Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

From all of us at Fitzgerald's Family Farm!




Loren (Fitz)

The Dogs: 

Daisy May

Candy Cane


The Cats: 



The Pigs: 




The Ducks: 



The Girls

The Horse

Lady Bella Mellini

 The Goats:

Rosie and Violet

The Bees:

The Chickens: 

Foghorn Leghorn

The Flock

May your year be happy and fruitful!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Ham and Potato Soup

We normally feast upon a turkey on Christmas Day.  But this year my mother in law bought us a ham and we decided that ham and turkey would be far too much food for our small gathering.  

The ham was gigantic and I felt a little bit like a Who from Whoville preparing the roast beast as I put it into the oven.  It turned out beautifully.  We coated it with some of our Bourbon Kissed Maple (more about this to come!) in the last part of roasting and it gave the ham a beautiful crust.  

Now, what to do with the abundance of leftovers?  Ham sandwiches, fried ham, put some in the freezer for when we're not tired of ham ham, and ham and potato soup!

This soup turned out absolutely, perfectly scrumptious. Which is no surprise when considering it is made with butter, cream, cheese, and ham.  Just don't eat the whole pot in one sitting! (Though you may want to!)

I think the trick to the soup's creaminess is getting the roux (butter, flour, and milk) very, very well cooked (you don't want a raw flour taste) and stirred until it is very smooth and thick before adding it to the rest of the soup.  

Ham and Potato Soup

3-1/2 cups peeled and diced potatoes
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup peeled and chopped carrots
3/4 cup diced ham
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
3-1/4 cups water
2 Tbs. chicken bouillon granules
(I don't have chicken bouillon granules, so I used about 3 cups of chicken broth and 1/4 cup of water)
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp. pepper
5 Tbs. butter
5 Tbs. flour
2 cups of a combination of milk, condensed milk, half and half, or heavy cream mixtures.
(I used 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of cream)
1 c. grated cheddar cheese

1. Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, carrots, ham, garlic powder, water and bouillon or chicken broth and water, salt and pepper in a large stock pot.  Bring to a boil then simmer over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

2. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Use a whisk and stir in the flour, stirring constantly until thick and very slightly browned, about 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in the milk as to not allow lumps to form until all of the milk is added.  Continue stirring over medium-low heat until thick, about 4-5 minutes.

3. Stir the milk mixture into the stockpot.  Add grated cheese and cook soup until heated through.  Serve immediately.  

Recipe adapted from

You can dress this up with a little bit of parsley, chives, or croutons on top. 

I served the soup with hot cornbread and a fresh green salad - a perfect cold-weather dinner!

Bon Appetit!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Health Benefits of Bees and Honey

A friend posted this and I thought it was a really cute way to show what bees and their honey can do!

Click on "Source" for a larger picture.

I like that honey is shown to enhance sports performance.  I'm looking for a sports drink recipe to replace the nasty ones that the kids order by color at the sports events snack bar.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

News Around The Farm: Bees Good And Turkeys Bad

Good News.

Yesterday we had lovely warm weather and I was happy to see activity around the entrances of all of the hives.  I was really worried about my bees after the very sudden and extensive temperature plummet last week.  The warm temperatures finally gave me a chance to put up the windbreak behind the hives.  The wind blows in that direction about 95% of the time, so hopefully it will give them a break. 

Bad News.

A few days ago, a bobcat got into our new turkey enclosure and killed all of my turkeys.  The sprinkling of snow on the ground clearly identified the culprit as a big cat.  

It was my fault in part that the cat was able to get in.  The dumb turkeys wouldn't go into the very nice house we built for them to roost so that we could close them in at night. They would sit on the ground in the back corner of their pen.  With the snow, I worried about them sitting on the cold ground, so I ran a piece of wood across the corner of their pen as a roost.  I put the wood diagonally through the fence.  What I didn't see, was the gap that the weight of the wood created.  This was the only place the bobcat could have got into their pen and it proved fatal.  

I really liked the turkeys.  They're dumb and not friendly at all, but I found them so very interesting to watch!  I loved listening to the jake's gobbling and the hen's cooing.  I would like to replace them, but if I do, I think they will be kept safely in the barn until spring and then put into a VERY beefed up outside enclosure.  I will probably keep them in their house for a couple of days so that they identify it as a roosting place and then they can be shut in at night. 

What a sad turn of events. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hive Quilt For The Bees

I've seen a number of beekeeper posts about the hive quilt put on top of a beehive and after reading all about it I decided to give it a try.  It seems as if it would help keep moisture out of the hive AND insulate the top a bit.  

The first blog I saw built a brand new box for the quilting box and I know I don't have time to do that before winter set it.  Then I saw this post on Tilly's Nest and it looked do-able!

I gathered my supplies and quickly built the boxes.

I first put fondant and pollen boards on the hives - called candy boards.  

Cooking the sugar water to a hard fondant.

After the candy boards, I put on the hive quilt boxes, filled them with fine wood chips, and made sure the hives had good ventilation.

It will take until spring to find out the effectiveness of this experiment.  

The only chores left are to create a windbreak for the hives.  I've got the t-posts and burlap ready to go and then we'll finally wrap the hives when the temperatures become consistently below freezing. 

I've done all I can for the bees.  Now its up to them and Mother Nature!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

And It Begins.......

The past few weeks have been a rush to get everything before true winter sets in....

Now it begins!

Each of the below chores have a multitude of sub-chores attached to them.  I've listed a few.

I've been caring for the bees
-feeding sugar water
-Combining weak hives
-Making winter "sugar boards"
-Insulating hive tops
-Stacking the unused boxes and frames and mothballing them

Trying to get the high tunnels put to bed
-Pulling out the dead plants
-Pulling and freezing or processing the last of the produce

This was some of the last of the raspberries I picked last week!  
-Fertilizing and mulching the fruit trees

Winterizing the animal pens.
-Dumping loads of mulch in the wet, muddy spots.
-Cleaning out the damp corners and liming the interior
-Airing and drying everything out
-And more, more, more!

Putting an awning over the barn's sliding door.
-Digging the post holes
-Picking up the necessary supplies
-Building the awning
-Putting stones under the door's sliding area

Plus the sugar house work, general clean up, weeding, and mulching, around the place in an attempt to tidy up!  

There are a few more nice days in the forecast.  Cross your fingers that I'll be able to pick off more chores on my long, long list!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Bee Friendly Bombing

Another bee post.   I have bees on the mind lately!

I've been working with my honey bees a lot lately because I'm doing everything I can to help them get through the winter.  

I'm putting up windbreaks, putting insulating boards in the hive cover, making sure they have enough food, making sugar boards, making sure the queens are not honey or pollen bound, checking for mites, and preparing for winter wrapping.  

Although Cascadian Farms is owned by General Mills, a GMO food using company, the message here is still very good. 

3 Ways to help the bees:   

Plant more wildflowers.

Don't use pesticides, herbicides, etc. 

Don't use GMO seeds or plants.  

Saturday, October 11, 2014

I Knew The Bees Were Hard Workers But.....

...I don't think I know it was THIS hard!  

16 oz. is a small one pound jar of honey.  

112, 000 miles is more than three times across the United States.

And 4.5 million flowers?  Look around your yard and neighborhood to find 4.5 million flowers.  

I think I'll appreciate my next dollop of honey into a cup of hot tea much more!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Why A High Tunnel Is Wonderful

I live in north central Pennsylvania and we've had temperatures dipping almost to freezing in the past few days.  

Oct 4

AM Light Rain / Wind
AM Light Rain / Wind
at 12:45 am

at 11:45 pm

And yet, on October 6th, I'm still pulling fresh tomatoes from my (now closed day and night) high tunnel!  

Their texture is not quite as firm as summer tomatoes - but they are still as delicious.  

Maybe even more so because I know how short lived this bounty will be.  Soon it will become a memory only tasted in the homemade spaghetti sauce I've canned.  

And I'll be seeing this...

...until next year's summer harvest.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

I REALLY Hate Round Up!

This is what a field that has been sprayed with glyphosate (also known as Round Up) looks like.  

See the healthy green grass and weeds on the edges?  That's what this field looked like a few days ago. Next spring there will probably be green beans - green beans destined for the dinner plate - planted in this field.  

What's wrong with Round Up?

This article from Earth We Are One tells all about it.  

By Dr. Mercola
The first report was recently issued on ambient levels of glyphosate and its major degradation product, aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), in air and rain. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the U.S.
Weekly air particle and rain samples were collected during two growing seasons in agricultural areas in Mississippi and Iowa. Rain was also collected in Indiana. The frequency of glyphosate detection ranged from 60 to 100 percent in both air and rain.
According to the report, as linked on the website Green Med Info:
“The frequency of detection and median and maximum concentrations of glyphosate in air were similar or greater to those of the other high-use herbicides observed in the Mississippi River basin, whereas its concentration in rain was greater than the other herbicides.”

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

I’ve often said that chemical exposure in our environment is a pervasive threat, and the report of the herbicide glyphosate being detected in 60 to100 percent of air and rain samples is a perfect illustration of this sad truth.
Evidence now clearly shows that glyphosate is devastating crops, animal and human health around the world, even when the exposure is restricted to residues leftover in the soil. Clearly, its presence in air and rain water can only add to its destructive force.

Glyphosate—The World’s Most Popular Herbicide…

Genetically engineered crops have vastly increased the use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s nonselective broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup, and this product alone is now wreaking unimaginable havoc in our environment. According to Jeffrey Smith with the Institute for Responsible Technology, by 2004 farmers used an estimated 86 percent more herbicides on GM soy fields compared to non-GM fields.
So-called “Roundup Ready” soybean, cotton and corn crops became exceedingly popular because it allows farmers to spray Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide directly onto their fields without harming the crops. Ordinarily, if you were to spray Roundup, or any other glyphosate-based herbicide, onto a plant, it would rapidly die.
Since the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) stopped updating its pesticide use database in 2008, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to estimate how much glyphosate is actually used in the US, but the following 2006-2007 market usage estimates were reported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this year:
  • Agricultural market used 180 to 185 million pounds of glyphosate
  • Home and garden market: 5 to 8 million pounds
  • Industry, commerce and government: 13 to 15 million pounds

Ambient Levels of Glyphosate in Air and Rain

The results of the first report on the ambient levels of glyphosate and AMPA in air and rain water were published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in March. The samples were collected during two growing seasons in Mississippi and Iowa.  Glyphosate was detected in 60 to 100 percent of all air and rain samples. The following concentration ranges of glyphosate were found:
  • Air: 0.01 to 9.1 ng/m
  • Rain: 0.1 to 2.5 µg/L
According to the authors:
“It is not known what percentage of the applied glyphosate is introduced into the air, but it was estimated that up to 0.7 percent of application is removed from the air in rainfall. Glyphosate is efficiently removed from the air; it is estimated that an average of 97 percent of the glyphosate in the air is removed by a weekly rainfall ≥ 30 mm.”

The Environmental Dangers of Glyphosate

A couple of years ago, a French court found Monsanto guilty of falsely advertising its herbicide as “biodegradable,” “environmentally friendly” and claiming it “left the soil clean.” The truth is that Roundup is anything BUT environmentally friendly. Monsanto’s own tests showed that only two percent of the herbicide broke down after 28 days, which means it readily persists in the environment!
Glyphosate is the most commonly reported cause of pesticide illness among landscape maintenance workers in California, and researchers have now linked it to Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS), a serious plant disease, in many fields around the world. Numerous studies have also shown that glyphosate is contributing not only to the huge increase in SDS, but also to the outbreak of some 40 different plant and crop diseases! It weakens plants and promotes disease in a number of ways, including:
  • Acting as a chelator of vital nutrients, depriving plants of the nutrients necessary for healthy plant function
  • Destroying beneficial soil organisms that suppress disease-causing organisms and help plants absorb nutrients
  • Interfering with photosynthesis, reducing water use efficiency, shortening root systems and causing plants to release sugars, which changes soil pH
  • Stunting and weakening plant growth
The herbicide doesn’t destroy plants directly; instead, it creates a unique “perfect storm” of conditions that activates disease-causing organisms in the soil, while at the same time wiping out plant defenses against those diseases. So the glyphosate not only weakens plants, it actually changes the makeup of the soil andboosts the number of disease-causing organisms, which is becoming a deadly recipe for crops around the globe… A report from 1998 by the Environmental Monitoring & Pest Management Department of Pesticide Regulation on the environmental fate of glyphosate states that:
“Aerial drift of the herbicide will cause injury to nontarget plants… Minute quantities of mist, drip, drift or splash of glyphosate onto nontarget vegetation can cause severe damage or destruction to the plants or other areas on which treatment was not intended.”
So, what exactly is being done to vegetation everywhere, now that both air and rain is clearly contaminated with glyphosate?

Potential Health Hazards of Glyphosate

Usually, whatever toxins lurk in the environment has a tendency to find its way into animals’ bellies and onto your dinner plate, and this holds true for glyphosate as well. Some of the fungi promoted by glyphosate produce dangerous toxins that can end up in the food supply. Some of these have been linked to human toxicosis in Eastern Europe, esophageal cancer in southern Africa and parts of China, joint diseases in Asia and southern Africa, and a blood disorder in Russia.
  • Glyphosate is suspected of causing genetic damage, infertility and cancer.
  • It is also acutely toxic to fish and birds and can kill beneficial insects and soil organisms that maintain ecological balance.
  • Laboratory studies have identified adverse effects of glyphosate-containing products in all standard categories of toxicological testing. In one animal study, rats given 1,000 mg/kg of glyphosate resulted in a 50 percent mortality rate, and skeletal alterations were observed in over 57 percent of fetuses!
  • The surfactant ingredient in Roundup is more acutely toxic than glyphosate itself, and the combination of the two is even more toxic.
A recent report from Earth Open Source has also revealed that Roundup herbicide not only causes birth defects, but that industry regulators have known this for years and did nothing about it. After reviewing industry studies and regulatory documents used to approve Roundup, they noted:
  • Industry (including Monsanto) has known since the 1980s that glyphosate causes malformations in experimental animals at high doses
  • Industry has known since 1993 that these effects could also occur at lower and mid doses
  • The German government has known since at least 1998 that glyphosate causes malformations
The EU Commission’s expert scientific review panel knew in 1999 — and the EU Commission has known since 2002 – that glyphosate causes malformations

What Do We Know about AMPA?

Aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) is a byproduct of the degradation of glyphosate, and no one seems to know what the full environmental- and health impacts might be from this synthetic metabolite. However, according to a2008 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, AMPA is phytotoxic to plant species, although it’s less active than glyphosate. And the British Pesticide Properties DataBase (PPDB) lists it as being moderately toxic to fish, aquatic invertebrates and algae, and cites “probable liver and kidney toxicant” as a known human health issue.
Aside from those few nuggets, toxicology and safety data is glaringly absent.
This could spell trouble, depending on what the truth is about the health impact of this metabolite, as a previous report by the US Geological Survey, issued in 2007, found that AMPA was detected more frequently than glyphosate, and occurred at similar or higher concentrations than the parent compound.

Genetically Modified Crops May Contain Toxic Roundup Residues

It’s widely known that genetically modified (GM) Roundup Ready crops contain Roundup residues, and a 2009 study demonstrated just how toxic these residues may be to your health…  Even when researchers tested formulations of Roundup that were highly diluted (up to 100,000 times or more) on human cells, the cells died within 24 hours!
They also found damage to cell membranes and DNA, along with an inhibition of cell respiration. Further, the researchers discovered that the mixture of components used as Roundup adjuvants actually amplified the action of the glyphosate. The researchers wrote:
“This work clearly confirms that the adjuvants in Roundup formulations are not inert. Moreover, the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death around residual levels to be expected, especially in food and feed derived from Roundup formulation-treated crops.”
Although Roundup isn’t used exclusively on genetically modified (GM) crops, these crops are some of the most prevalent in the US diet. So to drastically reduce your exposure, avoiding GM foods would be an obvious starting point.

How Do You Know if You’re Eating GM Foods?

According to the latest US Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics, about 88 percent of all corn,  90 percent of all canola, and 94 percent all soy grown in the United States is genetically modified in one way or another (not all are the Roundup Ready variety), which means that virtually every processed food you encounter at your local supermarket that does not bear the “USDA Organic” label will contain one or more GM components.
Therefore, if you want to avoid GM foods (which have a variety of inherent health dangers over and above the hazards of Roundup residues), you’ll want to, first and foremost, avoid most processed foods, unless it’s labeled USDA 100% Organic.  You can also avoid GM foods that are not found in processed foods, if you know what to look for. There are currently eight genetically modified food crops on the market:
SoySugar from sugar beets
CornHawaiian papaya
Cottonseed (used in vegetable cooking oils)Some varieties of zucchini
Canola (canola oil)Crookneck squash

More Tips on How to Decrease Your Exposure to Glyphosate

The potential health ramifications of these world-wide experiments with our food supply, using genetic engineering and vast amounts of toxic chemicals, are frightening to say the least. If you care about the health and future of your family, I strongly urge you to refuse to participate in this destructive trend.
In your own home, you can:
  1. Avoid using glyphosate-containing weed killers on your lawn and garden, and
  2. Buy organic foods to avoid both genetically modified crops and agricultural chemicals like glyphosate
The True Food Shopping Guide is a great tool for helping you determine which food brands and products contain GM ingredients. It lists 20 different food categories that include everything from baby food to chocolate.
The simplest way to avoid GM foods however, is to buy whole, certified organic foods. By definition, foods that are certified organic must be free from all GM organisms, produced without artificial pesticides and fertilizers and from an animal reared without the routine use of antibiotics, growth promoters or other drugs. Additionally, grass-fed beef will not have been fed GM corn feed.

As I said, I REALLY hate Round Up!