Homesteading fundamentals class March 19 2016

On March 19, we’ll be hosting a class at the farm called “Homesteading Fundamentals” through the Columbia Area Career Center; registration here. If you aspire to increase your level of self-sufficiency, this course is for you, whether you are an urban apartment dweller or someone who already has calluses from working the back 40. Structured as an extended farm tour that will range from fields to kitchen to orchard to woods to bookshelf, our goal is to provide inspiration and a multitude of ideas such that everyone will head home excited to try something new as spring begins.

We’ll draw on our decade of experience growing vegetables in Missouri, as well as knowledge we’ve gained through experience with composting, starting an orchard, woodlot management, forest farming, and permaculture. Raising animals for meat, milk, and eggs is another part of our homesteading repertoire. In the kitchen, we ferment, freeze, dry, and can a multitude of homegrown or locally produced ingredients so that our diet is rich in local foods year-round, including homemade cheese, sauerkraut, wine, pickles, sausage, canned tomatoes, an abundance of produce in season, and much more.

We intend to focus our time on the topics of most interest to participants. Here’s a laundry list of possibilities: Continue reading

Wooden model class at Columbia Area Career Center

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Would you like to build and display something like this? Building wooden models engages the mind and hands, teaching patience and craftsmanship. It’s a hobby I really enjoy, and can be pursued on a tight budget with creativity and planning. While interacting with communities online, I’ve found that many new modelers tend to ask the same questions, face the same confusions, and make the same mistakes. Model-building is a hands-on, tactile experience and it’s hard to convey answers and experience through the web, yet many people also don’t have in-person access to other modelers.

On Saturday, February 20th, 2016, I’m offering an Introduction to Building Wooden Models class through the Columbia Area Career Center, from 9 a.m. to noon. Attendees will explore basic skills for kit or scratch-built models. While I’ll be drawing on my own experience with maritime, aircraft, and model-railroad structural models, I hope to facilitate discussion within the group to bring out as many different experiences and perspectives as possible. Continue reading

Birding on the farm this weekend with Columbia Audubon Society

On Sunday morning, May 3, we’ll be hosting a birding field trip on the farm through the Columbia Audubon Society (CAS). All are welcome on CAS field trips, even if you are not a member of CAS (or a CSA); all that’s required is an interest in nature and birds and a willingness to join us in exploring the diverse habitats of our landscape. The CAS carpool will meet at the Patricia’s parking lot, 900 N Keene St, leaving at 7:30 so we can start birding the farm by 8:00 a.m. If you’d like to come birding, please contact us to reserve your spot.cherthollow

We’ll spend as much of the morning as necessary to cover the woods, stream, fields, hollows, and other habitats in search of interesting birds. If time and interest allow, we may also visit nearby natural areas including Pinnacles Youth Park and/or Rocky Fork Conservation Area. No experience is necessary,  just an interest in birds and a desire to enjoy the spring landscape. We have a couple of spare pairs of binoculars available if needed.

This is a great time of year for birding, as the leaves aren’t fully out, allowing easier observation in treetops. Migratory warblers and other birds are beginning to pass through; new arrivals in the past few weeks include Kentucky Warbler, White-eyed Vireo, Indigo Bunting, Scarlet Tanager (abundant this year!), Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Eastern Towhee, and many more. Understand that this is a birding trip, not a farm tour per se, so the focus will be on wildlife and nature rather than agricultural interpretation.

If you’re interested in other such trips, the CAS website hosts the official listing for all upcoming trips, as do the monthly newsletters which Eric edits. In two weeks. we’ll be leading a similar trip to Goatsbeard Farm and Sullivan Farms, northwest of Columbia, and there are many more opportunities to get out and enjoy birding with other like-minded folks.

Birding class this spring at Eagle Bluffs

In April we’ll be offering a chance to learn more about central Missouri birding, with a one-day class through the Columbia Area Career Center. This is a great chance to explore Eagle Bluffs, one of the region’s top bird conservation areas, and gain some practical skills in bird identification and appreciation. Here’s the catalog description (p. 45) followed by some more detail about our goals for the class; we hope to have an enthusiastic group and cooperative weather! If interested, register through the Career Center.

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Basic Birding Skills

Saturday, 4/11/15, 8:00 – noon

Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area is a birding gem in Columbia’s backyard. We’ll explore its various habitats, practice observational and listening skills, and consider bird behavior. No experience necessary, only a desire to discover what makes birding so popular!

Course description: In a hands-on natural setting, students will explore how to observe and listen to a wide variety of birds, understand and analyze their habitats and behaviors, and otherwise gain basic skills that can be applied to birding in any location. Course is intended to teaching birding skills in the field rather than bird identification per se, though we expect attendees will come away more familiar with specific birds than when they arrived. For example, we will practice observing and recording specific features of birds that can be used for later identification, rather than trying to identify birds on the fly. Overall, we want students to see some neat birds, enjoy a morning of nature observation, and come away with new confidence and birding skills.

Presenter biography: We are members of the Columbia Audubon Society, and experienced observers of birds across central Missouri and on our own diverse farm. Joanna is a lifelong birder from a birding family, while Eric holds a Masters in Teaching and has extensive experience in public science education.

Sustainable Table: Our kitchen-management class this spring

In April we’ll be teaching a kitchen-management course through the Columbia Area Career Center. We’ve long practiced and espoused a form of whole-kitchen management that integrates creative cooking with using seasonal items that are available and on hand, without being overly time-consuming or fussy. A good example is the “Preparing a CSA share in an hour” demonstration we gave last year, which showed how easy it can be to turn an full-share of farm-fresh produce into simple, delicious, and wholesome dishes.

Here’s the catalog description (p. 44) followed by a more detailed outline of our curriculum and goals, drawn from our initial proposal to CACC. Please considering sharing this with anyone you know who might be interested, or even signing up yourself!

Sustainable Table

Tuesdays 4/14 – 5/12, 7:00 – 8:30 pm

Getting the most out of your ingredients and your budget requires flexibility in menu-planning along with creativity and improvisation in the kitchen. Explore ways to source and prepare meals that are simple, delicious and economical. (5 Sessions)

Skills to be gained: Students will learn how to: find and choose fresh ingredients; assess and adapt recipes to match their supplies & needs; use seasonal menus and food preservation to improve their food budget; and explore kitchen techniques and items that can benefit their cooking & time budget.

Presenter biography: We have been honing our cooking skills for over 15 years, first as farmers market shoppers and CSA members, then as professional producers of fresh ingredients at Chert Hollow Farm in northern Boone County. Eric also holds a Masters degree in teaching and has extensive experience with public speaking and education.

Outline of learning activities per session:

  1. Sourcing ingredients: Discussions of seasonality, growing methods, sources of ingredients, what to ask farmers or grocers, ways to identify better or worse ingredients, storage and preservation methods.
  2. Recipe analysis: What makes a good or bad recipe, how to rewrite or adapt a recipe to be easier or faster to follow, how different ingredients contribute to a recipe, how to swap or supplement ingredients.
  3. Master recipes: Step away from specific recipes and discuss the structure of different classes of meals. What defines a soup, a pasta, a stir fry, a sauce? How can we develop a master recipe that can be adapted to whatever ingredients are on hand?
  4. Kitchen management: Ways to use your kitchen more efficiently, including advance preparation, recipe doubling, appropriate shortcuts, spreading preparation over multiple days vs. a scheduled cooking binge.
  5. Budgeting & valuing food: Economics of how food is produced, sold, and purchased, minimizing waste, efficient approaches to sourcing ingredients, analysis of personal and general food budgets, buying in bulk vs. not over-purchasing.

CSA event: Backyard Bird Count Saturday Feb 16

This coming weekend, we’ll be taking part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, and CSA members are invited to join us. This fantastic event is a joint effort by various organizations to crowd-source data on wild bird populations across the country; last year over 100,000 checklists were submitted with over 17 million birds counted. It’s a great chance for outdoors enthusiasts of any birding skill level to enjoy a morning on the farm and take part in some worthwhile citizen science. We hope some members can join us; details below. Continue reading

Goat roast success & thank-you

Our CSA fall fiesta/goat roast party on Saturday went wonderfully. Thanks to all those who were able to attend and contribute to the enjoyable atmosphere on a beautiful fall afternoon and evening, especially those who were able to give a hand with prep work earlier in the day, and our workers who make this farm possible for us. We hosted & fed 30 adults & 7 children with few hitches and a lot of fun. We’ll eventually write up details of how we built the pit & did the roasting, along with some ideas for improvements for next time, but for now here’s a photo of the spread, the final menu, and another photo of a few items left behind (please claim if you recognize them!). Continue reading

Rambunctious Garden

In the six years we’ve lived and worked on this farm, our perspective on the world around us has changed significantly and somewhat unexpectedly. We arrived here as idealistic young people, with a cultural background that loved and valued nature, and an academic training that emphasized the beauty and inherent value of natural things over human. We didn’t initially intend to farm full-time. Six years into taking ownership of a piece of land and learning how to live both with and on it, we’ve changed somewhat. We still hold dear the idea of wilderness and escape, but have learned a new respect for the potential value in people working with landscapes and ecologies to produce a higher value for humans AND nature.

We were still grappling with this fundamental change in our worldview when we first read Rambunctious Garden, a new book by Columbia-based science writer Emma Marris. This concise and thought-provoking book lays out the very ideas we’d been grappling with and places them in the wider context of a developing change in ecological thinking. We’ve become friends with Emma and her family, having deeply enjoyable and challenging discussions about our similar and different perspectives on land use, nature, and human activities. Emma has agreed to host a book discussion at the farm in November, for any CSA members who read the book and wish to engage further in the issues presented there. Continue reading