Monday, November 1, 2010

The good, the bad, and the ugly

The Good: A barn full of the year's wood by Halloween!

Johnny, worried about a flare-up from Bob (his inguinal hernia), got busy and cut-wood like a mad-man. I have a hankering for many things, but having a go at the chainsaw is not one of them.

The bad: our first frost. We said good-by to our last remaining squash plant, basil, tomatoes, and bell peppers; the later two we salvaged fruit from. Fortunately, our broccoli plants are finally starting to produce, and the kale is thriving once again.

The ugly: a ball bearing dealt a near-fatal blow to Babe, our trusty blue tractor. The sinister little steel ball ricocheted throughout the transmission, tearing up one gear after another. Fortunately (da da-da da) Perry and Jessie James came to the rescue. Allow me to make a plug for our friends and stellar diesel mechanic team. Despite thier know-how, speed, and impressive resourcefulness, the price of owning an ancient imported tractor has suddenly made itself known to us. We are acquiring used parts from all over this country AND Canada. May I suggest the fine line of British import salvage as a side buisiness...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Roy's Stage Line

I ran into Roy a few weeks back on the way to town. I was so taken with his get-up, that I stopped to talk with him. I was intrigued, and invited him to stop by our place if he was ever in the area. Well, yesterday he blessed us with a visit. Roy has been living on the road in his horse-drawn wagon for about 6 years now. He's looking for a female companion....

He's super-nice and shared a wonderful view of humanity that has been nothing but hospitable and kind during his travels.

It's crazy to think that horse-travel is so do-able today. And it's equally crazy to think that it is so unusual just, what, 100 or so years out of nothing-but horse travel.

Go Roy!

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Tarantulas - by Calvin White
Tarantulas are very large spiders. North American ones have a leg span of five and seven eighths inches. They make a silk covering over thier burrows, but they do not make webs. They are nocturnal. North American tarantulas are not poisonous. It eats insects, lizards, and small animals. The tarantula hawk is a wasp that eats tarantulas. Other predators are birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. The males die just after mating, but the females live up to 35 years.

We saw one when we came to visit NE Oklahoma this time two years ago, and we're seeing them on the roads a lot right now, but hadn't seen any for the nearly two years in between. I wonder what they are up to.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I just heard on NPR that one in seven US adults lives in poverty, and for kids the figure is even higher: 1/6! Which begs the question: what is poverty? If it is so common, is the word or the definition meaningless, much like obesity.

It used to be that when a person was referred to as obese, one imagined a several hundred pound person who has difficulty ambulating. Then we learned that so many of us are obese. A 5'4" person weighing just 180 pounds is considered obese. Maybe we need a new word for our old concept. And maybe this is also true for poverty.

When I think of poverty, I think of someone who is hungry sometimes. Really hungry. And who owns only a few items of clothes. This person probably can't afford to heat their home sufficiently in the winter. And they certainly don't warrant the increase in workers for the holiday season, since they don't have superfluous funds for gifts.

If poverty is so common, and on the rise, who are all the people populating the steady stream flowing out of Wal-mart with buggies packed to the brim?

In the United States, poverty is defined by household income (and household size). Period. No matter where you live and the cost of living. For a family of 3, it is $18,310. It goes up to $22,000 for a family of four.

We live below the poverty level, and while we are just one voice, I want to assure you that all is good at poverty-stricken Barefoot Farm. We all ate today - three squares. We had beans and potatoes (grown on the farm) for dinner. Sometimes we eat like kings and queens, enjoying exotic things like grapes and orange juice (in February).

Maybe you're thinking we aren't the norm, living without airconditioning (when it's still in the 90s in September), and driving beater cars that cost maybe $1000. What about those other folks in poverty who want decent cars and airconditioning? And a blackberry. And satellite TV. On a flat screen. And new clothes, not new-to-you clothes. And all those other normal everyday things.

The poverty level might be meaningful, say, in Boston where rent is at least triple what it is here. But in Oklahoma, one can live comfortably. Maybe our standards of comfort are off. In this time of obviously finite resources, why do we expect so much? A roof, heat, health, food, and we're good. Yet our government offers assistance to those in povery, and above it. If one's household income is 185% of the poverty level (over 33,000 for a family my size!), s/he qualifies for a lot of free financial help with food, electricity, phone, and more. So now poverty is nearly twice the povery level?

If we weren't taught to want so much, maybe we'd feel grateful for all we have, rather than slighted and disgruntled. By world standards, US poverty looks really good.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Johnny has started working on archery with Calvin. He's already better than I am at hitting a target, of course. And this Friday we are going to the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History in Oklahoma City (3 hours away) with Jessie James, Perry, and her kids Rainy & Venus. We met the curator of vertebrate palentology at the Ozark Tracking School, and he's taking us on a behind-the-scenes tour of his archives. Yippie - thanks Nick!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Off-the-grid, or not to go off-the grid

That is the question. We were off the grid in NC with one 65 watt solar panel and 3 wall-mart deep-cycle batteries initially. We added two panels and two batteries. This was cheap: less than $2000. Here, we need a bigger system to power a refrigerator/freezer and a water pump for our well and a pressure pump. We need to buy a fridge and freezer, and a holding tank for water. And more batteries, and accessories. We budgeting 10K for this, but this isn't looking like it is enough. And now we're wondering, with a $38/month power bill, is this the best use for our money? Is this still worth it to us and a good idea?

I'll keep you posted. If you have any insights, we'd love to hear them! Sigh...

What do you do all day?!

People often ask me this - either when they find out that we don't have a TV, or when they learn that I only "work" part-time. I got fed up the other day and wrote it all down. It was a good one. I'll add it to this post later, but of course, here I am at the library with internet access, and remembered my notebook, but I must have written it elsewhere.

Let's see...
Homeschooling my son takes time - usually 3 hours 4 days per week. Thankfully that eases in the summer, but that is when weeding, harvesting, and preserving food really kicks in.

I'm up between 6:30-7:30. I cook breakfast and clean house a little. I may have to dump the composting toilet or fill the peat/sawdust bucket. I may have to clean and package eggs. Harvesting produce takes hours daily in peak season with cleaning included. Canning takes a long time. This afternoon I plan to make roasted red pepper sauce. This involves roasting the peppers, waiting for them to cool, peeling them, slicing, and cooking with onions, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar before canning. Sure is worth it, though.

Today I played chess with Calvin (two games) before breakfast. Then I pan-toasted cinnamon-raison bread (that I baked earlier in the week) and ate breakfast. I messed around with Calvin and Johnny's archery lesson - shooting a few arrows myself, before showering and going to work. I put in three hours. Now I'm at the library checking on a few things and posting my monthly blog. I'll go home, and maybe jog. Then canning. Then swimming in the pond. Then re-heat leftovers (venison shephard's pie with our own taters, carrots, and meat), saute summer squash and red bell peppers (also from the garden) and a watermelon (also ours). At 7:00 Calvin starts getting ready for bed, and Johnny or I read to him until 8pm. Then we usually take a walk around the property before finally sitting down to either read or watch a movie (we have a TV, just no TV reception - so maybe 1-2 movies per week).

Basically, I'm busy. I love doing everything I'm involved in, but there's not much lag time in my life. Trust me.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

July harvest

July has provided a bounty from the garden so far. We had a great market day July 17th. We sold edamame, okra, the last of our carrots, potatoes, summer squash, green beans, sun gold cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, and eggs. We already spend so mcu time harvesting - I can't imagine what next year will be like.

I realized our current good fortune the evening of the market as we were eating dinner and it occured to me that everything we were eating we grew or purchased locally. We had corn on the cob (TFM - Tahlequah Farmers' Market), potato salad (our 'taters, carrots, bell peppers, chives & dill), canned dilly beans (us), edamame (us), baguette with Italian bomb - goat cheese with pesto (both TFM), cherry tomatoes (us), cucumbers (us) and watermelon (us). I feel good when we contribute or procure just one item locally, but being connected to the entire dinner felt great!

I'll end with a brief story: we are working to build soil and combat weeds (bermuda grass) in our one-acre market garden spot. We got a tiller from a grant, and purchased cover crop seed. We were just waiting for good conditions, namely rain. So as I was driving home from yoga (, and heard the forcast for rain that evening, I ran into the house and at 8pm told Johnny we needed to till and plant - right now!

He went for it! I admit, I may have wanted a little farm drama. We were planing well into the dark of night, which is never, never a good idea. We have plants coming up, and got 2" of rain two days ago, but there are bald patches. Dummy!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The first

I always have an excuse not to start this, but I often find myself thinking a blog would be a great way to keep in touch with friends, and allow me to vent every now and then.

I don't have internet access at home, so this will be sporadic - maybe monthly. And these pictures are all months old now, but I had to start somewhere.

So, where are we at. I recently read a blog (which I NEVER do, but an acquaintance here told me I needed to meet this lady) about a woman who owned a restaurant in Seattle and relocated to central Oklahoma to farm. Her blog states she was abducted by aliens and placed on a farm in Oklahoma. When I read that I nearly died - that's how I feel sometimes, only I wasn't clever enough to come up with it on my own. I moved from the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina - the Cullowhee/Sylva area, which is really spectacular in both natural beauty and community. And this move would not have been for everyone I know out there. In fact, it might not suit anyone. However, the more I try to own this move and reconcile my choice, the more I realize this did actually suit us. We wanted to farm and have access to a bounty of locally grown food. And guess what - so many people around here farm! In the town closest to me I can get locally raised beef and pork. A man 10 minutes down the road sells raw cow's milk (cheap!), and we have enough land for our garden, a crop field for a market garden, pasutre for cattle, and woods for firewood. Plus our property includes a root cellar (aka storm shelter), a livestock pond, a spring-fed swimming hole pond, plus some really cold pools in the canyons, adjacent wild land that goes on for miles, and more. It really is good, affordable farming land. The only drawbacks are that I left a whole community of friends behind, and we drive 35 minutes to Tahlequah. But, this actually kinda suits us.

We really are better able to realize our life goals here. Hmm, what are those. Well, I think I've got a working draft:
1. Don’t go into debt.
2. Live close to nature
3. Don’t work full time
4. Have only one child
5. Home school your child(ren)
6. Minimize media exposure
7. Be energy independent

How close are we? Check out "About us" if you're really intersted. I moved this section there.

What else? I probably shouldn't write more in a blog - sorry. We have two cows who are growing well and nearly weaned. We harvested our first crop of spring wheat. It is still drying and awaiting threshing and winnowing. We are drying food, canning, fermenting, and making wine like mad. 33 pints of jam already, elderberry wine, rose blossom wine, and wild plum wine (5 gallons!). We've dried summer squash, herbs, greens, and cherry tomatoes. I'm making mullen flower oil, and tinctures of yarrow, St. John's wort, Passion flower, and dandelion root. We're growing all the garden produce we always have plus an heirloom Hopi Blue field corn for chicken feed, spring wheat, and okra. We planted over 100# of potatoes, and are storing loads of them plus some carrots. We sell eggs at the market plus produce. Our crop field is scaled way back - we are cover cropping to choke out the bermuda grass - thanks to a new tractor tiller from an OK Dept. of Ag grant that we were awarded. We hope to have the full acre in production next year, at which time we may have to give up sleep.

Ok, I'll stop and leave something for our next post. And maybe some new pictures too! Love to all!