Your asking, I know. What in the world do chicken's have to do with tea? Isn't this a tea company? Don't you blend tea? Drink tea? Have tea time? With tea treats? That whole pinkies up thing, you know?
The answer is, yes, well except for the pinkies up thing. We only do that for fun, mostly! You see, chickens hold an important role here down on the farm. While they might seem worlds away from having anything to do with tea, they are actually one of the first steps in making our tea.
Our teas feature locally grown ingredients. Such as our Cherry City Chai, with it's heirloom Royal Ann cherries, grown here in the capital of Salem. Or the beautiful lavender in our Rose City Repose tea, grown in Eagle Creek, Oregon by Eagle Creek Lavender. Some of the local ingredients in our teas come right from our farm. Herbs, flowers and berry leaves, are just a few of the things we grow.
It was a Wednesday, like it usually is when I'm out running errands. This day was no different than any other. I was making my weekly run to Roth's Fresh Markets to grab my grass fed ground beef. I love shopping at Roth's because its a small local grocery store chain focused on customer service and providing the locally community with local foods. The stores are just beautiful, typical farmer's market rustic.
This particular day, though, there was a table set up near the front door with samples. While not totally uncommon this product was one I had not seen before. This was the firs time I had the privilege of trying Epiphany Caramelized Balsamic Vinegar. The flavor was bold and impressive and it went good on ice cream... I'm adventurous some what when it comes to food and vinegar on ice cream was something I couldn't turn down. It was also fabulous on strawberries.... those were my favorite.
Not only was the product great, but I was happy to find another dedicated food entrepreneur with a fabulous product. I knew that this would be great on so many tea time recipes that I had to grab a bottle for myself. That takes us today and our interview with Epiphany Pantry. I enjoyed their story and I think you will too!
Our herbal medicine journey has been a long time in the making, but it really started to take off in about 2012. It started with some random online learning here and there, then an online course.
I ordered my first seeds to plant in my first garden. Seeds of Change had a close out deal with a bunch of random seeds for $5, including shipping. Can't lose there right? In that bunch of seeds were some calendula flowers. Little did I know that those bright yellow flowers would create a business that we now run full time as a family.
~*~ This post may contain affiliate links. What does that mean? Some of the products we use and recommended have links that will take you to an affiliate page. That means IF you decide to purchase those items we get a little kick back. There is no additional cost to you. It helps keep our family here on the farm, working and learning together. We only recommend products that use use and trust. Thank you for any purchases you make through our site. ~*
The very first salve I ever made was with these golden beauties. Today we are going to use them as part of an herbal oil infusion. Along with some local lavender buds and organic comfrey. Our Lavender Lemongrass Salve is popular starting in the spring, as gardeners are released from their cold, wet/snowy winter, into the soil they have been planning for all winter. The seeds come out, but so do the dry, cracked, and sore hard working hands.
You could just buy our garden salves here but why not make your own? And we are going to share with you the recipe.... the very recipe that we use to make ours down on the farm! Because after all.... give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a life time.
While we are sharing the QUICKEST method of infusing an oil with herbs, please do plan ahead as it takes 2- 5 hours of simmering on the stove. We suggest a great cup of tea, maybe our latest favorite, La Pine Licorice, and a good book while you wait.
I just learned this new fabulous way to strain oil infusions! It worked so fantastic! I don't know why I didn't think of it before. Normally I would use an unbleached cheese cloth, wait for it to strain and then squeeze it good. A French press works so much better! I highly recommend it. The oil cleans off from it just fine and its much more sustainable. It also save's money to boot! We recommend this French press here if your in the market for one. Without further ado, the recipe for infusing garden salve oil - which you will need to make the rest of the garden salve recipe.
Garden Salve Infused Oil
Makes approx. 1 cup
1 cup Organic Olive Oil 1/4 cup dried Organic Calendula flowers
1/8 cup dried Organic Lavender Buds 1/8 cup dried Organic Comfrey
1.) Add olive oil, dried organic calendula flowers, dried lavender buds, dried organic comfrey oil to a double boiler.
2.) Infuse on stove top 2-5 hours.
3.) Strain using an unbleached cheese cloth or French press.
SEE The Recipe
Now that you have your garden salve oil infused we are ready to roll the salve making process. I start by getting my work area cleaned up, washed down and then covered with some dry paper that can be tossed when I'm done. If wax is spilled on here its easily cleaned up and makes a great fire starter. Make sure to dust out those tins too... some times they get little things that settle in them while in storage.
Once you are set grab your pour pot, we use this one and hope to add this one soon. Add your newly infused oil (measurements below in recipe), bees wax, coconut oil and cocoa or shea butter.
It's time to heat the mixture up on the double boiler. Heat until your oils and bees wax have melted. Give it a good stir to incorporate it. Next add your essential oils. You want to add these at the VERY end so that the heat doesn't evaporate them out of your salve before you pour it. If something comes up and you need to step aside. Leave the oils simmering on the stove and place the essential oils in the mixture when you get back. A little extra cook time won't hurt your oil and bees wax. After your essential oils are added give it a good stir with a wooden skewer or some other non-metal utensils reserved for working with bees wax. Pour your salve into it's new containers and let cool. After they cooled place the lid on top and make sure to label with the ingredients as well as the intent of use and any precautions.
Lavender Lemongrass Garden Salve
Makes approx. 6.5 oz (6- 1 oz tins, 3 -2 oz tins)
1/2 Cup Infused Olive Oil 1.25 oz (1/4 c. pellets) Bees Wax
1.1 oz (1/8 c.) Organic Coconut Oil .20 oz (3/4 tsp.) Cocoa Butter
10 drops Lavender Essential Oil 5 drops Lemongrass Essential Oil
1.) Add infused oil, coconut oil, bees wax and coco butter to double boiler, reserving essential oils for later.
2.) Melt on medium high heat until all the oils and wax are throughly melted. Time will vary according to how thick the bees wax is (ex. bricks of bees wax vs. pellets).
3.) Prepare and set out containers salve will be poured into. Metal tins or heat resistant glass are best. Some ideas might be: small canning jars, metal tins, other containers designed for beauty care products.
4.) Once oils and wax are throughly melted, stir well with wooden skewer or some other non metal utensil reserved for bees wax projects.
5.)Add lavender and lemongrass essential oils. Stir essential oils in well.
6.) Pour carefully into selected salve containers. Let cool. Place lids on cooled salve and label with ingredients and intended salve use.
"If it Never rains then we will never grow."
It's true for people and its true for plants too. If it never rains then nothing will grow. I think here in Western Oregon we have had plenty of rain to make lots of things grow! While most of the country has inches and feet of snow we haven't seen one snow flake this year. In some ways its really nice not to have the snow. In Oregon we see so little snow that it really causes problems with traffic and getting to and from places. Though at times it would be really nice to have that snow white blanket covering the mud that is all over the farm.... and it would be a little cleaner for the farm children to play in.
In the Greenhouse
I avoided photos of the greenhouse last week in our Around the Farm post. This week I decided I'd show you the ugly mess that it is in January.... at least this year since we didn't plant anything over the winter. The grape vine is missing its leaves, the grass is over grown, the bean plants are dead and moldy. It really just isn't what it should be. But life happens and gives us a chance to reflect on our choices. This year we made choices that involved putting our time in places other than the green house.
My sad attempt at throwing some spinach seed in the green house turned into a gnarly mess. While there are a few leaves that could be salvaged its really only enough for maybe one salad.
The slugs seem to be enjoying bits of it and mold the rest of it. The spinach also looks like it spent more time trying to go to seed than to make leafs.
Carrots! These have been in the ground a little long, the only plus to that is that I don't have to figure out where to store them. They will be coming out Thursday when we start the greenhouse clean up.
The Swiss chard looks like its coming back to life but could also use its share of clean up. There are plenty of moldy leaves to get rid of.
Even with the shade cloth on the greenhouse things are warming up and these arugula plants think its time to go to seed. I guess at least we can plant arugula again soon without buying new seed.
Broccoli flowers are showing up. We had so many bugs on these plants that the chickens should have a fun time cleaning them up when we send them in on their greenhouse project.
That's our broccoli harvest. Yep like two little buds of broccoli. Later this year we will be planting it outside to help with the bug pressure and growing temperature.
Our hazelnuts are mostly doing their job in the greenhouse. Back in August or so we laid down hazelnut mulch in the greenhouse pathways to try and keep the grass down. In hind site plastic might have been a good option to put under nether them. We have a little weeding to do but the mud was kept at bay and it still looks decent in the pathways.
These leeks were planted last spring and it looks like they are almost harvest size. At least these three!
A side shot of the greenhouse. See how well that hazelnut mulch is keeping down the grass! Usually there would be a carpet of grass down the aisle trying to get away from us.
ARound the Farm
We grew pounds and pounds of squash last year and it was stored on our front porch since our root cellar wasn't done yet. Sadly between the freezing temps and the alternating warm weather a bunch of it started to wrought. Nothing goes to waste on the farm though, the chickens were more than happy to put that butternut to use.
Not much grass left in the pasture and a WHOLE LOT OF WATER. January is always ruff on the animals and the grass but God is good and will send warmer weather soon! And with it more grass!
Little Bitty says "hi"! She has been rather lonely lately. Our two little lambs, Hey Ewe and Dodge, were re-homed and Roscoe, the goat, doesn't care for the rain. He doesn't have a woolly coat like Little Bitty and so he hides in the barn most of the time.
I thought she was being friendly and wanted petted then she proceeded to try and ram me. Guess she had me fooled!
The weeds are growing! HAPPY DANCE! Yes I know, I'm crazy. But you know what that means, if the weeds grow that means seeds can grow. And if seeds can grow that means its time to plant spring crops in the greenhouse!
The garlic we planted in the fall seems to be pretty happy! This is our first year planting garlic and we are excited to see how it does. We use our share of garlic in the farm kitchen. It would be nice to have a locally grown source.
The borage is making a come back... that bee attacking plant! It doesn't look like I will have to replant it which will be nice. At this rate is should also be big and tall and flowering by spring helping to bring those pollinators into the garden sooner.
Wet and sloppy. This water is running all over the the farm. Thankfully its keeping to the areas it is suppose to stay in but the farm is still wet and muddy.
More water, something I got to jump over as I cam down from the hill. Its always a slippery slope back behind the house and I've slid down the hill a few times. Thankfully I kept that white on my skirt white and made it down ok .... this time.
The Mary Garden isn't very pretty at the moment. Those calendula sorely need to be cut back. The new calendula are sprouting up and taking off already. These are the most hardy flowers I have ever encountered. Almost like a weed, but not. They are very wanted right in this spot!
A calendula trying to sprout in January! Pretty amazing isn't it?! The things have only been out of bloom for about a month and they are ready to take off again. We love these little flowers so much! They are what got us started on our herbal journey and tea making!
Those clouds! They are great, dark and mysterious! But.... in their own way beautiful to boot.
Tea Studio Progress
Taping and texturing continue on the addition/tea studio. This is the dining room extension, the entry way the foyer. We aren't sure what to call it yet or what it's function will be but its getting closer to finished!
Last week we picked out our flooring for the stairway and the tea studio. Fake, but looks like real, wood vinyl plank flooring. We are hoping this will look fantastic and rustic.
In the Farm Kitchen
Kombucha! This poor scoby hasn't been fed in probably two months. I'm afraid instead of kombucha we probably have some serious vinegar going on in here. Its on my to-do list to freshen this tea up and do something with the vinegar. Are you a kombucha drinker? What is your favorite flavor?
Two loaves every other day. Our sourdough bread baking is still going strong. Thankfully through my illness the Farmer learned to make sour dough bread and has done a pretty good job at it! Light and fluffy and not too sour, just the way we like it.
In the Farm Store
Today we infused some garden salve oil so we could make Lavender Lemongrass Garden Salve and shoot a video while doing it. That video should be up tomorrow so that you can make your very own at home! Made with Oregon grown lavender, some of those calendula we mentioned above and comfrey. Its just what the hands need after a hard day in the garden and drying soil.
The bee's wax we use in our salve come from a local bee keeper in 2 pound blocks. Those two pound blocks are really hard to measure up so we always melt our wax down into something smaller and more manageable. Someday I'll have an official mold that says 100% bee's wax and molds the wax in bricks. For now I had this Christmas tree mold and it seems to work ok. Anything is better than trying to chisel off the right amount of wax for the recipe!
Royal Ann's Roses is the newest edition to our farm tea collection. This royal beauty is headed to our Tea Club members come February 6th! Paired with some locally made chocolate, a great recipe and more. If you would like to try this rooibos based tea out make sure you check out our Tea Club for more details!
Locally grown Royal Ann cherries and pink bachelor buttons are sprinkled in this coming months tea. As always we have to include a little local flare in our teas. Thanks for stopping by the farm this week and we will see you tomorrow with a video and blog on how to make herbal infused salve!
Oregon is known for its fruits especially berries. Strawberries. Marionberries. Haskaps. Aronias. Raspberries, Blackberries. Salmon Berries. This berry and that berry. It's not uncommon to find jams and jellies in abundance in Oregon.What is uncommon is to find a fruit spread that has half the sugar of most with twice the flavor. Its uncommon to find a young family taking on a multi-generational family farm with new farming adventures. Its uncommon to find the dedication and hard work that the Ellis family has put into their family farm. With as much love as they have for their children and extended family you will find an equal amount of love in every jar of fruit spread they sell.
We had the privilege of meeting the owners of Mt. Hope Farms, The Ellis Family, at the Salem Saturday Market a couple of years ago now. With our daughters named Faith and Charity, I had to find out what this Mt. HOPE Farms was all about. We were blessed with not only beautiful farm and working relationship but also a friendship. We are also proud to include their aronia berries in our Oregon Harvest Berry Tea.
Today we are sharing with you all, as part of our local farm/business features, Mt. Hope Farms and their beautiful fruit spreads. They were so gracious as to allow us to interview them and today we share that with you. We hope you enjoy!
Tell Us a little about Mt. Hope Farms.
We are a small, diversified farm in Molalla, Oregon and we grow unique fruits and berries that we sell fresh and use to make preserved foods. We have created a line of fruit spreads that are made with high quality and local ingredients and very low amounts of sugar. If we can’t grow all of our ingredients for our specialty foods, then we source it from other farmers that we know and trust (always organic if possible).
What did you do prior to farming?
Mike grew up on the farm and has worked with his parents and grandfather for most of his life. Mike and I both attended Eastern Oregon University in La Grande where we met. He studied crop and soil sciences and I studied history. Mike worked a manual labor job after college until returning back to Molalla to farm in 2012. I (Laura) worked as the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator in Union County prior to farming. We loved La Grande, but we knew it was time for a change when we found out we were expecting our son, Samuel.
What was the motivation behind starting your farm and fruit spreads?
Mike and I have always wanted to farm and raise our family in a rural area. That was a big motivation for moving back to where Mike grew up. The timing was right for us to come back and work alongside Mike’s parents on the farm, but we knew that we had to do something different in order to make a living farming smaller acreage and to keep up with the changing markets. As a family, we want to grow crops that have great flavor, are highly nutritious and are less common than many already found in the Willamette Valley. So, we decided to grow higher value crops, such as table grapes, aronia berries and haskap berries that we could sell to the fresh market.
We also wanted to sell our fruits and berries for a longer stretch of time and to create a product that brought in a more consistent income. We needed something that people could feel good about purchasing and consuming- a product that we felt good about feeding to our kids. I have always loved creating and cooking in the kitchen, so I began to come up with recipes for jam using our produce and berries. But, the jam had so much sugar! So, I began experimenting and came up with recipes that cut the amount of sugar by more than half….and that’s how our line of fruit spreads came to be! From there, I came up with recipes that not only had our farm ingredients, but local spices and spirits. Mike and I made it a goal to try and support other small business and farms through our business.
Our fruit spreads became popular with friends and family, then with farmers’ market customers and then they began to win awards. In 2016 and 2017, we received a Good Food Award for our Spiced Marionberry and Raspberry Marionberry Fruit Spreads and we just found out that we are finalists for three of our products in 2018!
Could you share a general day in the life of the farm with us?
Mike and his dad do all of the main farming work and are responsible for all of our crop production. He is normally out the door early in the morning where he works alongside his dad. They work until it is dark outside, which can be a long day, depending on the season. In the summers, they are busy harvesting whatever crops are ready to go- haskap berries in the spring, seed crops and berries in the summers, grapes and apples in the fall. In the fall and winter, they are constantly preparing for planting, growing, and harvest of the crops: repairing/modifying/building equipment, pruning grapes and the orchard crops, and getting seed and supplies on hand. As soon as the weather is right we go right back to work planting, growing and harvesting our crops. No day EVER looks the same!
I stay at home with our two young children, Samuel and Mason, during the day. I also do all of the paperwork, sales, marketing and recipe development for our value added products and fresh fruit sales. I often deliver our products to stores with kids in tow and work on social media and paperwork after bedtime. A day for me is full of wearing lots of different hats and trying to grow our business.
The burning question: What is a fruit spread?
To comply with FDA labeling regulations, each batch of our fruit spreads and preserves is measured with a Brix Meter. This tool tests the soluable solids (which is an indicator of sugar level) in our products and indicates what number they are on the brix scale (which goes from 1-100). To be legally defined as a jam or jelly it must have a brix reading of 65 or above. Often, these traditional products have very high amounts of added sugars and sweeteners that contribute to this reading. Because we use very low amounts of Organic cane sugar and no artificial sweeteners, many of our products are fruit spreads and are below 65 on the Brix scale. Because of our low sugar levels we cannot legally be labeled as a jam or jelly.
How do you go about deciding which fruit spreads make it to market?
Mike and I do a lot of test recipes…. A LOT. Many of them don’t make the cut. We let friends and family try them first. If they like them, then we often make micro batches and see how farmers’ market customers like them. If they prove popular, gain good feedback and sell well, then we consider them as a product we will offer for wholesale. It takes a long stretch of time to go through this whole process!
What makes your fruit spreads different from other jams and jellies?
The fact that we know exactly what goes into the jar and we know that they are the best ingredients that we can source and grow makes our fruit spreads different. We spend time making sure our berries and fruits are grown to the highest standards. Our product quality is higher, our ingredients are Organic whenever possible, our ingredients are fresher (we don’t include any artificial flavors or preservatives), our recipes are original to our farm and this is our sole living. When you purchase from us, you are directly supporting our family and other small businesses in the community that supply some of our ingredients.
Do you have a favorite fruit spread and how do you use it?
My favorite is Autumn Apple. I love using it on pork chops and on waffles. It is made from the apples in our family orchard, local rum (4 Spirits Distillery) and Oregon sea salt (Jacobsen’s Sea Salt) - seriously amazing! Mike’s favorite is the Spiced Marionberry. He puts this on his toast, on bagels and cream cheese and mixes it into yogurt.
Where can our readers find your fruit spreads?
You can order them on our farm website and we now have free shipping on all orders! You can also find us at many cheese counters at Oregon grocers and specialty shops which are found here on our "About Us" page. For recipes using our fruit spread check out our Farm Fresh Blog.
Thank you for joining us for this weeks Farm/Business feature. If you missed the first one in our series make sure you check out The Engineer and School Teacher that Quit to Farm Lavender.
Where did the last 4 weeks go? Between the holidays and fighting colds and bronchitis down on the farm it feels like we have been missing in action around here on the farm blog. I say we are long over due for a little Down on the Farm update!
This lovely cheese platter pictured above was a practice round for a little special project we are working on. We took this platter to our family Christmas Eve party along with some tea. It was super yummy and the last treat we enjoyed down on the farm before coming down with a round of colds.
Around the Farm
Yes, the shade cloth is still on the greenhouse in December and January. No. We don't really need it on the green house this time of year. Summer got crazy busy and then lead into a crazy busy holiday shopping seasons. And, well there sits the shade cloth. It is getting time to get that thing off of there, get the greenhouse cleaned up and start planting! After trying so many different things in the greenhouse we decided its really best for greens of any kind (kale, lettuce, chard etc.) and starting seeds. So this year the tomatoes, cold weather crops like broccoli, cabbage and such will be going in the outside garden. And no more stringing green beans. They make lots of beautiful leaves but not much fruit. What garden plans do you have brewing?
A couple of the girls hoping to get treats. Here in Oregon we don't get much snow, just lots of WET! So the pasture is wet and mucky and the grass isn't growing. The rest of the yard is similar and these ladies are starting to look bored with their surroundings. Another month and the grass should start growing again and we can rotate them around the farm once more, putting them to work, which they love.
Most of the ladies also went through a molt about a month ago. This one is one of the last to go through the process. The poor things loose all their feathers so that they can grow new ones. They don't look very healthy during the process but its completely normal. When chickens molt they also don't lay eggs because their bodies are busy making new feathers and trying to stay warm. For a few weeks there we had a chicken protest and were only getting a couple eggs a day. I'm glad to announce that most of them are back with it and we are getting 10 or so eggs a day now. Its never fun to buy eggs at the store because we just don't know how the chickens were treated. If they got to be outside eating bugs or if they are some of those strange "vegetarian" chickens that never get a worm or bug. Just incase you didn't know, chickens are not vegetarians. They love their grubs and meat too if that is what you feed them! They can even out beat a cat at catching mice!
Here sits the lonely mobile pastured poultry set up. With so much rain and no grass growing the girls only turn their work space into a mud hole. So during the winter they get a bit more freedom in the pasture where they are not as likely to scratch it up too bad. In the mean time we continue to pile compost and manure from the barn on the garden space to add nutrients to the soil. When spring comes we will move the chickens through that pile so they can scratch it up and fertilize the garden some more before we mulch and start planting in the nutrient rich soil.
We do have a few things growing. This was our first year to plant a winter garden. I'm thinking that I didn't get the starts in the ground soon enough. These are some turnips that are coming up ok but slugs and bugs seem to be getting them because it is so wet. I have hopes they will grow more when spring comes around but I'm not sure if the bugs and slugs will get to them first. One never knows how it will go unless they try!
These tiny turnips are at least the right color but they didn't grow very much. We enjoyed them in some warm soup. They taste just like potatoes when cooked that way!
Earlier in 2017 we planted a test row of zinnia's, some herbs, borage and chamomile. Our goal was to see how well they grew but also which ones would over winter and come back. It looks like some of the borage either survived the frost or started growing back. This picture is of the tarragon that made it through the frost. Quite a hardly herb and a win in our book. The flowers of course succumbed to the frost but we will see in the spring if they reseeded themselves.
This picture doesn't do it justice but there between the brambles and the tree is the entrance to the children's favorite place known as the "Whisker Store". Its a little hole among the brush that they made a fort out of. Its not near as hidden as it usually is the rest of the year.
Some of the plants around the farm seem to think that since it isn't in the low teens temp wise that its now spring. The rhododendrons are starting to bud and the hazelnut trees are sending out tassels, and all the fruit trees and such show signs of budding. Hopefully they don't get a shock by another cold spell. I'd like to think maybe spring will just come early!
Usually I'm on the ball when it comes time to plant. There isn't any where I love to be more than in the garden or greenhouse getting my hands in the soil and watching one of the miracles that God allows us to participate in - growing plants. With such a busy holiday season and then fighting bronchitis for 3 weeks it really wasn't even on my mind. Other than to get that greenhouse cleaned up. The Farmer has been after me to order seeds though and get a move on it early. The Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog came the other day and I'm excited to start dreaming and ordering seeds. Planting always gives us a hope for the future!
Tea Stuido Progress
With not much to do outside this time of year the tea studio is seeing more and more progress as we near the end of its completion. A big change came right before Christmas when the wall in our dining room that separated the old house from the new came down.
The wall mostly out and the view from the dining room to the new foyer, or at least that is what we are calling it for now. The door goes to our new garage and to the left are the stairs to the tea studio.
The Farmer hard at work taping and mudding the stairwell to the tea studio. Around and around the building we go, when it ends... no one really knows. But in the mean time the Farmer works as hard as he can to get it done, one more coat and one more round. Some day it will be a beautiful workspace for blending and sipping tea.
Even with the drywall up and not finished it really gives shape to our new tea blending workspace. This area will have counters for shipping and packing along with a big island in the middle for blending tea and creating other herbal conceptions.
Just to the right of our packing and blending area we will have a desk or two and between the two window's closest together, a table for sipping tea and talking about all things herbal and business.
Turning to the right again is our kitchen area that will be set up with commercial sinks for washing and drying dishes.
And last but not least one of the views from the many windows in the tea studio. This one is one of my favorite with the view of our outdoor gardens and the chickens. Also the beautiful mountain side across the way that you can't really see in this photo. Some day a table will sit here with chairs to sip tea and take in the view.
Below the tea studio is our garage and down the road, as our business grows, our shipping department. The Farmer has been hard at work dry walling the area and finishing it off. Its such a nice big dry space!
There is our commercial sink that will be going up in the tea studio and also the door way to our future root cellar. No more storing the harvest on the front porch and under the house! YAY!
In the Farm kitchen
The Farmer has really been doing most of the cooking and so the only Farm Kitchen photos this time around are from Christmas. The last day or two that I didn't come down with a cold and could still cook. Cheesecake is our Christmas Eve tradition for dessert. We have a special meal every Christmas Eve, meatless and usually featuring salmon. Its a combination of a Russian, Polish and Bulgarian tradition where they celebrate the most Holy Night, Christmas Eve, with a large meatless meal. This meal features 12 dishes and many of ours are Russian and Bulgarian since that is where 3 of our 4 children were adopted from. The cheesecake is probably the most Polish item on our table. This one was made gluten and sugar free (aside from the toping which I had to scrape off because of my sugar allergy.
Usually we stay home this evening but this year was special and we visited family earlier. Everyone else indulged in treats and so they weren't as hungry as most years when normally we are fasting before our 12 course meal. (This year Christmas Eve was on Sunday so we didn't have to fast). We ended up keeping the meal more simple and not having all 12 dishes. Salmon with capers and lemon butter sauce, broccoli, garlic mashed potatoes, mushroom soup, olives (green and black), pickled herring and of course cheesecake dotted the menu. I guess we were not too far away from 12 items! We commence our meal with special prayers for Christmas Eve and the reading of the story of the birth of Christ.
Farm & Family Traditions
For the last several years we have had the tradition of getting our Christmas tree just a few days before Christmas. As we keep Advent from the start of December-ish to the 24th of December we prepare for Christ's birth with prayers, fasting and reading of the four thousand years those in the Old Testament waited for their Savior to be born. Our Christmas season on the farm starts on Christmas and lasts until February 2nd, the Feast of the Purification. So we naturally want our tree to last for that time! Since we live in Oregon, Christmas tree country, its not as hard to find a tree as other areas in the country but it can still be a challenge. So many of our trees are shipped out of the state to other states that many of the tree farms here are closed down the week before Christmas.
Thankfully we have some dear friends that happened to be clearing one of their tree fields and gave us this lovely tree for free. It had a couple of places where branches had not grown. So the Farmer took a trick from my paternal grandfather's book and drilled a couple of holes to stick branches in. Worked perfect if you ask me! Nothing like an old time Depression Era hack to make things work just perfectly!
Christmas morning probably looks like most around here. Having prayed our midnight mass, I woke the children up for presents. Yep... me, mom, wakes the children up. I still win the prize for being up first on Christmas morning! I know my brothers are probably cringing right now because of all those years I woke them up so excited. What I can I say, I was born a Christmas baby! A few years ago I started wrapping the children's gifts in brown packing paper and then instead of tags I print out pictures of them from the year past in black and white. I tape them to the packages and they have to find their picture. They each get three gifts - representing the Three Wise Men. Santa also doesn't bring the gifts but they are given by the parents and the Christ Child is the one who sends them. We do our 'stockings' during St. Nicholas day on December 6th brought by the saintly bishop himself.
While they were all mostly sick they still had plenty of excitement for the morning. They are all getting so big!
Moving on into January we were excited to get to celebrate my maternal grandparents 60th wedding anniversary. Lives that have spent so long together, going through many trials deserve to be celebrated with love, friends and family.
Their love is multiplied in their children and grandchildren and may they have many more wonderful years together continuing to help each other along.
In the Farm Store
The farm store has continued to be very busy the last few weeks. We sent out our VIP limited edition blend to our tea club members here in January featuring this earthy yet robust Golden Turmeric Spice tea featuring marigolds grown in our own garden.
Such a beautiful tea and so nourishing to the body as well. The benefits of ginger and turmeric are well known and make it a great blend for this time of year when colds and the flu are rampant. Perfect with some local raw honey and blended into some Golden Milk.
Remember that cheese platter at the beginning of the post? That was practice for this and while I can't totally spill the beans yet let me tell you that tea pairs excellently with cheese. That whole wine and cheese thing? Yah. That. Let me say that tea and cheese has you beat. Though I know wine drinkers love their wine so this might be an alternative for a quite evening, for those who can't drink wine (me! me!) or those who want that third flavor that hot tea brings out in cheese... something wine just can't do.
While we say farewell to this last month at the farm, we leave you with a sneak peek at what our new lip balms will be looking like! A new batch of Vanilla Chai, fresh from the farm kitchen! They bring some fresh new bold lids to match. Keep your eyes peeled as we start to switch over. There will also be many new products coming to the farm store in the next couple of months as spring comes our way. Thanks for stopping by the farm and we hope that your family is well and healthy!
Welcome to our Family Tea Farm!
Howdy from our farm to your home! It is said that the, "farm is the nursery of the family," and that "the family is the nursery of the nation." We hope you enjoy your visit to our blog as we share with you the happenings on our little "nursery". Thank you for following us on our journey and watching us GROW! Read more about our farm HERE.