different from the last (when we had significant snow fall on May 2!).

But I opened my inbox and was floored. Before I begin I have to say that this is not a political blog. I strive to stay in the positive, but sometimes I must speak. I belong to several yahoo groups that are devoted to local, nutrient dense foods. On one of them I read this

    “I will also say that when it comes to our community supporting the Local Raw Milk Producers I think it would behoove as many of us here to throw some financial support to the Cindy & Gary H____ family, the Maiden Rock goat dairy. . .  They have been clobbered with a back-breaking loss of their nanny goats due to being unable to feed and support them as well as they needed to be nourished. Nor could they afford medical care for their goats when they started dying of illness. By offering milk, yogurt and cheese to our community at a price below sustainability (all of it with 100% good-intentioned effort, of course) they are broke, and broken-hearted. There is no way they can continue their wonderful dairy unless something happens to intervene. They have supported “our community” with amazingly wholesome and delicious milk and cheeses for many years, and they have worked day and night to produce nutrient-dense food for us, now it would be a Godsend if our community could return the favor. I am donating my professional time and medicines to help, and help is in place now, but they still need money to rebuild their herd back up. In the past few weeks, they have lost 22 of their 30 milking nanny goats. This is the kind of farm family we so desperately need. Please help. Perhaps you would be able to buy them a female goat! emphasis mine.

Last fall I heard about another farmer that had worked for years to bring a specialty meat product to the market. It was amazing, but he could not sell it for a sustainable price and he had to sell off his herd and lost his farm to foreclosure. He is now living in an apartment.

Before you think I am so good at spending locally I have to admit that recently I purchased a bunch of cloth diapers on line. Someone had recommended a particular brand to me and the price was well below what I had been seeing. So I purchased enough for a good rotation. (I did purchase from a family owned boutique) but when I got the diapers I saw that they were made in China. While I feel good about supporting the family boutique I would have preferred a product that was more local but honestly I opted for price.

So I get it, times are tough, but it is so so discouraging to hear stories like the 2 above. They are not unique. My sister is also self employed and we were talking about how different it is from employment. One of the really negative things is you often feel like a beggar. But the fact of the matter is that our dollars all support something, and we need to think about what we want to support.

I was watching the film Bitter Seeds about how farmers in India are losing the ability to chose what seeds they grow and I was so thankful for the many choices we have in this country. But I am reminded without the support of the community buying all those seeds those companies would not stay in business. Yes if we want to have choices we need to support the companies and families that bring us those options. Please support local agriculture and businesses.

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 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.

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. 

Haymaking

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.