Tag Archives: sustainable

There’s A Bun In The Oven

There’s a Bun in The Oven

It has been an amazing roller coaster of a year, 2014. Our little family found a beautiful place to call home that will allow us to fulfill many of our goals towards a less dependent lifestyle. We have the best neighbors anyone could ever ask for and we are grateful. After 19 years of renting together I believe the hubs and I have paid our dues and this is our reward.

bun in the oven

We’ve spent more time outside this year than in the past 5+ years collectively.

bun in the oven

We created a beautiful garden that will continue to grow and flourish in the years to come.

bun in the oven

bun in the oven

We’ve built our own coop and added some feathered friends to our household for fresh eggs.

bun in the oven

bun in the oven

Despite a full 9-5 schedule with new roles, promotions and more, I’ve still been able to maintain keeping things homemade, from scratch, local, and organic. I’ve been able to keep canning, keep making my kiddo’s snacks from scratch, and most meals… most… are cooked at home.

bun in the oven bun in the oven bun in the oven bun in the oven

Our handsome little boy has grown by leaps and bounds. He’s learned to ride a bike without ever using training wheels and has overcome his fear of swimming.

bun in the oven bun in the oven

He’s developed a love of nature and wildlife.

bun in the oven bun in the oven

He loves to draw and write words, “Mommy, how do you spell…?” He teaches us more and more every day.

bun in the oven bun in the oven

We took one step further in our journey for food closer to home. We learned how to harvest and butcher a pig that has filled our freezer for the year. We added homemade bacon and sausage to what we’ve learned how to make vs. buying at the store.

Bun in the oven bun in the oven bun in the oven

We took tiny steps to get ourselves involved in our new community with hopes for more involvement in the future.

bun in the oven

The hubs and I went on our first real date in over 4 years. Official Date Night of 2014!

bun in the oven

We celebrated 90 amazing years of the woman who has been an integral part of my entire life and has shaped us all, the matriarch of the family.

bun in the oven

I picked back up an old hobby and got the best anniversary present ever, celebrating 19 years with the best father and husband.

bun in the oven

We finally got a real family photo for the first time since our kiddo was born. I also got the opportunity to include my ol’ girl with us in the photos thanks to Marisa Duran Photography.

bun in the oven bun in the oven

I was so happy to capture this moment with my girl because as these photos were taken I knew in my heart there were going to be major changes on the horizon. Positive changes but major ones none the less.

The first of those changes was the major decision to add another four furry legs to our household. As we started the last month of 2014 we welcomed lil’ girl to our home with open arms.

bun in the oven

It may seem that the decision was quick but we’ve been talking about another dog for more than a couple years now. It was important that we didn’t let any more time pass to allow another member of our family to grow with our son. It boiled down to now or never. This statement, now or never, lends well to the next major change in our lives… at the age of 37 with a lot on the horizon it was now or never that we made this final leap to close the circle of our little family…

bun in the oven

From the moment my son was born people were in my ear, “we’ll see you back in 2 years with another”, “when are you going to have another”, “don’t you want more”, “it’s only fair to your son to have a sibling” and the comments continued. Of course I wanted more children. Of course I want a sibling for my son. But it was so much more than that. So much more than most could ever understand. From the moment I learned I was pregnant with my son I was deathly sick. Not morning sickness, all day all night sickness. So sick that one could not drink water or eat food without every ounce coming back up within minutes or hours of consumption. A sickness that depleted every ounce of energy from one’s body where simple tasks like taking a shower or washing a dish would wipe one out for the entire day or week. The sickness has a name and its hyperemesis gravidarum. Only with the assistance of medication and forced fluids was I able to make it through 8 months. My son arrived a month early and after 30 hours of labor and an emergency C-section did we make it out alive and more than well.

Those eight months were the hardest months of my life. In the end it was all worth it but with a heavy price. Not only was my physical tested beyond belief my mental as well. It took close to 6 months before I could get to a true recovery state. In my case, having a child changed every bit of my being and existence. Our lifestyles did a complete 360.

When I was pregnant with my son I had family and friends with 20 minutes of me in any one direction. The husband was close to work and my mom was within minutes to get to me when I was in need. With the strong support of my employer, I was able to take the bed rest that was required while still maintaining my job. I had no one else to tend to other than myself. The hubs did the groceries and cooked dinners. Every so often I’d have to let 2 already potty trained dogs out to wander the yard for fresh air. Otherwise I lay in bed for what seemed to be months. My mom would visit on weekends to bring over my cravings only for me to throw them up soon after. Exhaustion and stress only amplified the intensity of the illness so my activity was minimal to none.

Once my son was born and the questions constantly imposed, I was forced to be reminded daily of how I struggled and how times are now oh so different. I could not imagine (although I know many women who do) having to tend to a very active toddler while trying to manage the extreme sickness. Constant throwing up, nausea that never goes away, dehydration, exhaustion, aches and pains from throwing up, and constipation from the harsh medication. As I mentioned our lives did a 360 which meant that I was no longer brining in an income. We moved well over an hour away from family, friends, and support. I did not have a village to turn to in times of need. For as much as my little man and I had been through in the previous months I didn’t want to take any more time away from him that had already been taken.

The questions were a constant but I was able to push past them without much explanation. After all, most I’d speak with never could truly understand how sick I was.

As time progressed, my son started preschool and I returned to work. We moved on and upward with our lives thinking about our futures. We’ve always wanted more kids but as I just explained the pros and cons were to be heavily weighed. After much thought, planning, and as much preparation as we could do for ourselves knowing what was going to be ahead… we decided it was time. It was now or never and well…

With all of the planning and preparation I had hopes. I had hopes that this pregnancy would be different. After all, it is true that everyone is different… but how different is the question. With my first son I was sick within a day of my missed period. After 2 months of throwing up, extreme dehydration and lack of nutrition the doctors to finally placed me on Zofran, which is an anti-nausea medication. I had also been on Phenergan which was a suppository and only added to the worst experience of my life. It took roughly 4 months for the medication to regulate but if I missed a session, hello toilet!

Given our timing and planning, I had high hopes to be able to surprise the hubs on Christmas with a wonderful ultra sound picture, vibrant and happy, and not nauseous. Wrong. Within a week of my missed period the sickness started to creep on me. Given my history my OB did not hesitate to prescribe Zofran immediately. I know many “natural” moms that follow me and read my ranting’s may look down upon my use of a chemical, synthetic drug during pregnancy. Believe me, I’d rather not be throwing up, I’d rather NOT be taking a bunch of pills just to get through my day… but I can’t. Don’t tell me to eat crackers or ginger. This sickness is so much more than that. Smelling and eating peppermint, ginger, crackers, and broth, etc.; every natural remedy that has been thought of, women of HG have attempted. Even with the use of medications like Zofran the nausea is still very much present on an hourly, daily basis. It also does not always stop the puking sessions. As I mentioned exhaustion is a killer and doing a bit too much no matter how much medication will most likely result in an evening in the bathroom hugging the toilet.

I was a week into the medication when we brought our little four legged fury child home. Our lil’ girl is just that… so little and so new. She is a puppy. Puppies require potty training, puppy training, acclimation to a new home and a new pack. Of course this is also December and my most favorite time of the year. A time filled with decorations, baking, family time, holiday crafts, DIY gift making and more. This is my time and more than ever an important one because it is the last Christmas that I’ll have my kiddo just to myself.

Roughly 2 weeks into the medication, a week with a new puppy, and a mounting list of projects to get done for Christmas ahead, I still had hopes. I was exhausted but not yet sick beyond control.  We were out and about to get our Christmas tree and I had forgotten to bring my medication. Keeping in mind I had not yet told the hubs I was pregnant. I was trying so hard to keep it a surprise but after 19 years he knows me more than I think. I should also take more consideration to understand that not only was the first experience of HG a huge impact for me, it was huge for him as well. We’re in the car and I couldn’t help but express how crappy I felt at the moment and he knew right then and there. “You’re pregnant… aren’t you???” Well, so much for that White Christmas surprise. Instead he learned of the news in the car parked in the parking lot of a FedEx and a Five Guys Burgers. Joy. Coming to the end of the 2nd week of starting the meds and the sickness was rearing its ugly head. Every smell, everything made me sick. My poor kiddo kept asking when I was going to feel better. It’s not like me to sit on the couch for more than a couple minutes at a time. I’m a battery that keeps going and for me to be sidelined causes much concern from those who know me.   I wanted to wait to tell our kiddo till after I made it out of the 1st trimester. I wanted to get past his birthday before sharing the news but there was no hiding it. I was just too sick to keep something like this from him. So that following weekend the hubs and I so carefully told the kiddo he was going to be a big brother. It took some time for it to sink in. It wasn’t until he got to see the ultra sound picture did it really make sense there was something growing in my tummy. Since then he’s been asking a million questions with excitement and curiosity.

It was at roughly 6 weeks into the pregnancy when the illness had fully overcome me. My early morning routine, a routine that I cannot make much adjustment to, was causing great havoc. The sheer act of waking up is a task in itself. Knowing that the moment you open your eyes the nausea will wash over your entire being and you’re in dry heave mode. The light at the end of the tunnel was an already planned time off due to the holidays and an extremely supportive employer and team members. If it wasn’t for my wonderful managers and team members to pick up my slack… I wouldn’t be functioning as I am today. As much as I loathe when my little man catches a cold I was also thankful he was home sick with me so I did not have to rush him off to school. We both spent the week hibernating. He was such a big boy and so helpful beyond belief. The poor hubs who has a 3 hour round trip daily commute has been picking up the extra slack by taking care of dinner and the evening kiddo routine. I’ve been nothing but a lump on a log. I’m of no help. The week of Christmas was the worst so far and I know it has everything to do with exhaustion. I had to do as much as I could for my DIY presents, mandatory errands and doctors’ appointments over an hour away from home. They all took a major toll. By Tuesday before Christmas I was bed ridden and couldn’t move. Despite the medication I threw up daily, dehydrated and in pain. I made it to two family gatherings over the course of Christmas Eve and Christmas, but beyond that… I’ve been bed ridden.

I’ve missed out on crafts with my kiddos, volunteering at his school, baking cookies with the kiddos, and my favorite… amusement park rides with my lil’ man. I had to sit behind while the family went out for a Christmas light celebration and amusement park rides. I’m the one who usually rides the rides with my kiddo and for the first time I wasn’t there. I was so sad but knowing my kiddo was getting a chance to get out and have fun, pushed me through.

At this point in the journey I must take it one day at a time. Some days are more tolerated than others. I am fully accepting that I can’t do all what I do normally. I know there will be a time for it all in the future but for now I must rest. I am concerned for the days to come when work resumes. Will I be able to without being unbearably uncomfortable and putting a strain on my team? I hope for the better. I hope to get past this as I did with my first. Why do I share all of this with you… because a big part of my life has been this blog, the stories I share, the information I share, and the photography that helps me to tell the story. The blog will continue because it’s become a part of me but it will be sidelined until I get past this illness. It could be a couple weeks or it could be the entire duration of the pregnancy. Of course we hope for the best but understand anything can happen.

For now we’ll take it one day at a time and I hope to check in as often as I can with updates on the homestead and all we’re doing to get ready for the next venture in our family’s life. Thank you to all who have been there since the beginning and continue to follow me through the ups and downs. Thank you for the support! From my growing family to yours… I wish you the very best in the New Year!

 

365 Project 2014 – Day 5

365 Project 2014 – Day 5

Sun & Dirt Therapy Now that we’re finally unpacked (for the most part) and settled in to our new homestead the planning, cleaning, and preparation of all sustainable tasks begins. I realize now, even though I’m damn good at what I do professionally (what I went to school for), I was meant to be and work outside. I’m working hard today to balance the two worlds and so far it’s paying off but it’s not been an easy task. Being surrounded by all of this… is my payoff for the hard work.
365 Project 2014 - Day 5

Pickled Jalapeno Escabeche

Pickled Jalapeno Escabeche
Pickled Jalapeno Escabeche

During my childhood days I had a couple people in my world that provided an exposure to foods beyond the typical everyday fare. My late grandfather was one of those people. He loved liverwurst, salsa, headcheese, salty nuts, alcohol, and sweets. He use to get upset at me because I’d eat all of his special foods and leave him none. He didn’t expect his little granddaughter to eat all of his headcheese! One food or condiment he loved was spicy pickled peppers better known as pickled jalapeno escabeche. These peppers were tangy from the vinegar, sweet from the brine filled with carrots and onions and spicy because the peppers were jalapenos. He’d have a jar hidden on the door of the refrigerator. I’d eventually discover the hidden jar and clear it of all jalapenos so all that remained were onions and carrots.

Over the years I’ve developed a great love for these spicy tangy peppers and today I need to eat them with everything! Unfortunately the store bought versions are filled with unhealthy sodium (sodium is healthy but in the right form and the right amounts), vegetables grown from who knows where and covered with who knows what (produce shipped from long distances covered in chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, and other gmo concerns). In addition to the unknown ingredients/chemicals in the store bought version you’re also dealing with the chemicals that come along with processing store bought foods in cans. In line with our goals of eating local food, organic food, from scratch food, and food with minimal ingredients I decided to make and can pickled jalapeno escabeche on my own. With a few basic ingredients this has been the easiest pickled and canned recipe I’ve made in a while.
Pickled Jalapeno Escabeche

I wish my grandpa was still here so he could enjoy my homemade version of his favorite spicy snack. He’d be so proud of the healthy alternative we’re enjoying now. As mentioned, in line with our goals of eating homemade, home canned, local, organic, seasonal foods we choose to can enough pickled jalapeno escabeche that will last us till jalapenos are in season again next year. How many pints is this do you ask? Well, I’m not sure yet since last year was the first year we attempted to make this recipe and start canning the jalapenos. This year I’ve canned an ample amount and we’re already enjoying the fruits of our labor. We’ve got a couple more weeks of peppers and the season is done. Just think to how often you eat these peppers. Some enjoy them on everything and some only enjoy them on certain things… nachos come to mind (= If you eat a jar a week… consider how many weeks you’ve got till jalapenos are in season again. 52 jars. That might be a bit much but giving you an idea of planning. If you eat a can a month then that might be a more reasonable approach. This recipe will provide you 6 to 8 pints of canned pickled jalapeno escabeche.

The following recipe is fun because it is versatile. I’ve seen versions with dried herbs and other vegetables that stand up to high temperatures. This is your basic pickled jalapeno recipe that I’ve compiled of various versions found across the interwebs. Adjust it as you like. Included in the recipe are basic instructions for water bath canning for long term storage. Enjoy pickled jalapeno escabeche!
Pickled Jalapeno Escabeche
* = organic (or GMO free)
¤ = local

Pickled Jalapeno Escabeche
1 pound fresh jalapenos (use serranos or even habaneros if you’re brave) *¤
1 bunch carrots (6 or more medium sized) *¤
1 onion (I prefer white but you can use any kind) *¤
10 cloves garlic *¤
1/3 cup olive oil *
2 tablespoons kosher salt (or sea salt)
2 tablespoons cane sugar (I use Florida Crystals a carbon free company. I’ve also tested coconut sugar, which works well) *
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup water (optional to cut the zing of the vinegar)
6-8 sterilized pint mason jars + lids & rings
1 large water bath canning pot
2 tablespoons white vinegar (optional, add to canning water)

Step 1: Prepare your water bath canner and jars according to your manufacture instructions. In this instance I am using 6 to 8 pint sized mason jars, lids and rings. I prepare my oversized aluminum canner with hot water and 2 tablespoons white vinegar. I crank the temperature to high so it will be close to if not already boiling by the time I’m ready to fill the jars. With my jar grabber I place each jar, rings & lids removed, into the heating water. I will let the water fill the jars as they enter the pot. I fill a separate small pot with water and add the lids to get warm. Do not boil the lids.
Pickled Jalapeno Escabeche

Step 2: Prepare your ingredients. You may cut rings or leave the peppers whole. If you leave the peppers whole make sure to cut a small slit in each to allow the juices to penetrate later in the cooking time. Set peppers aside. Clean and chop carrots. You can cut circles or on the bias and not too thin or they will fall apart in the cooking process. Set aside. Clean one onion. Cut in half and then cut slices. The thickness is your choice but keep in mind the thinner onion slice will fall apart sooner in the cooking process. Set aside. Clean 10 cloves of garlic and thinly slice. Set aside.
Pickled Jalapeno Escabeche

Pickled Jalapeno Escabeche

Step 3: Heat up olive oil in a medium sized stock pot. Add the peppers to the hot oil and stir making sure to coat all of the peppers with oil. Add carrots, onions, garlic, and continue to stir, coating all of the vegetables. Next add the kosher salt and sugar and incorporate well. Sauté the vegetables till soft, roughly 10 minutes. Next add in the white and cider vinegars and stir well. If you like less of a tangy pepper you may add a cup of water to dilute the vinegar. Cook the vegetables till soft and the color has muted almost to an olive green (in the case of jalapenos or seranos), roughly 10 minutes. Once your vegetables are cooked through, remove from heat and begin preparation of filling your jars for canning. NOTE: If you don’t plan on canning and instead eating these right away, I would cook them for an additional 10 – 15 minutes to ensure a soft pepper. Otherwise your peppers will be crunchy and possibly too spicy. The canning process helps to cook them through further. END NOTE
Pickled Jalapeno Escabeche

Pickled Jalapeno Escabeche

Step 4: Now it’s time to fill your jars. At this point the water bath is close to if not already boiling. Turn the water down just for the moment you’ll be handling the jars. Drain the small pot with lids and set lids into rings in preparation to top jars. With you jar grabber, remove one jar at a time from the hot water in the canning pot and place onto a clean towel. Make sure to pour out any excess water from the jar back into the canning pot. I like to use the canning funnel, which allows for easy filling of the jars with minimal mess. Place the funnel in your first jar and fill with vegetables and liquid. Make sure the liquid covers the vegetables and ensure there is a one inch head space between the vegetables and the rim of the jar. Remove the funnel and wipe the rim of the jar to ensure there is no debris that will impact the lid’s seal. Place a lid and ring on the jar and close till just barely tight. Too tight or too loose and the seal won’t work. With the jar grabber place the filled jar back into the boiling water and repeat with all jars till full. Once you’re done filling the jars bring the water back up to a full boil and start your timer for 15 minutes. NOTE: Make sure you start the time when the water is at a full boil and not before. Also note that you must have at least 1 to 2 inches of boiling water above the lids of the jars while in the canning pot. 10 minutes for ½ pints. 15 minutes for pints. 20 minutes for quarts. END NOTE
Pickled Jalapeno Escabeche

Step 5: Once the timer is complete at 15 minutes turn off the heat and with your jar grabber carefully remove each jar and place on a towel in an unobstructed area free from roaming pets, wild kids, and breezes. The jars must sit overnight (24hrs) for a complete seal. Depending on the manufacturer (in my case Ball) you’ll hear the POP of the seal when it’s complete but it’s best to leave the jars overnight to ensure the seal is complete. For long term storage remove the rings of the lids before storing away and do not stack the jar. WHY you ask… because if a seal fails the ring will allow it to re-seal and then you’ll never know until opening the jar if you’re food has spoiled. Same process applies to stacking. Without a ring or object blocking the way you’ll know immediately if a seal has failed.

Step 6: ENJOY! When people ask me what they would eat these peppers with I remind them of nachos or burritos and then it clicks and they realize these tasty peppers are absolutely wonderful with most any meal. Need to add an extra spicy tangy condiment to your meals… add pickled jalapenos escabeche. Enjoy!
Pickled Jalapeno Escabeche

Welcome to Bell Hill Farm & Hen Scratch Quilting, Hollister CA

Welcome to Bell Hill Farm & Hen Scratch Quilting, Hollister, CA

It was a late winter afternoon as I drove through the hills along Cienega Road in Hollister, CA. Blossoms are falling from trees and tiny green leaves are budding, letting us know spring is on the horizon. Also known as the “Wine Trail”, Cienega road is home to gorgeous views and a handful of the town’s best wineries scattered along the hillside. DeRose Winery, a “green winery”, is one of the wineries along Cienega Road and just a short distance from the gravel road leading the way to Bell Hill Farm. The steep road is lined with oak trees and the chiming sounds of bells are heard from a distance above. I’m on my way to spend the afternoon with John and Janet Locey and their brood of animals of Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting.

Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting
Beautiful views that surround Bell Hill Farm

The hillsides along the road to their home are lined with mossy oak trees, picturesque of a woodland fairytale. The road, although gravel lined, is still rough and you must take care when climbing the hill. I carefully navigated my way around the backside of the house, found a parking spot and setoff to find Janet. I was greeted by a couple of four-legged furry family members, wagging tails, wet noses and all. I located Janet sitting in front of the house workshop. In her arms was a tiny 1/2 French Alpine 1/2 American Alpine goat, Chico, only 2 days old. The goat is one of three babies and was not faring along as well as the others despite being bigger than her siblings. Janet was feeding the baby goat because she had not gotten up to feed off her mother. I was fortunate to hold the baby goat for a moment after Janet fed her. Soon after placing the goat back with her mother, she was up and moving around. What a special moment it was for me to experience, witnessing the little goat fight to stand on its own. For Janet, this is nothing new; these are experiences she meets daily.
Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting

Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting
Chico exploring the daffodils after braving her first few steps

After tending to the baby goat, we jumped into our chat taking stock of every animal, project, and task in process at the Locey homestead. While Janet escorted me through her life I couldn’t help but notice how many projects she was immersed in and how she was keeping up with them all. I could barely keep up pace with her as she climbed the hills checking on her animals.

Janet and her husband John manage a family of goats, sheep, chickens, and ducks for their personal homestead, as well as operating Bell Hill Farm (Goat Milk Soaps & Lotions) and Hen Scratch Quilting (sewing machine repair, quilting retreats, patterns, quilts, supplies and more!). The ducks and chickens provide eggs & meat, the goats provide milk, the sheep provide meat, and Janet & John harvest it all for their family. Their home rests on the middle of the property. The surrounding hills are covered with wild flowers and moss-covered oaks. The goats live on the bottom half of the hill and the sheep on the upper half, all grazing on beautiful wild forage. The chickens and ducks keep watch near the goats and the dogs & cats follow John or Janet around the homestead keeping watch of them all.

Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting
Janet trying desperately to get out of the picture and her beloved Alpine Annamae

Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting
Moses the guardian of the pack
Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting
Sheep!!
Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting
Janet’s view from her milking stand

Janet was born and raised in Northern California on her family’s pre-gold rush era ranch where they farmed row crops. Her mother and grandparents kept chickens, which is how she developed a great love for the bird. Despite her deep roots of country living Janet had no prior experience raising small livestock such as sheep and goats. She and John raised their family on what you would call an urban homestead in the South Bay of California, almost 40 years ago. This urban homestead consisted only of chickens but her deep country roots were calling. Janet needed to move her family and her chickens elsewhere. It was then decided Janet and John would move their family to the Central Coast and the hills of Hollister California, over 25 years ago. Janet’s love for chickens helped them settle in the place they call home today. Janet advised it wasn’t the beautiful house or the picturesque landscape that sold her… it was the existing chicken coop on the property. An instant home for her chickens… she was sold and they moved in! When Janet and her husband John purchased the property it was covered in thick brush. To manage the terrain, they bought a couple of Alpine goats. Janet explained, “For a family on a shoe string budget you learn to be creative in how you tackle the challenges ahead.” While the goats were managing the brush they also managed to have… babies!

“A couple of goats, led to babies that led to milk, which lead to soaps & lotions” Janet explained as we walked along the fence line to the goat’s home. “It was a natural progression to go from having too much goat’s milk, not knowing what to do with it, to making soaps and lotions” Janet explained. “There is always enough milk for our soaps, lotions, for our family to drink, and even enough at times to make cheese for our family.” She took me along the goat’s path and I got to see spring in action, each area holding several babies and their mothers. All of Janet’s goats are registered with the American Dairy Goat Association. This allows Janet to track each goat’s heritage and milk line.

Through a course taken at UC Davis sponsored by the DHIA (Dairy Goat Improvement Association) Janet is a certified Goat milk tester. One day a month the amount of milk from each goat is weighed and recorded and a sample is taken and sent into a lab for testing. Reports are generated for milk production, percent protein, percent fat and somatic cell count (health of udder) along with various other information. Decisions on breeding and culling are based on these production records. The information gathered through this program goes into a data bank providing valuable information to the individual dairy goat owner and gathers statistics for the entire goat industry to use in research and educational programs.

The production data gathered though the milk test program may be submitted to the American Dairy Goat Association and the individual goat may earn a star if she meets the production requirement for her particular breed. The star may be passed down to her daughter if she meets the requirements then her registration papers carry the designation of a two star milker. That daughter may have a daughter that meets the requirement and then she would be a 3 star milker and so on. The goats must be on official test to earn the star and you can’t skip any generations. This information gives Janet direct insight into how she can better care for her animals.

I was already dizzy from all the information and how Janet kept up with it all; we had only just begun the tour. Between the goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, dogs and cats… who would have time to make goat’s milk body soap, lotion, and recently added to the lineup of products, laundry soap? I had to know how she was motivated to do this. What led Janet Locey and her family down the path of self-sufficiency, handcraftsmanship, livestock, and eventually Bell Hill Farm & Hen Scratch Quilting?

For over 30 years Janet worked as an accountant for local city governments and school districts; John was a maintenance manager for a local food processing plant. Although their careers provided a stable living for their family, they were frustrated with the outcome of industrial systems and their dependency on so many unnatural things. Janet and John believed there had to be more; more to offer their family and their community. Soon after moving into their country home, they began to experience the satisfaction of getting back to the basics.

Janet finished up outside and we made our way into the house. I was greeted by the sweet aroma of soap & lotion scents mixed with the savory aroma of a roasted chicken she was cooking for dinner. We worked our way down the hall and stopped at the first room; Janet’s office and soap room. The walls were lined with scents, packaging, bottles of lotion, and trays of curing soaps. Her desk was covered with soap wrappers and hemp ties, getting ready to package the next order for Sunday’s farmers market. I was in heaven. Something about the smell of plumeria and ginger (two yummy scents Janet provides through her soaps and lotions) that settles me. I took a moment before having to leave the room. I held each bar of soap to my nose inhaling deeper and deeper, trying to keep the scent with me. Before we left the soap room I noticed a stack of framed pictures. Janet pulled a handful of the frames out from behind some boxes. These pictures were much too beautiful to be hiding away. Looking closer I saw Janet’s signature donned the bottom corners of each piece. This was nothing more than a labor of love for Janet. A mixture of water colors and detailed lines – I got lost in her pictures, wanting to visit the places she was able to create on paper. Her prints are recreated on thick card stock note cards that follow her to farmers markets. Her art also hangs in a local bakery downtown.

Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting
Handmade, handcrafted goat’s milk body soap… Janet hand bevels each edge and personally wraps each bar of soap before packaging
Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting
Janet’s prints can be purchased at Heavenly Bakery in historic downtown Hollister, CA

We finished up in the soap room and moved on to the next room… the quilt room. You are greeted by a 3 foot pile of completed quilts and the walls are covered in quilts – all made by Janet. These quilts have intricate details and creative patterns. Janet’s quilts are truly a work of art. This beautiful quilt was published in two magazines “American Patchwork and Quilting” and “Quilter’s Newsletter.” Turns out the original quilt was a historic item and had been burned in a museum fire. Janet’s recreation was inspired by an AQSG (American Quilt Study Group) project and the quilt traveled for two years, displayed in museum exhibits and quilt shows across the nation.

Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting

Its mind-boggling when you focus on the detail of her work – it slowly starts to sink in and you begin to understand the tedious detail and patience it takes to put something like this together. I asked how long it took to sew one of the detailed quilts and without missing a beat, Janet quickly replied, “a year”. There in this room was a stack; a thick, time-consuming stack of quilts that were all carefully handcrafted and designed by Janet. She designs quilts and creates patterns for Maywood Studios Fabric for both Fall and Spring Quilt Markets each year. Three times a year Janet hosts a quilting retreat at the Saint Francis Retreat Center in San Juan Bautista. Her first session is SOLD OUT but there are still spaces available for the remaining two sessions. We left the quilting room, with my hands still in the pile of quilts… I had my eye on one. It was a turtle theme with varying shades of green and paisley patterns. I really want that quilt.

We briefly stopped in John’s workshop before heading off to Janet’s sewing room. A workshop filled with sewing machines and all of their little bits and pieces. John cleans and repairs old Featherweight sewing machines… in his spare time. He helps keep Janet up and running so her quilting deadlines can always be met. He also helps maintain many of the machines from guests who attend Janet’s “sewing sessions”. Each week Janet hosts a handful of women at her home in her sewing room. They work on quilts, learn new techniques, and share information. The room is long and the walls are covered with books and quilts. There are tables in the center of the room covered with sewing machines and pieces of brightly covered fabric and patterns. Janet thumbs through the shelves and quickly finds a stack of patterns. She spread the colorful fabric out in front of me and with a pre-made square she briefly showed me how she gets beginning quilters started.

I could see how passionate Janet was about teaching. Janet noted that through teaching others she gains so much more knowledge. “If you don’t learn something from those you are teaching, you’ve not done your job correctly”, Janet explained. We left the sewing room and worked our way through the house to the kitchen, our final destination and of course one of my favorite places to be! I was in heaven as Janet showed me all of her homesteading gadgets. From ice cream makers, to grain grinders, milking buckets, cheese presses, and even a fizzy water maker… Janet had everything a homesteader would need to make life easier and enable one to be more self-sufficient. One of the best parts of my visit was the taste of fresh goats milk cheese. Janet utilizes the extra milk from her goats to make several different types of cheese for her family’s consumption. There is a tiny “college” refrigerator sitting in the corner of her kitchen. This is the cheese fridge housing months of delicious aged goodness. Janet explained that it doesn’t make sense for her to take Bell Hill Farm goat milk tasks beyond soaps and lotions. Janet and her goats may make fantastic cheese but a certified dairy is a costly venture that she & John are not able to take on at this point in their lives.

Our visit was coming to an end. Janet shared with me a taste of their dinner; one of their own chickens, roasted, along with steamed rice made with homemade broth and local wheat berries. She had just finished washing the fresh collected chicken and duck eggs from her flock. She had several buckets lined up on the sink ready to go for the next milking of the goats. There was a giant container of soap shavings that she was getting ready to process for laundry soap. Across the kitchen sat a loom with a half transformed “rag rug”. It was clear that no matter the time of day, or day of week… Janet had something going, something in process. She was busy and she was happy. Janet explained that she’s coming to a point in life where most people would find themselves retiring and settling down – but she is not. She’s finally found her calling… she knows now what she wants to be when she grows up. “If only I started sooner; if only I was doing the things I am now with the energy I had in my 30s and 40s”, Janet explained with sincerity. With the very best advice she could provide, Janet expressed to me, “don’t stop what you’re doing. This is the best thing for your son, for your family, and for your health. You are making a difference and can make a difference in educating and motivating others”… on getting back to the basics of life.

It gives me great pride to share with people a story of a loving married couple of 40 years who do more in their 60+ young years of age than most 20 something’s’ I know. Thank you Janet and John for allowing me in your home and sharing with me your lives… Welcome to Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting!

Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting

Bell Hill Farm Products are:
– Goats Milk Body Soap
– Goats Milk Body Lotion
– Goats Milk Laundry Soap

All products are available in unscented. Other scents available are Almond, Lavender, Lilac, Plumeria, Sandalwood, Spice Mahogany, Vanilla, Yuzu, and Wild Oats & Honey. Janet can also put together special requests.

Benefits of Goats Milk Soap & Lotion:
– Does not contain harsh detergents or additives
– High levels of cream in goat’s milk provide moisturizing qualities
– Goats milk is high in protein, fat, iron, vitamins B, C, D, E providing bacteria killing properties (acne) and helps retain skins moisture
– Goats milk naturally contains glycerin for high moisturizing properties
– Low pH to that of human skin allowing for better absorption
– Goats milk naturally contains lactic acid which is an alpha hydroxy acid found in skin rejuvenation products

Bell Hill Farm Products can be purchased at:
– Directly from their website
– Local farmers markets (schedule on the Bell Hill website updated monthly)
– A monthly, 6 week, or bi-monthly CSA program with auto ship, details at the website
– At San Benito Bene in historic downtown Hollister, CA

Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting

Hen Scratch Quilting Patterns, Retreats, and more…
– Visit Hen Scratch Quilting for patterns that you can order directly from the website
– Janet also makes and provides supplies for Rag Rugs, perfect throws for every area of the house
– Contact John Locey via email for more information on Featherweight sewing machine cleaning, repair, and supplies

Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting

Janet’s prints can be purchased at:
Heavenly Bakery in historic downtown Hollister, CA
– Local farmers markets (schedule on the Bell Hill website updated monthly)

Bell Hill Farm and Hen Scratch Quilting

Original post written on March 17th, 2012 by The Sustainable Sweet & Savory Gourmet at site: welcome-to-bell-hill-farm-and-hen-scratch-quilting-hollister-ca

Welcome to Pasture Chick Ranch, Hollister CA

Welcome to Pasture Chick Ranch, Hollister CA

It was the summer of 2010 when we met Lisa Knutson of Pasture Chick Ranch. Our son was five months old and starting to eat solid foods. It was also around the time we focused on changing our eating and consuming habits. It was important for us to get our son off on the right foot so we sought out the local farmer’s market to see what sustainable, organic resources would be available to us.

This is where we met Lisa Knutson of Pasture Chick Ranch. When we first met, she was just getting her feet wet and clientele were rapidly knocking down her doors. Lisa was very busy providing pastured eggs and chicken to CSAs and local Farm Stands that her supply was limited to outside clientele. She stood very firm on only putting forth what she could sustain via her land and her current resources. We kept in touch and soon the farmers market came to an end. Here in Hollister, the farmers market is seasonal and only runs spring through end of summer. We saw Lisa the last week of the market; she handed us a flyer. It was for a Saturday Farm Stand in San Juan Bautista. The farm stand was managed by the same organic produce farm we purchased from weekly at the farmers market; Pinnacle Organics. Lisa advised Pasture Chick Ranch would be providing eggs, chicken, sheep, and goat meat at the Pinnacle farm stand every Saturday from 8am to 1pm. We were so excited! Everything our refrigerator needed in one place and it was all organic, pasture raised, and local!

We arrived early 8am for our first Saturday farm stand. Lisa was there, tucked in the back, setup, and ready to go. She had her truck backed into the stand. Her little dog Tempie sat in the front seat. She had a table arranged with cartons of fresh eggs, chicken, sheep, and goat meat. Every Saturday from that point forward we would visit the farm and every Saturday Lisa and her little dog would be there. We became fast friends. Lisa was super sweet and spunky. She had a wealth of information about the services she provided, her community, and always seemed to know every face that showed up at the farm stand.

Over the past year of getting to know Lisa, she has opened her home and her heart. She has provided us with valuable resources, great information, and a friendly welcoming face in the community. She’s been an inspiration to me, and as I’m learning, to several others within the community too. Up until now, I’ve only seen the surface what she goes through to get us these delicious products. Given my need to know & share attitude… I asked if I could spend a day at the ranch with her. I wanted to learn all about Pasture Chick Ranch and what made Lisa operate?

Lisa grew up in San Juan Bautista. Her family raised and grew almost everything they ate. Her mother milked cows and took care of a garden. Canning was a frequent task in their household. Her father raised veal and took great pride in his work making sure his animals had a clean and comfortable living environment.

Before Lisa was Pasture Chick Ranch she was Lisa Marie of Lisa Marie’s Salon in Hollister, CA. She ran one of the best salons in San Benito County and had a wide array of clientele. Need a blow out, a wax, a quick trim… Lisa was your girl. She provided specialty products and services that were out of this world. Everyone in town knew where to go. She was busy, very busy; so busy that she began to fall ill. It was a time in Lisa’s life when she had to step back and look at the bigger picture. After a lot of soul searching Lisa found her way back to her roots and left the salon business.

It took several years but with the support of her husband, they secured an ample plot of land, and took on raising grass fed natural cows. Once securing the space, it took them a year and a half to prepare the land for the animals. The ground needed maintenance, hundreds and hundreds of feet of fencing went up, and security had to be in place. Lisa and her husband were managing over 20 cows and a large pack of dogs, while her husband was working on a secondary career in the fresh cut produce industry. Before they knew it, his career took off and Lisa was managing the animals on her own. The cows and dogs were manageable but it was the bulls that gave her a challenge. This is no easy task especially when you don’t have consistent outside help. A couple years into their life of grass fed beef, Lisa realized that this wasn’t the direction she saw her life moving. With her husband’s career taking on a positive full time status, she needed something she could manage on her own, that would provide her family with a secure future, and most importantly would make her HAPPY!

Again, with her husband’s support they made the decision to sell their cattle to Paicines Ranch, who specializes in pasture raised grass fed beef. In addition to cattle, Lisa was raising Merino Sheep and Cashmere Goats for her own spinning of wool fibers and meat for her family’s personal consumption. After crunching the numbers, it made the most sense both economically and environmentally to raise goats and sheep for her community instead of cattle. The Merino Sheep and Cashmere Goats are dual purpose animals providing both fibers and meat – overall it was the best move sustainably for her environment, space, and resources; Pasture Chick Ranch was born.

Despite their best efforts to manage the cattle, the land still needed additional maintenance to support the grazing and growth of healthy sheep and goats. Lisa was motivated by friends involved in the Slow Food movement and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, which lead her to decide to raise heritage chickens and turkeys. Lisa decided that grazing poultry on the same land as the sheep and goats would help improve the quality of the grass, manage the bugs in the area, and fertilize the land. Throughout my visit with Lisa there was one thing she repeated frequently… the care and maintenance of the land was so important. “The grass is the goose laying the golden egg.” If the land wasn’t properly cared for the animals wouldn’t thrive. It was a cycle… the land took care of the animals, the animals took care of the land, and Lisa of Pasture Chick Ranch took care of it all!

After selling the cattle, they took a sweep of the land, tilling and cutting the grass, moving and updating the fence lines, and building schooners for the chickens and turkeys, and other structures as needed for the animals. The animals would be grazing on over 100+ acres in the middle of the country. In the country there is wildlife. In order for your livestock to survive in a natural setting you need security from the wildlife; here enters the dogs. Besides her beloved poodle Tempie, Lisa manages a pack of Border Collies, a pack of what she refers to as her “guardians”, and also a herd of cats. Of the Border Collie pack there is Jesse, Dee Dee, Katie, Lucy, and Joe. The border collies help Lisa manage the herds, help drive the animals where needed and keep everyone and everything under control. It is amazing to watch Lisa work with her dogs. The relationship of trust and communication between Lisa and her dogs is a sight to be seen. They move around the field with grace as they herd in the animals. The “guardians” are a mix of Akbash and Pyrenees dogs. She has Herbert, Cooper, and Josephina to name a few. There are eleven in all but honestly I couldn’t keep up with all of the names! The guardians are there for just that. They keep a strong watch on everyone and everything – keeping the land and the livestock safe. The cats reside at home base, where they keep the barns and surrounding buildings safe and clear from rodents and vermin. Everyone and everything at the ranch has a purpose and is used to their fullest abilities and are treated with the utmost respect and care.

Pasture Chick Ranch
Ready to get to business!

It was early fall 2010 that Lisa was approached by Live Earth Farms to grow chicken and eggs for their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. She started off with 50 birds and kept a journal watching their growth, habits, and how they adapted to the environment. The birds grazed on natural pastures and were fed an organic feed provided by Modesto Milling, who traces all of their seeds ensuring Non-GMO ingredients are used. Fresh air, bugs, and sunshine were all that’s added. Lisa conducted her first harvest and reached out to family and friends to give her honest feedback. The reviews were in and the chicken was a success. Here we are a year later and Pasture Chick Ranch’s relationship with Live Earth Farms is still going strong!

Lisa’s reputation for great service and even better quality products also brought her to Greenhearts Family Farms CSA and Jesse Cool of Cool Eats restaurants and catering, where Lisa is providing organic, pasture raised meats & eggs. Lisa recently hosted an event for Greenhearts along with the support of several local farmers such as Claravale Farms, Pinnacle Organics, and Garden Variety Cheese. The goal of the event was to promote Greenhearts CSA program and to bring the community together in the fight for sustainably grown good healthy food for all.

It’s because of Lisa’s growing popularity we have not seen her at the Saturday farm stands. She’s had to focus her time on the land and her animals. We still keep in contact and we still purchase her organic pasture raised chicken. It’s the only chicken my son eats and he loves it!

Lisa hopes to make her way back to the Saturday farm stand and possibly other Farmers Markets but until then her hands are full. One thing I’ve learned from Lisa is that she will not sacrifice quality for the sake of profits and this… is honorable. At the Greenhearts’ event, the guests took a tour of Pasture Chick Ranch’s operation. Unfortunately I was kept back at home base, unable to attend the tour. Lisa promised me a personal tour after things calmed down at the ranch and last week I got the opportunity.

It was an early Friday morning. I arrived at Lisa’s house, 8am sharp with coffee & homemade applesauce scones in hand. I was greeted by Cooper and a very excited Tempie. It was clear to me that I’ve become a fixture at Lisa’s since Cooper now welcomed me with a loving nudge of his ginormous head instead of a demanding loud bark. Lisa was already moving quick, ready to get to the day’s chores. She let the border collies out of their pens. They were immediately ready to work, jumping excitedly into the back of the ATV. We headed up to the main barn, passing by her personal home of chickens, turkeys, and French Alpine goats. Lisa starts her day by letting the dogs shake off the morning sleep and feed the brood of animals that live at home base, such as the cats, dogs, chickens, turkeys, and goats.

The main barn houses the baby chicks who will go out to pasture for either eggs or meat. Over 170 little baby birds peeped wildly as Lisa cleaned their nests and gave them fresh organic feed and clean water supplemented with an organic apple cider vinegar. The chicks will reside in the brooder for roughly three weeks, which houses lights that replicates the mother. Once their first feathers develop they will be moved out to pasture to grow on fresh air, grass, bugs, and sunshine!
Pasture Chick Ranch

After the birds, cats, and home base dogs are cared for, we head back down the hill to grab Emmy the registered French Alpine Goat. The other goats are excited and want to come along but it’s only Emmy who will be providing milk today. Emmy gets milked every morning and typically provides a gallon daily. Lisa explained that the French Alpine milk is mild in taste. She utilizes Emmy’s milk to make cheese and kefir for her family’s consumption. Emmy will be with Lisa’s family for years to come and every year will provide fresh whole goat milk.

After Lisa finishes with Emmy, we lead her back down the hill to her pasture. It’s time to load up the Rhino with the feed for the ranch animals and head out. As we drive along the route to the ranch, Lisa stops along the way to feed the dogs watching over each pasture. Once on the ranch, the border collies’ jump out and run alongside the ATV. We enter the main pasture where everyone is there to greet Lisa, turkeys, chickens, and dogs… everyone is so excited to see her. With slow methodical movements, Lisa makes her way through the flocks, feeding birds and collecting eggs. The animals have been fed and lastly we take a trip along each of the fence lines to fix gates and ensure everything is intact.
Pasture Chick Ranch

Pasture Chick Ranch

Pasture Chick Ranch

The chores are complete and now it’s time for projects. On the surface, Lisa makes it look very easy and fun but it’s so much more than putting some animals in a pasture and letting them roam. Lisa has a huge operation that is 100% dependent on her; it takes money, time, and a lot of care. There are hundreds of feet of fencing to build and maintain, moving a fence line, building or rebuilding a schooner for the birds, making deliveries, receiving deliveries, community/partner projects, the dogs need training, care, and maintenance, the land and grass need maintenance that requires large expensive equipment, hundreds of pounds of food is needed monthly to sustain all of animals along with vet bills and preventative care maintenance, the physical demands are endless lifting heavy bags of feed, fence and animals; from sun up to sun down there is always something for Lisa to do.

There are two things that seem constant at Pasture Chick Ranch and with Lisa Knutson… she won’t give in quality to profit and every animal under her watch is shown respect and care. She honors what the land and the animals provide to us. She is grateful for those who have helped show her the way in this world of agriculture and those that continue to stand by her today. Lisa wants Pasture Chick Ranch to grow naturally… organically.

A small creamery, farm dinners, spinning classes, canning classes, and farm education days are just some of the many possibilities, which are endless for Lisa and the team she is building. Lisa will continue to celebrate generations of farmers by sharing her experiences with others and keeping true to the tradition of real organic, sustainable farming.

And then, there is the reality TV show… but that’s another story…

Thank you to Lisa and her family for opening their doors and hearts to my family and to the community; we appreciate all that you do.

For more information on Lisa Knutson and Pasture Chick Ranch, visit her Facebook page – a website coming very soon!

Pasture Chick Ranch offers pasture raised organic chickens, eggs, turkeys, goat, sheep, Cashmere wool, and Merino wool.

Check out her services provided through Live Earth Farms and Greenhearts Family Farms.

Original post written on October 26th, 2011 by The Sustainable Sweet & Savory Gourmet at site: http://thesustainablesweetandsavorygourmet.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/welcome-to-pasture-chick-ranch-hollister-ca/