Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Homemade??? Oh Yes You Can!

Make It Yourself...OH YES YOU CAN!
Have you ever taken a store bought bucket of chicken to a church dinner or party in your own
dish lined with a nice kitchen towel?  Did you smile and simply say thank you as the dinner guests commented on how wonderful your chicken was?  Are you chuckling on the inside as you read this?  Yep, been there done that!  The dinner guests were all warm and fuzzy as they pictured you slaving over a frying pan and placing each piece of chicken gingerly into the dish.  As if you fried each piece individually just for them.  Not knowing that 30 minutes prior you were at the Wal-Mart deli counter ordering an "8 piece" and scrambling in the church parking lot to arrange your dish. 

There's just something about homemade isn't there?  I have learned that homemade not only makes others feel good, but it gives me a great sense of pride and that same warm and fuzzy when I've made something myself.  There have been many things over the last few years that I've procrastinated in making just because I felt intimidated by the process.  Usually, once I just make up my mind that I'm going to just "go for it", it's not as complicated as I had built it up to be.

A few recent examples for me have been making homemade yogurt and sewing a pillow case dress.  I've wanted to make yogurt for about a year now.  I also have wanted to sew for 20 years.  I have tackled both of these life's to do items in the last week.  I feel really stupid that it was so much easier than I thought and that I had waited so long to give myself such joy from a project well done.

My encouragement for you the words of the NIKE...JUST DO IT! 

To ease you into the process, I'm including a few ideas for easy projects that might inspire you to move onto bigger ones.  HAVE FUN! 

Repurpose with Spray Paint
Take any item you want to repurpose and spray paint it or distress to give it a totally NEW look.  Many items will not require sanding, but you can if you feel the item needs it.  Be sure to wipe down the item first with a damp cloth and then allow to dry completely.  Follow instructions on the can for  how to spray the item.  Add a few coats and then finish with a coat of spray poly.  The side table pictured below was a piece I have had for 15 years.  It sat outside on our porch and was extremely weathered.  A little sanding, a few coats of paint, a little sanding on the edges to distress, a final coat of poly and VOILA!  A brand new piece of furniture.

Also pictured is a purple mirror I repurposed for Sophie's nursery.  I found this mirror on a Facebook trading site for $10.  It was large, gold and heavy.  Okay, down right ugly.  I simply wiped it down with a wet cloth, place printer paper over the mirror to protect it and then sprayed away.  This mirror goes perfectly above her changing table.

Homemade Laundry Detergent
This recipe came from one of our Red Gate Farm CSA Members, Thanks Melanie!  You can use these ingredients for liquid or powder soap.  I like to use the powder version and it seems to work well in our high efficiency washer  I know lots of folks who love the liquid version too.  Visit for detailed instructions.
1 bar of soap (any kind you want), I like Castille or Zote (as pictured and available at Wally World)
1 cup of Borax
1 cup of washing soda
a big pot ( that holds more than 2 gallons)
a grater
a funnel
a long spoon
2 empty gallon jugs/containers
Homemade Glass Cleaner (YES!)
This is my new favorite window/mirror cleaner.  Equal parts of alcohol and water.  DONE!  This cleans so much better than the Windex brand.  I even use it on our black appliances in the kitchen.
Homemade Soft Scrub (Yes! and YES!)
A few tablespoons of liquid castille soap, a little water, a little baking soda...mix to a paste and scrub away!
Now...go make something today!  ; )

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Nature Deficit Disorder...Really?

Nature Deficit Disorder....Really?

Recently while searching for an article to post on our Red Gate Farm Facebook page, I came across a search result that had the title, "Nature Deficit Disorder" and I had to keep reading.

The web page I came across is  This website is dedicated to fostering activities that encourage kids to get back outside.  I've included an excerpt from their website below.

Nature-Deficit Disorder

Author Richard Louv introduced the term "Nature-Deficit Disorder" in 2005 with the publication of his bestselling book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.” He coined the phrase to serve as a description of the human costs of alienation from nature and it is not meant to be a medical diagnosis (although perhaps it should be). - See more at:

What intrigued me the most was that this is a MOVEMENT now. Tom and I have for a long time talked about this very concept.  Each year we host Family Farm Week at the farm.  Anyone in the family can attend...from Maryland to Florida.  We have seen first hand what a week at the farm can do in terms of transforming kids.  They arrive "tech'd" out.  They leave a little more mature and responsible. 

Our niece, now 13 has been visiting the farm for years.  She began helping with the CSA during her Spring Breaks a few years ago.  Her visits have gone from weekends to several weeks during the summer.  She never complains about having to work on the farm.  It's just unspoken that when you come to visit us, you are part of the farm family and assume responsibility for some chores.  I watched her this past Christmas when she came to visit, get up at 5:30 so she could run the trap line with Uncle Tom.  She would hit the mud room, throw on her boots and jacket and take off on the four wheeler.  It really did not matter if they caught anything or not.  It was that she was a part of the process.  She was being depended upon and had a job.  I also think the allure of what they may find when they went out was part of it too.

In the Spring and Summer when she visits, she helps plant and pick vegetables.  We talk about how food is grown and the healthier choices she can introduce to her family when she gets home.  She makes customer deliveries with me as well.  She has the biggest smile on her face when she hands off the veggie box.  I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, she would rather be on the farm than anywhere else.  When she is here, she spends very little time on the laptop or her phone.  Those activities are usually at night when there's no daylight to be outside.
In 2012 we took our grandson and great nephew to Colorado for their 13th birthday.  We wanted to share with them our love for the outdoors and we had visited Colorado the previous year on vacation.  We had one rule for them while we were there.  They were not allowed to be on their cell phones during the day.  We expected them to be with us as a family and we did not want them to miss out on anything because they had their heads down texting their friends.  Being teens, we caught them a few times trying to sneak, but we expected that.

We went horseback riding, trout fishing, hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park, ate a fancy restaurant and introduced them to the movie "The Shining".  As for that last part, The Stanley Hotel was the inspiration for Stephen King to write "The Shining".  I hope we did not scare the BEJEEZUS out of them, LOL.  We sat in the hot tub together and they actually opened up and talked to us about all kind of stuff.  It was a wonderful time.  I loved watching their faces when trying something new.  The amazement of seeing an elk up close and personal or conquering fear of riding a horse up a mountain.

If you spend any time with kids in nature, they'll ask you all kinds of questions.  The problem is, you also find out how little they know about how nature is connected to their lives.  How food is grown and where it comes from, how nature and humans are connected and depend on each other for survival.  It is critical that we all take an active part in seeking out activities to get our kids out of the house.  They are missing out on LIFE.

I am so looking forward to Spring.  I can't wait to get Sophie outside and introduce her to the garden and the wonder of the farm. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Healthy Connection to Food


A Healthy Connection to Food

I wrote a piece for our local paper in October.  I've updated and added to it, hope you enjoy!

For centuries humans have connected with food beyond the “intended” nutritional connection.  One of the earliest connections we learn about in grade school comes from the annual Pilgrims and Indian celebration.  We celebrate with food during the holidays and milestone celebrations.  We attend church dinners, community fund raising dinners, business open houses which all incorporate food as a way to celebrate and keep participants involved.  Even business managers and owners understand that participation to meetings will be higher if you offer food.  Some of the most important business deals have been made over dinner or by meeting for a cup of coffee.  Need I go on?

During these celebrations we focus on the taste of food and the emotional high it creates.  Our society has also coined the term “comfort foods”.  We use this term to describe foods that “ease” the pain of emotional distress, stress, and just a little something to lift our spirits.   Often the foods served at these celebrations/meetings are processed foods or foods that are high in calories, fat and sugars.  We may consider for a fleeting moment that the donut we just grabbed near the coffee maker is not good for us.  But, too many times that nutritional concern is related to the size of our waste, not the amount of poor nutritional value that food choice is providing. 

As a result, we are an obese society.  Obesity in our children is on a staggering incline, to the point schools are implementing farm to table lunch programs.  Government food assistance programs now offer an option to purchase local produce.  Our younger generation has little knowledge as to how the food got on the grocery shelves to begin with.  Many have never visited a farm or know that it takes 60-70 days to grow that one head of broccoli they just ate while grazing at the Asian buffet.  They have not been taught that the farmer who grew that broccoli worked from sun up to sun down to harvest that stalk.  All of the farmer’s hard work being done while they sit in front of an I-Pad or I  Just for kicks…the next time you are at your local super market, take a visual inventory of the grocery carts around you.  As I’ve done this I’ve noticed buggies are filled with processed snack foods and sugary soft drinks.  I then notice the physical appearance of the family members who “own” that buggy.  If they are not obese, then at the least they look tired and worn down.

More and more research is being conducted on the relation to chemicals in our foods and our health problems.  These studies not only site our physical health is at risk but also our mental health.  Our environment speaks to us if we open our eyes to see the effects.  A prime example is our declining bee population.  Read a few articles on the effects of the over use of agricultural pesticides on our bees and you will want to know where your cucumber came from and why it’s so waxy.

I am not trying to discourage using food as a supplement to the celebration or event.  I believe that we need more gathering around the table.  A time to slow down from being a slave to a life of jam-packed calendars, technological dependency and extended working hours.  More importantly, a time to have face to face communication and reconnecting with the human spirit.  These “around the table” gatherings also foster healthier communities and social connections.

I am suggesting that we must change our food choice paradigm in order to foster a respect for food.  In turn, we will have a healthier connection to that food that makes the food choices we make as important as event to which we are celebrating.  When you incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet you are purposefully making choices.  It causes you to think beyond reaching for the convenience item on the shelf.  You might visually catalog the farmer planting a vegetable seedling and nurturing it through until it is harvested and sent to market.  You will find yourself asking the question, “what is really in that prepackaged meal?” Reading ingredients on food labels will become second nature.  Gathering the family for a day trip to the local farmers market or you pick farm will be on the family weekend agenda.  Children who become actively involved in making family meal choices will be more inclined to participate in the preparation.  Through this paradigm shift we gain a sense of responsibility to our bodies, the local farmer and to our environmental footprint.



Sunday, January 5, 2014


Hello from Red Gate Farm!

I sit here typing and pausing to look at the kitchen window as a cedar limb blowing in the wind catches my attention.  We are awaiting the South's version of a winter snow storm with anticipated snow fall of 1-3 inches (Yankees...insert laughter here).  I am sure by now the bread and milk isles are barren.  Being a farmer and someone who always has a little stash of staples, I never really worry about getting stranded.  I did notice that Tom brought our reserve of candles up from the old farmhouse.  He's a DANG FINE YANKEE, so his "winter intuition" may be sensing something more than the weather folk are predicting.  Guess I'll take a loaf of bread out of the freezer to thaw.  There...I'm prepared!

For those of you who have spent any time with me, you know I'm a list maker.  I love seeing all my tasks that need to be done with lines crossed through them.  Such satisfaction to watch a favorite pen's ink cross out perfect art lost in our schools these days I might add.  Give this girl a spiral notebook and a great roller ball pen and I'm yours forever!

Speaking of lists...It's that time of year when lists and goals seem to be the topic of many social media posts.  After years of failing to realize my New Year's Resolutions, I've stopped writing them down or sharing them.  Remember, I'm a list maker who crosses things off when done.  I like the IMMEDIATE FIX, probably the reason I never tried drugs.  I'd be an addict for sure!  Watching my resolutions fade into the poster's paper fibers month after month, was just too painful for me.

My blog is a perfect example.  I started this blog in 2011 as a New Year's Resolution and as part of a journey I was on.  I started out resolving to write once a week.  After a week became a month and a month turned into 6 months and finally only 2 posts in 2012, I was just going to give it up.  It then occurred to me, who was I doing this for?  In my journey the blog was to be a place to share thoughts, ideas and encouragement.  It was never meant to be based on a schedule.  When I could not meet the scheduled goal, I felt defeated and I lost sight of the intent of the blog.  Instead of REFRESHING myself, I just stopped writing.  I now have given myself permission to write when the feeling hits me and hope that someone else might glean a little something in the process.

Over the past few years I've learned to slow down.  I've backed away from a jam-packed schedule with no time for anything other than meeting other's requests for my time.  I find that I'm working my way through my list addiction and taking more time to tackle things as time allows.  I have to admit that when you have a newborn, you seem to adjust to this type of lifestyle faster. 

This year I encourage you to RESOLVE less and REFRESH more.  Our souls need time to reconnect with hearts and minds.  I am finding I cherish quiet, peaceful sitting more than anything else these days.  I enjoying escaping in my own thoughts and dreams.  I no longer consider that a waste of time.  I don't want to send a message that goals and lists are not good.  I had a 20 year successful corporate career because of them.  I DO want to send the message that your soul has to be refreshed and ready to receive them in order to achieve them.

Here's wishing you a REFRESHED SOUL for 2014!