Winter is only 1 mile long...

 This picture speaks an entire chapter to me... 
It speaks of a time (now or in the distant past): "All is saved- you just have to get there. Hope is only 1 mile away." 

 1 more mile...

Hope is a place though. And at one time, someone decided on that name. Or perhaps the name just stuck from someone's experience...

 It's interesting to learn how of the names of prairies got their names (at least in Illinois, which is called 'the Prairie State'.) I always thought it was Minnesota because of Little House on the Prairie... but I guess not, lol. 

I did learn that the state bird of Minnesota is the Common Loon (a very cool looking but red-eyed duck bird.) 
I really thought the state bird might be the Mosquito... I guess they just aren't big enough.

I learned that when the mosquitoes are gone, Jack Frost comes around...
The artistic effects of frost is different every day! 
Sometimes it looks like feathers, sometimes like unfurling Jurassic-age ferns... it's pretty and interesting! 
And it's a sign of how cold it is.

This is a window in the garage that faces south, but since there are trees everywhere, (even though their branches are naked), it's not until very late morning that direct light hits it. 
On days when the sun comes out. 

Then it sparkles with colored light for about 10 minutes before melting. 
As interesting as the frost patterns are, I'm grateful for a pause in Winter the last couple of weeks- we got snow, but we got up to 50° a couple of times too! 

Just the week before, I was searching for something of interest on my walk, and found squirrel prints... Tazz, mine, and a squirrel. They look like little hands- and I guess they are!
Little hands to dig up the acorns under the snow...

We have to get our walks in before it gets dark, and dark falls fast!
And it gets dark at 4:30.     
And then It can look pretty... 

...or pretty eerie. 

You know WHY I'm always watching the sky... but I guess I also obsess about what the COLOR of the sky is, and whether the weather is in the process of moving in or out, and from what direction the wind/clouds are coming from. 

That's how I internalize my directional situation as well as my place in the bigger world 
(My newest quandary here: where is south when you cannot see the sun ALL DAY LONG because of the white haze)?!  

Those lights are from a mysterious factory that blows smoke sometimes, even throughout the night. But I never see any sign of people. In fact, it looks like it should/could be an ABANDONED factory...
No one loves the place anyway: many of the external walls are smudged with black and green from neglect (if not actually crumbling), and have mis-matched siding materials- even different colors. It's UGLY.
And of the rows of windows- many are completely missing. 
(Don't they pay for heating?) At least it isn't a dead factory, whatever it does.

And just this side of those lights are train tracks. With an eerie whistle and it often runs at night. About the time of the local corn harvests it was so heavy and slow that it shook the floorboards. 

And while nice in summer, all those tall trees overhead are now exposed - all the naked, sharp, branches seem to scratch at the sky when that frigid wind comes through.

You think I am pointing out the bare limbs scratching skywards? No, I just got bored on my walk and tried to find something of interest to take a picture of!

So you see why I seek out the rare powder blue and periwinkle blue skies. 
Something CHEERFUL!

On our walk today, I saw Miss Bunny climbed up a tree, the better to see something...

Silly rabbit -She saw that that there is still a spot of green grass left. 
The last of verdant color... like a jewel in the sun.
Miss Bunny is quite rightly worried that it's about to get zapped by Winter. 

I said it was true, that patch of green has no hope of making it thru winter unscathed. 
But then I said it should be reassuring to know, there IS Hope on the other side...and Hope is not far off, because Winter is only 1 mile long.

1 mile to Hope.

Yes, it STILL really IS all about chickens!

"What should I do with my life? As existential questions go, this one's a biggie."

Know thyself. That's the key to determining direction... and if you aren't sure, then there are ways to find out (beyond going out on a solo vision quest). 

'Johnson O'Connor : Finding Your Purpose', is podcast at Peak Prosperity. He interviews Steve Green, author of: "Finding Your Way to Your Authentic Career"... a guidebook on how to discover what fulfills you.

He says in this podcast intro, that we should from a place of self understanding and base goals on our hopes, dreams and abilities.  This podcast was about an aptitude test offered by the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundationwhich will "show you about your own strengths & weaknesses, plus more, including hours of exercises "designed to empirically score your natural ability across a number of specific skills... Exercises are wide-ranging; some are conceptual, some manual, some visual, some musical…"  
Notice again, the quote I have pasted on the right-hand side of this page:
Apparently it is such a reliable test, that GE has used it, among many other big name corporations. And it's used for determining a college ed. path, and what to do at any life-transition (quarter-life or mid-life or even retirement). Hook yourself up to that resource, if you've a mind to get help finding yourself or your direction.

I sort of enjoy the struggle (though not the transition) of discovering my path. 
It's a personal journey of self-discovery, or perhaps more of a determination along the lines of personal desires, but then comes the big challenge of creating a life along that path. 

Take note of the quote I have pasted up on the right-hand side of this blog:

“The World Exists For You... Build Therefore, Your Own World” 

~by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 

Maybe it isn't true, but I like to see things that way- it gives me the feeling of some measure of control. Sometimes I listen to very powerful music for that same feeling of empowerment. 

LOL, I get that feeling a lot from primal drums (as in Celtic music), but especially music with a powerfully moving emotional quality, both primal and ethereal. You kind of need the ethereal element when painting.

The photo is just to break up the monotony of words! Aren't they cute? Can you tell they're little stinkers who are rewarded for their antics and high expectations?

 I also don't like being told I can't do something (as in not 'able' to). 
In a discussion on this subject years back, I posted pics of the huge wall mural I painted when I really wanted a horse and the finances were saying 'no' to me. You can't really tell me no, because I look for ways around it. If I can't afford it, I'll try to imitate it/make it... things like that.

This time around, I'm in life circumstances that don't allow for having chickens under my own wing. So to speak. Now I know I could figure out a way to manage it, but again the finances say 'no'. Defiance is stoopid for it's own sake - and I'm experienced with life enough to know when to push pride aside. It's just not the right time in my life to indulge in them. 
So much is so iffy these days. Sometimes it feels the world has gone 'round the bend'.

(LOL, remember when I said that was the main reason I got them in the first place? For a sense of security?) 

Yeah, I know. I still feel that way. 

But I found something out: 
chickens are not a means of security - sustainable security - if you have to buy feed. 

So until I can raise their feed (and have room for them to free-range), they are on the back-burner. (But I live for the day they are on the front-burner - and that's exactly what this entire whole blog is about!) 
You see, it really is all about chickens... it really is. 

I just posted about doing a 'mixed-media' piece of artwork. It was actually because I didn't have the patience to see if I have what it takes to paint realistic feathers. I'll try that some day but I really wanted to get this UP ON THE WALL IN FRONT OF MY EYES. You see, I lost my patience with current circumstances.

Hens in nests... but not just any 'ol hens. I printed photos I found online and cut them out. I painted the rest.

These are the colors and breeds I plan to have, when I am able. The gray hen there is a lavender Ameraucana - they lay blue eggs. I want them because the hens are not just gorgeous layers of blue eggs, but gentle. And won't get frostbite on their combs. (That's important here. Putting Vaseline on combs when it's -18°, or -40°, which it gets down to HERE IN MINNESOTA). 

Yikes, right?

And that very out-of-place blue egg... well I should've 'fixed' it before pasting it on (I did change the color of it in the Paint program). 

So here is a kind of a temporary salve for my achy heart... it serves it's purpose.
Meanwhile I continue designing my future life as I envision it. Should I ever get there, I'll be all set, lol. 

If this detour continues I may need to get ahold of that aptitude test offered by the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation. (*I am not advocating them, just passing on info.)

For now, I can share the New Year's resolutions and goals I'm working with toward that ever, I am determined to bloom where I'm planted!
*Prairie Farmstead  Year 1:   2016

Using better tools to stay focused on our interests in developing sustainable solutions to our needs ...

prairie farmstead:
* binders for separate needs (home, farm, biz), each has a notebook of biz plans, a master list of topics, brainstorming worksheets, info sheets, ideas + seasonal tasks
(I like a change of focus every quarter! And there are shifting priorities to determine seasonally, for streamlining production). 

prairie garden:
* journal and planner covering garden, hydro-/aero-/aqua-ponic systems and greenhouse
(goal is to master a growing & harvesting system that sustains the needs of our family)

prairie farmhouse:
* ‘12 folders’ method - one for each month to schedule daily tasks focused on creative projects & personal goals while staying on task with routine household needs.
Using checklists, info-sheets, and organization boards with visual ideas/examples.
(goal is to define a system of repetitive tasks that can be applied each week, month, and quarter/season of the year.)

challenging goals (it's mostly brainstorming for the year, have yet to determine a scheduled arrangement for meeting them, but I am working on it and will share soon!)

They are "living the dream" at this blog: "Just Another Day on the Farm"... 

What are you thinking of in terms of creating a life you love... or are you already living it?

Cusp of Winter

It 'tried' to snow a few weeks back- tiny round snowballs barely visible, dashing around in the air but never hitting the ground. And they say on the news that we've had unseasonably warm weather since then, and it's about to end, back to normal 20 degrees colder.  
I'm resigned to the normal being 20 degrees colder than what I'm used to, no matter what.

I have to admit, I never quite feel 'ready enough' for winter, though I learned to endure it back in Colorado. How could I fear or loathe it, when the clouds rose away to reveal scenes like this...
And looking at pictures today from winters past, I saw evidence that we had 'unseasonably' warm winters there for a few years too. I sure adapted to that - and got spoiled to it! (And there was always something special happening in the sky...) 
 Last winter brought the elk down from the hills, and in that windy valley we moved to, they stayed around even though snow wasn't an issue... another special treat - since we missed having the mountain view, and the tall pines and eagles there. 
I saw there were a couple of moose in the river in downtown Durango this fall - and big black bears all over the place! I guess we missed out on that, and the big toxic spill that turned the river yellow. (Just to show you it's not all perfect, lol). Who knows what the El Nino will bring to the Southwest this time around. 

Seems like a toss-up no matter where you are these days anyway. 
But here we are... a total of 161 days so far - and whatever Winter means here, we'll find out soon! 
Meantime, I'm starting to get into 'winter mode' and get my fingers into gear for all the projects planned to get through it, no matter how cold, dreary, and long, winter ends up to be.

Here's winter project #1 (practicing)... 
Hubby's 2 hydroponic pipes full of tender lettuces (at 3 weeks) that we already harvested, feasted on, and shared...
Taking advantage of one of the extra grow lights, I started those green onion roots. Oh, I found out that they are only known as 'green onions' in California... I guess I should rightly call them 'scallions', lol. 
Has it been three weeks already? Here are the first 2 coffee cans started then, (though they were in the dark for the first 3 days), and another 2 cans in the back, started a week ago.
Because I love scallions! 

And in the effort of my fingers learning how to use paints again, here is my latest painting effort. It wasn't as fun as I thought it should be... the flowers are real and were pasted on (flowers I'd dried over the summer, but were so faded that I painted over them). The focus is a little blurry, darn it... but here it is:
The grass turned out well! The clouds not so much... I guess I'm not so big on scenery pictures.
But it's not time to quit, I started another one already.  

Another challenge, because it will include lots of feathers... but I am missing having chickens, so it's a way to bring them -and some cheer- into my life right now. For ME, it's a way of envisioning the future, and I need all the encouragement I can get! 

Oh, I found a way to cheat, lol. I'll get it done more quickly via a 'mixed media' artpiece.
You'll see when it's done...

And I have BIG plans for a big art piece to showcase my farm dream... a visual map of a distant fantasy (because I really have only a mustard-seed of 'hope' left these days) but it is still a useful thing to imagine where you want to be in 5 or 10 years, and it's still something to get up in the morning for. All hope is not lost, just covered up with the struggles of transition... right? I've said all along, one gets no where, if one doesn't strive for something.
It'll be a while in the works, but I'll share that too, when it's finished!

Tell us, what YOU are striving toward - what you get up for? I can't wait to hear about it! 

A little slow to bloom...

Blooming where planted… maybe it's my age, but it's been a little tough finding my groove - at times it's just pathetic.

I didn't have a clue as to what to expect with humidity and got the shock of a lifetime (not really, but close)...when I discovered my saddle - that was being stored in the garage... covered with a horrifying YUK! 


Oh, and that wasn't the end of it, lol. 
I sprayed it down liberally with Lysol and set it outside to get sanitized by the sun. (Oh yeah, we don't GET any sun... just a little dappled sun).  

Why did I even bring it with us? (It's too heavy for me to use, even if I got another horse. 
This is the only time I used it - Cherihuka was only green broke, and went unridden for years when I got him... and I'm not that big a fool...)

Anyway, I just covered the saddle with the saddle pad -  you know, to protect it from any rain when I left to AZ for 2 weeks. I would deal with it when I got back.
But the trip was extended, so I was gone a month... and maybe I have pictures of what I found, but I don't think so - but you can believe it was even MORE APPALLING. 
I gag to think about it. 
And I've been scrubbing and rubbing it down since then.

LOL, you’d think we were in a foreign country… well, I guess it does sorta feel like we’re in a strange land sometimes; I really need to find what the specialty food of the realm is, lol.
(Being a bean aficionado of sorts, I have a loooooong way to go to get over the lack of beans in the burritos.)

Happy News: I’ve discovered the local (state) specialty food, and Surprise! it’s made with potatoes! LOL (we knew it would be, right?)

Introducing…“Minnesota Hot Dish”  
(I’ve been informed that ‘hot dish’ includes any casserole & even this recipe is variable - use whatever veggie(s) you have on hand) but this is ‘THE specialty of the land’ – it’s even carries the name of the state.
Oh, and is it tasty!

Once upon a long time ago, this was my ‘song for the days’… maybe you know it. “Change the World”– by Eric Clapton. 

Songs build memories to an experience or a moment in time. They bring back what remains of something real.
Music speaks internally in ways we don’t yet understand. It has been shown that people suffering from Alzheimer’s who cannot remember anything else, will remember the music and songs from their past, and be able to play them on instruments they once played, or sing them without skipping a phrase or a beat!

That particular song saw me through the long haul while my husband either took classes until after 10 each night or worked, finishing a degree in computer systems, and then a few more years as he worked his way up the rungs of a tedious ladder…
It was a song of solidarity and hope as our dreams were coming true (if slowly).

He pushed through with a vision of moving to Colorado – his dream from the age of 17. We got there after 10 years, so I know his dedication to seeing a vision through.
Add another 10 years in a small town with 14 established competitors, where we used up our retirement funds to live on while building up a much-respected business.  We are not quitters; we don’t listen to ‘you can’t’.  Our little home-based service business has won awards for popularity the last 3 years; our clients are so loyal they STILL call us first – even though we are not the cheapest, and they know we are no longer in the state!

Fast-forward to today…the middle parts of this story are all exposed on this blog…
We find our way is slightly askew here in rural Minnesota – but then that was the case when we arrived in rural Colorado. Here we are starting over with the remnants of 20 years of work, our loyal clientele, and not much of anything else but RESOLVE.

But if times get harder still, I am happy planted here (or anywhere) with hubby. Wherever we end up, we have decided we will find our way, a niche that fits just right, where we can produce something of value to the community, while surviving the cost of carrying the  business.

Those in the bucket of the part-time income bracket, must ALL fine-tune and pare down. The one thing most of us can do in some measure, is to provide more of the foods we eat. Along with utilities and everything else, food is an ever-increasing cost, but it’s one we can mitigate and expand over time (“over time” is a key aspect because experience matters).

The earth here is rich, almost black. It is rich with a dense worm population and microbes, and the things that give nutrients to crops. The grass grows over 4’ high without watering it. But we landed in a little house surrounded by such giant oak and maple trees- there is too little sun to take advantage of the dirt. (I attempted a pitiful trial run garden – sad, sad, sad.) Disappointment dogged my summer days!

This is one of the broccoli (I planted 24) and after 3 months, they NEVER GOT BIGGER. Weeds surround them here :

But meantime, hubby got busy learning how to build vertical towers and to use Dutch bucket hydroponics in the basement.  Dutch buckets w/ tomato, jalapeno, and broccoli - with lettuce starts in the orange bucket:  

Maybe we don’t need farm country to grow things after all. What we can grow is limited, but it’s the experience that matters. 
n order to ‘bloom where planted’, hubby continues to refine and hone his hydroponic skill-sets and set-ups; patience is something it requires. Lettuces are newly seeded and will happily grow in the basement under high-efficiency LED lights. Every stage of a plant needs different intensity of light and those with blooms need different colored lights PLUS a specific intensity. It’s all experimentation - trial and error… and takes a lot to figure out what works best for each plant type, and to most efficiently implement the entire system.

For instance, even with hand pollination, tomatoes & jalapenos took too much light & heat to produce the actual fruits, so those plants were pulled.
Basil and broccoli needed different nutrients added to the water than lettuce, so those were scrapped too. The Ph of the water must be just right too, and this varies as the nutrients are used up each week. Lots of this and that + keeping track of what you did… I don’t know how he remembers without actual record-keeping, lol. 
Everything is an experiment initially – you have to test to see which varieties of everything work best in your zone and your soil type, and then always weather is unpredictable. Additionally you have to be very organized to develop a month-by-month schedule and tweak it to manage projects and to improve the systems. 

Start, get experience learning what works, then expand by trying something else...

So I will hang on to farm dreams… working dreams, in case some part of that works out. 

Design is at the heart of it –for a resilient system, that works for our needs. Like anyone we just take on this challenge in some small way…and push through the trials until it's stable, then expand on that.

My first trial run was simply planting the root-end of store-bought green onions in a plastic tray on a sunny window sill. Yes, in January they looked like chives… but a little flavor goes a long way… and I cut a full harvest once a month for 12 months! 

I showed this on my blog years ago... Blog Post here... 
That was in zone 5b with 2 feet of snow outside. 

We’re in zone 4 here -with less sunny days overall, and no south-facing windows, but I’ll try again with a tray full of green onion roots, this time planted under LED lights… just for fun, and share the results of that.

Some topics of interest this week:  
  1. hedgerows (for wind breaks, the beauty of flowering non-fence borders, and edible landscape)
  2. composting & livestock manure mgmt.
  3. crop rotation, seed saving
  4. seasonal menu planning & things made from scratch
  5. DIY water features/ponds (the only affordable kind)
  6. weed & pest mgmt.
  7. permaculture blueprints & layout maps of 1 to 5 acre farms
  8. detailed growing info on: Viking potato, hardneck garlic, sweet potato, radish, violet artichoke, hulless oats and barley (mainly for livestock)
  9. exploring winter projects. A long, deep, winter can be restive if one has projects and lots of baking to do!
  10. analyzed ideas – some things I scratched off the list of possibilities: growing gourds, raising  sheep, raising quail, peacocks or pheasant. (Still considering guineas, ducks and geese – and chickens for SURE.)
  11. herbs grown in a typical 1800's kitchen garden (medicinal and culinary)
  12. preparing for an ice storm /blizzard event 
The point is, I want to know ahead of time what we’re going to do and what I want, to know budgeting and timelines and all the goal-setting &; priorities that go along with the plan.

I have to really decide what I really want and temper that with what I can really handle or financially work out. Tall orders to be sure.
Just chickens? (for joy, eggs, meat – for food security) Ducks or geese? (for eggs, meat, income) Rabbits? (for meat and fur hides, garden fertilizer) What about a pony? (for grandkids, for pulling logs or a wagon, for plowing), and design a garden adequate to feed them (so no reliance on feed store), and exactly how much room and what kind of shelter I can provide. And what, if any, way they might provide some form of income or at least pull their weight…
…so I can make a preliminary farm map of a working prairie farmstead-

---a “Working Prairie Farmstead Plan for 2 acres”. 
Because that is adequate for sustaining what I think we need - and what we can handle (over time as it’s developed). 

Maybe I will find out in the end it’s all been a dream, but I need something to get up for right now...
Things I want to implement: sunflowers and naturalized bulb flowers, flowering vines going up the clothesline and mailbox pole,  and put up the most inviting playhouse ever… learn to manage a full greenhouse, garden beds, fruit trees, berries, chickens, duck pond, poultry pasture w/ rotation schematics for gardening …  other people have done it, and are doing it, and many of them share what they’ve learned along the way. The pieces aren’t mysterious, it’s organizing all the little parts and managing them to work into one seamless system that's hard. What to prioritize... how to finance it... so much to learn!

One of the lessons, perhaps the biggest lesson, I will learn from living in Minnesota, is how to embrace winter. To learn it’s value to my life, not just 'endure it', not to dread or fear it. Or to gain 20 lbs. indulging in HOT DISHES while evading it indoors!

Of course after this past July and the biggest lesson yet in what “dripping with humidity” really means, I expect NOTHING COULD BE WORSE! 

What have been the hardest lessons/discoveries for you recently?

Redo the Dream, Re-Draft the plan

ReDream the Dream, ReDraft the Plan

Dreams don’t come true – dreams are made true. - Ken E. Knight
[from an article in "Pony Tales by Ponty”, by Ken E. Knight, author of a nationally syndicated livestock-marketing column which is featured in the "The Farm and Livestock Directory" every month.]

… Brainstorming the future, for me, means finding appropriate ventures that fit our new life circumstances - a ‘new dream’. 

This is a LONG post... because I'm sharing my brainstorming process. I'll insert some eye-candy just to break it up a little bit along the way.

I’m studying things like “Value-Added Products”, “Small Farm Enterprises”, and “Sustainable Business Concepts”. Every day that I look, I am wowed by the innovative ideas on the small farm, and in cottage industries. 

I try not to get ahead of myself, but I really want to do it all, lol! That's the point of 'dreaming' after all - and why not dream big, then find something that fits?

But perhaps most important at this time, is to bloom where I’m planted. 
I have found this is a very USEFUL concept. This is appropriate for anyone who finds themselves in unfamiliar territory. It helps, during life changes, to keep you focused during the transition - and not to mope or feel lost longer than you need to.
This is an unfinished painting I'm working on. It's similar to one view of Iowa as I passed thru it.

The concept (of blooming where planted - in life circumstances) applied at a time in the past when I suddenly discovered I was newly empty-nester! (The Title of "Mom' becomes an identity until you find yourself surveying an  empty nest).

It applied to a time in my life when we lost our home and had to move. And I apply it now, as a way forward in another unfamiliar time and place.
(See my next post on blooming where planted, more in-depth).

To “bloom where you’re planted”, you start doing what you can, wherever you are, with what you have...

So I began. Over the past 3 weeks, I have…

·         Read 34 different educational materials for entrepreneurs (and I saved 100 pages of workbook and other thoughtful activity-based info), saved 8 different kinds of value-added and farm-venture assessment questionnaires –and 5 diverse topic worksheets. (Geared for agriculture and other related fields)
·         considered Etsy as a way to monetize crafts, read up on Pay-Pal and other payment systems (i.e. Square)
·         Sourced niche markets & resellers - purchasers or on commission sales in my area (within 2 hours driving distance), and how many others further out.
·         Gained an understanding of farm values on produce, and on value-added products,
·         Gained an understanding of the procedures of creating new value-added products...(value-added ventures hinge on thorough planning and assessing costs of processing and marketing, and determining ways to minimize costs in production).
·         Read and watched numerous vids and articles from various state university extensions.
·         Evaluated 5 crop enterprises --profitability by calculating production costs, breakeven selling prices, gross margins, and returns to equity.

*You just have to find YOUR niche! (or niches, if seasonal). Start with what you have a passion for….  because “Small plots produce nice profits for niche farmers” ARTICLE. It’s my quest to find a niche that isn't already occupied, something a little different - yet still choose a crop that grows well in our zone 4 humid climate and that has demand.

·         Studied how to sell successfully at a Farmer’s Market
·         Examined many different booth set-ups. Some are really simple, some really cute!
·         Tracked our hydro/aeroponics growing experiment (timelines and expenses), created a business binder and working logo, as well as a biz card mock-up.
·         Studied an Amish pantry and their working kitchen implements
·         Learned about using a large pony for farm work – a 2-day job can become a 4-hour job that way!
·         Studied how to take better photos (before using picture editing software) like for old barns and before-and-after photos of a garden
·         Economics of small-farm pastured eggs
·         Whats involved in tapping sugar maples (because you never know...)
·         Studied small goat farms making soft goat cheeses
·         Watched a sheep dairy vid on the same thing (not very detailed on the process, just the economics of it)
·         Read up on farm model cash flows, and 'Sustainable Business Concepts for Small Farms'
·         Read about the varieties of perennials and fruits for zone 4
·         Checked out the concept of growing things in tractor tires
·         Studied how to implement homesteading economics skills to offset lean times 
·         Planned how to implement a ‘Homestead Skill-a-Month’ challenge to myself 
(see below).
·         Created an awesome sowing and transplanting schedule for the greenhouse that incorporates 3 seasons of crops (spring, summer, fall) 
·         Created a 3-year food production model to expand a garden, including perennials and rotations
·         Local farmer's markets... researched what types of things not allowed (or what is needed to allow value-added products), and things to consider for a booth display
·         Learned how to propagate Russian sage (I’ve done 2x in CO but didn’t have room to bring any to MN), marigolds, geraniums, berries, and mints (mice and spiders don’t like peppermint). I would want to use all these plants myself, but selling potted plants from cuttings/propagation, is smart production that can lead to profit from little input.
·         Read many sources on “Starting a Farm” (it seems too easy, lol)
·         Looked at many sources re: farm-scaping, and color themes for a country kitchen and saved many pictures of pantry set-ups.
·         Looked at possible cheap transitory housing, like a $5700. Grain bin house (for one day when we have land on which to build). It’s almost like playing house at this point; pointless, but fun.

·         I’m currently assessing what I have on hand for winter projects.  I have preliminary plans for art I think would sell… and some things are to practice with, to become better at them. Like embroidery. (I’ll be cutting up a hospital blanket into 4 doll blankets. It’s easy material to work with, not stretchy or fuzzy.) 

Meantime I rushed painting a mixed-media set of animal ABC's (for the name 'Kai'), my most recent grandson:

 I rushed the photos a little much too... but I did promise to break up this post!

As I perused the net for brainstorming fodder, an illustration found through Pinterest caught my eye. It's an example of a Sustainable Business Concept that I find attractive.

This is the type of thing that would go onto a Vision Board!

It illustrates what my husband has in mind for the venture he is currently refining, should it pan out. (He isn’t thinking about the café addition part. I just happen to think it’s a natural progression).

(illustration source:
“The Farmery” – a concept that brings Grocery Store and Greenhouse closer together and sales cross over and lead to repeat customers through prepared foods/value-added foods, at a Café or Deli.

 Future Action Plans

·         How to sell at a farmer's market... research what types of things not allowed (or what is needed to allow value-added products), and things to consider for a booth display
·         Develop 4 biz +logo designs -and get reviews
·         Complete a feasibility assessment for 5 value-added products differentiated from other products and services available in the market in some way (such as organic, natural, or humane production), or have a value-added component (i.e. flavored meats, pre-washed salad mix, etc.). I’m thinking maple/cider vinaigrettes, sauces and marinades, since neat & maple syrup are each a big draw here.
·         Assess the competition already on the market
·         Complete a feasibility assessment for 5 new venture ideas (like mushrooms)
·         Assess any competitive edge/niche market of these ventures
·         Find the 3 easiest plants to grow that will benefit us the most and whats nec to grow that plant, and how much, and how to process for long-term storage- and/or the most cost effective value-added products from it. (I will limit myself to 5 plants).
·         Work up 3 food labels and 3 sales tags for eggs, for jam, for art
·            Cook more from scratch (make batches of biscuit mix and store in freezer bags in the freezer, quit buying Ranch dressing and make my own a half-pint at a time, etc.)
·            Make laundry soap – enough for 6 months
·            Buy second-hand clothing for re-purposing and re-vamping (first create a list of desired fabrics)
·         Develop a pantry with a level of food security to withstand 6 months of unemployment
·         Design a chicken garden (to supply all –or most- bird feed needs).
·         Design an off-the-ground insulated chicken coop
·         Seasonal calendar daily activity calendar (see below)
·         project planning for a long winter
·         Formulate each niche market and strategize tactics of implementation; and devise a realistic timeline and/or deadlines from start-up to finished product.
·         Locate current successful producers of like or similar ventures and products in my market area, assess their marketing and selling models. (Did this with CSA’s)
·         Farmers markets are growing, but farmers’ incomes are not. So I studied how CSA put their websites together and how they word their ‘rules’. (I’m intrigued by the ‘whole-diet CSA’ trend) Imagine baking bread or pies each week and providing bulk sausage, holiday birds (geese and turkey), frozen rabbit and goat meat -and goat cheeses to a veggie box.
·      Begin to document weather patterns using symbols on a calendar, to represent indicators such as wind, rain, etc. and temps on patterns of variation over time. To know when things will be watered by the seasonal rains. (I’m used to monsoon season, which doesn’t occur here).
·    Study and implement homesteading economics skills to offset lean times 
·      Plan and implement a ‘Homestead Skill-a-Month’ challenge to myself - starting now. I have preliminary plans for getting thru a deep winter (see below).

As an example, here’s what my brainstorming efforts generally produce…

A marketing idea –that I got from seeing a greenhouse restaurant in the Netherlands…
How neat would this be: to “Recruit New Interest” (from potential co-op partners, investors, vendors, staff, or to initiate chef interaction using our produce, or for celebrating a successful first season… a ‘successful end of season’/ ‘beginning of season kick-off’ lunch –to celebrate.
Our greenhouse could be used (using picnic tables, and on a smaller scale of course).
The greenhouse would surely fit 20 people. Baskets of hanging strawberries could provide shade…

Here are other productive ways to think about the future and making plans... 
(found at

“This is a perfect world scenario, and there about a bazillion variables that can be thrown in. But here’s how it plays out in my head…”

LOVE the idea of using timelines in planning! I have always used the ‘snowflake’ method for brainstorming, but there’s no timeline with that. Of course, I’m fairly clueless on what actual work or processes would be involved with so many things – and this would entail guesswork, except for actual growing seasons…

 “The USDA is pumping a lot of money into the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” movement for farm marketing. Benefit from that marketing push. Your customers are buying into you as much as they are buying into your farm. 
 This is your chance to share that story. Everyone has a good story. You may or may not think so because you know it so well, it is boring to you by now. Someone who has never met you is going to want to hear it. Take some time to write it down, and you will be surprised how many people are interested.
From John  - a generous source of inspiration, and gift of information! 

And may I add a link to his: Mind-Mapping vs. Linear Planning.
A good read that provides “Mind Mapping Tools For Farm Business Planning”, by John. He delves into the subject regarding “The Illusive Beginning Farm Checklist…”

John says: 
You need a way to organize all of the pieces while keeping an eye on the big picture… Checklists are very handy. I use them every day. I even used one to create this page on the website. But with all the many tasks you have to juggle, you are going to need a different tool to organize your thoughts.” 
Useful indeed!

Winter 2015-2016 Skill-a-Month (this is a self-challenge)

1. master a skill  (practicing with a new one each month). This month: embroidery
2. increase self-sufficiency (via one thing a week/month/season) with:

  • Efficiency (work smarter, not harder, re-purpose functions, re-work operations)
  • Diversity (not rely on one crop, consider value-added and other variations, etc.)
  • Redundancy (if one thing fails you have a plan B fail-safe measure or replacement)
3. decrease costs (in some way or by one item 1x a week each month)
4. track things to evaluate performance or effect, and input vs output (quarterly/seasonally)
5. seek new (monthly effort of reaching out to pull in): clients, network of partnerships, supports like mentors and teachers and other path-makers

DONE - Aug:
Create a list of new personal and business goals, divided into actionable steps, along with new years’ aspirations

September I was in AZ to see grandsons...

Oct: Make a Vision Board for my future dream Biz ventures, and for Personal goals. 

I am aiming to get GOT an embroidery hoop. If the doll blankets are cute enough, I'll post the pics!

Wherever you are, going forward, I hope this post has been useful to your purpose, and good for the journey. Let me know... share a link to your blog, or come back and share what you're up to!