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How old is that tomato in your hand at the local super market? A few days? A week? How long until it will begin rotting once you get it home? What types of pesticides were used on the crop? All of these questions are impossible to answer as a shopper looks at produce from their local grocery store. The only way to know for sure how it was grown is to get it straight from the farm. But is that a reality for shoppers living in cities, even the suburbs? Well maybe it is with your very own community supported agriculture (CSA).

Community supported agriculture is not a new idea of course, but it is gaining in popularity with people living in such places as they become more vigilant about the foods they eat. Plus, with the affordability of online communication such as websites for farms, and emailing to send out crop lists and delivery times, running a CSA is easier than ever for everyone’s participation.

Just like buying shares in a company, community supported agriculture allows families to buy shares of your farm crop for a season. Now, this doesn’t mean a share of the entire crop a farm grows, but rather CSA farms have set fields or rows dedicated to CSA crop yields. Shares range based on the number of people you expect to feed.

Each week the CSA farm designates a variety of vegetables and fruits as a share. For example, one week in spring for a farm in the Southeastern United States a share could include various amounts of beans, carrots, beets, corn, strawberries, peas, squash, lettuce and greens, cabbage, tomatoes, and turnips. Once you set the amount of produce one share equals for the week, families receive produce amounts based on the number of shares purchased.

CSA is not without risks. Families buying shares will not get a refund even if poor weather or other problems affect the CSA crop yield. But as we know the chances of not getting anything are very slim. And let’s face it, shoppers are not protected from poor weather conditions or crop blights at the grocery store either. So when adverse growing conditions affect regions, the prices on produce at the local grocery store increase accordingly. (Something to think about, right?)

Delivery of CSA produce is handled differently by each farm. You might elect to have share buyers pick up the produce at your location, or at a centralized location between the farm and urban living areas. Many CSA’s are managed in a grass roots style, so families can also arrange to “carpool” the vegetables with other CSA participants and switch off pick up weeks. A rarer option is personalized delivery of CSA produce, but that usually comes with an extra cost.

A final benefit of your own CSA is in bringing the family to the farm. CSA farmers are glad to show families where the crops are grown and teach children how their favorite vegetables and fruit go from seeds to snacks. And there might be ‘pick your own’ days where CSA participants can bring containers and pick strawberries or beans directly from the fields.

Participating in a CSA helps farmers and urban families have more control over the environment. You are helping to cut down on the amount of produce shipped by truck (usually across the country) and helping to better protect the earth. People feel good about their part in it, by supporting a local farm they know they’re buying fresh produce free of pesticides and artificial enhancements, and reducing green house gas emissions. When they participate in a community supported agriculture program they can save money on produce, and bring the freshest food home to their family’s table.

Find CSA information and opportunities in your area: Resources For Women Who Want To Farm

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Natural Recipes for Your Homestead Livestock

If I have a choice between using something natural or some chemically laden commercial product, I’m always going to go for the natural one, even if it means that I have to make it myself! To me, natural products are more enjoyable to use. They usually smell better, taste better, and just plain work better!

So, we try to keep everything as natural as possible here on our homestead, and that includes the livestock. Over the years, I have tried more recipes than I can count. Some of them have been amazing, but just as many of them are total flops. These are some of my all-time favorite, tried and true recipes that I come back to time and time again.

Pill Pockets for Goats

Have you ever had to give a pill to a goat? I have and let me tell you it’s not easy! Before I came up with this recipe for pill pockets for the goats (it would work for cows and horses, too!) I used to use a pill gun. The goats learned pretty darn quick what that pill gun was for and just catching them to give them the pill was a challenge, much less getting it down their throat

These pill pockets couldn’t be easier to make. All you need are 3 ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen.

All natural, creamy peanut butter
Blackstrap molasses
Cornmeal (Any whole grain flour that you have on hand will work.)

To make the pill pockets, simply combine equal parts of all three ingredients in a bowl and mix it with your hands until a soft dough forms. Take about a tablespoon of dough from the bowl and roll it between your palms to form a ball. Now, just stick the pill inside and close the dough over it. Easy peasy!

You can store any extra dough in the refrigerator for a few days, but let it warm up on the counter before you make the balls, otherwise it might be too stiff to get the pill in there.

Homemade Fly Spray

I hate seeing the goats go crazy from all the flies in the summer time, but I hate commercial fly sprays. This homemade fly spray smells so good, it works great, and it keeps gnats away, too.

1 cup Light Olive Oil
1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 teaspoon Citronella Essential Oil
1 teaspoon Eucalyptus Essential Oil
1 teaspoon Lemongrass Essential Oil

Combine all the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake it up. You can safely use this spray directly on your animals and you can spray it around their housing, too. Just make sure you shake it up good each time because the ingredients will separate.

Homemade Teat Dip/Spray for Goats and Cows

I use teat dip on my girls after every milking to help prevent mastitis. I keep my milking area as clean as possible and I wash udders carefully before milking. I also use this in a spray bottle to disinfect my own hands before I start milking. In the 20 plus years I’ve been milking, I’ve only had one case of mastitis.

½ cup Water
½ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
15 drops Tea Tree Oil
15 drops Lavender Oil

You can double this recipe if you have a lot of girls to milk, but this amount is good for about a week with my two girls. I spray it on from a spray bottle, but you could put it in a little cup and dip the teats into it instead. I try to give it enough time to dry before I let the girls lay down to make sure it has time to work.

Homemade Bag Balm

If you make this balm, you will probably find yourself using it for your own hands, skin irritations on you and the animals, and on udders after milking. It’s just that good! I use it on my girls all winter long to keep their udders from getting chapped due to the cold. You should give the teat dip time to dry before you apply this if you’re using them both.

½ cup Coconut Oil
¼ cup Olive Oil
¼ cup Beeswax
1 cup Shea Butter
½ teaspoon Vitamin E Oil
10 drops Lavender Essential Oil
5 drops Tee Tree Essential Oil

Melt the coconut oil, olive oil, beeswax, and shea butter in the top of a double boiler over medium heat. Add in the vitamin E oil and the essential oil after everything else is melted, mix thoroughly, and remove from the heat.
Pour the mixture into ½ pint canning jars that have been heated in boiling water to prevent them from breaking. It will take about 2-3 hours at room temperature for the oils to solidify into a balm.

Homemade Goat Treats

Do you have a goat that’s stubborn about getting onto the milk stand? I would be willing to bet she will run you over trying to get to the milk stand for one of these treats!

2 tablespoons Coconut Oil
2 ½ Cups Old Fashioned Oatmeal
1 cup Molasses
1 large Carrot, grated
1 large Apple, grated

Combine everything in a big bowl and mix it well. Press the mixture into a greased baking pan and bake at 400 ° until they start to get crispy. It usually takes about 35 minutes in my oven. Allow the treats to cool and then break or cut up into bite sized pieces.

Homemade Treat Block for Chickens

I make these for my chickens in the winter time to help keep them entertained. I make them in the small, disposable foil loaf pans. If you put a hole through them with a bamboo skewer before you bake them, you can hang them up in the coop with a piece of floral wire.

2 cups Scratch Grains or Cracked Corn
1 cup Oatmeal
½ cup Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
½ cup Dried Mealworms
½ cup Cornmeal
3 Eggs (I crush up the shells and include them in the mixture.)
½ cup Blackstrap Molasses
½ cup Liquified Coconut Oil
½ teaspoon Cayenne pepper (Cayenne is good for warming the body. You can leave it out if you make these in the summer.)

Preheat your oven to 325°. Combine and mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the wet ingredients and stir until everything is mixed well. Pat the mixture into your loaf pans. I like to make the blocks about 2 or 3” thick. Bake them in the oven until they start to harden. For the size block I make, it takes about 30 minutes.

Making these recipes for your animals is fun and rewarding! Let us know if you give them a try!

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