Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why I like farmers and neighbors

I've recently read the speech given by Wendell Berry for the 2012 Jefferson Lecture for the National Endowment for the Humanities. Have you read it? No? Then you can do so here. Grab some tea and get comfortable. It's long and worth every word. In it, he espouses the importance and necessity of rooted living, of affection for the land, and story. It's really gotten me thinking about community, and of course, about art. I think one of the things that draws me to feltmaking is its connection to land, animals, and the lifestyle that supports it. Shepherds mean a lot to me. However, many times I have no connection to the person who raised the sheep whose wool I use. They often are in New Zealand or Australia, land of merino.
 So, in an effort to connect more to those who inhabit my community, I've made my second visit to Old Pine Farm on the outskirts of Ann Arbor. It's really a special place. They do an excellent job making sure their animals are well cared for, enjoy grass and fresh air, and are ethically treated. Kris, who owns the farm, just happens to have sheep of my favorite variety: Navajo Churro. These are such amazing beasts, sporting many, many horns and looking absolutely feral. The Navajo Churro is one of the very first sheep brought to the new world, are super hardy, and factor importantly to the Navajo people's spiritual life. They are considered"threatened" by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.  I was lucky enough to have first pick of her fleeces after her animals were sheared. I have more than enough to keep me busy for the next couple months with this great long wool!


Tuesday, May 1, 2012


My life just isn't complete without ducks. The quacking has been pretty quiet around here since out last duck left us. We now have three new replacements- all female black runners. I love them :)

April Roundup- Urban Farm Handbook

April really took me by surprise! As a mother of three wee ones, a wife, an artist, and a teacher, I have a lot going on. As much as I wanted to finish the garden... feeding children and making sure they have a bath every once in a while just has to take precedence! Plus, there are furry and feathery babies around here, too.

If only my yard looked like this! Note: this
only LOOKS like my new greenhouse in shape, not context!
Here's the roundup report from my (almost!) failure of an April. Firstly, I send my husband off on an epic journey to purchase a Craigslist special of a greenhouse. I have always wanted one, but not one of the cheap plastic jobs for sale as a kit. This one is a compromise, not exactly my brick and glass house I might drool over, but not super cheap either. Imagine a Subaru towing a trailer with a large greenhouse strapped to the back, and you get the picture. At any rate, it's set up and has seeds actually GROWING in it.

The fence goal. 
We decided to have a larger, dedicated, garden this year. We have the sod out, and the soil tilled. I felt like a smarty-pants when I sprinkled chicken feed over the partially tilled ground and let the ladies have at it for a few days. Viola!  Just waiting on manure and the like before we plant. We live with wildlife, so I need a fence, and have made the decision (for better or worse) to make a wattle fence. We'll see if I can actually finish this... before winter! It probably won't keep the deer out, but it will keep out the chickens and ducks and dog.

Horizon Herbs- non GMO, no Monsanto!
This year, I started three different varieties of heirloom tomatoes, cukes, luffa (yes!), eggplant, basil, peppers, and... dye plants! I am a feltmaker, and the number one thing on my list to learn is use natural dye plants. I started madder, wild indigo, and purple basil from seed, and plan to get a few other starts to add to the dye garden this spring as well. I will also purchase some veggie starts to round out the garden, too.

We'll be getting together with some like-minded folks we know to start a sort of homesteading co-op buying club.. thing. Not sure what to call it. We'd like to go in on bulk buys from the Eastern Market in Detroit on grains, spices, coffee, and meats. Details to come! We'll also share our canned goods, garden starts, and produce/eggs.  Our family is joining a goat milk share program, so we're excited for the opportunity for fresh milk in a few weeks. As May begins to ramp up, I'm looking forward to getting this behind me!