Posts Tagged ‘do it yourself’

I hope you enjoy the first of what I hope will become a regular series of posts.  In the words of my favorite lady, Bon Appetite! -Danielle

After a hot, busy Saturday we wanted something easy and fresh for dinner.  We pondered the contents of our fridge, reviewing the fresh fruits and veggies we picked up at the market today.  We did a few searches on the internet and came across this recipe for a crustless quiche with sausage and Swiss chard.  Perfect!

Sausage, Chard, and Chevre Crustless Quiche

Of course, we modified the recipe slightly, so here’s what we did:


  • 1 lb pork sausage, medium hot; cooked and crumbled (from Rocky Top Farm, Appomattox)
  • handful Swiss chard (from Island Creek Farm, Huddleston)
  • 1.5″ spring onion (from Three Springs Farm, Lynchburg)
  • 6 eggs (from Rocky Top Farm, Appomattox)
  • 2T evaporated milk
  • 4T herb chevre (of our own making)
  • 1/4c grated Gruyere
  • salt
  • pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease casserole dish.

Heat small amount olive oil in frying pan.  Once warmed, tear up the chard and saute with the onion until the chard is wilted and the onion is slightly brown and translucent.  Remove from heat.  Add crumbled sausage and chevre.  Mix well.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and mix with evaporated milk.  Stir in the sausage-chard mixture.  Add gruyere.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour into greased casserole dish and bake in oven until the egg is cooked through.  In a glass dish, it took the original author about 20-30 minutes.  In our ceramic dish, it took 35-40 minutes.


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As an experiment this year, and partially for fun and curiosity, I have convinced HB to let me devote a small section of the garden towards a “three sisters garden.”

Image from Cordite Country Show Notes

The Three Sisters Garden is a method of planting seeds that has its base in Native American civilization.  Many Native American tribes adopted this form of agriculture, but it is said to have originated with the Haudenosaunee, or the “People of the Longhouse” also known as the Iroquois, of the northeastern United States.

The traditional Three Sisters garden, created by the successive planting of corn, beans, and squash, forms a beneficial mini-ecosystem where the plants rely on each other for nutrients, support, and protection.

From Renee’s Garden:

According to Three Sisters legends corn must grow in community with other crops rather than on its own – it needs the beneficial company and aide of its companions.

The Iroquois believe corn, beans and squash are precious gifts from the Great Spirit, each watched over by one of three sisters spirits, called the De-o-ha-ko, or “Our Sustainers”. The planting season is marked by ceremonies to honor them, and a festival commemorates the first harvest of green corn on the cob. By retelling the stories and performing annual rituals, Native Americans passed down the knowledge of growing, using and preserving the Three Sisters through generations.

A Three Sisters garden is made up of three plants, as previously mentioned:  corn, beans, and squash.  The corn (the oldest sister) provides a trellis for the beans to climb and grow upon.  In return, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil, not only adding to the soil, but also supplying a nutrient that corn relies heavily upon.  The beans also stabilize the corn plants, making them less susceptible to wind damage.  The squash, often in the form of pumpkins and other winter squashes, provide ground cover, helping keep the threat of weeds to a minimum.  Planting squash also helps prevent erosion, maintains soil moisture, aids in a cooler soil, and provides a ground cover that may help keep out predators (such a raccoons) that want to harvest your garden!  At the end of the season, most of the plant life can be returned to the soil to amend it for the following garden season.

Sounding good yet?  There’s more!

Nutritionally, this combination complements each other.  While the corn helps provide carbohydrates, the beans provide protein, and the squash provide vitamins and healthy oils.

Last week I set up a test plot in our garden, and planted corn.  Once the corn is about 4 inches tall, I will plant the beans.  Two weeks later, the squash (pumpkins) will go into the ground.  I’m very excited to try this!  But beware!  Don’t try to plant all the seeds at once, or else you’ll likely end up with a tangled mess of green growth, and probably not a lot of corn due to the competition.

Want to set up your own Three Sisters garden?  Renee’s Garden has the best format to get you started.

Want more information of the historical value of a Three Sisters garden?  The Bird Clan of Alabama has some of the legend.

Want to read more about how a Three Sisters garden can influence children and how they view the world?  The Center for Ecoliteracy has a beautiful, informative website devoted to this topic.

In late spring, we plant the corn and beans and squash. They’re not just plants- we call them the three sisters. We plant them together, three kinds of seeds in one hole. They want to be together with each other, just as we Indians want to be together with each other. So long as the three sisters are with us we know we will never starve. The Creator sends them to us each year. We celebrate them now. We thank Him for the gift He gives us today and every day.  – Chief Louis Farmer (Onondaga)

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I had Wednesday off so HB suggested I head over to the market for Green Market Wednesday and the afternoon’s scheduled rain barrel workshop.  So I did.

The first part of the workshop presented a lecture on rain gardens.  Rain gardens are planned depressions in the ground that allow storm water to runoff and collect and slowly infiltrate into the ground.  When used properly, they can lessen the amount of polluted runoff water reaching streams and rivers by 30%.  Runoff water comes from parking lots, rooftops, driveways, sidewalks, roads, and other broad expanses.  Problems arise when large quantities of water, often carrying pollutants from pesticides, fertilizers, sediment, debris and other wastes  are dumped into streams and rivers.

I’ve become more aware of the local water situations living on a farm for a few years now with spring-fed creeks running through the hills.  Somethings cannot be controlled – our neighbors have a lease on the property fronting the road and we have no say in the choices of fertilizers and pesticides they use on land we do not own.  But we can attempt to make the correct choices on our own property.  And we may not be able to control the choices of our in-laws, but I can play a role in the choices HB and I make.

Anyway, back to the workshop.

Once the lecture was over, a gal from the local soil and water conservation group gave a quick talk and then we delved into making our rain barrels.  Literally, delved.  The barrels we were given were old pickle barrels, some (like mine) still containing old pickle juice.  For a person who does not like pickles, it was slightly disgusting.  For any normal person it was probably a little gross.  You tip the barrel to about a 45* angle, then bend over, shove your top half inside the barrel and find your bearings inside the dark and stinky abyss inside.  Lovely.

Creating the rain barrel was surprisingly easy.  Behold, the finished results:

The barrels come by way of a North Carolina pickle company; of course, the cucumbers weren’t American.  I’m sure the barrel isn’t made in American either.  Ugh.  This reminds me of the Mike Rowe (of Dirty Jobs fame) article I read this morning on the future of farming.

The barrels come with a permanent top that fits under the rim (similar to a canning jar), but for the sake of the barrel we remove the lid and fit a screen under the rim to keep out debris.

Pictured below is the overpour spout with attached hose.  When the rain barrel fills, water will flow out of this hose and (for now) onto the ground.  The real plan is to have multiple barrels so that when one fills up, the water travels into the next barrel via the hose.  Cool, huh?

And of course, we needed a spigot at the bottom of the barrel.  I want to build a small platform to raise this barrel just high enough to fit a bucket and/or watering can underneath for easy filling.

Interested in attending a rain barrel workshop at the Lynchburg Market?  The next workshop will be held on June 12th from 11am to 1pm.  You can get more information from the market website.

Created just in time for an afternoon thunderstorm.  Perfect!

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Wow, there is so much to say with the latest events over the past few weeks since the last post.  Forgive me, dear readers (hello?  anyone?), but let me indulge you in the latest from Spring Mill.

Chicken: It’s What’s for Dinner

Two weeks ago, on a Sunday morning, we processed our old laying hens.  I debated about if it was something I wanted to share with the blog, but have decided there is nothing to be ashamed about.  We received these hens as day-old chicks, raised them with love and care, and in return they (unknowingly) provided us with eggs for nourishment.  I sold their eggs to my co-workers last year, so they provided nourishment not just to HB and I, our in-laws, but also to at least 50 other people when you count the eggs eaten by our neighbors, co-workers, friends and their respective families.  Amazing the impact of 11 little hens, isn’t it?

The hens were getting older, laying less, and eating what eggs they did lay – a habit we tried hard to break, but never could.  So we set up one Sunday morning, and processed the hens.  The first one was the hardest for me, and after that it became a respectful thanksgiving as we did each hen.  The processing wasn’t that difficult and it was actually pretty interesting.  In their death, these birds will continue to provide nourishment, and that’s another amazing aspect.

A New Beginning

The day after we processed the hens, the next set of chicks arrived.  This time we ordered 30 pullets, half of which are Americanas that lay the beautiful “easter” eggs in shades of blue and green.  The other half are a mix of brown egg layers, Columbian Rocks, Red crosses, and Silver-Laced Wyandottes.  The picture above is taken at one week of age.  They’re living in their brooder in the coop and thriving.  We ordered them from Mt Healthy Hatchery in Ohio.  We ordered our previous set of laying hens from them as well, we love the quality of the birds.  Now, if only I could find a few meat birds to raise as well… 😉

A New Addition

Last week Xenia kidded a beautiful little doeling, who we named “Bette Davis” to keep up the year’s theme.  She is a sweet, spunky little girl.  Despite wanting to bottle-raise, we’ve decided to let Xenia raise her.  Our work schedules just don’t allow time for midday feedings.  Now I’m trying to decide when to introduce her to the rest of the herd.  Bette is so much younger than the other kids, I don’t want them to bully or injure her with their roughhousing!

The Never-Ending Project 😉

The goat barn is coming along well.  We’ve fenced in the small barn lot surrounding it and putt up two of the three gates.  We’ve started some of the interior wall work, and once that is finished will complete the outer front wall.  Then! we will be able to move the goats out there.  How strange it will be to not wake up to them “baaaaa”ing out my back door!

A Bit of Beauty

Our rose bushes are in full bloom and I’m in love with them.  Every year they get better and better.  These were $6 tea rose hybrids we picked up on a whim at WalMart a few years back.  I love the blooms – one blooms a buttery yellow, the other blooms a pale yellow with pink-tinged petals.   Walking out to the chicken coop and seeing these lovely plants makes me smile.

An Education.

Today is the first day the dairy goats and kids have been turned out with the wethers in the big pasture with Huck.  There were some antics at first, but now everyone has settled down and enjoying the field.  Yes, and I said with Huck, my horse.  After nearly 9 months of stall rest and controlled exercise we got the “go ahead” after his last ultrasound to put him out in the pasture!  Last Wednesday was his first day out, and he is LOVING it.  I think he enjoys the goats out there too.  Sweet Roll and Donut stay with him full time – in the pasture during the day, in the barn lot at night.  They often curl up together (the wethers, Huck doesn’t curl up with them) and sleep in the stall at night.  Huck must be picking up skills from the goats – when we climb a big hill/mountain on the trail he breaks out his “mountain goat walk” and cruises up them. 🙂

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Goat shed progress, 3/14/2010

For the past several weeks we’ve been working on the goat shed whenever we get a chance.  I’ll be honest:  HB has put in the most work, then my father in law, then me.  Partially because I’m a chicken about standing on top of that horse trailer to help, partially because I’m a weakling and those rough cut oak 2×8’s are heavy, not to mention the weight of those old telephone poles.

You can really get a sense of the shed now.  The entire shed is 36 feet long, 12 feet wide.  On the far right end, there will be a hay loft and storage area.  Underneath the hay loft and furthest to the right will be a storage area, 8 feet long.  We plan to line this area with shelves and have storage area for medications, minerals, feed, and perhaps a bale of hay or two.  Next to the storage space will be the milking stall, 6 feet long.  Then there will be two parallel stalls, 10 feet long, 6 feet wide.  These will be perpendicular to the milking area.  The plan is to have these stalls available for use as shelter, holding pens for milking, kidding, or what have you.  The last 12×12 foot space will be open as a loafing area for goats to rest and be protected from the wind.

Eventually we will probably add on to this shed, with larger overhangs to extend the loafing area and quite possibly an additional shed that  faces the tall side to extend barn/storage space if we find it necessary.

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When we visited my family for Christmas, there was a very large box with our names on it.  We quizzed each other about what it could be.

Imagine our surprise when we opened it and found the most thoughtful gift!  A cold frame!

And then the snow came.  And it really overstayed its welcome.  But we finally seem to be on the mend, and last weekend I sat down with my drill and the directions and put the cold frame together.

I let it sit for a week to warm up.  It’s definitely warm inside! The frame itself is pretty light, so we’re brainstorming anchors for it.  The wind blew it over on Friday.  But it’s tidy and sits upon a pile of horse manure (thanks, Huck!) and potting soil.

I plan to sow a few seeds this week – perhaps some spinach? and carrots?  I need to dig through my seed packets and see what’s available!

I do have a confession:  I worry about our garden getting too sufficient.  Then we wouldn’t need to go to the market weekly.  And we would miss our market friends.  But self-sufficiency is a long way away, because weeds always get the best of me. 😉

So Mom, Dad, if you’re reading this – thank you!

By the way, that hillside surrounding the cold frame is an erosion masterpiece.  I’m currently supplementing it with Huck’s manure with hope that overtime we can slowly mend it.  Every year I plant every weed imaginable – mint, sunchokes, etc. in hopes that it will conquer the clay hillside.

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Monday of this week was absolutely gorgeous.  Highs in the low 50’s, the sun shining brightly.  Despite the fact that I screwed up and went into work on my day off (and subsequently spent half my day off working as a receptionist to earn a little extra money), the animals and I took advantage of the weather.

On our way home, I  rolled down the windows so Chester could stick his head out and enjoy the breeze.

Once home, I was greeted by my darling herd of dairy goats with their queen, Jacqsonne, at the lead.

I myself took advantage of the afternoon by taking Huck out for a ride in the woods.

The hens rejoiced in the warm weather and scattered across the barnyard.

HB and his dad spent the afternoon finishing the placement of posts for our goat shed.  And yes, this is a lesson in farm UNsafety.

While the horses in the front field supervised the building and equipment.

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For Christmas we made the boys a hay manger.   We liked the design of it so much that the first thing we did when we brought the girls home was go directly to the lumber store and buy supplies to make a second one!

The girls gather around their manger on a snowy day.

Now that we’ve been to several goat farms, I really like our hay manger design the best of what we’ve seen.  We set the manger in the middle of our stalls which allows the goats to space around them and eat.  Of course, our mangers are small – only holding about a full bale of hay (less of the alfalfa/orchard grass bales) – and we only have a few goats eating out of each manger.  Eventually we’ll have to modify the design or just build more of these mangers and space them out.

I thought I’d walk you through the basics of our hay manger.  First, after a lot of debate, we went with the plan from Goat World with a few modifications.  We liked this plan for several reasons.  One, it was fairly inexpensive – I think we spent about $30 on each manger.  We liked the airiness of the design – no solid floor, plenty of room for ventilation and letting small pieces fall aside.  It allows for easy eating from the side and the top, with plenty of room for our goats to stand around it.

First, measure and mark your lumber.

I recommend trying not to make these mangers on the coldest day of the year like we did.  I was all bundled up while working in the garage with the kerosene heater burning!

Next, carefully cut the lumber at the designated spots.

Obviously, HB is more accustomed to the cold than I.

Then, it's time to make the base.

Because HB has a variety of wood-working tools, we use these handy clamps to hold our wood base “square” (although, it’s really a rectangle).  The GoatWorld article mentions a different way to ensure you maintain 90* angles.

Then, you add on the legs

This is one place we modified our design and used treated lumber for the legs since they will be in contact with urine, manure, soil, and who knows what.  Once again, we like to use clamps to hold the wood in place while we tighten screws.

And now you start inserting the slats to hold it together.

This is when it starts to count – how square are those bases?  Luckily you’re able to adjust it some by working the slats just right.  Slats go down the sides and across the bottom.

You could stop here, but do you really want to? Because ....

Now, technically, you’re done.  Congratulations!  But we found one little problem, and easily remedied it.  So let’s continue, shall we?

This gap needs a remedy

When we made the first one, we decided we didn’t like this gap that occurs on the row of bottom slats.  It’s several inches wide and we thought a flake could fall out easily.  So we decided to add another slat, which takes a little finesse…

And we have just the fix for you!

First, DO NOT cut this piece of lumber when you do your regular cutting at the start of the project.  Why?  Because you want to make sure it fits the dimensions of the finished product.  If your rectangular bases are out of alignment (ie: not square with tidy 90* angles), you might need these pieces to be longer or shorter, depending on how the manger comes together.

After measuring the space we cut the lumber.  Then, to make a tidy fit, we cut little squares out of each end, so that it fits nicely alongside the upright slats.

Add a little more support, just in case.

Because of the addition of these extra end pieces, and having to cut out part of the wood to make a clean fit, we added additional support underneath.

The finished product!

And now, congratulations! if you stuck it out this far!  You are officially done.  Unless you plan to put this outside and want to add a roof.  Which, eventually, I want to design how we will do that.  But for now, we use these in shelters that already have a roof.  Isn’t it handy?

Did I mention it was sturdy?

Oh, and did I mention how strong and sturdy they are?

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If you’re going to have dairy goats, one crucial piece of equipment is a milking stand.  In it’s simplest form, a milking stand is an elevated platform that the doe stands upon while the handler milks her.  There are many different designs of stands – some have locking head pieces so that the doe cannot jump on when she sees fit.  Other designs include a bucket holder so that the doe can easily eat during the milking process.  Some even have ramps to prevent the chance of the doe injuring her udder while getting on the stand.  Other stands can be mounted on wheels to make them mobile.  There are even plans to be found for stands that fold up against the wall!  Milking stands are made from a variety of material – wood, metal, aluminum, and even PVC pipes (although the sturdiness of the later makes me wonder…).

After some searching, HB and I decided we liked the design offered at River Run Farm.  However, they don’t offer shipping and we were sure we could build something like it for less.  About the same time we were searching for ideas, we came across the annual Goat issue of Popular Farming which includes plans for a milking stanchion.  Perfect!  So, we set off for the lumber store, with a design in mind, thanks to the folks at River Run, and an idea on dimensions thanks to the Popular Farming article.

Here’s a photo essay of the process –

Let's start building!

The base of the platform and the start of the supports that will "lock" into position.

Carving out the pieces to allow heads to fit in. HB did a beautiful job!

The platform with a working head gate.

A box for holding the removable feed tub.

The completed product!

Completely finished product! To add some tread, while the last coat of paint was wet we sprinkled sand on top of the platform.

Of course, we had to paint the stand.  🙂 We picked out “Regal Regatta” which was a nice, dark nautical shade of blue.  HB’s parents refer to it as “Bahama Blue” and it’s a touch darker than the picture shows – the flash definitely brightens it!  I’m tempted to add polka dots, just for laughs.

If you are interested in making your own milking stand like this, I can provide dimensions and let you know about some of the more difficult parts of the design.  We made it in about 6 hours, spread out over a weekend.

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A hay manger!  That holds an entire bale!

Apparently this Christmas we took on hay wastage.  I got Huckleberry a NibbleNet for his present.

For a month now HB and I have been researching various hay mangers to use for the goats.  We’ve scoured the internet, researched in books, and finally decided on this model, instructions found at GoatWorld.Com. You can use that link to go directly to the instructions.  We changed a few things and decided to use treated lumber for the legs.  We’re already planning to build a second one, and devising plans on how to modify it for a roof and use outside.

The goats LOVE it.  Donut prefers to eat between the side bars, burying his head as far into a bale as he possibly can.  Sweet Roll likes to stand up, rest his hooves on the bottom board, and eat directly out of the top.  They really seem to be wasting less hay already, plus it provides them amusement.

Did you guys do anything fun for your critters at Christmas?

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