Welcome to the FarmMade blog!

A bridge back to a simpler time and a step toward a better future

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Starts To a Great Harvest

Get ready, get set, get started planting those seeds that have been carefully hand-selected from a seed catalog, over the long winter months, or meticulously saved from last year’s harvest. All farmers—urban, suburban, and rural—are in high gear this time of year, taking stock of seed supplies, prepping soils, and planting in hopes for a successful harvest. Maximizing a spring, summer, or fall harvest always starts with high-quality seeds. The seed and initial planting processes help determine the health of plants and their yields. Will they survive the devastating affects that harsh weather and disease can have on a plant? Start by purchasing hardy heritage and/or organic seeds, if possible, and pay close attention to the planting instructions on the back of a seed packet.

All seeds sprout and grow at different rates, so timing is very important. Your last spring frost date determines how many weeks before planting you should sow. Some seeds can be directly sown right into the ground, such as carrots, radishes, beets, and beans. Others, like tomatoes, melons, and squash are sown indoors first to get a head start and then transplanted. Growing plants from seed is not only less expensive, but gives anyone the great satisfaction of being a part of something miraculous, much like a first time parent seeing their baby grow tall, strong, and healthy.

How Do Our Babies Grow?

Living in the Pacific Northwest makes for a shorter growing season. This means we take advantage of hoop houses, greenhouses and indoor south facing windows to jump start our seeds.  Always consider your climate and growing cycles when planting and never be afraid to experiment and try something new. We are trying eggplant this year, which is typically a southern climate crop. According to the OSU Master Gardener Program, you should not expect more than 65 to 80 percent of seeds to germinate. Our success rates fell into this estimation. Take a look for yourself.

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Our cantaloupe and watermelon (above) are off to a great start. Along with our Kentucky pole beans we saved from seed last year.

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If this chicken was real, our baby bok choy would be eaten in an instant.

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There’s something truly beautiful about this lone ranger of an onion.

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And our leaf lettuce has been growing tall, thanks to Farmer Robert, who loves watering our starts almost as much as his legos!

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Planting

There are four essential elements that affect a germinating seed: water, oxygen, light, and heat. A steady supply of water is needed to ensure germination. It’s important to keep the soil moist at all times, but not too wet so as to prevent rotting. Using a soil-less medium to plant your seed, that is loose and aerated, allows the proper oxygen flow. Most seeds need 14-16 hours of light daily. This can be provided and controlled under grow lights or a nice, sunny south-facing window. Without adequate light they will become tall and leggy. Temperature is another important factor in germination. Generally, 65-75 degrees is best for most plants. A good rule of thumb is to plant your seed two-three times its width under the soil, so all essential elements can have their proper effects.

Feeding

It is time to start feeding your seedlings once they develop their second set of true leaves. Fertilizing is critical to a successful growth rate. If you use synthetic fertilizer, use half the fertilizer called for a regular plant. You do not want to run the risk of over-fertilizing and burning them. A mix of fish emulsion and kelp is a gentle and organic way to go.

Transplanting

You might need to thin your seedlings out or transplant them into larger pots. Transplanting can keep them from the elements a bit longer and ensure their strength. Tomato and pepper plants are great candidates and love being babied a bit longer. It’s best to gradually get your plants used to an unsheltered life outdoors. Exposing them several hours a day, for 7-10 days before planting, allows them time to get hardened off.

Using Fun Containers to Plant Your Seedlings

Always remember to poke holes at the bottom of any container that you use to provide proper drainage.

What seeds are you starting this spring? Are you inspired to plant your spring seeds this year? Leave us a comment below and let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

We wish you all the best and hope your harvests are grand!

Naturally dyed eggs. Photo by Patti Long, FarmMade.

Farm Eggs Dyed Naturally

Spring on the farm is a very exciting time. It is a time of renewal and rebirth that can be seen everywhere. Rhubarb, lettuce and kale are starting to grow in the garden, baby chicks, goats and lambs are being born. Egg production is increasing after a long winter, just in time to celebrate Easter with the tradition of decorating and coloring chicken or duck eggs. Most of us grew up using the store bought egg coloring kits that include artificial dyes, stickers and shrink wraps, all packaged up and ready to use. But, did you know that you can naturally dye eggs from materials found right out of your garden, pantry and kitchen? Not only can you color eggs using fruit, vegetables and spices, you can decorate and design eggs using grains, leaves and twigs. It takes a little more effort and creativity, but the results are outstanding.

Let’s Get Started

Start with the freshest-laid eggs from organic or free-range chickens. If you do not have happy hens of your own, look for a farmer selling them at a local farmers market, co-op or farm stand. Brown eggs can dye just as well as white eggs and, in fact, will produce a richer color. First, boil your eggs in water, taking them out before they crack.

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While your eggs are boiling, peel several onions (red or yellow), chop some cabbage, dice a beet, grab some spinach and get out some frozen blueberries. We found some mason jars that we filled up about 1/3 to 1/2 way full. Nice right?

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You can add two tablespoons of any spice and get fantastic colors. We used tumeric for the color yellow.

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We used chili powder for orange.

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And brewed up some extra strong espresso coffee for our dark brown color.

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You will end up with eight jars total. Pour boiling hot water over the ingredients. Fill all of the jars up about half way, making sure to cover ingredients.

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Add two tablespoons of vinegar in each jar. The colors will not set without vinegar.

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After the jars have cooled, strain the ingredients and put your new dye in a fresh container.

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Add your eggs, one at a time, until you have around three to four in each jar.

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After adding your eggs, place all jars in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight. The longer you leave them, the more intense the color will be.

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When you take the eggs out, place them on a drying rack to dry. Rub them with vegetable, coconut or olive oil to polish them up, before you showcase them as a work of art on your countertop, hide them for a Easter egg hunt or place in beautiful baskets (we found ours at a second hand store). Aren’t you proud of yourself?

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How To Make Natural Food Dyes

Using fresh foods results in the most vibrant of colors. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables will work, but not as well. Coffee, juice and spices create darker hues. The following will give you a great start to deciding what colors you want to create.

  • Blue: red cabbage, purple grape juice, red wine
  • Lavender: blueberries
  • Green: spinach, parsley
  • Yellow: tumeric, orange peels, lemon peels, birch leaves
  • Orange: yellow onion skins, paprika, chili powder
  • Pink/red: beets, red onion skins, rasberries, cranberries, red pepper
  • Brown: very strong coffee, black tea, walnut shells
  • Note: you can mix any of these primary colors to create secondary colors such as; red and yellow make orange, yellow and blue make green and blue and red make violet.

Materials Needed

  • Mason jars or small bowls
  • Measuring spoons
  • White vinegar
  • Mesh strainer
  • Large pot
  • Large metal spoon
  • Olive, coconut or vegetable oil
  • Drying rack

Decorating Tips

  • Use a beeswax crayon to draw designs before the egg is dyed
  • Brush on melted beeswax with a thin brush
  • Wrap the egg with rubber bands or bakers twine if you want stripes
  • Gather any kind of leaf, twig, or even flower petals and firmly place against the egg. Wrap the egg in hosiery and tie tightly. This will make sure your design doesn’t shift. Place in any dye.
  • Tie dyed Easter eggs
  • Use silk ties to dye your eggs

 

Fermented foods. Photo by Patti Long, FarmMade.

Lets Get Cultured!

Beer, wine, coffee, vanilla, cheese, vinegar, and pickles; these are just some of the foods and beverages we consume daily that are fermented. Did you know that the art and craft of fermentation is thousands of years old and is an important part of every culture on the planet? Our grandparents and great-grandparents fermented foods as a means of preserving them and they realized how important these foods were to good health of mind and body. This valuable knowledge is making its way back into our lives and is experiencing a renaissance at local farmers markets, grocery stores and kitchen counters everywhere.

So what is fermentation anyway? Fermentation is the result of bacteria and/or yeast converting carbohydrates into alcohol, acids and carbon dioxide. For example, yeast perform fermentation by converting sugars into alcohol, and bacteria convert carbohydrates into lactic acid. Nearly any food can be fermented, because any kind of carbohydrate can be fermented. The possibilities are endless and can be tailored to fit your tastes and lifestyle.

After discovering how beneficial fermentation is, the next step was to try it. The process sounded easy enough, and so we were introduced to Donna Schwenk and her passion for living a cultured life. She is a huge proponent for eating fermented foods and has promoted The Trilogy as a way of life.

Kombucha

We started off with kombucha and followed this recipe. Kombucha is a bubbly, fermented tea that requires a starter called a scoby. You simply boil tea bags in water, add sugar and your scoby. Let ferment for 7-10 days.

Fermented foods. Photo by Patti Long, FarmMade.

Kefir

We ordered our kefir grains from Donna online and eagerly placed them in milk immediately.  The sugars in milk are food for kefir. Rule of thumb is one tablespoon kefir grains to one cup of milk. Using whole milk makes the kefir creamier.

Fermented foods. Photo by Patti Long, FarmMade.

After 24 hours of fermentation we strained the kefir grains to be used again.

Fermented foods. Photo by Patti Long, FarmMade.

We then poured our kefir liquid in to a separate jar to “second ferment” with orange peels. Twelve hours later and our kefir was not only higher in vitamins and nutrients but tastes fizzy, too.

Fermented foods. Photo by Patti Long, FarmMade.

Fermented Vegetables

Next, we bought some organic carrots to wash, peel and place in a brine with sprigs of rosemary. Check out the recipe.

Fermented foods. Photo by Patti Long, FarmMade.

The sunlight brings out the most beautiful color of orange.

Fermented foods. Photo by Patti Long, FarmMade.

Fermented Fruit

We couldn’t stop there, so the last of our organic Meyer lemons got sliced, salted and stuffed in one of our favorite storage jars following these instructions.

Fermented foods. Photo by Patti Long, FarmMade.

What Does All of This Mean For Us Humans?

Probiotics, the bacterium that carry out the process of fermentation, also exist in our gut. It is said that more bacteria exist in our gut than there are stars in the Milky Way. Countless chemical processes take place in our “second brain.” Serotonin, for instance, is what gives us our feelings of happiness and well-being. 95 percent of the body’s serotonin is housed in the gut, where it acts as a neurotransmitter and a signaling mechanism, so essentially, food and emotions go hand and hand.  Probiotics, the “good guys,” also help our bodies absorb more of the nutrients from the foods that we eat, and most importantly, fight the “bad guys” to combat disease and improve our immunities.

How to Begin Fermenting at Home

Fermentation can be fun and requires no special equipment or skill. This is an old craft that uses simple vessels such as crocks, mason jars and glass bottles. No one type of vessel is essential for fermenting vegetables. Buy organic, in season and local as possible, to capture the most nutrients, which are only amplified and enhanced by fermentation. Use a starter or unrefined sea salt to maximize the quality of your product. And, always use either filtered, if not distilled water to minimize contaminants, whether using it in a brine, kombucha batch or water kefir.  Water is the backbone of fermentation. Do not skimp on quality and most importantly have fun!

Are You Ready to Get Cultured?

Here are some fun and easy ways to get started: