Celebrating Yule 2013

Originally posted on Nature is Sacred:

en: Yule Goat - a scandinavian christmas symbol

en: Yule Goat – a scandinavian christmas symbol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Yule everyone. Also known as the Winter Solstice or Alban Arthan (Light of Winter) to Druids, it is the time to celebrate midwinter and the new solar year. Throughout human history, festivals have been celebrated at this time, whether as Saturnalia in ancient Rome, Yule in Anglo Saxon and Scandinavia, or Christmas in Christian communities. Today is the shortest day and the longest night and the Solstice occurs at 17.11 GMT on 21st December. Since the summer, the days have been getting shorter and colder, but from now on, days will begin to lengthen and get warmer as we approach Spring again. It is a time of hope and renewal.

Yule is known as the day when the Sun is reborn because the earth has reaches its furthest point from the Sun and begins to get closer again…

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Reblogging: Are Honeybees Our Proverbial Canary in the Coal Mine?

 

This is something that is near and dear to me.  I am a beekeeper.  While I only have 2 hives I would love to have more and want my bees to be healthy.  I don’t want to have to worry about pesticides and herbicides in local farm crops killing my bees.  Or the spraying of weed killer by the state DOT along my road….for goodness sakes, we can’t let a weed grow.  Wouldn’t paying local farmers a small subsidy to make sure those areas in their communities are mowed regularly be better than spraying harmful herbicides?  It breaks my heart every time I read about bee, bird or other animal deaths that could so easily be prevented.

Please stop buying pesticides and herbicides.  A friend of mine had the right idea.  If EVERYONE stopped buying this stuff for just one season we could run these companies out of business.  Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta.  Anything made by these companies is just pure evil.   Stop paying them for the pleasure of killing our planet, killing our animals and ultimately killing us.

Link to original article:  http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/are-honey-bees-our-proverbial-canaries-coal-mine

Are Honey Bees Our Proverbial Canaries in the Coal Mine?

 

Recent reports of mass bee deaths at single locations have raised alarm among environmentalists, entomologist and concerned citizens around the world.

The June 17th Wilsonville Oregon incident resulted in over 50,000 dead bumble bees, honey bees and other pollinators. The bees literally dropped dead while feeding on the blooms of flowering Linden trees in a Target parking lot, after the pesticide “Safari” was sprayed on the blooming trees. This catastrophic event was a grim reminder of the devastating consequences of the use of deadly poisons by humans in their attempts to control nature.
Then, on June 26th, it was reported in the Ontario, Canada Post that local beekeeper David Schuit had lost nearly 40 million bees at his family’s bee yard and hives in Elmwood, Ontario. A local organic farmer and apiarist, Schuit raises and breeds buckfast honeybees for pollination and honey production. This was the second year a massive sudden death of his bees had occurred; both times within weeks of the planting of chemically treated seed corn crops in his region.

Shortly after the first incident in 2012 an article in the Toronto Sun quoted, Schuit describing the condition of the bees:

“It killed the queens, it killed my drones, it killed my worker bees,” Schuit said.

“The workers, when they’re exposed to this chemical, it paralyzes the bees. They’re still living but they’re dying, and they’re in agony. The legs kicking, the tongue sticking out. Even the stinger sticks out and venom drops out. They just can’t control their bodies.”

This disturbing description of bees dying has been observed around the world from France to the U.S. Over the last decade beekeepers have faced accelerated losses of their bees in the wake of the expanding of the use and popularity of the class of pesticides introduced in the 1990′s known as neonicotinoids.

These pesticides, which manufacturers continue to claim are ‘not the culprit’ in the massive bee die offs, have now been linked to additional, even more serious effects from the Netherlands to California and throughout Canada and the Midwest United States.

The evidence is in and it’s far more condemning than anyone had imagined. Studies around the world have clear and distinct findings directly linking the persistent presence of neonicotinoids to serious environmental consequences. It turns out the bees are not the only ones in serious trouble.

A report published in January of 2013 issued by the American Bird Conservancy chronicles massive bird die offs in North America over the last decade, as well as a long list of failures in the permitting processes of these toxins. Co-authored by internationally renowned bird toxicologist Pierre Mineau and Cynthia Palmer, the Editor in Chief of the news service ‘Environmental Health News’, the report details specific findings of the toxicity of these chemicals to fish, invertebrates and birds. Here are just a few of the findings from the report:

“A single corn kernel coated with a neonicotinoid can kill a songbird.”

“Even a tiny grain of wheat or canola treated with the oldest neonicotinoid, Imidacloprid, can poison a bird.”

“As little as 1/10th of a corn seed per day during egg-laying season is all that is needed to affect reproduction with any of the neonicotinoids registered to date.”

The report, which addresses the issue of neonicotinoids in aquatic environments and their effects on bird species, notes in its synopsis: “This report reviews the effects on avian species and concludes that neonicotinoids are lethal to birds as well as to the aquatic systems on which they depend.”

In the alarming, specific and highly detailed report, the authors chronicle a complete failure on the part of the U.S. EPA to accurately or effectively assess the risks of these new chemicals. Providing evidence that not only did the EPA fail in their regulation and safety analysis of the chemicals, they also  ignored their own scientists recommendations, and continued to allow expansion of the approved uses and production of these chemicals.

Chemicals which were originally approved for specific applications in agriculture have now expanded to become retail products available to homeowners and lay-persons across the U.S. and around the world.

In its condemnation of this regulatory failure, the report cites two scientific studies documenting severely declining bird populations in North America.

“The North American regulatory system needs to act rather than continue to ignore evidence of widespread environmental damage. There is evidence that US regulators waited far too long to impose needed restrictions on the toxic insecticides responsible for millions of bird deaths per year (Mineau 2004) and that this is one of the more plausible reasons for the decline of grassland/farmland birds in North America (Mineau and Whiteside, 2013).”

The American Bird Conservancy report comes two years after Dutch toxicologist Dr. Henk Tennekes published the findings of his studies chronicling the long term persistent and lethal effects of Imidacloprid to insects and birds in the Netherlands.

A systemic and persistent neonicotinoid, Imidacloprid has been found by Dr. Tennekes to build up in waterways and natural aquatic environments, to persist in those areas and to spread throughout natural habitats connected by waterways.

According to his studies, all of the waterways of the Netherlands are now contaminated and the cumulative effects of this long term toxicity are decimating bird populations. It is persistent, cumulative and lethal in these environments over time resulting in mass die offs within these eco-systems.

The Rachel Carson Council review of Dr. Tennekes’ book, A Disaster in the Making states:

“Dr. Tennekes’ findings indicate that Imidacloprid (and possibly other neonicotinoid-type insecticides) can bind irreversibly to critical receptors in an insect’s nervous system. If these receptors are permanently blocked, the insecticide would not follow a typical dose-response curve. He provides evidence that long term low-level Imidacloprid exposure can lead to neurological problems and eventual death of insects.”

He has also found that this persistence has led to a drastic reduction of insect biomass in the Netherlands, affecting the food chain.

Clearly, the toxic effects of the chemicals on birds are a major issue and must be addressed. However, this new development of massive losses of native insect populations in the estuaries and waterways where all other creatures depend on them as a food source is a frightening result never before contemplated.

It is not hard to imagine then that any chemical which is introduced to an environment and becomes persistent in that environment, with lethal doses accumulating over time in insects, invertebrates, fish and birds, could also be responsible for the massive deaths of honey bees and other bee populations.

In fact, European studies have come to the conclusion that these chemicals impact the honeybees’ ability to forage and survive.

A Purdue University study published in the journal PLoS One in January of 2012 directly linked honeybee deaths to seed insecticide exposure (http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2012/120111KrupkeBees.html):

“Analyses of bees found dead in and around hives from several apiaries over two years in Indiana showed the presence of neonicotinoid insecticides, which are commonly used to coat corn and soybean seeds before planting. The research showed that those insecticides were present at high concentrations in waste talc that is exhausted from farm machinery during planting.

“The insecticides clothianiodin and thiamethoxam were also consistently found at low levels in soil – up to two years after treated seed was planted – on nearby dandelion flowers and in corn pollen gathered by the bees.”

Because these chemicals bind to receptors in the nervous systems of insects, birds and mammals, and because the manufacturers and scientists developing these chemicals were convinced that they could actually map them and ‘match them’ to specific insects, there has been a great expansion in their production.

In light of the current evidence, and massive environmental impact being seen as a result of their use, the questions now become, “How quickly can we assess what we have unleashed upon the earth, and can we undo the damage it has already caused? And, how can we prevent the damage it is continuing to cause and save these natural regions, watersheds and environments?”

The answers are not easily found when most of the world has not yet even admitted there is a problem, and the people in control are profiting so vastly from the production and application of these toxins that they are not interested in the deadly consequences of their products.

But it gets worse.

Another recent study conducted by Japanese researchers sought to “determine the effects of two distinct neonicotinoids, Acetamiprid (ACE) and Imidacloprid (IMI) on specific receptor sites, (nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs)) in mammalians”.

The study was designed to shed light on the effects of these systemic toxins on mammals, as their impact on insects is established, “but the question of their effects on mammals has never been studied”.

This statement alone should raise major alarm. When combined with the knowledge that neonicotinoid insecticides are now the most widely used chemicals in the world for insect control, and have moved from fields and farms into homes and gardens across the U.S. it becomes more than frightening.

The findings: The study is the first to show that “ACE, IMI, and nicotine exert similar excitatory effects on mammalian nAChRs at concentrations greater than 1 µM. Therefore, the neonicotinoids may adversely affect human health, especially the developing brain.”

So it looks as though these chemicals are not quite as species specific, or safe, as we were led to believe.

The method of action of neonicotinoids causes disruption of the communication transmission between neurons. Massive short term, or cumulative lower level long term exposure appears to cause a permanent blocking of the neuron receptors to acetylcholine. This means the function of the transmission and reception is tricked into a permanent ‘on’ signal.

The description by David Schuit of the condition of his dying bees correlates with such a situation. The nervous system is unable to ‘shut off’ the signaling leading to a kind of massive seizuring, paralysis and death.

To contemplate such a horrific result in insects is unpleasant at best. To consider the potential that this condition can be spread inter-species to invertebrates, fish and birds is worse. The idea that this can also occur in mammals and that the toxins are now prevalent throughout many regions of the world is almost unthinkable.

In Belgium, a review of research conducted from 1985 to 2011 from Belgium’s Catholic University of Louvain determined that Parkinson’s disease was linked to occupational exposure to pesticides in farmworkers.

While these chemicals are not all identical, and their actions may vary; the clear indications are that long term exposure, whether by insects, amphibians, birds or people can be lethal.

Suddenly these neonicotinoids don’t sound like “the safest insecticides in the world,” as they were touted to be over two decades ago when they were introduced.

The pattern of discovering, by way of terrible consequences, the true lethal nature of chemical toxic insecticides and pesticides is not new.

After being promoted as the greatest safest new weapon in the war on bugs, the chemicals have turned out to be what they started as: poisons.

Perhaps it is time for us to wake up and realize that using the services of those companies who excelled at chemical weaponry and warfare to provide the tools for raising our food is just a bad idea.

It is time to stop trying to solve our problems by poisoning the earth. Hopefully, it is not too late to make that choice.
###

Additional Sources:

OregonLive
Bee Deaths a Result of Pesticide ‘Safari’ Count upped to 50,000 Insects
http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2013/06/pesticide_confirmed_in_bee_dea.html

Post, Ontario Canada
Bees dying by the millions
http://www.thepost.on.ca/2013/06/19/bees-dying-by-the-millions

Toronto Sun Article 2012:
http://www.torontosun.com/2012/06/08/beekeepers-blame-pesticides-for-bee-deaths

June 20th 2010 letter to the President requesting suspension of neonicotinoids.
Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides
http://www.pesticide.org/the-buzz/letter-to-the-white-house-urging-suspension-of-neonicotinoid-pesticides

American Bird Conservancy Report on Neonicotinoids
http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/toxins/Neonic_FINAL.pdf

The Systemic Insecticides: A Disaster in the Making
Dr. Henk Tennekes
Swiss Society of Toxicology
Annual Meeting
22 November 2012

http://www.boerenlandvogels.nl/sites/default/files/Tennekes_Presentation_Annual%20Meeting_Swiss%20Toxicology%20Society_%2022112012_1.pdf

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

Women Farmers are Breaking New (and old) Ground

Reblogging this fantastic article on women in farming from Grist.  It just speaks to me that I am on the right track with the direction my life is taking now.  I love the farm life!  

Breaking the grass ceiling: On U.S. farms, women are taking the reins

For 56-year-old Tammy Burnell, who lost everything she owned in the 2008 Iowa floods, it’s the freedom to stand in the verdant fields of Burnell Farms in Royston, Ga., and call out to the heavens — and know no one can hear her.

Hannah Breckbill, 25, walked from a career as a mathematician and settled in Elgin, Minn., planting Humble Hands Harvest “to work in something real and be the change I want to see happen in this world.”

Forty-one-year-old Pilar Rebar quit her job as a pesticide applicator when she realized she had been told lies about the chemicals she was spraying on crops. Vowing to only grow “clean and healthy food,” she started up Sunnyside Organic Seedlings in Richmond, Calif.

Meet three of America’s female farmers, the most rapidly growing segment of the nation’s changing agricultural landscape. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service reported last month that the number of woman-operated farms more than doubled between 1982 and 2007. Add primary and secondary operators, and there are nearly 1 million women in farming, accounting for 30 percent of U.S. farmers.

So hot is ag life that novels about farming are replacing chick lit, offering an unexpected twist to the notion of dirty romance.

Click for a slideshow of female farmers around the U.S.
Click for a slideshow of female farmers around the U.S.

 

Unlike the Farmettes and Women’s Land Army that took over while men fought in World War II, women today see farming as both a mission and a passion. Some want to provide healthy food for the masses. Others are looking to build community or live a life of deeper meaning.

“Women want to be outside, they want to be near family. There’s lots of interest in where our food comes from, how it was grown,” says Kathleen Merrigan, former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We are seeing more beginning farmers coming in and I think the trend is going to continue. Women are [already] outnumbering men in owning smaller farms.”

They arrive on farms — urban and rural, large and small — from two opposite worlds. Many are 40 and older, leaving behind office jobs and careers for the opportunity to get their hands dirty and create something tangible. At the other end of the spectrum are younger women who are coming out of agricultural and environmental science programs with a dedication to food justice, education, and reminding a nation led astray by fast food and TV dinners where its sustenance really comes from. There is also an older generation of women who have outlived their husbands and now own vast amounts of farm and ranchland.

Combined, they are making new inroads for women who are determined to build a life around farming.

Tammy Steele, director of the Oklahoma-based National Women In Agriculture Association, says female farmers have gained the respect not only of the USDA but also of the national farming community. That was missing, Steele explains, during the ’60s back-to-the-land movement, when women were more concerned with breaking the glass ceiling in corporate America than they were in tilling the earth.

What’s more, female farmers have shattered the old stereotypes. St. Paul, Minn.’s Der Thou grows flowers. Teresa Brockman of Eureka, Ill., grows 25 varieties of fruit on her Sunny Lane Farm. Debby Zygielbaum, in her 30s, raises sheep and grows organic grapes, olives, and fruits for Robert Sinskey Vineyards in Napa Valley, Calif. These women are a garden of variety.

Kristina Beuning runas a CSA and owns the Sunbow Farm in Eau Claire, Wis. She's been farming for 10 years.
Kristina Beuning runs a community-supported agriculture operation and owns the Sunbow Farm in Eau Claire, Wis. She’s been farming for 10 years.

Women do face some unique challenges in this business. Since women’s farms tend to be smaller, many need assistance with business plans and financing. Access to equipment can be limited. Many seek advice on marketing and how to get their goods to the public. As a result, we’ve seen the emergence of organizations such as the National Women In Agriculture Association and the Women, Food and Agriculture Network, both of which are seeing their memberships soar, as well as other, less formal networks.

Not everyone needs help, of course. Haylene Green, 68, farms alone on a single acre in Atlanta’s tough West End, raising organic Caribbean vegetables, among them her famous “huge fatty bum-bum” tropical pumpkins. But others set up businesses with friends, sisters, brothers, same-sex partners, fathers, mothers. They’ve created sisterhoods, networks for sharing livestock and tractors, seeds, labor, financial assistance, and know-how.

Many of these networks are still unrecognized by the mainstream, but some are breaking into the open. Soil Sisters offers tours of organic farms in south-central Wisconsin as part of MOSES, the Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Service. MOSES is led by 46-year-old Lisa Kivirist of Browntown, Wis., who with her husband left a career in advertising at Chicago’s Leo Burnett 17 years ago to start the Serendipity Farm B&BAnnie’s Project, which offers assistance with everything from risk management to business plans to marketing, has expanded nationally.

It makes perfect sense, says Merrigan, the former USDA chief: “Women are agriculturalists globally. The U.S. is trying to catch up.”

What is most apparent, though, is how content these women are with their agrarian lives. “Women make the food choices, they make the choices on what to feed their family, so their movement into farming is very natural,” says Temra Costa, author of Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat and the force behind the website Farmer Jane. Costa lives outside of Oakland, Calif., where she homesteads with chickens and a small vegetable plot.

Tammy Burnell, for her part, says she’s known she wanted to be a farmer since she was 6 years old. Throughout the years she kept having a dream, even though she lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that she was growing vegetables in Georgia, near a pond. “Then the flood came and we lost everything,” Burnell says. What next? She typed “Georgia Organics” into Google and up came an 85-acre farm for rent. “So we loaded our ’57 red Chevy truck bearing a water ring from the flood and took off.”

Burnell uses a plot of the farm she rents to teach young women to farm. She calls them “the blooms.” “What do I love about farming? Teaching. And being able to say I want a fresh salad and walking 20 feet and picking lettuce or a sweet pea for me and a customer,” Burnell says. “Like all the women farming and wanting to farm, I know this: We all want to lift our hands and praise the food, trees, and birds, and scream on the top of our lungs how great it is. And no one hears, not a soul.”

Lori Rotenberk is a Chicago-based journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, The Boston Globe, Chicago Wilderness Magazine, and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is also also wild about nature. Follow her on Twitter

Belfire Farm

My gosh it’s been awhile since I have written on here!!  As we can all see the world did NOT end on December 21, 2012…LOL.   I’m just as glad that it didn’t because I would have been too busy to notice.   A lot has changed and a lot has stayed the same here on the farm.  We have sort of changed our focus a little bit, we will still be raising herbs for Rod’s medicinals as we always have but we have now added on some animals.   We are now raising Angora goats.  A lot of you reading this will have already seen my babies on my FB page.

How did we get into Angora goats?  Well, we were looking for something else to do on the farm that would help us to be more self sufficient in the future.  We thought about goats because Rod spent some time with a cousin who had dairy goats and he really enjoyed working with and caring for them.  Several friends of ours already have dairy goats and we wanted something different so I started researching.  I decided that I did not want to do Boer goats (for meat) because they get too big and also I didn’t think I could send a goat I had raised from a baby off to slaughter.  In my research I came across Angora goats.  They are not so big, they have absolutely beautiful fleece – like sheep, and their fleece is called Mohair.  It is soft and lustrous and most can be worn next to the skin in sweaters, socks, scarves and hats.  So…I thought, I am a crafty person and I love learning new things so why not raise Angoras for fleece?  I can learn to spin and have always wanted to learn to weave.  One thing led to another and we eventually traveled to two Angora goat farms here in Virginia, Peavine Hollow Farm and Kid Hollow Farm.  Peavine raises all white Angoras and Kid Hollow raises colored Angoras.   Both of them were wonderful and I highly recommend contacting them if you are in this area and want Angoras.   I knew the moment I saw the colored Angoras that they were what I wanted…..of course all of the precious new baby kids with all of the red, brown and black curls helped!   I arranged to purchase a starter flock from Pat Harder at Kid Hollow and we brought them home in early March.  Our first three were Hey Jude, Dear Prudence and Maggie.  We obtained three more a month later when a FB friend needed to decrease his herd.  They are Spice and her doeling Brighid and Mocha.  Mocha has become our herd Queen.

So we have been very busy with our new critters since they came to us, putting up new fencing, arranging barns, building a shearing stanchion, etc.  Prior to this in January we lost a Pygmy doe, Lily, in birth.  We were able to save one of her kids, Sam.  Sam was bottle fed and lived in the house for almost 6 weeks.  That was an experience!  The little bugger still thinks he is a house goat and is sooooo sweet.  In the middle of all of that our young Pygmy doe, Izzy, presented us with triplet doelings with her first freshening at the end of April.   I have posted pics of all of our latest additions below.

Now I just have to find myself a spinning wheel or spindle and learn how to turn all of this fleece I will be having into the beautiful yarns and rovings that I see my goatie friends posting on FB.  All things in good time.

That is something else that I must mention, a shout out if you will.  I have met some of the most wonderful people in the Angora goat forums and the general goat forums on Facebook.  All of them are just as nice as they can be and are quick to offer any help and advice that they can.  Some have years of experience and some are just getting started like me and I have learned something new every day from all of them.   I am forever grateful to those in the Colored Angora Group on FB for all of their knowledge and wisdom on raising these beautiful but often complex animals – Kai Mohair, Persimmon Tree Farm, MamaSheri, Red Falcon Ranch, Scarlet Sunset Sears, Lisa Skillman, Emmelita Hoskins, Judy Willimas, Mindy Wilson and many more….I can’t possibly name them all.   Thank you for your friendship and your advice, it is truly appreciated.

That’s all for now!  Ya’ll have a great day :)

Susan

Jude 052413_Belfire copyright

Maggie 052413_Belfire copyright

Pru closeup 052413_Belfire copyright

Making sure they all listen_Belfire

Grace is our Great Pyrenees Livestock Guardian dog

Grace is our Great Pyrenees Livestock Guardian dog

Spice.Mocha.Brighid_Belfire Copyright

Brighid 2.5 months 042313_Belfire copyright

Sam at 5.5 months old

February 2012…Doomsday on the way? Nahhh.

Hello…yes, I know I have been absent for a long while.  No excuses except life just caught up with me in sooooooo many ways I can’t even count them.  LOL.  Long story short – got a job last spring, worked hard on the garden, etc and the job last summer and then lost job again in October.  Teenager problems with my eldest boy, on their way to being resolved for good, I hope.  My car died on me and without a job that presented a real problem.  Goddess always provides the way though and we now have a wonderful minivan with lots more space.  The Holidays snuck up on me and without money, those are never fun.  We made it through though and wow, now where did January go???

It is now February and we have had no winter to speak of save for a few nights down in the 20′s.  No snow.  No hard freeze of the ground.  It has been so warm the daffodils are blooming and the apple trees are budding out.  Makes me wonder if this is the new “normal” they keep talking about.  You know about the poles shifting, right?  The North Pole has shifted to the West, towards Russia and is doing so at about 40 miles a year.  Not only is it going to affect our weather patterns but it will affect bird migrations and your GPS.  It caused the Tampa airport to have to rename all of their runways because they are named based upon the compass headings they point to, the compass moved 1 degree last year alone.  The USDA has also come out with new planting zone guidelines based upon these earth changing events.  I may have to move…LOL.  I like to have a definable winter, spring, summer and fall.   I’m not sure I am ready for these kinds of changes, but I guess Mother Earth has other ideas…..

Do I believe in the 2012 Mayan end of the world prophecy?  Hmmmm….that is a tough one.  They seemed to believe in it enough to document it.  But there are so many doomsday prophecies everywhere and in every major religion it’s enough to confuse you and frighten you if you let it overwhelm you.  Not to mention there is so much incredible (and unbelievably crazy) information on the net about The End of the World as We Know It (TEOTWAWKI)  and the 2012 prophecy that it can overwhelm you and make you nuts even if you tend to fall on the saner side of life.  (No tinfoil hats in this house…lol)  I tend to believe that there will be some sort of worldwide economic collapse before there will be a collapse on a planetary doomsday scale.  Economically, we are all heading over a cliff and Mother Earth won’t have a thing to do with that…..but that’s another blog…lol.   That said, if you read anything about what is going on with Mother Earth, if you follow earthquakes, volcanoes, etc. you can see that there is an uptick in all of that activity.   Volcanoes everywhere, on every continent and little island seem to be becoming more active.  The tectonic plates are moving and the Pacific ring of fire seems to be well lit these days.  All of this is probably very normal on the Earth’s evolutionary scale, which if you think about it, humans are a very small part of that scale.  If you want to see a visual what kind of EQ activity I am talking about you can go to Intellicast’s interactive weather map and click on the EQ button under tab “overlays”.  The USGS has a good site too, but the Intellicast map is a better visual, I think.  For Volcano activity you can check out this link.  So much goes on with our planet every day and you never hear about it, do you?  By no means am I any kind of “expert” knowledgeable about this stuff, I just do a lot of reading because it interests me.  I always encourage folks to learn about what is going on around them and that includes the rest of the world, not just their little corner of it.  Also, I have a sort of weird(?) fascination with weather and natural disasters anyway…lol.

That brings me to another topic I am going to be talking about more and more as the year moves on….personal and family preparedness.  It is a subject close to my heart and in my humble opinion, it is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your family.  To be prepared for whatever is coming our way, be it a natural disaster or one of man’s own making, such as an economic collapse of the system or goddess forbid, nuclear accident (did you hear about the 2 US nuclear facilities with problems this week?).  I never used to think about it….how would my family survive if the unthinkable occurred? A lot of my friends poo-poo me on this stuff when I post it on FB.  They think things like this don’t happen in America.  But they DO.  Economically, the Great Depression.  Nature…think Katrina.  Think Mount St. Helens.  Think Tornadoes.  Think Earthquakes.  You don’t have to have the 2012 prophecy occur for TEOTWAWKI to occur.  Think of what would happen if the economy and the dollar collapses.  Do you know what that would mean for you and your family?  Think about that.  We are already living with increasing inflation….increased food and gas costs, etc.  We live in a very short supply country, even though we seem to have things/food in abundance.  Do we really?   Think about it.  Are you prepared?

Blessings,

Storm

 

 

 

Ummm…where did this week go???

I have been meaning to get on here all week and now here it is Thursday….night.  I don’t do my best writing at night so just bear with me :)  Tomorrow is Friday and I’ll be busy in the kitchen baking bread for the Market on Saturday.  Last Saturday I sold 8 loaves of Parmesan Herb bread and 6 loaves of my Honey Wheat bread.  Big grin.  I’m glad folks like my bread as much as I do.

Yum…TinMan just brought me some popcorn.  He makes popcorn the old-fashioned way…..in a pan on the stove.  He hates the microwave….LOL.

So, what have we been up to this week?  Not much farm related, unfortunately.  I can’t remember really, it seems like we should have been incredibly busy for it to be Thursday night and I haven’t written anything.  On Monday I went to my oldest son’s school to see about getting him some help.  Dontcha just LOVE government schools?  Hmph.  I wish they would abolish the Dept of Education but that’s another post.  He has ADD and behavior problems in class.  He’s a great kid, smart, has soooooo much potential but his behavior in class (he’s the class clown, loves to make others laugh and just can’t seem to stay in his seat) is keeping him out of class more than in it.  I met with a wonderful lady who runs a counseling service that is contracted with the County Schools.  She is also into homeopathic remedies and herbals, etc.  She understands my reluctance to put John on any kind of pills.  I don’t want a zombie for a son.  They are going to work with John during school and during the summer so hopefully next year will be much better.  That, for once, was a positive experience.

Monday afternoon and evening I spent taking pictures outside.  Lots of neat storm clouds about.  Took a lot of wildcrafting pics of plants and flowers out in the fields.  The grass has gotten so deep it’s about chest high on me….Bandit, my dog, was having a field day running through the long,tall grass.  I’ll get the pics posted soon.

Tuesday….hmmmm.  What did I do on Tuesday?  Oh…..We rearranged things in my
“office space” in preparation for me starting my new job on Monday.   We were doing that while waiting for the Century Link guy to come connect my new business phone line.  My appt time was set for Tuesday between 8am -5pm.  At 4:45 pm I had to call them to find out where the tech was at……oh, he’s running behind and won’t make it to your house today.  He’ll be there first thing in the morning.  GRRRRRRRRRRRRR.  Needless to say I wasn’t happy.  Did they care?  NOPE.  Customer service sucks nowadays….if you get any at all.

Wednesday….waiting around for the Century Link guy.  Again.  10am….no tech yet.  So, I called them up again.  Where’s the tech?  On terminal hold until some person  comes back and tells me that the tech will have to call me, he’s not answering their calls.  The tech finally arrives at 11am.  He says that yes, he was to come yesterday but they aren’t allowed overtime anymore so he didn’t come.  They didn’t put me back on his list for today either, if I hadn’t called back in he would never have shown up on Wednesday!!!!  Can you say stupid and incompetent?  Oh, not the tech….Jimmy was GREAT!  Very helpful and very knowledgeable.  In and out in an hour.

The rest of yesterday evening I spent repotting seedlings in the greenhouse in the peace and quiet.  Except for the birds and the breeze :)  I now have 54 sweet basil plants ready to sell, 40 calendulas, 40 wormwood, about 10 borage also ready.  I will also have some Holy Basil and motherwort to sell.  I love standing out in the greenhouse playing in the dirt and planting seedlings that I’ve grown myself.  Nothing like it…..

Today we had bunches of errands to run in town, got those done and got home about time for the boys to get here from school.  I also spent time in the garden this evening getting rid of a PEST.  Discovered Potato bugs (Colorado potato Beetle) all over my potatoes and that they have destroyed 2 of them already.  Not so many choices in getting rid of them either.  One of the choices is to pick them off by hand and put them into a bucket of soapy water.  My Dad came this evening and brought us some Sevin dust.   We managed to get that onto all of the plants tonight.  Let’s hope it works.

Well, I’m sitting here nodding off now…LOL.  I guess it’s time to hit the sack and get up and do it all over again.

Night all and thanks for reading!

Stormfyre

Friday the 13th Ramble

Woo hooo!  It’s Friday the 13th!  I’ve always loved Friday the 13th’s….LOL.  I know, I’m strange.  I’ve always found them fun and usually interesting.  Do you ever wonder how many things happen to people on these Fridays simply because they are trying sooooooo hard to avoid something happening to them?  It can be amusing :)  For me, it’s just another Friday and truthfully, I’ve never had any bad luck or evil doings befall me on a Friday the 13th.   I like to think the Laws of Attraction are at work here…..if you think and want positive stuff in your life, then that is what you will have.  If you go around thinking the sky is going to fall today because of the date, well then….watch out!

I know my day today is going to be busy in the kitchen and probably on the computer too.  I have breads for tomorrow’s market to make and TinMan is busily putting together some new teas for us to take so that means label and info card making.  I should have worked on these things some yesterday but I was exhausted yesterday.  We made the trip to Maryland on Wednesday that I spoke of in my Job Interview post update earlier in the week.  It’s a 5+ hour drive up there, which wasn’t bad going up, but we timed things just right and left during 5pm “rush” hour.  Ugh.  Ain’t no way anyone was “rushing” anywhere.  Can you say “parking lot?” We left the restaurant in Laurel, MD at about 5:15pm and it took us until after 7pm to get out of Northern VA.  Ugh.  We finally pulled into the driveway at midnight.  Lesson learned….eat, drink and be merry and THEN, leave DC after “rush” hour!!  Or rent a room.  Or go bug a “little sis” and beg a room in her new house in Bristow, VA!

HOWEVER…..the trip was definitely worth the time and added day of exhaustion.  I GOT THE JOB!!!  I will be starting my new job on May 23rd and I’m very excited.  I like the company that I will be working for and the people too.  To me that is just as important as liking the job.  What good does it do to have a good job if you can’t stand the folks you work for???  I’ve been there and done that….no fun.  So….anyway, this job will allow me to have the best of both worlds hopefully.  I get to work from home, sitting right here at my desk….can’t ask for better than that.  Do you get to work in your sweats and pink bunny slippers?  (TinMan will probably find me some of those and they will appear beside the bed one morning to make me laugh).  I can put on my “business voice” as my son’s call it and still be sitting here with my night shirt on and my hair standing up on end……hehehehehehe.  Truthfully though, I think I will enjoy the job.  I have done Worker’s Compensation Case Management before and enjoyed it a lot.  It can be a very positive and rewarding job if you do it the right way.  It’s not a perfect job by any means, but then I haven’t found that job yet in all my searches sooo…..if anyone does, please let me know what it is :0) I like getting people back to work.  I like using my nursing knowledge and skills.  I like talking to people.  This job allows me to still be a nurse and work at home in my bunny slippers  and yak all I want to folks….LOL….can’t beat it.

Well, I guess I’d better get going, lots to do today!  Not sure which breads I’m going to make either….LOL.  So I’d better get moving and figure it out.

Have a FUN and blessed Friday the 13th!!

Storm

Opening Day at the Farmer’s Market

Last Saturday was the Opening Day for our local Farmer’s Market.  We want to build a presence locally for Belfire Botanicals as well as the farm and we thought the Market would be a great place to do that.  It’s a great little Market, open on Saturday’s from 0730am – 12 Noon and will eventually be open on Wednesdays too as the season progresses.

The Market is located in part of the old Downtown area of Danville, VA in what used to be one of the old train depots.  The building has the really beautiful old, old floors made from heart of pine.  Shined with that aged dark patina of very old wood.  There are huge open doorways on both sides of the building allowing in sunshine and the cool breezes.  The building is probably over 100 years old.  They have lots of vendors inside and outside selling just about anything you could want.  The only stipulation is that it has to be something that you created yourself or grew on your land.  We have our booth outside.  As nice as the inside of the building is….I just have to be outside :)

Our tent outside is right next to J&B Plants....such beautiful plants...I don't know if I can resist!!!

Last week was an exhausting week getting ready for the Market.  Trying to decide exactly what we were taking and then getting all of that prepared.  Since I am the computer guru I had the task of making all of the labels and info cards, etc for all of our products.  Don’t get me wrong, I love designing and creating things like that…it’s just that I am so OCD and anal about the finished product (it has to look JUST RIGHT!) that it probably took me a bit longer than it would have if someone else did them….LOL.  First impressions and all that, right?  What you present to the public when they first meet you is what sticks in their minds.  So, OCDer that I am, I finally got the last of them done at 1130pm on Friday night.  Whew!  However, the good thing is that now I have the templates for all of those and can just make changes to them as needed for new/different products.

Variety of Teas

We had about 5 different blends of tea made by TinMan, along with some packages of individual herbs.   The tea blends we took are: Tea of Tranquility (best seller), Plantain & Thyme Tea, Stormfyre’s Sweet Dreams Tea, Comfrey Mint Tea and Harmonic Tea.

French Presses making sun tea

We set up the French Presses and made Sun Tea with a few of the blends for sampling and this went over very well.  All of the Teas are very aromatic as well…..the Tea of Tranquility smells so wonderful it could be used for potpourri!  I’ll see if I can talk TinMan into posting a page on Belfire Botanicals with Info on each tea.  His teas went over very well and we will be adding different varieties as the season moves along.  He was in his element on Saturday talking to folks about herbal medicinals and their benefits :)

TinMan inside our Tent

I brought along some fresh artisan loaves of my Parmesan Herb Bread – mmmmmmmm – the house smells like an Italian restaurant when I am baking this bread.  I also brought along some homemade Trail Mix with oats, honey, brown sugar, choc chips, walnut pieces, sunflowers and craisins in it.  We put samples out of both and sold all but one package of the Trail Mix.  Home made bread is a big seller at the Market so I will be flexing my baking skills and trying different breads to sell.  If ya’ll have any suggestions for other bakery items that you like to pick up at local Markets, let me know….I’m always up for new ideas!!

We had a very successful first day at the Market and we were both pleased with the response from customers.  Most were asking if we would be there every weekend and were very open to discussions on herbs and herbal medicinals.   TinMan is going to put out a sign up sheet next week to set up a Wild Crafting class here at the farm and we will also be putting out feelers to see how many folks would be interested in learning about herbs as medicinals.

John, in the hat on RT, from J&B Plants, our next door neighbor booth

I told TinMan the only obstacle I see to us earning any money is the fact that our booth is right next to J&B Plants….LOL.  John and his partner grow the most beautiful plants, mostly herbs, perennials and ornamentals.  I could have spent a whopping amount of money in his little space alone!  As you can see from the chair on the right in our booth….I’ve already spent a little :)  He’s a great guy and I think we can end up benefiting each others business this summer.  We use herbs and he grows them, very compatible booth neighbors.

Well, it’s time for me to get outside into my own garden.  It has been a bit neglected over the past few days so now I need to make up time.  I will be planting tomatoes and peppers today I think…..and who know what other mischief I will get into before the day is over!

Ya’ll take care!

Storm

Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Mom’s out there!  No one really understands being a mother until you are one.  How hard it is knowing that from their birth you are responsible for the way that that little human will turn out as an adult.  You.  Big responsibility that doesn’t come with any owner’s manual or how to guide.  Doesn’t matter how many books you read or what advice you receive from whom….you are still basically winging it from the get go.

My Mom, Jane

I know that I would not be the strong, independent and happy woman I am today without the unwavering guidance, love and support of my Mom.  She has been there with me through thick and thin.  I know that there have been times that I would not have made it through without her help.  Period.  We do not always agree on things which is as it should be, she raised me to be an independent thinker and to forge my own way in life.  She has always allowed me to make my mistakes without putting in her two cents first (well, almost always…LOL).  But she has never shut the door on me either when I’ve made them and come back to her for advice or just a shoulder to cry on.   And believe me, there have been some doozy mistakes made on my part!!  Remind to tell you about….ah, never mind :)

My mom is a wonderfully strong woman, stubborn and opinionated.   Although she would never admit the stubborn part…LOL.  She says that she has reached the age where she can say what she wants and she really doesn’t care if you like it or not.  She is funny as hell and has the same off beat sense of humor that I do, she loves to laugh.  She also loves to act like “one of the guys” when she is with my brother and his cohorts…she usually succeeds cause they all love her and call her Mom too.  She was part of their racing team (and loved every minute of it!) when my brother Dan raced ATV’s semi-pro.  She has always been like that, Mom to every one of mine and my brother’s friends.  Her door has always been open to any of them for anything that they need from teenage years on up to today as adults.   Her mantra in life is that she is going to live to be 100 or older so she can continue to be a pest and see her grandchildren have children.  I have no doubt that she will.   My son’s love her to pieces and so do my brother’s girls.

I got my love of gardening and flowers from her as well.  When I was growing up we always had gardens whenever we had the space for them….both vegetable and flowers.  We love to play in the dirt.  My mom’s family were all country folk so she grew up around farming and always wanted for us to have a farm and animals.  That dream became mine as well somewhere along the way and now I am finally doing it.  She loves coming here to the farm and seeing what we are doing and helping in the plans.

I can only hope that some day my son’s will be able to look back and say the same things of me.  I am raising them as I was raised, or trying to at least.  But this world we are living in now is so different from when I was growing up.  The challenges they face are a world apart from the challenges you and I faced growing up in so many ways.  I am trying to give and teach them the skills they need to survive.  To instill in them the values of family, love, honor and hard work.  The same values that my mother instilled in me.  I love them and tell them so every day.  They may not always think so….smile…but then I wouldn’t be doing my job if they “liked” me all the time…..I am after all, Mom…..the Queen Goddess Empress of all the Universe and well, whatever I say goes.  Right?  Right? :)

May the Goddess Bless all of our Mothers on this day and all days, for their guidance, strength, humor and unconditional love and support.

Hugs to all,

Storm

Getting ready for the Farmer’s Market

This week we are focusing on getting ready for the Farmer’s Market.  Opening day is this Saturday, May 7th.  I’m excited, I’m nervous.  Trying to be positive in the hopes that we will sell enough to make it all worthwhile.  We will be selling under the Belfire Botanicals banner, this is a representation of what our banner will look like:

Market Banner (pic from my computer screen)

I designed the banner and it is being made by a local company.  They are doing a great job for us…and if you know me, you know I can be pretty anal and picky about stuff like that….LOL.  I am designing and printing all of our product labels and info cards as well.  What do ya’ll think of the Blue Ridge Mountain background?  I found that pic online somewhere years ago and just loved it.  We thought it appropriate since we live in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.

We will be selling as the sign says…LOL…TinMan’s herbal teas and remedies.  Plantain & Thyme tea, Chamomile tea, Stormfyre’s Sweet Dreams tea, Tea of Tranquility, to name a few of them.  Eventually we will be adding some of his tonics and salves.  We will have some potted herbs and veggies ready for planting, some dried herbs and possibly some of my breads for sale as well.   If I can get my act together enough this week to make them!  Currently I have calendula, borage, motherwort, holy basil, cayenne peppers, grindela gumplant and jewelweed (for poison ivy rash…LOL), elacampane, St. John’s Wort, and several more I can’t remember the names of right now.   We will have lots of tomato plants for sale as well.  As the season progresses we will also be selling some of the veggies we have grown.

This year is definitely going to be a learning experience.  I have spent a good portion of time trying to find a local supplier of plant containers.  I’ve researched buying them online but the shipping costs are a killer!  I can get over 500 (I know, that’s a lot, but it’s the least amount in a case) 5 inch round containers for around $80 but the shipping is anywhere from $50-$70.  Makes ordering them online very cost prohibitive.  However, diligence pays off and this morning I finally found a somewhat local farm supply where we can go and buy them and we won’t have to buy case lots of 500.  It’s over the line in NC about an hour from here but it will be cheaper and quicker to go get them than to pay for shipping.

I also know that I am wanting a bigger greenhouse (already…LOL) so I can get started earlier in the year next year.  I love planting the seeds and watching them grow.  I hope that next year we can have an even bigger presence at the market as a plant seller.

Okay…tired of fighting it…LOL.  As I am writing this blog (and on most days whenever I’m sitting here at the computer) my cat has come to join me, right in front of my laptop.  Today she is very insistent and wants to say hello to ya’ll…..everyone meet Callie Cat…..

Callie Cat

She is very persistent today, will not move….LOL.  I put her down, she bounces right back up!  Isn’t she cute?  Her Charlie Chaplin face and those big eyes….most of the time she looks like a deer caught in the headlights.  She and her sister Rebel are constantly into stuff as all kittens should be….smile.  They have just turned a year old last month.  Callie is a snuggler and Rebel is a touch-me-not….too funny, cats and their personalities.  I could do a whole blog on that :)

Okay, cat snuggled in….what else are we up to on the farm?

Fence posts going up around the front bed

Well, we got the posts for the fences that we are putting in around the garden beds.  TinMan started sinking those this past week and he has almost finished getting them around one of the beds.  He is sinking them by hand, using a post hole digger.  Know anyone with an auger?  That is one tool that is going on the farm wish list for equipment.  That is one thing about farming….the equipment needs are many and the costs for it is well….right now out of everyone’s budget.

While he has been busy sinking posts I have been planting.  I have put in a salad patch with carrots, red and green romaine lettuce, a tangy and sweet mesculin mix, butterbib lettuce, radishes, chives and some spring bunching onions.  I’ve planted over a hundred green and red cabbages.  Garden peas.  Put in 4 more rows of corn, silver queen and a peaches and cream heirloom variety.   The first few rows of corn and cucumber seeds that I planted are starting to shoot up out of the dirt.  Our potatoes have come up and are looking great.  The squash and zucchini are also growing well.  I will be heading outside in a bit, the potatoes need hilling up along with the squash and zucchini.  I’m going to get a workout doing it too….despite all of the heavy rain last week the ground is hard as a rock.  We have great dirt, but also lots of that good ole wonderful southern red clay.  We are due for rain tonight and tomorrow,  and if I don’t get the ground turned over all the water will just wash out around the plants.

Oh, guess what I heard the other evening when I was out in the field?  A Bob-White….haven’t heard a bob-white call in years.  We have lots of birds around here…I love birds, they are amazing creatures.  We need to get some more feeders and some hummingbird feeders too.  Ah well, that is another tangent I could head off on today :)

Well, it’s 11:11 am….hmmm.  I guess I need to get moving and head on outside.  Lots to do.  See ya’ll later!

Blessings, Storm

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