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What's wrong with this picture?

Me: I just put a deposit down on some mini sheep!

Sensible Dear Friend: You what?! More animals? Are you crazy?

People say we have our fingers in a lot of pies. I like to say our farm is diverse. Years ago most farms were. All the creatures on our farm play a role in the health of the land. The chickens - even the birds who have ceased to lay eggs - and the guineas, are our pest control patrol. The worst bugs, like grasshoppers are kept in check. They also roam after the goats, eliminating parasites. The goats, not only supply us with amazing milk for cheese making, but also contribue on the back end- or via the back end- you might say, being the major source of fertilizer for grape vines, fruit trees & whatever else we are growing. It's amazing to watch and see what nature is capable of when all the elements are there to play their part. So what is wrong with this picture? Well, it is a large clump of bluebonnets growing right around the base of the grapevine. Bluebonnets are nitrogen fixers. Behind the scenes, they are working hard to convert the goat manure into some great nitrogenous compounds for the grapevine. No Round Up needed round here thank you very much! We don't think there is one darn thing wrong with that picture!

When We Aren't Makin' Mead...

This Memorial Day was the birthday of Blissful Folly Farm. Sharing Rohan Meadery's acreage, Blissful Folly Farm was conceived with lofty goals in mind. We had already started a small vineyard, testing out various wine grape varieties ability to grow in our area, and also had planted about 20 fruit trees & assorted berry bushes, but the end of May marked the arrival of our first animal components.

Do you remember the story, no doubt read to you as a child...perhaps read by you now to your own children...called The Old Woman Who Swallowed the Fly? Well...we had originally moved to our farm from the city with three dogs & a cat. We lost our beloved friend Pecos, a rot & border collie mix, the first fall we were here due to cancer. Soon after we had adopted another dog from the local shelter. See, Sam, our blue heeler was best buds with Pecos...they played till the cows came home...literally. So, he was heartbroken with his friend gone. Our third dog was/is ancient. About 17 years old, hard of hearing, not so great eyesight...not so playful...but still gets around well. Thus, it was decided to adopt another dog from the shelter so Sam wouldn't be so lonely. So, Augie came to live with us. She is of unknown breed. Red, medium haired, she has the stature,  gait & glowing yellow eyes of a coyote, but with the auburn fur of a retriever. She is a sweetheart and a wonderful companion to Sam and our kids.

Well, the chickens were next.....they're easy after all right? I mean, why move out to the country and NOT have chickens? Who does that? So chickens were ordered and picked up and my dad and I built a lovely coop on the side of the yard, and we have lovely fresh eggs. Then the pond started to look a bit scummy. (Note: This is where the children's story kicks in.) We got geese to clean the pond. Coyotes got some of the geese, so we got two miniature donkeys to run off the coyotes. Everyone knows you can't have just one might get lonely. All of a sudden goats sounded like a wonderful idea. I mean we didn't want to cut down any trees in the back for more pasture...wouldn't goats just do so well on all that scrub brush? Let me just tell you here and now, that if acquiring goats ever sounds like a good need to run for it. Go directly to the nearest urban area and park yourself at a coffee shop. Allow a large dose of caffeine and the unclean urban air to clear your head.

So on Memorial Day I drove 3  1/2 hours each way to pick up my first goats. Mini-nubian dairy goats. Goats that think they are, goats that think they are people, and do not understand why they are not allowed inside, not allowed in the car, up on tables, get the idea. I had planned. I had ordered a small sturdy barn that was supposed to be installed weeks before the goats were ready. Family members had been recruited to help with fencing. I had planned. Unfortunately, I had not planned on the barn arriving weeks late, drought rendering the ground unbreakable- I mean rock hard, and mischievous little goats that did not want to be penned up.

So goats are happily penned up in the spacious chicken pen. Hubby's hernia surgery has been scheduled. Score one for the goats. Anybody want to put up some fencing? I'm having a glass of mead!

Spring has Sprung!
It all started with a few bluebonnets popping up in the garden...then, seemlingly overnight, the world was again a flush in numerous shades of green. Spring's arrival means paying even more attention to the orchard, the vineyard and the small garden I tend behind our other words, lots of outdoor work...little time for blogs.

So, in lieu of a longer piece, I offer you this recipe in honor of our new release coming soon - Pear Melomel. Enjoy!

Pear Tart

Note: I use a frozen pie crust, but by all means....make your own from scratch if you've got the time.
Choose 4 medium sized pears. I prefer the d'anjou or bartlett for their crisp taste, but any variety you like will do.
Slice into 1/4 inch pieces, place in bowl & squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the pear slices.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
In a small bowl mix the following: 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 1 tsp. of cinnamon.
Sprinkle the above mixture over the pear slices and make sure each slice is well coated.
Layer the pear slices into the pie shell.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn the over down to 350 and bake for another 40 minutes.
Drizzle the top with lavender honey. (If you don't have some, you really need to get this.....amazing! I love Patience's Imagine Lavender over in Vanderpool...yes Vanderpool...worth the trip!)
In a inch, you can drizzle plain honeyover the top. Cool briefly.....crumbling doesn't out weight hot pie factor and top with a dollop of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla.
Does Mead Have Terroir?

Does Mead Have Terroir?                                                                                                            02/17/11

I believe it does…and it’s all in the honey. Terroir is a wine’s geographic fingerprint. A set of unique characteristics that define the soil and climate of a wine growing region and impart distinctive flavors, textures and aroma to a wine. If mead doesn’t necessarily involve plants grown in the earth itself, what gives it terroir then?  I’ll try and answer that here.

Honey is an amazingly complex substance. Throw in the fact that there are always variations in the weather, and you have the same parcel of land producing honey that is distinctive each and every year.

Melissopalynology is the study of honey’s composition. Honey is comprised of several different sugars – mostly dextrose, levulose, fructose and glucose, and to a smaller extent, maltose and sucrose. It also contains proteins- amino acids, and various vitamins – thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, Vitamin C; and minerals like calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and zinc! Rule of thumb is that the darker the honey is, the more nutrients it contains. And those are just the easily identified components! Now you know why the study of honey has such a complex name! Although it’s the sugars that make honey taste like honey, all the other minor constituents are what gives each variety of honey it’s unique flavor. The bees also introduce components into this picture as they process the nectar into honey. They introduce acids, enzymes, and reduce the water content, which results in honey’s ability to stay unspoiled for long periods of time. And of course, we can’t forget the trace pollen present. Many believe this is what allows honey to alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms. Think of taking local honey for allergies like receiving a vaccination- a light introduction between your body’s immune system and the source of irritation or disease.

So what is the honey’s, for lack of a better term, terroir? I would say it is the bee’s floral source. That nectar supply that contributes those minor, variable, yet amazingly complex and tasty unique honey components. Scientists are still working to figure out all the various components in nectar.

Bees must tap 2 million flowers to make a pound of honey. This generally requires about 10,000 worker bees.

Surely there is no better, nor a more fitting term for honey than liquid gold. Thank you little friends.