Category Archives: Life

Welcome Jerseys

I am sure anyone who has tried to start their own business understands the struggle to stay on top of changes in the market. But when you farm you also have to stay on top of changing weather! My the past couple of years have been weird–long, long winters, super wet springs, cool summers, etc. At least this year we didn’t have the number of severe storms we had last year. But anyway you get the picture. While we are adding a hoop house this fall for our vegetable production we decided that it was time to branch out into meat production. You have already see our pigs. Now it is time to meet the cows.



It has always been a dream of Proeun’s to have cattle. We always thought that we would go with a traditional beef breed but the price of cows is particularly high this year. We were lucky to stumble upon a local dairy that uses Jerseys (jerseys have always been my favorite), They sell their bull calves for meat production and we purchased five (not all of them are pictured). They are only a couple weeks old now and the children really love handling them. We are still bottle feeding them twice a day and we keep them in a stall at night but bring them out to their own pen during the day so the children are getting plenty of practice leading them.

While I love eating vegetables I have always found working with the animals more rewarding on a personal level. 2014 has been a difficult year for crops but at least some good has come out of it by pushing us to expand our business (and family life) into other ventures. All in all it has been very good.

Happy Memorial Day–Enjoy summer

When we first moved to the country I never wanted to leave the property and that was fine for awhile. But even farmer’s need to take a break and step back and reset. I find for me the best way to do that is the wilderness. I am blessed to have a family property I can retreat to, but even with having a place available I hadn’t been there since we moved. Finally this weekend I was able to get away and it was like heaven. I have to say being out there away from life’s pressures, enjoying nature, I just feel more myself and more able to enjoy life and family.


My children took the weekend’s opportunity to enjoy trying out the camera. Two and Mavis especially enjoyed this with Two saying he wanted to be a photographer. Here is a portrait he took of Effie.


Mommy t-rexxy by Mavis.


Pray Grant by Two.


I love just going for walks with the children.


One thing I really want to learn is how to identify the things of nature–plants, trees, birds, bird calls, etc. Here is a plant I discovered on this camping trip. I believe it is a marsh marigold.


It wasn’t all fun and games. The gentlemen worked to put up an outhouse.


Finished outhouse by Mavis.

So work, play, relax, love, enjoy and reset that was the name of the game this weekend. Honestly it was so needed. I hope you are taking time regularly to recharge and reset. What things do you like to do?

Spring Fun + violet jam

Finally it feels like spring around here. As I was transferring my blog to the new host I was going through some old posts and found that 2 years ago when we first moved here our crab apple tree flowered in late March. However it has yet to flower this year. Just last week Avril asked, “are the snow days over?” and I realized like her I had been kinda holding my breathe. But when I assured her that they were she was so relieved that it was fun to see.

Last weekend Proeun finally got a chance to get into the fields with Bessie.


Chores have been so much more fun now that it has warmed up. Speaking candidly it is not all fun and games on the farm but I try to focus on the good as much as possible and one of the things I have really enjoyed is getting to know this land throughout the seasons. I have been interested in herbs and foraging for a long time now but there is something extremely special about finding where these plants grow on your own property and being able to come back year after year. Plantain is an easy one and last year I found yarrow. We have a white oak tree and there are more herbs that I want to identify.

But while checking facebook recently a friend of mine was talking about violets and I realized that this year we have an overabundance (as well as and abundance of dandelions, ahem). I remembered a violet jam from one of my favorite blogs Soule Mama. Now I actually had the goods to make my own.






I ended up doing most of the harvesting while the children played but it was fun and they would come over every once in awhile to check on progress. During the cooking process they helped more, that’s where the fun is anyway though it probably too less then five minutes to whip up a batch. Now I have a new spring time tradition and it is so fun to make things grown right on our own land.

But on a humorous note all you moms out there know that once the seasons change it is often times hard to find the clothing items from last year, especially shoes and in this season shoes rapidly disappear. Here is Effie’s solution.


Sure sign of spring–bird nests

It is always interesting how nature intersects with our human constructions. I remember seeing pigeon nests as a child tucked away in I beams in the skyway in downtown St. Paul. More recently hawk’s nests on electrical poles along the highway. But this year we have our own story.


The children have been anxiously waiting for the snow to melt, then there were the cars and tractors in the way, finally this weekend the hoop was clear but we noticed something interesting.


We had noticed a bird flying back and forth. I knew what it was but honestly had never seen a nest before. We are trying very hard to hold back our curiosity and not disturb them too much but we had to take just a quick peek. The children we completely amazed and I was too. I have never seen a bird nest up close and personal and in use. So we have all agreed that there will be no basketball until those little babies move all and we are anxiously watching (from a distance most of the time) the progress they make. So many lessons,

How do birds make nests? We recognize much of the building material.

How long for baby birds to hatch and Mature? Still working on that

Also learning how to observe but not disturb and how to be considerate of even the smallest creatures. On a side note with all this rain we are learning a lot about worm saving. Yes bird saving and worm saving don’t really go together but that can be a lesson for another day.

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.

Praise for Grandmas

I am blessed in more ways then I can count. But for this post I will focus on the amazing women in my life who taught me everything I know. I have learned about several folk schools over the years. I have yet to take a class at any since most of the “local” ones I know of are still a bit of a hike and logistics and nursing babies haven’t allowed me to get away. But as I was browsing some of the class offerings I realized I am in a unique and highly valued (by me!) position of having many of these skills passed down from generation to generation. My mother taught me and my grandmother taught her and occasionally me skills like baking bread, making food from scratch, sewing, knitting, embroidery, crochet and some gardening. I remember my grandmother taught me to eat green beans right from the garden, just wipe off any dirt.

Once we all–me, my mother and grandmother, took a class together on tatting but I couldn’t quite get the hang of it, maybe I will have to have my mother reteach me.

Here we all are shortly after Avril was born. On an interesting note we are all the first daughters of our families. At least I find things like that interesting.

Shortly after this picture was taken Proeun and I decided we were going to farm. We were living in St. Paul at the time and got our chicken permit. We went to a feed store to pick out some chicks, one was a Rhode Island Red. I was telling my grandmother and asking if she wanted to see our chickens and she said, “honey I have seen chickens before.”

Of course she has, she grew up on a farm in western Minnesota. Now I had another way to connect with her as we talked about farming and planting and cooking good old fashioned health food straight from the farm. Turns out she raised Rhode Island Reds

I will always remember my grandmother knitting. Often it was cotton dishclothes. I have gone through more of these then I can count. They are literally the best dishclothes. Recently I was noticing my supply was dwindling. I was talking with my mom and she said grandma can’t remember how to knit them anymore. My mom had figured out the pattern and wrote it down for grandma but still it was a bit much. So my current dishclothes were knit by my mother, I likely will not have anymore knit my grandmother.

And  just yesterday I finished my first one. I noticed mistakes and I am definitely not the woman my grandmother and mother are but I feel so blessed for all the little connections that bind us together even if it is a dishcloth. I have seen other patterns I might try but this one will always connect me to my grandma.

So thankful for all these amazing women have taught me.

For those of you who are interested

Grandma’s dishcloths

Cotton yarn and needles 7-10 depending on how tight you want it.

Cast on 4 knit 2 or 3 rows.
On the next row knit 2, then yarn over and knit to end of the row.
Continue in this way until you have gotten to widest point you want, you will be increasing one every row.
Once you get to the widest point you can begin decreasing. So knit 2, yarn over, knit 2 together, knit to 5 stitches from the end knit 2 together, then knit remaining stitches.
When you get to 6 stitches on needles knit 2, yarn over, knit 2 together and knit to end of row.
Next row, knit 2, knit 2 together, knit to end of row.
Next row knit.
Next row, bind off.

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.

Goat Milk Mozzarella = Pizza

We are settling into a very nice rhythm around here, though we did have the major flu work its way through the house. Even though I only got a mild case I found that having the rhythm of chores and others to care for (animal and human) helped me keep my priorities straight through the illness. I was actually feeling really out of balance before that but the illness helped me slow down and reprioritize and find comfort in things I previously took for granted. I am actually starting to enjoy the milking now. One of the perks is all the homemade goodness.

We are discovering a new love in our home–homemade pizza. This is made all the better with homemade cheese from our goats.

I used Rikki Carroll’s 30 minute Mozzarella recipe. I wasn’t sure if it would work with goat milk but it did and was delicious!

Proeun found a dough recipe he wanted to try with Avril’s help.

Avril and Mavis add the toppings.

The children proud of their delicious creations. Even if you don’t make everything from scratch it was such a rewarding experience making dinner with the children and the loved it. What a great way to connect! How do you like to connect with your family?

Off my bookshelf

I have been reading a lot of blogs lately. Honestly I have come to view reading as my original creative activity. Out of it comes so many things that make life more enjoyable. Reading affects my creativity in so many ways. Whether my reading sparks an idea I really need to process through my own writing or becomes a wonderful family dinner, embroidery project or just soul food, I really feel it when I am not spending an adequate amount of time in books.

I did finally break down and buy a kindle (or Proeun bought one for me) but that was mostly because some books that I really wanted were only available in a digital format. I still much prefer real, physical books.

Come to think of it most of the books I have purchased I found out about on a blog. The very first blog I ever started reading was Soule Mama. I have all her books now and have found that they really give me that soul food that I need. Her family lives on a hobby farm in northern Maine and in many ways they have been on a similar journey as our family. Her most recent book, The Rhythm of Family has short essays from both her and her husband in honor of each month as well as projects and activities that can be done as a family. Since it is January (still) I have started from the very beginning and try to do at least one of the activities a month.

A recent addition to my blog reading is Yummy Mummy. I stumbled across this site when I was searching for “healthy chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.” I found this recipe. Now I make this yummy and healthy recipe a couple times a month. Especially when mommy needs a little pick-up at snack time.

The book The Yummy Mummy Kitchen has many more delicious recipes. But I also love the brief essays and life tips. While Marina Delio lives in California and has a very international background I can’t relate to some areas of her life but I find her recipes delicious and her passion infectious. She writes in the introduction, “I’m not the Yummy Mummy. You are.  . .A Yummy Mummy is not a high-maintenance mom. Being a Yummy Mummy does not mean weekly manicures, grocery shopping in stilettos or nannies. It has nothing to do with money or perfection, it’s an attitude. She puts the kids first, but also takes care of herself and finds balance amid the chaos.” I definitely need to work on this but good food always helps.

I have also always loved handcrafts. My mother taught be all the basics, but now I am discovering so many great resources. Anna Maria Horner has a style I really connect with so when she came out with her own embroidery book I pre-ordered it (yes I wanted it that bad). It is such a joy to browse. and now Avril and I are working on our own project. I help thread the needle, pick out the thread and lay the foundation stitches then she comes back and finishes it. It is a great way to wind down in the evening.

Anna Maria also inspired me towards design. I used to design my own fashions, at 7 years old. I would make catalogs entitled JCAmy. But for the most part my designs and passion for it has been lost. But this winter I have been reminded of how much I love fashion and design. Wanting to explore this further I bought Mastering the Art of Fabric Printing and Design. It begins with the very basics and moves forward. I love the interviews with the designers and sidebar tips. Soon the season will begin in full swing and I am definitely looking forward to warmer weather, but till then I am enjoying my indoor comforts.