Sunday, December 10, 2017

Christmastime 2017

   The Christmas season is well upon us & our family is as ready as we are going to be. We do not overbuy gifts so the shopping is always done before winter sets in. We are trying to teach Gardenchick that Christmas is about much more than getting "stuff". We put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving as we always do & set the train up around it. The front porch got some garland & a few lights & that's it for the decorating. I love to see houses that go all out for the holidays, but it is not my style & I have always thought that simple is better. Gardenchick has written out our menu so we can get in to town for groceries next week. She will be making her favorite holiday foods as well as a new one that her Grandma Wanda has said she wants her to take over making for the family tradition. Our just turned 8 yr old is handy in the kitchen.
   We hold tradition very close in our family. Getting through the holidays is not always easy for us so we take a deep breath, hold on to the ones we love & thank God for another year together. Here's hoping you do the same in your family.

The View From Blue Moon Farmstead Dec. 2017

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I Am Anything But The Hipster Mom & That's OK

   LONG gone are the days of being the "cool Mom". I am now the "Old Mom" who really at this point does not care if I am ever a cool Mom again. When my first child started school I was young enough to be mistaken for her Sister, when my second started I was in my mid 20's ( typo on my part, I was actually in my early 30's) & had energy to spare. When we adopted our third I was well into my 50's & any kind of energy level was a thing of the past.
   I drive to her to her after school activities & while the other Parents spend the time on their phones I am usually knitting. Play dates, birthday parties, classes..... it seems we are away's on the go & that's after a full day around here. Yes, I am tired.
   Parenthood is a 24 hr. job, never a day off. The car is packed with everything we need at all times. It is our second home. Our trips to town are planned to do many things while we are there. I hate to shop so getting in & out of stores is a breeze unless I have Chick with me & then we have to look at everything. Did I mention that I hate to shop?
   Any more I feel lucky to have dinner on the table before I drop. My hipster Mom days are over & that's OK. Now I need a short nap.....

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Turning A Fieldtrip Into A Homeschool Experence

   Gardenchick has a thing for the movie "Titanic". She has watched it at least 20 times, except for a few scenes I fast forward through. She says it is one of her "to go to movies". Over the summer we made a plan to go to the Titanic Museum in Branson, Mo. for a field trip.
   After some internet searching we came up with information that a 7 yr. old would understand & we were on our way.
   The museum was very interesting & it kept her attention, especially when she came to the water you can dip your hand into that is the same temp. the ocean water was. In just a few seconds her hand was hurting. Of course she had to get a couple of things at the gift shop & as soon as we got home we ordered several books about the Titanic online & she wanted to watch the movie AGAIN on Netflix.
   Anytime we can keep her attention on a subject we do all we can to find out information & make a study plan. We worked on this one for a week & she not only enjoyed it but learned more about a historical time. She already has her next field trip planned & we will go on it sometime this fall. We love that she is so eager to learn.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Reusing Grandpa's Wine Bottles

   My wonderful Grandpa Shoot was a winemaker. I'd love to say I learned the craft from him, but I partook in his grape wine & never asked many questions. Before I knew it he was gone, along with his wine making knowledge. My Grandmother gave me his equipment & it sat unused for many years. It was something I was always going to try.
   When my Son became an adult he started making wine & he is actually the one who taught me how. I furnished the ingredients & supplies, he furnished the know how. Together we made some damn good wine. We'd make it 5 gal. at a time & when it was time to sample we'd grab a jelly jar each, sit on the concrete floor of the basement & get plum silly. Those were great times.
   Over the years most of Grandpa's bottles vanished. I have maybe 1/2 doz. left. They are olive green & my favorites. One of them still has his hand written label on it & it sits high up on a shelf, never used.
   Now it's just me & I make small batches. Just today as I was bottling up 2 gal. of Black Cherry Wine I was thinking about Grandpa & it came to me that he always made small batches, just like I do now. I don't think I'd ever remembered it before. As I was adding my handwritten labels to his bottles & sampling a glass I toasted to he & my Son. Both very loved by me & both great brewers.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Quiet Morning

This is the first quiet morning I have had in months. We are usually well into the day by now (9am), but Chick is at school, Jim in town & the only sounds I hear are the dishwasher, wind chimes & birds chirping outside. Solitude! There is alot that goes in to working everyday on your own property. We never know when someone will come down the drive. It seems no one knows what a No Trespassing sign means anymore. One or more phones is ringing & Chick is wanting to know where she left something & she can't wait! It needs to be found right now. The dog is barking at absolutely nothing. These are our sounds. It's chaotic most of the time so on these rare mornings I get another cup of coffee & listen to the quiet sounds for a change.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Yard Sale That Did Not Happen

     After collecting assorted junk & good stuff & planning part of the summer at the very last minute I decided not to have a yard sale. It's actually a good thing, one reason being it rained like crazy the two days I had planned & it was going to be outside. The other reason being I just had no desire to do it, plain & simple. I could not make myself price this stuff, so I planned a new strategy. I sorted all of it into piles. Books (well over 100, mostly hardback), clothes to take to the resale store, clothes to donate, glassware to recycle & items to sell online. We hauled the books to town & donated them to the library book sale that Chick & I are so fond of. I sold many things online & didn't do bad at all & could actually do it at my convenience.  We made several trips in to town with the truck full of donations.
   It has really felt good & productive to get rid of so many things. This is just the start of it. I have the hang of online selling so I will continue to do it when I come across something to sell. Not only are we downsizing, we are making a little money & not having to stress. A big added bonus is now I can see the garage more piles!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


It’s always interesting reading when someone smug and sanctimonious writes a clueless diatribe about another group of people being smug and sanctimonious. So when I saw that an economist for Moody’s and Forbes had written an op-ed calling self-reliant homesteaders “delusional,” I knew I’d be in for some misinformed hilarity.
The article, entitled, “Dear Homesteaders, Self-Reliance Is a Delusion” was published a couple of days ago on the Forbes website. You’ll be forewarned that the article won’t be deep in the first paragraph, when the author presents his claim to knowledge about self-reliant living comes from the fact that he is “a big fan of shows about doomsday preppers, homesteaders, survivalists, generally people who live off the grid.”
And the well-informed opinion of this arbiter of self-reliance?
…there’s a central delusion in these shows that is never far from my mind when I’m watching these shows: off the grid people are not self-reliant, but instead are mooching off of the civil society, government, and safety net the rest of us contribute to…
The people in these shows often describe a very romantic vision of the lives they have chosen the ethos underlying it. They describe themselves as fully self-reliant, and criticize the rest of society as being dependent and lacking in this self-reliance. It is morally superior, the story goes, to provide for yourself, take care of your own needs, and often, be prepared to survive if society collapses.
First, let me segue a little bit and tell you about the author. According to his bio on
Adam Ozimek is an associate director and senior economist in the West Chester office of Moody’s Analytics. Adam covers state and regional economies, as well U.S. labor markets and demographics. Prior to joining Moody’s Analytics, Adam was Senior Economist and Director of Research for Econsult Solutions, an economics consulting company. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Temple University and his bachelor’s degree in economics from West Chester University.
So based on this, I’m going to guess that homesteading and off-grid living aren’t his jam. I mean, he might head down to the Westtown Amish Market there in Pennsylvania, but I’d be willing to place money on that being his closest brush with any real, live, self-reliant homesteaders.
His ill-conceived argument seems to be mostly focused on health care. He is baffled about what will happen if a homesteader becomes ill or gets injured.
” On Live Free Or Die, a man in his mid sixties named Colbert lives in the Georgia swamps alone….I always wonder what will happen if he slips and falls, and can no longer provide for himself. He’ll likely end up receiving hospital treatment paid for with Medicare, and perhaps end up in an assisted living center paid for by Medicare as well.”
“Another example from Live Free or Die is Tony and Amelia,  a couple who live on a simple, off-the-grid homestead in North Carolina. When I watch them I wonder what would happen if one became extremely sick, and simple, off-the-grid home medicine couldn’t treat them. Would they say “we’ve chosen our fate, and now we die by it”, or would they seek treatment in a hospital they couldn’t afford which would be covered by the hospital’s charity care or perhaps Medicaid?”
One thing that Dr. Ozimek is missing is the fact that most homesteaders are tax-paying citizens. Does he think that living on a homestead exempts one from property taxes? Does he suppose that their vehicles don’t have license plates or that their fuel is purchased without the requisite state gasoline tax? Or that maybe they have some special card that lets them buy things like feed without paying sales tax? Perhaps homesteading equipment like tractors and tools and off-grid appliances are likewise purchased without any gain to “society.”
As well, he’s under the assumption, based on his vast body of knowledge gleaned from watching TV, that self-reliant homesteaders don’t make any money or have any insurance. I know homesteaders who are retirees from other jobs who have a fine pension and excellent health insurance. I know others who make a good living with their homesteading endeavors. And there are still others who live simply after working for years to pay cash for their homestead, or families in which one spouse works a full-time job to support the homestead.
But, Ozimek, whose informed point of view comes from only the most extreme of the group featured on for-profit-and-ratings television shows, doesn’t understand that. He continues to espouse the superiority of the non-agrarian lifestyle:
If we all lived “self-reliant” lives like Tony often implores us, spending most of our time on basic agricultural subsistence, then modern hospitals couldn’t exist. It’s only because most of us choose to not live agrarian “self-reliant” lifestyles that this care would be available to Tony, Amelia, and perhaps someday, their children. And what if both of them become too injured to work the land anymore? Would they starve to death, or would they survive off of the social safety net our government provides, like food stamps?
In fairness to Tony, Amelia, and Colbert, perhaps they would refuse the modern medical care and modest safety net in the case of an accident or illness, and would simply choose to die. I don’t think most homesteaders would, but we don’t know.
Yeah, because homesteaders can’t do anything but homestead.

Some people are producers and other people are consumers.

Ozimek thinks that someone with the extensive skills required to live off the grid would be completely unable to find employment and would have no option but to become a welfare recipient should their homesteading endeavor fall apart.
What he’s missing is that his cushy “civilized” lifestyle is completely reliant on the type of people he scorns. He forgets that someone, somewhere is growing his food. Someone, somewhere, is assuring that his energy reaches his home. Someone is ensuring that his plumbing works, someone is repairing his furnace if it breaks, and someone is transporting the goods he purchases to the store, where someone will sell him those goods.
But, that’s what happens when someone is only a consumer and not a producer. They think that producers are somehow less worthy, and that if they couldn’t produce what the consumers consume, they’d be totally out of options.
The cool thing about self-reliant homesteaders is that we aren’t one-trick ponies. We can produce all sorts of things and provide all kinds of services. It’s called “having skills.”

Most self-reliant homesteaders aren’t reality TV stars.

Since his entire argument is based on the tv programs he watches, the author doesn’t understand what self-reliance means to those of us who aren’t reality television stars.
It means:
  • We provide a lot of our own food because we prefer to know where it comes from.
  • We raise our own meat because we object to the way factory-farmed animals are treated.
  • We use our own sources of power because maybe we’re green at heart or maybe we just prefer not to be tied into the “smart” grid.
  • We learn to make our own products for cleaning, bathing, and making life pleasant because we don’t want to bring chemical toxins into our homes.
  • We’d rather skip the middle man and spend our time actually making the things that most people work for hours to purchase from someone else who made them.
  • We are far less likely to spend time at the doctor’s office because a) we aren’t huge fans of pharmaceuticals, b) we can take care of small things ourselves, and c) our healthier lifestyle means we tend to be less likely to be ill. (Although this isn’t always the case – even self-reliant homesteaders can get sick. And when we do, we use our insurance or we pay for it with savings. Just like everyone else.)
  • We don’t need as much money because we just don’t need as much stuff.
But to someone who buys all of their food and other goods from the store and gets all of their medicine from the pharmacy, it can be difficult to understand the satisfaction that comes from evading those places.

But, safety…

Of course, if self-reliant homesteaders pass all of the Forbes columnist’s other tests, he can still dismiss their achievements by going full-blown statist.
Yet even if one refuses help and care, however, they still benefit from the modern civil society thanks to the private property protections, rule of law, and military that provide them with safety and security.
Many off-the-grid folks like to fantasize that their personal fire arms collection and self-defense skills are actually why they are safe. But how far would this take them in a society without the rule of law, an effective government, and law enforcement? The homesteader who is confident their security is in their own hands should go live off-the-grid in Syria and find out how far self-protection takes them.
And it’s not just police and a military that keep homesteaders safe. It’s also widespread prosperity. In the developed world, a basic education is available to all, and most people who want a job can find one. Living in a prosperous, modern economy means that homesteaders can take a good bit of their own safety from violence for granted and roving bandits are not likely to take their homes from them.
So, by the mere fact of our existence in this country, according to Ozimek, none of us are self-reliant. It boggles the mind that this fellow successfully wrote and defended a doctoral thesis.

This is how reliant people justify their reliance.

I guess what it boils down to is that this is what helps Ozimek and people like him justify living their lives without any practical skills. If things did go sideways in a long-term kind of way, who is going to be better off: a person who can claim a Ph.D. in economics or someone who can actually produce food?
The fact is, the less we require from society, the less power that society has over us. Our lifestyles give us some distance from the hustle and the bustle. We don’t have to make as much money because we don’t live in the consumer matrix that engulfs so much of society. We are content to live simply instead of hustling from one non-productive activity to another.
Most of us don’t eschew all the benefits of living in a modern society. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Having a corporate job doesn’t preclude growing your own tomatoes any more than having a herd of goats precludes having health insurance.
There is a joy in making a meal that came entirely from your own backyard that these people will never get to experience, and having spent many years in the corporate world, I can tell you which provides the most satisfaction for me.
In this society where nearly everyone is digitally connected 24 hours a day, it’s nice to step away from all that and break the addiction to constant stimulation. It’s nice to not always be trading the hours in your day for the things that someone else made while you were working on something that, if we’re being honest, is kind of pointless in the grand scheme of survival.
If Dr. Ozimek wants to talk about delusions and superiority, he could find all the inspiration he needs by taking a look in the mirror.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Shuckin' Corn

It's amazing to me that our 7 yr old likes corn on the cob so much that she will shuck 24 ears just to make sure I fix some for dinner.

Hay Bale Gardening

Do you have a hankering for fresh vegetables but lack the space or equipment for a big garden?
Do not fret.
Help is on the way.
Cherri Hankins, of Buckeye, gave a demonstration on straw bale gardening Saturday at Buckeye Home, Farm, Lawn and Garden Center’s open house.
Her set-up that day was small compared to the 68 bale garden she and her husband, John, have at their home – but it could be just the right size for a beginner.
Bales were set on edge, and using t-posts and a 16 foot fence panel, this combination could double as a low tunnel in early spring or late fall with the addition of plastic.
“It is a no-fail gardening technique,” Hankins said. “The only thing that would limit your success is lack of watering or if the straw or hay was grown in a field where herbicides were used.”
Hankins uses square bales of hay that she gets from Jerry Duncan. Those bales after the growing season, are turned into compost or mulch for soil building on the couple’s property.
While bales of hay will decompose and can only be used one year, Hankins said gardeners who use straw can get two or three seasons out of the “beds.”
Using t-posts at the edge of the bales allows gardeners to stretch wire three-to-five inches above the plants providing a means to tie up crops such as cucumbers, beans, etc. More strands of wire can be added toward the tops of the posts as plants grow.
What are the benefits of such a method?
You can plant earlier.
Gardening takes less time, less water, less bending, and results in fewer weeds.
No need for pesticides.
Bale gardening can be done nearly anywhere.
It’s a great option for folks on a limited budget.
No tilling; no crop rotation.
It creates new soil for other areas of your landscape.
It provides a warmed medium for starting seeds.
Hankins offers the following information on materials you’ll need and step-by-step instructions on how to get the job done.
Square bales of straw.
A source of nitrogen, such as manure or fertilizer with a higher than 20 percent nitrogen content.
Hankins uses urea:46-0-0.
Whatever you use, it cannot be slow release, she said.
10-10-10 fertilizer – small amount for final conditioning and fertilizing throughout the growing season.
Water – approximately five gallons per bale to get started.
Sun – at least six hours a day.
Support – t-posts and wire.
When to Begin?
It takes approximately two weeks to condition the bales, Hankins said. You can generally start your garden two weeks earlier than normal because the warmth of the bales will protect your seedlings. Be sure to have plastic on hand to cover them to hold in the warmth if planting early.
Conditioning should begin in mid-April or early May.
Hankins said she starts her bales in late March so she can plant in mid-April.
Step-by step
1. Place the bales cut side up, strings on the sides of the bales. Keep strings intact. Place bales north to south.
2. Condition the bales with nitrogen each day for 11 days.  Schedule to follow.
3. Water the conditioning agent into the soil each day for 11 days.
4. Plant and water throughout the growing season.
a. For seeds, use a seed starting medium on top of the bale
b. Starter plants may be placed directly into the bale.
5. Harvest
For special circumstances:
Growing on concrete: use 2 x 4s to make end posts and trellis rather than t-posts.

Single file rows are best, Hankins said.  In any garden, plants have to have space between them to grow. Placing bales too close together hinders growth, or wastes the straw that is in the “grow space.” If your space is limited, you can put bales together, but since you can grow on the top and the sides of the bale, you would be wasting space. The single file method is also one of the best methods of planting because it allows you to run your soaker hoses continuously along the bales.
Four feet is the recommended distance between rows. It is helpful for keeping the plant leaves dry, for being able to get between what will be lush rows of vegetation and it will allow you to fit your wheelbarrow or garden wagon between the rows for harvesting, or for hauling water if you aren’t close to a water source. It also allows for better sun exposure.
While soaker hoses are not mandatory, they are recommended. Using soaker hoses allows for minimum water use, healthier plants and drier garden paths.
You can mow between the rows, or use grass clippings for mulch, or put down landscaping material.
Do not use plastic and it causes high humidity in the garden because water sits on it, rather than soaking into the soil – and it gets very slippery!
So here we go.
Conditioning schedule:
Day 1 – add 1/2 cup nitrogen product per bale and water the bales until water flows out the bottom.
Day 2 – water thoroughly
Day 3 – 1/2 cup nitrogen product and water until water flows out the bottom of the bale.
Day 4 – Water thoroughly. At this point, you may have quite a fly infestation and the ink cap mushrooms will make an appearance. Do not eat them, but don’t hesitate to plant around them when the time comes.
Day 5 – 1/2 cup nitrogen product and water until water flows out the bottom of the bale.
Day 6 – water thoroughly
Day 7 – 1/4 cup nitrogen product and water until water flows out the bottom of the bale.
Day 8 – water thoroughly
Day 9 – 1/4 cup nitrogen product and water until water flows out the bottom of the bale.
Day 10 – apply 1 cup of 10-10-10- to the bale in preparation for planting the day after tomorrow.
Water thoroughly.
If you are going to use soaker hoses, you should put them in after day 5 and prior to day 11. They need to be installed before you plant.
Day 11 – If you are using plant starts – using a trowel or stick, poke a hole in the bale and wiggle the planting stick until the hole is large enough to accommodate the item being planted, including all soil that the seedling is planted in. Remove the seedling from its container and place the plant and soil into the hole in the bale, gently snug the straw around the new transplant. Water gently, but fully.
If you are planting seeds – spread a one inch layer of potting soil or seed starter on top of the bale to hold the seeds in place. Plant the seed in the appropriate spacing pattern on the bale and sprinkle additional potting soil or starter to cover. Gently water. Or, you can use an alternative method of placing a single-ply paper towels or bathroom tissue on the bale, spread your seeds on this and add another layer of paper on top. Then sprinkle with potting medium. This will keep your seeds from sinking into the bale and yet they will still absorb water.
“You probably don’t need sixteen heads of cabbage on September 1 or twenty zucchini on August 1,” Hankins said, “so don’t plant all of your seeds at once. I plant what I’m going to need for a given week – either to eat or to can – and do the same each week of the planting season. Each Monday I go down to the garden and replant lettuces, carrots, beets, chard, spinach, cilantro, arugula and other short-term crops. Additionally, once the weather is warm enough, I plant squash on Mondays for about five weeks and beans for three weeks. I usually plant three flights of tomatoes. I only plan the brassicas three or four times.
“Onions, potatoes, and long season crops I only do one planting, but Mondays involve adding a layer of soil, compost or other growing medium to the potato mounds.
“Parsley, garlic and chives and other multiple season crops get one generous planting.”
What are you waiting for?
Get planting.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Making Chimes

This is what we have been working on this week. We actually have made a few more since I took these pictures. We use old silverware, rocks & broken pottery & glass found on our property.

Mother's Day Gift Blooming

    These are some of Gardenchick's grown from seed projects. The marigolds she started at school & brought home to me at the end of the school year as a Mother's Day gift. It's planted in with a lemon tree we started from seed this spring. The carrots she planted & has been harvesting for a few weeks. Her cukes are growing like crazy & she'll eat 3-4 a day.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Trying To Live Minimal In A Non Minimal Society

   I have come to a crossroads in my life. I think the upcoming garage sale that we are trying to get together has been part of it & also the thought of Gardenchick & Jim having to sort thru my things when I am gone. Just because it means something to me doesn't mean it will to them.
   My family are hoaders. When Jim & I got married we had very little in the way of possessions & we liked it that way. Enter Gardenchick, & all the 'STUFF' that kids think they need now days & Jim with 3 shop buildings full to the rafters as well as the basement. We are drowning in crap.
   There is furniture that we will never use, inherited items we thought we just had to keep & assorted things that we just don't need or use anymore. Why is there so much?
   I am very lucky to have come across a site Joshua Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus are the force behind this podcast site. I try to listen to at least one everyday & more times than not I will be making a pile of something to get rid of as I listen.
   My questions are - why do we as a society think we need so much? Does it make us happier, or more stressed? Do we need to be in debt for our whole lives just to have alot of stuff our family has no idea what to do with when we die? Bigger homes, shinier cars, the newest this what makes us better? Not this tiny family. I am well on my way to getting us out from under the piles & I am going to use the money on a small project on our house we have needed to do for years.
   The hoarding I am sure will still go on in some degree, but toned down. We do own a business & with the homestead there certain things we just cannot get rid of, but all the excess will go. Less to take care of, less to clean, more room to move around in our small house. Works for me.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Seed Saving In New Zealand

Meet the seed-saving couple living entirely off the land (except for salt) 

Tessa Chrisp
Kay and Ngaio Te Rito check the Pukekohe Long Keeper onion crop in the main seed garden.
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You won't find anyone in Kotare Village who doesn't have brown hands. It's not because they're out in the sun all day or that they don't wash their hands thoroughly, but because the human-soil connection is the most important factor in growing organic vegetables and fruit, fodder trees and pasture, seeds and tubers and it's stained into their skin at a cellular level. 
The village is home to the Koanga Institute, founded by organic and permaculture gardening guru Kay Baxter.
Her life for the past 30 years has been dedicated to developing a precious collection of heritage seeds and fruit trees, first in Northland, then on leased land near Wairoa. But just over a year ago Kay, her husband Bob Corker and their team faced the biggest challenge of their lives: eviction.
in the gloom of a quiet bedroom in the main Koanga homestead is a room full of treasures that money cannot buy €“.
Tessa Chrisp
in the gloom of a quiet bedroom in the main Koanga homestead is a room full of treasures that money cannot buy €“.
The development company that owned the land was foundering, the first mortgage holder was demanding a sale and everything they'd ever worked for was suddenly facing the auctioneer's hammer.
"It's been a really, really big journey holding the seeds for such a long time and the thought of starting again was too much," says Kay.
Supporters like chef Peta Mathias got behind what would eventually be a successful nationwide campaign to raise the money to purchase the first mortgage on the property, although there's still more financing required and a campaign to raise that money is now underway (
Kotare Village is growing in an isolated spot about an hour's drive south of Gisborne. Blink and you'll miss the turn-off to the dirt track – road is too formal a word – that winds its way alongside the Mangapoike River and into a meso-climate that is home to the self-made family of gardeners and farmers who look after 800 types of seed and 100 fruit trees that form the heart of the Koanga Institute's collection.
There's never a problem finding people who want to contribute at Koanga, some coming from the other side of the planet to work and learn. The key attribute is passion, says Kay. Photo: Tessa Chrisp
Visitors from around the world come here to learn about permaculture design, how to grow the most nutritious food possible, and the importance of living simply in this lush, green valley. "If we don't value these seeds enough we're going to lose them and we need them for our future; there's heaps of science there now to show we need them," says Kay. 
"It's not just the genetic material, the seeds and the food plants, it's also all the models of how to grow them in a way that regenerates our own health and that of the soil, seeds and food plants."
The 90 hectares of land are about to be placed in a community land trust, a legal framework set up to protect them, the seeds and trees and the fresh water supply that feeds them. Within it is Thorny Croft, Kay and Bob's five-hectare slice of paradise where they will make their contributions to help supply the village with organic Dexter cattle (meat, milk), Wiltshire sheep (meat) and East Friesian sheep (milk).
Until recently they shared it with their son Taiamai , daughter-in-law Franzi and their children, but Taiamai is now doing a butchery apprenticeship so he and his family have temporarily moved south to Waipawa. His training is part of the bigger plan for Kotare where he will return to be the processor of the meat grown there.
Meat is an important part of their diet which is based on the studies of United States dentist Weston A. Price. Price spent years studying the health of indigenous tribes worldwide who were still eating their traditional diets. He found they were healthier and ingesting many more minerals and vitamins than people living in Western countries.
"We have to have clean food that hasn't been denatured with fillers and emulsifiers," says Kay. "We need nutrient-dense food. The industrial process just denatures it, we get unclear messages, mixed messages, weak messages going to our junk DNA which then places weak tags on our DNA so we get sick and the next generation gets sicker.
"We now know that environment determines genetic expression. Essentially, you cannot get the nourishment you need from the foods in the supermarket because it's not nutrient dense and it's not nutrient dense for two reasons: one is the way it's grown and the other is the genetics that the food was grown from."
Organic, heritage vegetables, grains and fruit, and meat, organs and bones from animals grown on highly mineralised soils full of microbial life are the best foods you can eat, and the science backs this, says Kay. 
"There's around 20 times the nourishment in a heritage tomato than an industrial one, just from the different genetics. In apples it's eight times, so we know we need heritage seeds and we need to grow the food in a biological system so the soil is mineralised and microbially active and those two things are key for our health and our survival."
"If we don't value these seeds enough we're going to lose them and we need them for our future; there's heaps of science there now to show we need them," says Kay. Photo: Tessa Chrisp
Bob and Kay have decided to put their ideas on food self-sufficiency to the test for the next year, taking a vow not to buy anything edible from outside the village except when they are travelling. Not that they bought a lot to begin with, says Bob.
Their shopping list was always quite short: coconut oil or coconut flour, almond or other nut flours, peanut butter, maple syrup, chocolate, ice cream, salt, olive oil and mussels. 
Flour and sugar were never on the list. The couple has used cornflour made from Koanga's corn varieties like Blue Aztec, Pink Hopi and Manaia for many years. "We don't use wheat flour anymore, full stop," says Bob.
"We do use some grains but we tend to eat them as whole grains so we'll soak them and cook them, barley in particular." Home-grown honey is added to cooking for sweetness and they also grow the herb stevia.
"It's sweeter than the same weight of sugar. When our granddaughter Elanor comes into the garden she usually heads for the stevia first and picks a bit." Sea salt is the one key ingredient they still buy for table use and fermentation.
"When you first start thinking about growing all your own food, you immediately think of all the things you couldn't give up or how difficult it all seems," says Bob. "But once you work through the reality and become more confident it turns out it's no big drama." 
When you grow almost 1000 food plants and trees most people assume you're vegetarian, but meat and animal products like liver and bone have been proven by the Weston A. Price diet to be vitally important for nutrition. Kay and Bob will often cook up a broth using bones they save from meals throughout the week to create a meaty-tasting, meat-less, stock-like broth.
"You're picking up a lot of calcium and minerals that are coming out of the bones," says Bob. "You're also picking up a lot of the gelatinous substances that are in the joints and they're really good for our joints."
 Koanga gardeners use Niwashi hand tools for easy weed-pulling. Photo: Tessa Chrisp
The couple often enjoys bacon from their home-grown pigs and eggs from the Legbar hens they've bred over many decades to be the ultimate egg-laying, meat-providing birds. They supplement this with home-made feta, kefir (fermented milk), kimchi (fermented vegetables), sauerkraut, bottled vegetables and salads. 
It is a lot of work to make sure there is something long-lasting, nutritious and tasty to eat every day. There's a temptation to do it the easy way, by earning money and paying for someone else to do it, but Bob says the key to being self-sufficient is to decrease your need for money and there's one easy way to do that.
"It's mainly about staying home! If you go out your wallet comes out of your pocket." That makes it difficult for a lot of people but it's easy to make meaningful changes, says Bob. "Not everyone wants to be self-sufficient but everyone can become involved in buying local, nutrient-dense food."
That brings us back to the seeds. Kay says their biggest lesson over 30 years of collecting and caring for them is that people and seeds must live together, as they did before big business became involved in food production.
"We need each other. In the industrial world we've become separated from them and we've come to the realisation that they won't be saved unless we use them in our lives again. The seeds belong in communities, so it's probably going to require a village of people dedicated to keeping the seeds alive. 
"It has to be people who don't really care that they're not dependent on having a normal salary or working hours and the only way you can do that is by living simply and gifting your time to a certain extent. It feels really important that we step back into the process of co-evolution with mother earth and our seeds. We believe that is the journey forward."
"Heritage seeds are totally key to our future," says Kay. Photo: Tessa Chrisp
Kay Baxter has never travelled to Chernobyl but the nuclear explosion there changed her life and began her quest to collect and save heritage seeds. 
"We had friends in Holland whose farm had been covered in nuclear fallout and it was happening all through Europe, but particularly in Holland, and they'd had to bulldoze all the topsoil off their farm so they could continue farming there. It was horrific."
But it was also half a world away so Kay didn't think it could impact New Zealand until a couple of months later when she accidentally fell into conversation with a stall-holder at Fieldays.
"He said did I know that the only New Zealand seeds we could buy were Pukekohe Long Keeper onions and all the rest came from Holland? And here we were in this country and no one knew, no one had a clue, and I just walked out of there knowing I was going to do something. I'd never heard of heritage seeds; I'd never heard of seed saving." 
Kay decided to join the local garden club and on her first visit a woman gifted her a bag of heritage bean seeds.
"I realised the old seeds had to be with the gardeners, so I started looking there. We had heaps of TV coverage and Julian Matthews did a story years and years ago when he was the editor of New Zealand Gardener and I got 500 letters – it was just unheard of. 
"The food plants and the seeds touch people somehow. We've got between one and five percent of the seeds we had 100 years ago. Someone has to keep them alive or that's it, and it's really clear now that industrial food isn't going to maintain our health through the generations, so heritage seeds are totally key to our future."
The Koanga Institute heritage seed collection now numbers more than 800. It's available at selected garden centres nationwide and online at
"We need nutrient-dense food," says Kay.  Photo: Tessa Chrisp
Not everything is written in your DNA. Along the length of the double helix that makes you are chemical markers and switches known as junk DNA that can turn on – or off – the expression of a gene.
You might have a gene that predisposes you to diabetes, but whether that gene turns on is affected by what your parents ate or breathed or suffered (stress, for example) during their lives before you were conceived, and even further back to the lives of your grandparents and great-grandparents.
Scientists have used diet alone to extend the lifespans and vastly improve the health of mice genetically predisposed to cancer and diabetes through a dodgy gene (known as the agouti gene) just by changing the diets of the mother mice.
They were fed onions, garlic and beets, all high in methyl donors. Those chemicals affected the development of the embryos as they grew, attaching to chromosomes and dialling down the effect of the agouti gene. They lived long, healthy lives compared to the short, diseased lives of their parents.
This new science, known as epigenetics, confirms what Kay has suspected all along: that nutrient-dense food makes you healthier and also has a big impact on the health of your children, your grandchildren and their children.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

60,000 - Thank You!

Yesterday we hit 60,000! Thank you for your interest. I'm gearing up for several post on gardening & homesteading in the very near future so check back often.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Busy Pre Summer Season

   I feel like I haven't slowed down a bit since Chick has been out of school. We started  Homeschool this week  & even went on a photography field trip mid week.She has a summer art project she has started & her pictures will be included in it.
   The garden is finally starting to grow. We have been getting lettuce & kale so far & since I could not find a taker for all of the extra tomato plants I ended up planting 14 instead of the 4 that I had intended on having. We are still eating on canned tomatoes from last year. I always give more away than we keep, but that's part of the joy of gardening.
   Chick, Thelma & I have a couple of short trips planned this summer & I am very much looking forward to that. Anytime Thelma & I get away we have a great time & now that Chick is older we are going to start including her on a few. Not all mind you, Thelma & Louise need some adult time too.
   MIL not doing so well. I have actually had to step back from the situation & try to get others to get involved. I realized that trying to take care of her as well as my own family was wearing on me & I needed to do something before I am completely worn out. I can only do so much & my 7 yr old needs me.
   Next week I start pricing garage sale stuff. I swore I'd never have another one but I feel crowded in our house & everyone seems to be on board so we're going to do it. The only problem is that Chick loves garage sales & she will replace all the stuff she'll sell with new so we'll probably not be ahead, just have the same amt, just different. Even hoarder Dad is all for it. Now that's scary!