Friday, June 13, 2014

My Sustainable Farmhouse to Yours

The view from my "sustainable farmhouse".
Meet the Colvin Family Farmers
at the end of the post.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the word's the new hot topic..seems like it's taking the place of being "green"...which before that was "frugal". Here on the mountain in the early 80's the older ladies would have chuckled if I talked this way. (Read my post  describing the mountain culture I married into and how God is leading me today to carry on their ministry.)

If anyone lived on a sustainable farm or home it was the older ladies on this mountain when I got married 33 years ago. The adage, "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" was they way they quietly lived. I got to watch them, work by them, and learn their ways. What a blessing this was! So there's really nothing new about "being green", "frugal",or "sustainable"'s the modern way of simply living an old fashioned lifestyle.

Living the simple "old fashioned" life has brought us a lot of criticism and questions over the years. It wasn't the "in" way to live. My older children moved with us to this farm where we lived in a old mountain home (think 1,000 square foot cabin). We cut dead trees in the woods surrounding us to heat our home. We used an old wringer washer on the back porch to clean our
We have close to 300 hens that
lay the eggs we sell at
clothes, and then hung them on a clothes line. This saved on water and electricity. We used simple whole foods to cook creative meals....even ones found in woods and fields around us. 

We had a large garden that we watered by hand with pond water, and preserved the                                                 harvest. We sewed our own clothes,
Caleb made the hog barn with
recycled wood and greenhouse
hoops laying about the farm.
built our own furniture, and made our little house into a home for 12 people. Did we have 
to? Were we poor? No, it was an extension of the lifestyle we lived at the log home we had built on one acre on the other side of the mountain. We chose to live this way. It built built strong children...and it built our "sustainable" home.

Nowadays our farmhouse looks a lot different than the "quaint mountain cottage" we lived in while building our farmhouse.  We have 3 more children...that many bathrooms, and a modern laundry room. We still heat with wood, but the wood furnace is outside now and it not only heats the house but our water also. Soon I pray it will heat the dryer too! Our "gardens" are HUGE 
We used to plant thousands of plants
 by hand.Now we use this plant setter and do it the "easy way".
now, and also feed many of you, our shareholders and customers. We not only can our vegetables for ourselves, but we're making plans to open a commercial kitchen where I can preserve the bounty of our harvest for winter sales.

My children are "green" too. They have fun when it rains with their rain
Levi catching water during a
recent storm to use
for the chickens. To him it's
water retrieval system. Wear hand-me-down overalls, create toys out of scrap wood, and since "city bikes" don't last long on our dirt roads they make new bikes out of parts of several broken down bikes. They've experimented with worm composting, composting in a jar for a visual aid, growing hydroponically, and intensively with raised beds. When they are assigned the chore of cleaning the bathrooms, they mix up vinegar and water to disinfect the counter tops and toilets with. In the kitchen they scrub pots & pans with borax. Faith Anne (13) sews nightgowns using nice, used t-shirts from the thrift store as the bodice, and adds a gathered skirt. Fugal..Green...sustainable...

I prefer to describe it as an old fashioned, simple childhood.
A batch of bread these days
makes 15 loaves.

When you look back and learn the skills of the pioneers, or the generation that went through the depression it leads to an exciting path of never-ending learning. And will it save you money? Why yes! I took this path because I saw 
how I as a wife could S-T-R-E-T-C-H my husbands paycheck. I learned to cook from scratch, then I learned to make bread. The path to simplicity(sustainability) takes time...time to bake, time to ferment, time to sew, time to grow vegetables and fruits. My life got fuller and fuller. Staying at home wasn't boring at all! Everyday there was something new to do and to learn! As children came into our home 
Charity picks flowers
in the high tunnels.

they started learning right alongside of me. Home schooling in the middle 80's was risky at best, but it was the path the Lord directed us to. The children and I kept on learning...together. Some likened my "classroom" to the old fashioned schoolhouse setting where all the grades learned together and from each other. I agree, it was, and still is. Before our youngest daughter Charity (6) was in kindergarten she knew all the phonics songs from playing with Levi almost 3 years older than her.  That somehow falls under sustainability...saving my energy. :)

If you can't garden or garden enough, joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or shopping at a farmer's market is old frugal..uhhh green...I mean a sustainable choice you could make. At the market this week we should have one of my FAVORITE late spring vegetables...sweet slicing 
onions! When the crop firsts ripens and is sold uncured they are sooooo good! You can slice 10 of them without a tear. 
Luke selling onions at the Franklin Farmer's Market.
They top sandwiches with a sweet 
crunch. They saute up with our fresh garlic to make the best addition to pizzas, topping for meat, or baked potatoes. I even have a close friend that eats them like apples. Look for them at the market in the beautifully stacked pyramids. 

One way I celebrate late spring is by sauteing Swiss Chard with onions and garlic. The dish takes only minutes (especially when you're just cooking for a few) and is packed with alllllll kinds of vitamins, minerals, and even trace minerals. Give this recipe a try this week.

Stir Fried Swiss Chard

1 bunch Swiss Chard (usually .6 lbs.)
1-2 onions, sliced in 1/4" slices
1/2 bulb of fresh garlic, minced (or to taste)
1-2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
 Sea Salt to taste

Wash Swiss Chard in cool water and lay on a towel or dish drainer to drain. Trim off about 1/4" of the end of the stems, discard. (Compost, feed the hogs, feed the worms, all those "sustainable" things one does to be "green".) Roll a few leaves at a time together and slice down the whole length of the leaf and continue down the stem. Turn your knife lengthwise and give the greens a few cuts. Place on a tray or in a bowl; set aside. Cut the onion in half, then slice in 1/4" slices. Set in a pile on the tray (or separate bowl) by the chard. Mince garlic. Heat a wok or large frying pan. Once heated, add the oil. Next scrape the garlic off your cutting board into the oil. (Be careful as the garlic will brown quickly, so have everything cut up and waiting.) Stir for 1 minute to season the oil. Add the onions. Stir to combine, until slightly translucent. Now add the Swiss Chard one handful at a time, turning the greens over and into the mixture. Add each handful making sure they get covered with oil...not dripping, but shiny from the oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Stir fry until limp, but not mushy. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

One of the more interesting crops of spring is kohlrabi. It's like a bulb cabbage. You can shred it into "slaw", cut it into julienne slices to stir fry, 
cube it and roast it, or grill it, or simply steam it. My children enjoy just peeling one in the field and eating them like apples!  You can't loose when you experiment with kohlrabi...just learning to spell it right is an adventure! ;) 

Another way I like to cook vegetables during the summer is on my grill. Being frugal, no green, ohh!, sustainable I bought an old broiler pan at the thrift store to grill with. It's better than most grill pans since it has a lip around the edge that allows you to stir the vegetables without loosing them in the coals. You may even have one in your cabinet!  Here is what I'm making from what's being harvested this week.

Grilled Mixed Vegetables

1 medium zucchini, cut into cubes or 1/3" slices
1 medium fresh onion, cut into small wedges or thick slices
2 small yellow squash, cut into cubes or 1/3" slices
2 kohlrabi, cut into 1/4" slices or small cubes
3 radish, cut into 1/4" slices or quartered
3 Hakurei Turnips, cut into cubes
A good double handful of Par-boiled new potatoes
Later in the season add:
*Cherry tomatoes - cut them in half if they are larger, but add late in the grilling                                          process to keep them whole
*Patty pan (round, saucer like) squash - cut into wedges
*Okra- keep the small one whole, slice larger ones in half length-wise
*Carrots- par-boil like potatoes before adding to the mixture


There are many things I know I should do to live sustainable now that the media has further enlightened me. We're switching our light bulbs to fluorescent and LED, replacing plastic storage containers to glass...and there's that pony cart I'd love to have! I've learned over the years that making one change at a time is best...especially with our large family. I'd encourage you to go slow, and enjoy the path to a "sustainable" life.

  There are many sustainable practices I'd like to learn over the coming months and years, but what's important is am I doing all I know now? I need to use the raw milk we get weekly to make yogurt, and also sew a few quilts for the boys. I'd like to get my kitchen garden built to putter in too.

 The same "sustainable" theme runs throughout my Christian life also. If know what Jesus Christ teaches in the Bible, and I should obey "without excuse" Romans 1:20.  If I know I should mix up a batch of yogurt this week I should get to it! I need to get from want to, to will do in my daily Christian life also.  For me there is no excuse for not living how Christ teaches in His Word. To stay "sustainable" in my Christian life I have to make a read the Bible be broken when I see how far short I fall...staying away from places, books, Internet sites, and videos I know that will draw me into sin. If the Bible declares something displeases God, then I must not excuse it in my life. I must obey it. I must daily wage battle in my mind for the right. Do you fight the "want to  over the will do battle"? Living sustainable in Christ I will win!

"Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purity your hearts ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall life you up." James 4:8-10

Meet Your Farmers!

Farmer Steve is the Daddy of the crew, marketer,
field hand, mechanic, carpenter, and keeps EVERYONE

The Farmer's Wife, Val
Momma to 13, and Grandma to 2!

Adam, the oldest son at home.
Website designer, Social Media

Isaac and Adam are really into bee keeping. Today they spun our first honey of the year with our new extractor. We have raised bees over the years with varying degrees success. Last year we

turned the corner, and actually sold some! With the new extractor it's a breeze!

Our newly delivered honey extractor.
No more wax all over my kitchen!!

Caleb is our steady man...working hard in the
field or with the hogs.
Isaac is a capable field hand and works with the
Titus - 17 for another 2 months. He works in the field and is a great packer.

Noah is a sophomore in high school, and is about to turn 16.
He is a great worker and even volunteers to knock down the weeds on the home
farm  with our new little tractor and bushog AFTER he puts in a long day
 planting or harvesting. Thank you Noah!!

Luke is 11 and has stepped into the field
as a young man this season. He is
Adam's apprentice at the Franklin 

Farmers Market.
Levi is 8 and enjoying being a  "farmer boy".
He works, then plays, works, then plays.
He is Daddy's helper at the Oak Ridge Farmer's Market on Saturdays.