Saturday, August 31, 2013

Homemade Laundry Soap For Sale!!

Finally,a new product for sale besides eggs!

Cöpse Clearing Farm Homemade Laundry Soap!

It took me awhile to figure out what I wanted for the label,the script,etc. I also had to figure out how much to charge by breaking down the cost for jars,ingredients and such.

I love this little lady hanging out her clothes! She's perfect!

I am selling Qt jars as a "sample size". If they prove to be a good sell,I will also sell gallon sizes. Each Qt jar sells for $2.00 (on site sales only,sorry!)

I am also in the process of making room and linen sprays. I need to order a bigger mold for my hand soaps to get that going.

Yesterday I was down for the count all day with a migraine. :( Today I have spent time cleaning items that don't get done all the time-canisters,the trash container,windows,etc. Time flies so quickly that I don't realize it's been as long as it's been since the last time I touched items like these up.  Brother B started on fixing the mudroom yesterday-he jacked it up and man,was it ever off! Today he and Rick are finishing up the holes for the sonitubes for making contrete  footings.YAY!

This afternoon..... I  am reading up on and making my first attempts at spinning yarn. Is it hard? Is it easy? I'll let you know!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Rick Is Getting A Service Dog!

Those of you who followed my blog Little Cottage In The Country know of my husband Rick's struggle with PTSD and TBI from his service in Iraq back in 2005 (has it been that long already?)

He applied to NEADS ( National Education for Assistance Dog Services) for a PTSD service dog,and a couple weeks ago we went down their training campus in Princeton MA so they could interview Rick and see how he interacted with a few of their dogs.

NEADS is the first assistance dog organization that Walter Reed Hospital contacted regarding service dogs for veterans,and then NEADS implemented their Canines For Combat Veterans program. They are the premiere organization in the country regarding veterans and service dogs,.Others who need dogs have to help with fundraising ( it costs $25,000 to train a dog) but vets owe nothing.

The campus is in a lovely,country setting. They have a main building,where the dogs and the administration happens,and there is also a house where folks stay when they are in training with the dogs.

Most of the folks there have service dogs,for various reasons.Some dogs are labs and golden retrievers. Some are smaller dogs. 

There were three other veterans with PTSD in the morning group. That helped Rick a bit knowing that that everyone had the same issues. We first met in a group setting with the trainers,the head psychologist (who herself had a service dog),and a graduate of the PTSD program who also served in Iraq. They discussed the program,and then everyone broke off with one person for interview/discussion.

The first person we spoke with was Bill,who was the veteran. He had his dog beside him. He talked about how having a dog changed his life,and told Rick to be aware that he will "get stares" from people,because most folks only associate service dogs with someone who is blind or unable to walk.Some folks will be nice and ask questions,some will be rude because "they will think you are faking it." He told Rick how to respond to people (especially little kids) who will want to pat his dog (they can,but he has to give a command to the dog first).He told us about ADA,( Americans With Disablity Act) and how anyone who owns a business who questions  him can only ask two questions:1) Is that a service dog? and 2) What is the nature of your disability? Rick asked him all about his relationship with his dog,and Bill spoke in depth about  how they have such a great bond,etc. He then starting saying,"We will get your life back to you,man..." and Rick started crying. Bill was kind and said,"We're going to help you,I know what your're going through,and we are going to change your life." Rick apologized for breaking down,and Bill shook his hand and said,"Brother, I have been there.This is the beginning of a new life for you.I guarantee it."

We then met with the head psychologist who met with both of us,then Rick by himself. She was a bit concerned about this TBI,and after they met together she came out to ask me if I thought that Rick could remember the commands because "his TBI is quite pronounced." I told her that I didn't see a problem for him,and she said that she was glad I said that,because she felt he would really "benefit from this program."

We then spoke with another lady about our home life,the activities Rick does,what we have for animals,and what we needed to do to get the house ready for a dog (we needed a crate and a 20 foot enclosed run for exercise).

Rick then met four dogs,but he only worked with three: Atticus,a black lab;Richie,a black lab;and Molly,a yellow lab (they only use black and yellow labs for the PTSD program. They seem to respond the best out of all the other breeds,including chocolate labs,which I found quite interesting.Having a chocolate lab of our own,I assume it's because they are rather excitable). He gave them direction,and played with them. It was amazing to see the dogs fixate on Rick. He felt most comfortable with Richie and Molly.The trainer thought that was good,because he thought those two dogs would suffice for Rick. 

We had to wait until the following week to find out if Rick got accepted into the program,and was very anxious and hopeful. The call came through,and they told Rick that everyone liked him and felt that he was the perfect candidate for the program. They also told him that his dog was going to be Richie,which he was very happy about!!

I bring him down to MA on Sunday Sept 8. I then go back to pick him up for the weekend the following Friday,and he brings Richie home with him. I then have to bring him back on Sunday for his final week of training,then pick him and Richie up Friday evening for good. We do have to go back down on occasion so they can check Richie to make sure he fed,exercised,and used properly.

Check out their's a fabulous place where they really care about their dogs and the people they help!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Garlic Harvest

We have  been discussing cutting back on some of the things we grow in our garden. Once again,most of our lettuce bolted before we could eat it. Our spinach did not do well yet again.I have tried onions for four years,and each year I may get one or two that are decent. We decided that at this point we need to cut our losses and concentrate on what actually does well for us. One of those things is garlic!

Yesterday I finally fully harvested the garlic. It had been sitting on my drying rack for weeks,more than necessary,but it didn't hurt the garlic by any means.

I laid out some newspaper so wouldn't make a dirty mess of the counter :

Cut the main stalk off:

The outer skin should be like thin paper. Take this off and brush off dirt:

Trim off the roots....

...and voila' ! Fresh garlic heads! They will not be as clean as those you get in the store,but do you really want them to?  I used some blueberry containers to store them.

Now I have to decide which ones to use as seed for next year's crop...planting time is in October!!

Do you have a crop that you have decided to stop growing because of lack of success?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Farmers Markets

When Zach and I went with My Dear Friend Michelle and her boys to the Wright Museum a couple weeks ago (the Wright Museum is a WWII/homefront museum in Wolfboro NH) we stopped at the Wolfboro Farmers Market after.

It was a very nice market,with goat cheese,soaps,herbs,fresh meats,gluten free foods,flowers,and plenty of fresh veggies.

Admittedly,I have never been to farmers market before. There are several around us,but I just never went.  I always loved the idea of it,and thought it great to support local folks,but apparently I talked the talk without walking the walk. I guess that happens to all of us sometimes.

I fell in love with the market. The bright colors of the flowers,the freshness of the veggies and fruits,homemade jams,and seeing the people enjoy themselves was really great. It also gave me some good ideas,and I could check out pricing on some items that I am planning on selling in the future. 

I had to bring Rick to check this out,so last Thursday  we went together. We sampled some delicious cranberry-honey chevre which I had to buy. I also bought some lovely relaxing loose tea. Rick sampled gluten free bread,which he pronounced the best he ever had,so we bought a loaf as well as some ginger cookies.

Farmers markets are easy to find-all you have to do is look up where there are farmers markets in your area on line!Considering what is going on with Monsanto,and the terrible things are they putting in our food,I am more and more interested in buying local and fresh!

Rick and I discussed the possibility of selling wares at a farmers market in the future. While I think it's something I may do,it's not going to be for quite a while. I want to get my products perfected first,and see how well they do from here at the house first. I have been planning and designing labels for various things.

The other day,a lady came up to the house for some eggs. We had our garlic and some ears of corn that we had just picked on the rack. She saw this and and asked "Do you sell garlic? Do  you sell corn? How about salad greens?" I could hear excitement in her voice,and I told her that we are working our way into what we sell. " I would buy from you," she said as she left. I told Rick about this lady and we thought it was the coolest thing. Sometimes you don't have to figure out what folks want,they will tell you!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Plan Of Attack

Sometimes there is so much going on in my head-between Scouting activities,Rick's up coming VA appointments,his PTSD service dog appts,gardening,canning,making soap,planning/building our enclosed mud room,barn,and working on making labels for the products I wish to sell-that I feel like I am in a complete tizzy.It also shows in my home-I have piles of unorganized paperwork,and I can't find what I need when I need it.There is so much to do,and it seems like so little time to do it. I know,however,that things will get done,and in time. It is just too much to contemplate in one sitting,if you know what I mean. 

I do have moment when I can slow down,such as my twice a week yoga classes,but these clear minded times are fleeting. My thoughts jump from one thing to the other,and I can't seem to find a moment to rest my poor brain. This leads to stress and anxiety. I bring it on myself,of course. All I have to do is have a plan of attack:

-What are the priorities? What can wait? Out of the main priorities,what needs to be done first?

-Break projects up into small bits,so it doesn't seem so very overwhelming. It's amazing what can be done a few minutes a day.

-Don't put off tomorrow what you can do today!

-Have a few quiet moments for myself each day to just sit and be.

We do have a vacation planned at near the end of August. We are going up to Pittsburg NH,the very last town before Canada. It's always a good place to restore oneself and clear out the cobwebs and stress.

When you find your brain on overload,as well as your calendar,what is your plan of attack?


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Hydrangea Love

One of my favorite flowers are ones,to be exact! I needed plants that loved shade,since sunlight only finds it's way in this area first thing in the morning,so at first I planted four Nikko Blues,then a couple years later I planted three more. I have the "mophead" variety,meaning the bushes produce very large sepals (what we call "blooms"). They make great boundary and foundation bushes,and are perfect for morning sun and afternoon shade.

We live in Zone 5,and though some say that these only grow in Zones 6-9,I have received many beautiful blooms from them. Some years there are more than others. This year, I only had blooms on  four of the bushes. I also had clipped some of them off before I took this photo:

Care of these bushes is simple:water them. Yep,that's it. The blooms last through the fall when they dry out,and they do make nice dried arrangements. The only pruning needed is snipping off the dead canes,and that can be done at anytime.

The color of flowers can depend on the acidity of the soil,so Nikko's can vary in color from pale blue to very vibrant blue.

I wanted to make the house pretty for when Rick and Zach came back from their week long trip to Boy Scout camp,so I picked some blossoms for the dining room table. When I took the photo with the light over the dining room table on,the blooms looked like they were a lavender hue:

With camera flash on,the real color came through:

A few of the blooms came of the stems when I was arranging them,and I thought they would look pretty in the birdbath:

What is your favorite flowering bush?

Friday, August 2, 2013

What Makes A Farm?

Before we decided to officially name this place,we wondered,"Can we legally and honestly call this place a farm?"  Is there a definition?  

Most folks think of a farm as this......

......a large expanse of land,large crops,silos,big John Deere or International Harvester equipment,and roomy old barns.

This is not usually what comes to mind:

Case in point:when we had some loam delivered,the delivery guy noticed our strawberry bed,herb bed,and trellised raspberries and blackberries.Rick told him we had a farm, then showed him our garden and chickens,and mentioned that we were going to get goats and sheep,and we had to build a barn.

"You have a farm?" the driver asked,surprised."How many acres do you have?" he started looking around,thinking he missed some large parcel. " Less than 3/4 of an acre," was Rick's reply. The driver guy was amazed. "You are going to  all this on less than an acre? You can do that?" he asked. Rick explained that we live in a small business/ agricultural zone,and we could have anything we wanted,really,as long as it fit and the animals had enough space. He had spoken to the town inspector about what we had to do,and the inspector was easy. We just had submit a plan for the barn and pay a fee,which was dependent on how big the barn was. Fees started at $25. He told Rick we could get whatever we wanted- a cow,even. "Wow,that's awesome,good luck!" Driver guy was clearly impressed.

I looked up the NH definition of a farm. Long story short,any place that grows produce,sells produce,has animals,the production and storage of compost,etc, is classified as a farm.  I simplified it quite a bit,as there is much more to their definition,but here is the link if you want to know the whole scoop: Definitions probably vary from state to state,so you may want to read up on it if you want to sell items,or just to know that you are,legally, indeed a farm. 

Since we had a garden,herbs,fruit,chickens,sold eggs,and had compost we certainly could call ourselves a farm,albeit a small one. Next year,we will have goats and sheep,and will sell raw milk,cheese,goat milk soap,and homespun yarn. That will put us even further into the farming category.

Here in NH,96% of all the farms are considered small farms,meaning they earn less than $250,000 a year. Considering that we could never earn that amount,our place could be thought of as a "tiny farm"!

If you don't live the country,you can still grow some veggies-if you have a deck,balcony,or even a fire escape,you can put tomatoes,green peppers,herbs, etc in a container. Don't let your lack of space discourage you! It didn't discourage us!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Growing Garlic and My Great Find To Help Dry It

Last Saturday,Rick and I went to an auction with our friends,CJ and Kathy. I have been to an auction once,when I was very young.Rick had never been to one.

There is a period of time before the auction where you can look over what they are auctioning off that may catch your eye. I saw few things,but one thing I found I knew I had to have:a drying rack.

Technically,it's not a drying rack,it's an old shoe rack from a shoe shop. The narrow boards running across the length of the shelves were just the right width apart to cure my soap,and if I didn't have soap to cure,to dry out herbs and the like. Some nice baskets could store things...there is so much I could do with it. It was exactly like a I pictured in my mind. It also was on wheels.

I did get into a bit of a bidding war with someone over it,but I prevailed!!!!!

I am woefully behind on making soap-but I never really had a lot of space to make good size batches-I would have to clear off a shelf in the bedroom closet and use my kitchen wire cooling racks to cure it. Not very convenient.
I don't have soap right now,but I do have freshly picked garlic to dry out!!

Don't ask me what kind of garlic it is,because to be honest,I have no clue. I got some cloves from my neighbor last year and grew it. It's hard neck (meaning,it has a stiff stem in the center),that's all I know. That and it's delicious!! Soft necks have their green foliage dry up and can be braided.

Growing garlic is very easy.We plant our bulbs in the Fall ( early Oct).Put the cloves in the ground pointed (root) side down,about 8" apart and bury them 2" down into the soil. Put mulch over the bed-you can use leaves,straw,etc.We use straw. Hay has seeds,so you might want to avoid that.

You will get a few green shoots in the Fall,just make sure you cover them up with mulch.

That's it until Spring...they rest through the winter.

When you see green shoots coming up through the mulch in the Spring,it's time to pull back the mulch. I put mine in our compost pile. Give it some fertilizer (fish emulsion or whatever you like to use),some water,and some love!

As the garlic gets bigger,you will notice what is called a garlic scape-it's curved with a pointed white bulb at the end.Snip these off-it gives more growing power to the garlic bulb. (Soft neck garlic does not grow scapes). Some folks use their scapes-in pesto,as a vegetable,or in a flower arrangement. I never knew you could do things with scapes,so I have never tried it...perhaps next year.

The garlic is ready to harvest when the lower leaves turn brown. They should be dried in a single row in a warm,but not hot area.

As you can see, my rack works great!

MMMM...can't you just smell that marvelous garlic? 

The garlic is done drying when the outer skin of the bulb is like paper. It's then time to brush off the dirt( as much as possible) and cut off the roots.

Your garlic won't be as clean as the store bought,but you don't want that anyway! Garlic should be stored in temps around 55-70 degrees.Don't store in a bags,or containers.

Does anyone have any growing or storing tips for garlic? Please share!