Monthly Archives: April 2017

Awaiting Their Arrival

It was no surprise when the pair of killdeer showed up in the spring. It is our assumption that it is this same pair that show up every year and build their nest in inconvenient places on our farm. The first couple years the nest was right on the edge of our driveway. My husband put large rocks near it so that it would not get run over. After we put in the pond they nested just off the beach for a couple years.

This year when I saw the pair hanging out in the prayer garden everyday I told my husband “I’m sure they have a nest there. I just don’t know where.” I was concerned because I     didn’t want to accidently step on it. As my husband examined the area he pointed out the three eggs that were camouflaged in the wood mulch nest.


Now we visit Momma Killdeer, who also blends into the background, every day as we walk past. She often just sits on the nest while we stand as close as five or six feet away. Other time she gets disturbed and screeches at us. I’ve reminded her several times that she was not invited to use our prayer garden as her birthing room, and since we intend her no harm she will have to put up with us. Sometimes Daddy Killdeer will show up and do the broken wing act to try to lure us away from the area.  He does this more often if Scout and Trooper are near. In prior years the boys seemed to enjoy the chase but this year they don’t seem to pay much attention.

Since they have been there for several weeks now, we expect the chicks to hatch soon. The link below says that killdeer eggs take 24-26 days to hatch and then the parents guard them for another 25 days until they are old enough to fly. Although the screeching killdeer can be annoying, the baby killdeer running around are incredibly cute. These killdeer, who are bug and larva eaters, will do their part in keeping insect populations down, and we consider them a welcome addition to our farm.

Two New Soap Recipes

I am really excited about the two new soap recipes I made this week. The soap I made on Monday was inspired by the dandelions that are popping up everywhere screaming “spring is here.” I decided that those yellow beauties might just make a nice soap.

Usually before I try something new with a soap recipe I do an internet search to see if others have done similar. Artisan soap makers are a creative bunch and it seems there is not much they haven’t tried and wrote about. I did indeed find several sites with dandelion soap recipes, stories, and for sale. I do not use other peoples recipes but I like to get an idea of how others have used particular ingredients, what the results were and if there is anything major that might go wrong.

By this time I have learned that when adding botanicals to cold process soaps you will very rarely capture any fragrance and I have no way of testing to see if any potential therapeutic benefits from them survive the process. The most I could hope for is to capture some of the cheery yellow color. Hoping to double up on any benefits I infused both the water and the oils with dandelion flowers. I decided to add honey as well.

This recipe is now out of the molds and has a deep yellow color. It still has to cure for about six weeks and doubtless the color will change as the soap cures. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Todays soap experiment is maple. When I did my internet search for maple soap I found that maple syrup is often used as an ingredient in handcrafted soap. My plan was a little different. When my husband was collecting sap to make syrup this spring I asked him to save me a couple of quarts so I could make a batch of soap with it. “Are you sure you know what you are doing?” he asked. I explained that I plan to use the sap in place of the water in my soap recipe. He graciously obliged my request and I have kept the sap in the freezer waiting to be turned into soap.

One morning when we were having our homemade syrup on our pancakes and I looked at the sugar sand that had collected at the bottom of the jar and wondered about using it in soap. Will the sand particles remain sand or will they dissolve during the processing. I remembered reading that it is mostly composed of calcium salts and malic acid. It is not harmful to eat and upon further research I learned that those ingredients can be beneficial for skin care. Again I can’t make any claims about my soap providing these therapeutic benefits because it is questionable whether they survive the soap making process. The sand in that jar was gone before I had a chance to tell my husband that I wanted to save some for making soap. We had a few more jars with sand at the bottom, so I opened one this morning, poured most of the syrup into an empty jar and put it in the refrigerator for future breakfast. The sand and a small portion of the syrup that was left in the bottom of the jar were added to my soap.

The maple soap, if it turns out well, will definitely be a seasonal soap and I expect the sweet dandelion soap will be as well. Although they won’t be ready for 6+ weeks you can contact me by email ( if you are interested in purchasing either of these soaps. 🙂

Meat The Chicks

or maybe I should say “The Meat Chicks”. The plan for these chicks is to raise them only until they are large enough to butcher. Regardless of the title we have begun introducing the chicks to the farm and the rest of the flock.


We set up a 12′ x 3′ run, made out of 2 foot chicken wire, near the chicken coop. We left the dog crate inside the run so the chicks could get out of the sun or wind if they need to. We covered the run with netting so the chicks can’t fly out and the other chickens or overhead predators can’t get in. We thought the chicks would go into the crate as darkness comes, this would make it easy to bring them back to the brooder for the overnight hours. We quickly learned there is a flaw in this plan. Even though the chicks spent time in and out of the crate during the day, as darkness approached all of the chicks were outside of the crate. The first night I chuckled as my husband told me that he had to crawl around the pen to catch them all and put them back in the crate. The second night I actually lost our bet when we arrived at their pen to find them all huddled next to the crate. My creative husband, who was willing to try anything so he would not have to crawl around on his hands and knees again chasing chicks, took out his flashlight, turned it on, and put it in the crate. Immediately all 10 chicks went into the crate on their own. That’s when we realized that unlike our older chickens that always return to their coop when darkness comes,    these chicks have never know darkness. The warmth that they require at their young age has always been provided by a heat lamp during the overnight hours.  They were seeking light or maybe afraid of the dark.

“I didn’t know if that would work,” 🙂 my husband said as he carried the crate to the van, but we are thankful that it did as we plan to continue this for a week or so until we feel they are ready to move to the farm permanently.

Asparagus Season In Michigan

Yesterday while walking through the asparagus bed my husband spotted the first shoots poking up through the ground. Asparagus grows very quickly so we will be checking and cutting them often for probably the next 4- 6 weeks.

I just thought I would give a heads up to anyone who grows asparagus in the area because they can grow so quickly you can miss them. You also might want to check out the some interesting facts about asparagus at the link below.

A Year In Growing Garlic (Part VI)Unintended Consequences

Tuesday’s warm temperatures allowed me to get into the garlic field to do some work. If you are growing your own garlic this is a job that you shouldn’t have to worry about, but I decided to write about it so that others can learn from our mistakes.

My task for the day was digging green garlic. The garlic that I was digging were not the cloves that we planted last October for harvest this July. This patch of garlic was coming up seemingly independently. What happened was when we planted last years crop, in the fall of 2015, we planted a short row of small cloves that we thought we would use as a test row to try out the potato digger that we hoped to use to harvest the garlic. That row went largely neglected (unweeded and unfertilized) last year as it was not really figured in as part of the crop that we would sell. When harvest season came the condition of the soil was so dry and hard that using the potato digger was out of the question. That short row of garlic also went unharvested.

When my husband tilled the area to prepare for the next planting those garlic plants were tilled under. It is very apparent that many of the cloves from that unharvested garlic survived the tilling, as they sprouted up along with the garlic that we planted for this years crop.


More garlic coming up would be a good thing except that they were coming up amongst the garlic that we planted for this season. If left in place they would be too crowded which could reduce the size of the bulbs.

Needing to get rid of them, but not wanting to waste them, I decided to harvest the greens. These are referred to as green garlic. Normally to harvest green garlic I would just snip it at the base of the plant and leave the roots in place, but since I did not want this to grow back up I needed to dig it. The job was somewhat complicated by the fact that the soil was still pretty wet and therefore sticky mud, also many of the plants were growing sideways so the roots were not directly below the greens. I spent several hours Tuesday with my hands and knees in the dirt and filled up a paper shopping bag with green garlic.

When I took home the bag full of green garlic Tuesday evening I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do with them. I started by clipping all the roots off that evening. I would decide more in the morning.


Tuesday morning I decided my next step was to clean the greens. For several reasons I decided I was not ready to send these to market. Mostly because people are not familiar with buying and using green garlic, so before market it I need to learn a little more about it myself. I need to know the best way to store them and how long the will keep. I need to experiment so I can educate others.

I expect that they will keep well for a while in the refrigerator, but they do need to be sealed in a bag to prevent the garlic smell from adulterating other foods. So I put a sealed bag of greens in the veggie drawer in the refrigerator. I’ll add some to my salad this weekend.

I then decided to see how well they would dehydrate. If they maintain their flavor they would be even better than dried chives in my opinion. Using scissors I cut them into small pieces and loaded my dehydrator. I set the temperature at 90 degrees and checked them every few hours. It probably took about six hours to completely dry them. I was quite happy with the flavor that was retained through the drying process. A word of warning for anyone who might attempt this: the dried greens are very light weight and confetti-like; the least amount of movement can make them blow around. Many of the green flakes ended up on the counter and even the floor. So move cautiously around them and DO NOT open the dehydrator when it is still running!

My sister and my aunt who stopped by while I was cleaning the green garlic were each given a bag and we talked about ways to use them. I hope to hear back from them how they used them and how well they liked them. 🙂


I had enough to fill the dehydrator again on Thursday so I did a second batch. I’m sure my husband will agree that dehydrating garlic should come with this WARNING: Do Not Try This At Home. During the first few hours of the process the smell of garlic is over powering. We opened windows and put in a window fan blowing outward. We also agreed that in the future when we dehydrate garlic it will be done outside.

In conclusion, I highly recommend growing (and eating) green garlic, so watch for future posts about where I will be intentionally growing it. 🙂