Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The fall has begun

Well, it is fall and my goal and hopes to inspire others with gardening info... well it did not happen. It has been a very busy year for us here on Emtoca Farm. I have lots of photos of the garden this year. We tilled an entire new section and tried some great new varieties.
We used the raised beds as in the past, but also added a large area for tomatoes and corn.

This is my VOLUNTEER squash patch that self seeded right out of the compost pile. I had to find a new place to pile my compostables.
Here are the goats.. Cleaning up the mess from the season of bountiful harvests.

I will need to work on getting some more info put in... Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 2, 2011


As a family, we have done many things over the years. 3 years ago we bought a house in MExico NY and declared. WE ARE NEVER MOVING AGAIN. This was it, our homestead to retire on. We have put a lot of sweat into this little peace of land. We have built 2 barns, created a 1500 sq ft garden space and reclained at least 1/3 of the land that was scrub and weeds. We planted fruit trees and flower bulbs... But in God's Timing, and for God's plan, we are moving back to CT. William R Carr passed to be with the Lord in April of this year. My mother in law, whom I love and admire, is a very stong capable woman. The dilema arises when one realizes just how much MANLY stuff Bill occupied himself with between 2 homesteads. If he was not mowing the grass, or brush hoging the field, or fixing this, tinkering with that. He kept 2 households in repaired and brought in wood for the winter.  He is very much missed.  We will be relocating to the family farm, to pick up all the THINGS that need to be done. I personally am thrilled to be back near my family and am excited for the adventures to come.
So stay tuned. I am sure this move will be with many worthy tales to be told. Have the meffords ever done anything that did NOT result in a story to be told by TOM.... So stayed tuned.... ........

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Soap Making Blues

Oh the joys of learning to make soap. My journey began last summer. I had a friend who sells soap and I LOVE her soap! It is creamy, smells good and lasts quite a while. Having pondered soap making before, i decided it was time to try my hand at it. How hard can it be really? Oh how little I understood. Making soap is like baking bread, or making cheese, or painting. When you start you keep it simple, and then experiment from there. SO I bought a book that had pictures for each and every step. I got my gloves, goggles, and all the other safety stuff. But I was scared to death of the lye. In fact my first batch I made barefoot. BIG MISTAKE. I glob of liquid slipped to the floor and landed on my foot. I did not really notice, until my foot started to have a burning sensation. OPPPS. I panicked and over reacted as usual. My dear husband, bless his heart, had read that vinegar counteracts the lye... I think he saved my life. (LOL). Some how I missed that note.
So Meticulously I followed the directions. I weighed everything, measured, oh heavens I was over cautious. After about 3 hours I had my first batch in the mold. WOW... I was not sure this was for me. The killer is that you really don't know what you have until 3 weeks from when you make your batch. SO 3 weeks later I had made several more batches and all were curing on window sills, pantry shelves, or where ever I could find. I even gave some away!. Once I started using my 100 percent vegetable oil soaps all made from this one recipe, I found out I did not like the soap! REALLY... it dissolved pretty fast in the shower and formed a goo on the counter where it rested. Most of the bars smelled wonderful, and they would get you clean, but I needed to go back to the drawing board. So I tried a different recipe this time which included beef tallow. Others had said it made a harder bar, and my soap making friend used it. I went scouring for a recipe and found one in my goat products book. I had only recently started using goat milk as a liquid.. that is another entire story!
So I found a castille soap that is mostly olive oil and some beef tallow and coconut oil. I made an 8 lb batch. DO you know how much soap that makes??? We are still using it 5 months later... Which is fine, if you like the soap. Again, it had problems. The soap turned out very hard, and I felt like the Lye amount was really high. Being a novice I really have no clue. I made three fragrances of this 8 lb batch. I have Irish Tweed, a divine scent for men, Clean Cotton, which was really strong and is better as an air freshener than as soap, and Madagascar Vanilla, a wonderful warm tropic vanilla scent. The bars were oddly shaped, but fragranced well. After waiting 3 weeks.. I finally tried them. Hmmm. The soap was hard and slimy. Not gooey, but slimy like having bleach or oil on your hands. I didn't like that at all. Of course I had already given bunches away based on looks and smell alone. I finally finished my first bar of Clean Cotton when I tried the Madagascar vanilla which looked like chunks of fudge. To my horror, upon using the first bar, i noticed that it ran... it looked like melting chocolate running down the side of the bathtub!
I was pretty defeated at this point. Frustrated that each batch posed it's own set of problems. Between scent, molds, goat milk, and colorants I was fit to be tied.


I joined a few Yahoo groups hoping to find someone to help me. I knew there is something I was not getting and the books were not helping me. I would scour recipes for soap and not understand why they used the ingredients they did.. or how do you know how much lye or water to use. I could not continue making batches of soap that I did not like and would not use. SO I began asking questions and I am here to tell you... I have more knowledge and feel much more confident.  I decided to stick with Lard and Tallow based soaps. They make a harder bar and I can get tallow free. *(Thank you my dear hubby) I also missed the lather in the last batch so i wanted coconut oil in my soap. After reading and playing around with the soap calculator recommended by one member, I came up with a recipe that I think will be fantastic.

It is 7pm. I just finished making a 4 lb batch of Tallow, Lard, Coconut, Olive, and Castor oil soap. I selected 3 fragrances and decided to use some goats milk in the soap. Everything is prepped and the soap making begins. In hind sight it all went really smooth. UNTIL I poured it into my molds. I am using PVC gutter downspout material since I like the way it shapes the bars. I carefully duct taped the bottoms after attaching parchment paper.. the 3 tubes were positioned in a 5 gallon bucket waiting to be filled. SO I poured, tapped, poured the next, tapped, poured the last,.. OPPS not enough room... tapped the bucket on the counter to remove air.. AH more room.. There it all fit... THEN the horror! The duck tape had let loose and the bottom of my bucket is filled with 3 scents of soap.. all swirling around and intermingling every time I rapped the bucket. Deflated does not begin to express how I felt when I realized what had happened. Defeated again... The good news, is regardless of how strange the soap may end up looking or smelling.. it will still be soap that a person, our family, can and will use. So I did not waste my time entirely, but I learned yet ANOTHER lesson in soap making. Mr Edison made many failed attempts before he invented the light bulb... Some day I will arrive with enough botched batches of soap being made and finally have it all figured out. At least I hope that is how the story turns out!

Good day and Good night!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Goats... so much to learn

It is a cold and very WINDY day here at EmToCa farm. We were blessed with our second set of goat babies this year. Our doe Lucy gave birth around 6pm yesterday. Except for the weather being so cold, everything seems to be just fine. It just simply amazes me to see a mama goat who knows just what needs to be done. I had read in an article that after a doe gives birth that a nice bucket of warm water with molasses in it would be greatfully accepted. This is so true. My doe was all done getting the kids cleaned up and she had a full bucket of clean water and feed if she wanted it. However when I arrived with that warm bucket of sweet water, you could almost hear the sigh of satisfaction as she sucked it all down. I guess it is my way of comforting her for all the hard work.
  So far both babies, of which we are not set on names yet, are doing just fine. We keep checking on them with this cold weather to be sure they are warm enough and getting milk.

My neighbor has not been so lucky. He had a sanaan doe that had triplets. All three babies have now died and mama is in dire straights. The thing about owning goats is that if you come into it as a novice, you soon become very knoweldgebale. Things that you thought would not happen often do and it sends one scrambling for information. I am so blessed to have a husband to keep me grounded and level headed. I hear myself talking about goat items and think to myself, WOW, I guess you have learned a thing or two. Not to say that I am an expert.. Oh far from it. But I do the best I can, pray for wisdom and leave the rest in God's hands.

We are so lucky to live in the times that we do. 20 years ago the internet what not there for information. If you did not have a book on hand, or a knowledgeable neighbor or friend you were stuck. But with the internet you can search, research, ask others questions, learn from other's mistakes and have information at your fingertips that was not available before. Personally I am very thankful. I can order goat books, supplies, ask advice all without leaving my warm cozy house. Life is good.

On a seperate note, our first Goat baby named Logan went to live with is new parents. It was a bittersweet parting. I miss the clip clop across the floor and the sight of a baby goat jumping on the couch.. ( I am a pretty tolerant person)... but thankfully he went to a wonderful family where I know he will receive lots of love an affection. I think that made the parting easier. Luke is still here with us, waiting to go to CT to live with family. My children are thrilled with that idea. They can go visit and see an animal they know.

Well, I need to get back to the farm and check on he new babies. Thanks for stopping by to read. Hope to see you soon.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Well the anticipated day finally arrived! We have baby goats. Wow.. I got myself so worked up for the blessed day by reading everything I could about goats having babies. What amazed me was that depending on who the author is, the procedure can be anything from Hands off, to VERY HANDS ON! To vaccinate or not, bottle feeding, kid care.. My head began to spin and I became very nervous that I would not be ready for the day there were born.  My husband, the seasoned farmer in the family was so patient to put up with all my questions, all my nervousness and worry. In the end, I did worry a lot over nothing. When the day arrived, and I checked EVERY day for 4 days straight before she was REALLY ready to have her babies, I was not even home! I went to the feed store to get some straw, since I was pretty confident that today was going to be THE DAY!. My phone rang, and my daughter says,"We have 2 babies!".... I was only 10 minutes away and I missed it!
In the end the mama did everything she needed to do. We helped clean up, and offered her some greatly appreciated nurishment once the kidding was all over. Our WILD doe became very gentle and allowed us to get the pen cleaned up, and help dry off her babies. A week later, she is back to her old self and decided that she only wanted one of the 2 babies. We are bottle feeding the rejected one in the house and learning how cute baby goats can be!
Our hopes were to end up with a Nigerian/Pygmy doe, but we ended up with 2 bucks.

As I look back over this past week, I still shake my head at all the information out there in books and on the internet that tell you THEIR WAY IS BEST. So far we are navigating though and doing just fine. 

The good news is that one buck is already sold, and we have had interest in the other.  I am not sure if the human kids in our family will be ready for the bitter sweet parting of selling the little guys. We do not have room to keep every baby born on EmToCa farm, so go they must.
Here are some pictures:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

SEEDS - Not created equal~

I was at the local Feed store today and to my delight there before me was a rack of garden seeds. I happened to have a 10% off my entire purchase coupon, and I just recently finished my WISH list of seeds for this years garden.  I had gone so far as to price several different suppliers of heirloom seeds in an attempt to spend as little for seeds as I could. So, here I stood.. OH LOOK! There were several varieties I had wanted to order. I quickly put them in my cart, but the packet did not seem to contain a lot, so I put a second packet in my cart. I even happened to learn something from a fellow shopper who shared some wise gardening wisdom with me! OH I LOVE to talk to other gardeners, you can learn so much. Like, why my pickles may have turned out mussy. This was a mystery to me up to this point, and I was going to forgo dill pickle making this year.  It turns out that the burpless cucumbers are, in this womans opinion, not the best for canning. So I asked her what she used and bought those. You see I tried to make dill pickles,.. I was SOOO frustrated when some jars were laced with smushy pickles, and some were fine. I had not thought that the cucumbers I used were some burpless, and some regualr. HMM.
OK, back to my original thought process. I brought my seeds home to log into my excel spread sheet of seeds. (yes I tend to be OCD with my garden records) It was then that I noticed. These seed packets , that were about 1/2 the price of those from other companies online, were containing a lot less seeds! I get annoyed buying toilet paper when all the companies vary thier pack sizes and sheets so to make a nightmare trying to figure out which is ACTUALLY the least expensive. I am aware that yogurt companies made their containers smaller while leaving their prices the same. The same goes with TUNA, have you noticed the cans are now 5 oz not 6? I sure have noticed. But for some strange reason, my brain dissconnected when I saw the seeds and I forgot about that marketing ploy.  So yes I still saved money by not paying to have these seeds shipped. I plan to save a lot of seeds this year, but I am now much more aware of why seeds are cheaper at some locations. The pack size and number of seeds in each packet are less. DUH! Still frustrating though, that the sizes are not at all uniform from company to company.

My head now hurts, so I am putting my seeds away for a few days.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

John 3:16 have you read it lately?

EmToCa farm is our family Homestead. EMmy, TOmmy, and CAmmy are our three children who are learning to run the farm so that they can learn valuable life skills and hopefully earn some college money in the process. As a home school family our farm is our greatest extracurricular experience.  We are very active in our church, 4-H and in our community. Any purchases made through our farm, help to fund new projects and future education. We love to teach others as we learn a skill ourselves. Keep coming back to see what the kids have posted, or what our latest project may be.

Questions are welcomed and will certainly be answered! We hope to offer classes for others to learn gardening, soap making, maple syrup production, and so much more!

How did it all begin you might ask?

If you come over for a visit, you will find we have many bookcases. Over the years Tom and I have read a lot of books and tried many projects. Sometimes we like the outcome, sometimes we admit defeat.  It started years ago when we were driving truck and did not yet have a family. Tom took a coorespondance course while we were driving to learn how to repair small engines. I guess we have always been looking for the next challange to see if we can tackle it. As truck drivers, you end up with down time in the oddest places. We just LOVE to learn new things.
Once we finally settled down, bought a house and began raising a family, I guess we never stopped adding new skills. I began compact gardening in Oakland Nebraska.. I got a LOT of strange comments from neighbors who could not wrap their minds around why anyone would compact garden in the wide open spaces of Nebraska. But it was there that I learned so much about how to spend less time weeding, and more time harvesting and canning. a 4' X8' raised bed garden could turn out an amazing amount of tomatoes, beans and lettuce. (even if all that farmers told me I planted things too close).

Over the years we have aquired many skills. We moved from Nebraska and for many years we rented and could not pursue the things we really wanted to. Now we are in NY and have just enough land to tinker, but not too much to overwhelm us.

Thank you for stopping by, we will be updating as often as we can.

May God bless you and your family!