August 2012 Archives

Got lost in the woods during a foraging walk. Found this guy in the leaf litter at the base of an old oak. Picked "him" up and carried him down the hill in my arms. About 10lbs of mushroom, easy.

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My arms are tired, but I'm going to enjoy eating him (or part of him, at least) for dinner tonight.

How would you prepare this Chicken of the Woods mushroom?

Sponsor Brooklyn Homesteader!

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Hey there, readers!

It's pretty weird to think about, but I've been blogging here at Brooklyn Homesteader for over 3 years and readership has grown steadily over that period, getting hundreds of hits daily. It's quite a change from when I first started. I meet people often that tell me they read the blog and it always floors me. It's an honor to have the opportunity to share my experiences with you all and I hope to continue to do so for a long time.

Anyway, as a result of our growing audience Neil and I will be modifying the website this fall to reflect the changes that have taken place here recently...namely the move, the inclusion of Michael's contributions and also opportunities for local businesses and friends to support the new farm via sponsorships, CSA shares, class enrollment and purchases of non-perishable farm goods. (think beeswax candles, dried herbs and tinctures, salves, goat milk soap, honey, etc.)

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For now, I'll be offering a limited number of very reasonably priced 125×125 banners to select businesses, blogs, and organizations at 6 month or yearly rates or for barter (think farm supplies)! We've already got a few of my favorite Brooklyn-based businesses on board so far (come Sept, you can click and visit them!) so please get in touch and I'll gladly send some information your way.

Thanks so much for following me on this journey!

<3,
Meg

Yesterday was the first day where I left Stevie and Peach to do what dogs of their ilk are meant to do: guard. I let the chickens out to pasture, spent some time policing any playfulness from the dogs directed towards them and came back to the house to work. They did their job without incident and actually seemed really into it! We lost a couple of eggs to the girls but all in all, a job well done!

Looks like we'll be giving this a try this fall with the grass and clover in the orchard! Instead of scythe, we'll likely use some string trimmers. The orchard is about 3 acres in size and could easily yield enough hay to keep the rabbits and goats (coming soon) fed and bedded all winter.

I awoke a bit late this morning. Neil is off in Calicoon with friends and so I'm here alone and have been slacking off a bit, staying up until midnight watching movies and snacking. This is not a common occurrence for me. I'm usually in bed by 10, up by 6. Not today. 8:30. Shameful.

The dogs were barking at something so I picked some clothes up off of the floor, lazily dressed myself and stumbled out to see what all of the commotion was about. Nothing it seems, as per the usual. Stevie has taken to being vocal often and for unseen reason. There is a retreat going on this week and this sort of behavior can be undesirable when it appears compulsive and without cause. I've been trying to police it as often as I can.

So I go out to shush them and I start about my day feeding and providing water and hay for the critters. Carrot, my Flemish Giant doe, slept out in the run amongst the chickens all night. She's been increasingly difficult to catch. I suspect she may be pregnant but I cannot be sure.

I attempt to catch her so that she can be put in her cage to enjoy her breakfast of organic alfalfa pellets, kale spines and orchard hay but she keeps evading me. She's a big girl but she's fast when she wants to be. It usually takes two people to wrangle the loose buns. Alas, it's just me today.

Just when I think I have her cornered I quickly thrust my hand downward, scraping my forearm along the metal cage and creating a rather deep gash. There was no blood but I could tell it was bad. I clasped my hand over it, pinching the seams of my flesh together and calmly walked towards the house. I don't cut myself often but I have a history of fainting at the sight of my own injuries so I knew I had to get someplace where I could freely pass out without further hurting myself if it came to it.

I made it indoors and got to the bathroom. I fetched some gauze, clean cloth, neosporin from the cabinet and took my hand away to see the damage. Yup. This is pretty bad. Not sure if I need stitches but I start to feel myself break into a cold sweat and my vision gets dark and fuzzy. Here it comes. I lay myself on the cold bathroom floor and heave my throbbing arm over the side of the bathtub, just in case the blood starts to come on faster.

The darkness never came, fortunately, but after a few moments of lying on the cool tiles with my two cats Huxley and Myra peering at me from the sink countertop like I was sprouting wings, I got up and braced myself for cleaning out the wound and dressing it. I rinsed my arm twice with cool water, patted it dry with a clean cloth and gobbed on some antibiotic ointment before placing a large bandage over the area.

As I finally looked up into the mirror I was struck by how pale I looked. White as a sheet. At that moment it occurred to me how absolutely vulnerable the human body is and how ill prepared I am for mishaps or injuries. I'm not quite sure what I'll do with this realization but I've got to do something. I doubt it will be the last injury on the farm. This was fairly small but what if something worse happens? It's not unlikely. It would be wise to expect the worst and be pleased when it never comes. Does that seem extreme, readers? Or is it just common sense that I've lacked for so long?

Photo on 2012-08-26 at 10.10.jpg Nice job, Meg!

Once I pulled myself together and had a moment to regain my color, I slowly completed my rounds, filling the rabbit and chicken waterers, feeding the dogs, haying the rabbit cages, collecting eggs. Then I came back and plopped myself down on the couch and had a good cry. Something about tending to your own wounds feels so terribly lonely. But we all are a bit alone in this life, aren't we? I don't mean it in a dark sense, really. Or perhaps I do. This has me feeling a bit low for a reason that I can't put my finger on.

Fortunately, I've got the help of the Seven Arrows family here. Diane stopped by for some eggs for her son shortly after, saw that I was hurt and within minutes I had Lucas and his father both checking in on me to see if I needed anything. After I finish my coffee we're going to take a good look at my arm and see if it might need stitches after all. Stitches are not, I should probably take a trip to the hospital to get a tetanus shot just to be on the safe side.

I feel as though I'm being a bit dramatic, but I rarely injure myself and today's mishap really shook me up.

After 2 years of doing Backyard Homesteading Bootcamp from my tiny Brooklyn apartment and backyard I'm super stoked to be able to offer this all-day workshop in a more spacious, comfortable and downright gorgeous setting----here at Seven Arrows! We're just an hour away from the city. You can reach us by Seastreak ferry (recommended), by car or by New Jersey Transit which is totally awesome and super convenient.

Not much has changed in terms of the lesson plan (see below) but we've got access to amazing foraging, a great garden space, a bigger kitchen and lots of critters to work with. Believe me when I say it's going to be awesome.

Check out the description on the EVENTBRITE PAGE and sign up! Support the farm by taking classes with us!

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"Ever wanted to learn how to grow, make and preserve your own food in a small space but need some hands-on guidance to do so?
Join Meg Paska, the "Brooklyn Homesteader", on her own turf as she teaches you how to raise chickens, keep bees, grow a garden, compost, forage, can, pickle, preserve and homebrew all from the Homestead at Seven Arrows, a new farm she manages an hour outside of NYC.

Coffee and homemade donuts will be served in the morning before the class commences.
It will tentatively go as follows:

- Planning and Starting a Vegetable Garden (with an emphasis on fall gardening)
- Composting
- Chickens & Rabbits 101
- Food Preservation (Freezing, Drying, Canning, Fermentation)
- LUNCH ON THE BBQ
- Beekeeping 101
- Wild Edibles
- Homebrewing basics
- DIY Home and Body Care
- WIND DOWN with local beers at the cottage!

Attendees will get hands on experience in all aspects of the above mentioned topics and will leave with care packages of assorted goodies! (Samples of honey, wild edibles and DIY home care products)
Please email Megan with any questions."

For more info, click the link above!

We've got mushrooms, y'all!

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I came to an exciting realization this yesterday. It's that we are up to our eyeballs in mushrooms out here.

Lucas, one of the stewards of Seven Arrows, came to me with a chicken of the woods mushroom wrapped up in his shirt after a jog through the park earlier this week. I had found one a couple of days before, peeking from behind an old oak tree from the wooded road that our farm is situated on. "There are tons of mushrooms up there, we should go check it out" he told me. I agreed, and the sooner the better.

So yesterday after we both had our coffee, we set out on a mushroom expedition. I wanted to bring a basket with but Lucas advised against anything conspicuous because he was uncertain about whether or not foraging is allowed in the park. I opted for a reusable shopping bag and we started the walk down the road to the nearest trail. Cars gave us a wide berth on the road, as the drivers here are not quite as comfortable with the bicyclists or joggers that dot the wooded road throughout the day.

We walked a few minutes along the road before cutting up the hill on an established trail alongside a very large and old fallen oak. No more than 100 paces up we started spotting fungi sprouting up from the abundance of leaf litter and fallen trees. We followed several of the trails and found some of the following:

Chicken of the Woods:

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Easy to identify, large and meaty these pop up frequently around here around the bases of old trees. We harvested about 10 lbs of them this week alone.

Chanterelles:

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These little guys stick out like a sore thumb. We've got both the typical golden yellow chanterelles in abundance here, as well as the more reddish orange Cinnabar chanterelles which make for a lovely mix of mushroomy goodness when sauteed up with butter and herbs.

Black Trumpets:

Black_Chanterelles2.jpeg Photo courtesy of MorelMushroomHunting.com

Also known as Horn of Plenty, these mushrooms are EVERYWHERE. I'm planning on going up to harvest some to infuse in some olive oil for seasoning pasta.

There are also tons of other mushrooms that, as beginner myco-nerd, I still have to learn to identify. Many russula and boletus out there, so I'll have to get into the habit of spore printing for proper I.D. Mushrooms are beautiful, tempting looking things but it's important to avoid consuming any mushrooms that you cannot 100% confirm.

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We'll be walking the woods here and foraging in addition to cultivating a bunch of logs for our Edible Mushroom 101 class coming up in October, so sign up while you can!

Want to learn more about wild mushrooms? Check out this nifty website!

Though I'm still half living out of boxes and have this perpetual feeling of confusion over which of the hundreds of tasks to tackle next, I'm trying hard to make time to post regularly. This blog has been an essential part of my life for the past 3 years and I enjoy it. Just because I don't live in Brooklyn anymore, it doesn't mean I'm going to stop sharing with you all. I spent 7 years in NYC sprinting uphill. My heart is still there. When I'm in town, I still feel at home. Brooklyn is still part of the story, which has grown bigger. That is all. More people, and a new state are characters in this play of mine.

This is not to say that I don't miss aspects of city life. I miss my friends, I miss the incredible food culture. But I don't miss how it made me feel, which is to say, bad. I was physically ill nearly every day I lived in Brooklyn. I lived very indulgently and it broke me. I didn't post about that much but it was a thing I was dealing with privately...and it totally sucked. The feeling of your body rebelling against you is a terrible thing to go through, but I knew I could do something to change how I was feeling. Just not there. The temptation to continue on living high on the hog was too strong.

That's one of many reasons I'm here...and frankly, I think it's the best one. I feel like I'm in a great place to start making positive changes. It'll be hard work turning this out-of-wack body around but I'm surrounded by knowing, caring people, good food, exercise and...well, less stress for now. Most of the improvements need to come from proactive self-improvement though, not just a change in scenery.

farmdinner.jpeg (We eat as a group here often and meals are full of fresh, green food and fermented goodies that aid in healthy digestion!)

Some of the things I've resolved to do to improve my wellbeing are:

-getting up promptly at 6 am daily (5 during the growing season)
-eating less meat, only grassfed and preferably only meat I've raised. grow lots of greens and eat them daily.
-use my juicer more than my coffee pot (I cannot give up my Cafe Grumpy beans yet.)
-DRINK WATER!! I do not drink enough water. Someone spank me!
-stretch in the morning, perhaps even ::GASP:: do yoga
-Hike in the woods, which are basically my backyard and hikes can double as foraging time!
-Have fun! Try to enjoy myself!

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(Wheelbarrow rides: $1)

What about you, fine readers? What do you do to help yourself feel good?

Back by popular demand...my online beekeeping workshop: LIVE!

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Are you a city dweller longing to connect with nature? Do you love eating local food and supporting the local food movement? We'll, consider beekeeping as a way to do both!

This 3 session, 8 hour presentation (Each Sunday, starting 9/23 at 1 p.m.) will cover the basics of urban and suburban beekeeping, honeybee anatomy and hierarchy, types of hives, how to acquire bees, how to start and maintain your colony utilizing low impact methods, honey harvesting and winter management.

We will focus on natural and passive treatment options, though there will be some discussion about other management practices and the pros and cons associated with them.

Class attendees will be able to watch videos of bees in action, watch inspections being performed and techniques demonstrated visually to help boost their confidence when handling bees for the first time.

Please note that if you cannot make the live dates, the classes will be recorded so that you can view them at your leisure.

Interested? Enroll HERE! Or email me with questions!

Now that we are nearly settled into our cottage (pics to come) I'm teaching my first workshop at Seven Arrows! We'll be tackling a timely topic: Mushrooms! Cultivation of fungi and gleaning the forests and fields for them!

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"Mushrooms are amazing! They cleanse the soil. They help to create by aiding in the decay of organic matter. They give incredible flavor to our meals. Some mushrooms even promote wellness in humans and animals. Best yet, they are easy to grow and easy to find growing wild, with a little guidance and good sense.

In this all-day workshop taught by Brooklyn Homesteader's Meg Paska, we will learn the basics of mycoculture...what fungi are, what they do and why we should appreciate them. Presentations will accompany this talk. We will then break for lunch and then jump headlong into a series of mushroom related projects:

-Growing oyster mushrooms in coffee grounds
-Log stump cultivation with maiitakes (each participant will leave with a mushroom log of their own.)
-Grain, straw and sawdust spawn cultivation
-Foraging for mushrooms safely

At the end of the day, students are invited to book accommodations at Seven Arrows for the night (see "weekend ticket" for pricing), and we will make a supper of mushroom risotto and braised greens before winding down on the front porch overlooking the Navesink River.

Overnight visitors are encouraged to hike in the adjacent Hartshorne Woods Park on Sunday to test out their foraging skills, though all mushrooms must be brought back to the farm for proper identification!

Seven Arrows is a 20 acre shorefront retreat and farm located in Monmouth County, NJ just 45 minutes from New York City. We are launching a CSA featuring pastured eggs and nutrient dense, sustainably grown produce in early 2013."

Please check out the EventBrite page for more info and let me know if you have any questions!

Farmerrant

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Winter never came. All manner of pest and weed and disease lived on, strengthening, with no killing frost. Early spring and summer heat with long drought taxed soil and crops; fruit is thick-skinned, leaves waxy and tough. Now storms wreak havoc, downing trellis, cracking tomatoes both fruit and stem, inviting mold and mildew and rot.

Four thousand tomatoes started from seed, potted up, nurtured, planted out, pruned, trellised, retrellised, pruned again. Too many now are died back, been culled, or whimper out a last salvageable fruit before the ol' scythe comes: either my own or wilt, canker, mold, spot, insect. Half of the cucumbers gone, hundreds-over, thanks to powdery mildew, when copper wouldn't help, and the ever-munching beetle; every last squash parasitized by horrific borer grubs, and, dissatisfied with only the cukes, powdery mildew comes creeping in too. Beds of greens, those finnicky lettuces, are resown and resown, two and three times over: the cost of miserable heat and drought and hungry pigeon bellies.

The pigeons! Greedy, persistent, and legion. Descending hordes upon newly-sown beds of mustard or carrot or lettuce, devouring every last seed and sprout. The pigeon who'd dug her way into the run, tempted by spilled feed and naïve to the pacing killers just yonder. Wedged herself under a coop strut, bloody and featherless head and back. How I found her in the orangey light of a beautiful sunset; how I did not wring her neck, instead culled her with a cinderblock to the head, bewildered and rushed by disgust and panic; and how the first strike didn't take, haunt me still.

The chickens themselves, those new, young, flighty additions to the flock, escaping. Hours spent chasing chickens through the streets and parking lots while tomatoes beg to be tied and crabgrass seeds threaten to spill.

Five bee swarms, each one dropping down from the farm to the 39th Street bridge in Queens, terrorizing neighbors and passers-by and resulting in police sirens. I boxed swarms from street-signs, fire hydrants, and finally, in a climactic F-You, from below a windowsill on the second story of our building, on a ladder high above the bridge and honking, shouting car drivers.

firemansfair.jpeg This weekend is the 124th Annual Fireman's Fair held by Navesink Hook & Ladder Fire Co. # 1, MTFD. The firehouse is located just a half mile down the road and every year folks around these parts look forward to this social outing and opportunity to support their local firefighters.

menu.jpeg We'll be going and enjoying some fish fry and cold beers and with luck, maybe we'll meet some neighbors!
Pictures to come, Monday! Have a great weekend!

(Photos borrowed from the Navesink Hook & Ladder's FB page)

As we start game-planning for our livestock housing, I've been considering heavily how I plan to manage the rabbits and chickens, both of which stand a chance of being predated by the raccoons, foxes and hawks if not tended to properly.

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I could manage them like many, kept in a coop and enclosed run set up or in wire cages (for the rabbits) but after seeing how much happier they all are with freedom to run and socialize I just don't feel right about that level of confinement on this farm. Fresh air, fresh food, fresh water and plenty of exercise are what most red-blooded creatures need to thrive, and with that in mind I am starting to formulate a plan that allows the critters adequate space to roam during the day, but safety and security at night when they are at most risk.

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Stevie and Peach are still young and have a lot of learning to do, so we can't count on them to do it all!

My goal is to have the rabbits and chickens continue to share a fenced in pasture for now. They will have separate houses, encased in one electrified fenced in area (solar powered, of course!). They get along really well and they benefit by being able to alert each other to predatory presence. At night, the rabbits instinctively go back to their cages (they do it in Livestock Camp, which is pretty amazing.) and the chickens and ducks to their coop. Both houses would then be secured for the evening. The bucks will need to have their own isolated segment of the enclosure to keep them from jumping on the does every chance they get.

girls.jpeg (The does all love cuddling together. So much so that sometimes they will all climb into one cage willingly!)

Any farmers out there have any input on this? I'd love to get some feedback!

On being here, now.

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walkthedog.jpeg (Neil walking Stevie and Peach, who are beginning to respond to training!)

It's been a week and a half since we arrived here at Seven Arrows. Neil and I are beginning to settle into a routine. We move into our cottage sometime next week. Getting our belongings out of boxes will be the final step towards making this place feel like home.

So far, I like being here. I like the smells and sounds. Salt water, mown grass, musty dog fur, incense, dusty feed. Tree frogs creak, geese honk, Maremmas bark, osprey twee, crickets chirp, cicadas tremble. None of these things make me miss Brooklyn very much. By the water, by the woods, near enough to civilization and old friends, it seems like a good fit. It don't feel as though I gave it all up. I miss having friends near, truth be told. But, making new ones takes a long time in a new place, and I don't expect I'll be leaving these 20 acres all that much. I hope my NYC pals will come to see me soon.

All these precious things aside, we have much work to do. I'll be listing some October work days early next week that strangers and friends can come participate in. We've got to build a proper structure for the chickens and the rabbits and dogs. We'll have about 60 more chicks and ducklings here come September so we'll need all the help we can get. Our goats are also coming this Fall so we'll have to build a shelter for them as well. We're breaking ground before the first frost, amending the soil with truckloads of compost, nutrients and planting garlic. So, come one, come all! Help us with our toiling!

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It's approaching a week since Neil and I moved to Seven Arrows and while we won't be completely settled in until the end of the month, we're working hard to establish a routine and get out into the community to make connections and friends. We both moved here knowing no one, a daunting prospect for sure. Fortunately, Neil will be in NYC for work two days a week and can stay overnight to see some of our friends. I, on the other hand, an here most of the time, save for when I have classes to teach or bees to check. It has the potential to be very lonely for a spell. I'm a little worried about this, but I am optimistic that I'll meet some fine folks around these parts to keep me feeling connected. After all, this isn't the boondocks, it's Rumson.

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The next two weekends will be chock full of fun activities and opportunities to meet new people. This Saturday we will be visiting Freedom Star Farm in Bethlehem to see their Dwarf Nigerian goats. We will be getting a few does from their breeding lines sometime this Fall or Spring. I couldn't be more excited about their addition to the farm. If you don't know much about these little powerhouse dairy goats, you can read more about them HERE.

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On Sunday, the Red Bank Farmer's Market is where we will be, schmoozing, chatting up other farmers and getting some peaches to make some pie filling! New Jersey peaches and tomatoes are the best in the region, and I'll be damned if I'm not going to take advantage of their availability!

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In a few weeks we will be moving the livestock (with Stevie and Peach guarding) to the other side of the property, yoga retreats will commence and I'll start announcing small workshops so that some of my NYC friends can come out and support the farm, see the critters and enjoy some of the gorgeous scenery around these parts. Stay tuned for that!

Have a great weekend, folks!

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2012 is the previous archive.

September 2012 is the next archive.

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