Full Swing this Spring

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Blossoms are out and some of the fruit has set already!  We need help picking berries, so please reach out if you are interested in purchasing and/or picking no-spray jersey blueberries.

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What a wonderful visit we had from the Raki family this April!  It was truly a treat and a blessing to have all 5 of them here, living and working and sharing our lives.  So much was accomplished in the barn and little house, a gate was finally made for one of the gardens, basement window fixed, wheels repaired on chicken tractor, shelving installed in the main farm house, planting and weeding in the front garden, etc. etc.

 

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Also many thanks to Heidi for helping with meals (especially some great bread and cookies) and the girls REALLY had a good time with your boys (esp. Sami).  Things take on new meaning when there is such a vibrant family to share our lives with!   The Raki family is traveling across country in their RV and homeschooling their kids along the way.  What a great adventure they are undertaking.  See http://rakisradrv.blogspot.com/  for more on that.  They are both teachers as well and create curriculum and resources for other teachers at http://www.rakisradresources.com/

gardensThe gardens are continually expanding, slowly but surely, to create wandering gardens from the road all the way back to the forest, with perennials, herbs, fruits, nuts, annuals, flowers, and wild forage edibles.

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Cover crops were planted last fall and tilled in this spring, keeping the soil alive and adding nitrogen and life to the soil.

 

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Sheba is using our newly mowed trail.  Flags mark the blueberries, aronia and other plants that we wish to protect as we selectively remove many of the densely packed deciduous trees and create a walking path with edibles along the way.

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The washroom is serving fairly well as a greenhouse after the roof was replaced with polycarbonate greenhouse plastic a couple years ago.  The main challenge is that we need to get better at keeping the space cooler when things heat up.

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We are also planning to make a portable greenhouse for starters on this old trailer with PVC and sheet plastic.  Among other things this will help minimize travel from the house to the garden.
hillrotoMany thanks to Hillary for coming out from Chicago for a couple weeks.  A talented and thoughtful person who really puts in a good days work!   Thanks for all your help with planting, weeding, tilling, pruning back the black berries and other helpful things.  Earthen Heart is one of many places in this area that are working to reclaim our harmonious relationship with the Earth.  It is a great joy to live and share this work with visitors and neighbors.

 

Spring Break Visitors from China!

 

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Many thanks to Susie, Wen and Hongbo who visited from University of Minnesota.  What a pleasure, an honor, and a gift to host you for the week of your Spring Break!IMG_4600

The renovated main farm house is in good shape to have our first visitors of the year!  IMG_4609

The dogs are usually outside, now that it has warmed up a bit, but sometimes we still let in Ollie boy to spoil him a little and let him know we love him!IMG_4623

Lots of work was done on the land:  raking up leaves into the compost pile, tilling in the cover crops, pulling up horseradish, planting root vegetables, pruning blueberries and other fruit…IMG_4634 We had a nice fire going a couple nights and roasted some sugar puffs.

IMG_4664Girls helped make pancake mix with our guests!  I very much enjoy cooking for and with others and seem to cook for large groups even when the population is low.  We ate lots of our home raised goat and chicken meat, prepared in various ways.  Shared meals are always a highlight for me.

girlsatfireNice photos Hongbo.  You three are such talented, beautiful, thoughtful and caring people.  We miss you and thank you for your contributions and hope you had a good time!

2015 winter preparations and recollections

We are pretty deep into winter now.  It is so lovely when the YIN energy of winter permeates the terrain and the human reality.  We are humbled at this time and reminded of our own fragility and our needs.  Many years ago humans figured out how to survive in this harsh climate and now we have our climate control, internet, grocery stores, personal mobility, etc.  These are all benefits of the modern world; things for which to be thankful.  At Earthen Heart we are striving for a lifestyle that is both low impact and high quality, a hybridization of modern and ancient ways, the right amount of “stuff” combined with a more spiritual connection to our natural and human surroundings.

We hope some of you reading this can share in our exploration to develop a more sustainable model for future generations to live harmoniously with all of life.  We know that many of you are already doing just that.

EH2015_1_9_41 This old apple tree has been pruned pretty hard over the last two years.

We shall see if anything fruits this year.

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The sycamores are a defining part of the land here at Earthen Heart and the prior owners, the Parker Family, appear to have named it Sycamore Hill as we found a couple old signs laying around.

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The circle is awaiting a Spring gathering.

EH2015_1_9_40This season, the 250 or so bushes of no-spray Jersey blueberries will be harvested and processed through a Blueberry Collaborative; a time banking initiative based on work exchange for berries and value added berry products.

If interested in participating, please contact Julian Lauzzana for more information:  jlauzzana@gmail.com  or (269) 447-1355

EH2015_1_9_16The patch is about 1/3 of an acre.  We prune this winter, pick and process in late Summer.EH2015_1_9_6This winter we continue to renovate the main farm house

which serves as the primary residence for community homesteaders.

This (above) is what the rooms used to look like.

EH2015_1_9_42This is what it looks like now.

It is going quite well.

Goal is to have rooms available as an Eco-B&B and for interns and visitors on a sliding scale of $0-$50 per night by late Summer of this year, 2015, just in time for blueberry season.EH2015_1_9_7All the hens and goats (except Artie who returned to her farm of origin) have become pressure canned meat.  They are nourishing the homesteaders this winter and becoming one with us as we consume that meat.  The goat meat makes great stew and the chicken is great “a la king” style. Current farm animals include only 3 ducks and one rooster.  Birds are the most likely investment as they are quite easy to care for, but they do seem to be a serious nuisance around grain planting time.  Feeder pigs are also being considered.  The journey with the goats has ended for now.  For me, it was a dream come true to own and care for goats and to learn about milking, making cheese, yogurt, caramel and harvesting the meat, but it is a relief to be free of that responsibility and to focus on other matters.

We are all from different places but share the same Earth

What a great visit from Jennifer and Gary from Australia and Ireland (respectively) who now live in Toronto.  Sometimes it just clicks.  This was one of those times.IMGP4739Now I don’t want any of you thinking a visit to Earthen Heart is all just sitting in the hammock and going to the beach, but we did put in a visit to the lake on a majestic late summer day.

IMGP4755There were several firsts while Jennifer and Gary visited, including:  butternut squash chips, chicory root tea, edamame and amaranth and melon salad.

IMGP4803Many of the soybeans did not grow fully (likely due to soil quality and cool summer).  But there were plenty of tasty ones, especially with the dipping sauce of soy sauce, vinegar and oil.

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They stayed in our tent mansion on a queen sized blow up mattress.  Some nights were quite cold (Fahrenheit 40’s) but they had a nice down comforter and chose to stay out there though there was room in the house.  Dogs ripped a hole in the door and some other damage has been incurred, so the tent might not make it another season.IMGP4761We also had tomatoes to contend with.  We dehydrated some and they made some awesome ketchup which we will enjoy for months to come.

IMGP4783Praise the Vita-Mix!  Had to let these guys try out some of our blueberry ice cream…

IMGP4784Blueberry ice cream is best consumed immediately!  Storing in the freezer does seem to change the texture which is why, I am sure, they add things like locust bean or guar gum.

Jen+GaryinGardenOur new friends seemed to truly enjoy being in and on and with the land.  Most of the work we do here is by hand in the many gardens which are always expanding.  Working this way makes you understand and appreciate why machines were designed to do the work more efficiently.  Certainly we are not “against” the use of such machinery.  It is only that we humans seem to have difficulty knowing when to say enough is enough.  Where is the Logic of Sufficiency, not simply Efficiency?  We are dancing and living with these questions and certainly often toy with the idea of buying a tractor.

 

IMGP4789Jen and Gary got along great with all the animals:  the girls, the dogs, goats, chickens, ducks, praying mantises…

IMGP4791Triticale and barley were planted in various areas after weeding, raking, tilling.  Rye will be coming in later today in the three sisters planting area after Sam and I harvest corn on behalf of the Van Kal Permaculture Grains Co-Op.  All of these grain plantings will serve as green manure, adding nitrogen to the soil and competing with existing plant life.  They will also serve as feed for the animals and possibly a little for us humans.  Hopefully those free ranging chickens don’t eat too much of the grain before it gets established.  The gardens expand slowly but surely as we experiment with different low till and no till methods and observe what plants do well here and how amendments influence the plant growth.   IMGP4741Endless thanks to Jen and Gary for all your help. I can honestly say it was an enjoyable and important part of continuing to build this place and nurture the land in the best way we know.  Pachamama is smiling and the dogs miss you!

Goats become a part of us, literally

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The two horned goats will have to go.  As frozen blueberries that are sold or consumed free up freezer space, meat will fill the vacuum.  The two horned goats are set to be processed soon; made into jerky, frozen and/or pressure canned.  Then a few more goats may join us soon.  Currently the herd is only to feed the family and community members. SeptemberPost_81 SeptemberPost_82  We get a kick out of hanging with the goats.SeptemberPost_84

HugelKutur possibilities are everywhere.  As the ponds get dug and land gets moved, hugelkutur will be created.SeptemberPost_85Once again, berries hit the ground.  Sad but true.  The good news is that we have plenty of “value added” products like juice, syrup, jam, dried and frozen berries, wine and vinegar…