Gravel Road Farm Greenhouse Kickstarter Fund

2014-12-21 16.00.34UPDATE! We were successfully funded on February 7th, 2015! We are thrilled with the outcome of our campaign, and thankful for all the support.

We’ve created a Kickstarter campaign to fund our greenhouse.  As you can see in the above photo, we’ve already pounded in the ground posts, and built the framing, but need your help in order to purchase the rest of the materials.  Here is the list of things we need in order to have a functioning greenhouse:

Plastic greenhouse film to cover the whole building 523

Endwalls made of polycarbonate $1510

Wooden Baseboards, from untreated wood, likely cedar, $400

Insulated Doors, Roll up and Person sized $1750

Heating System $1775

Ventilation Exhaust Fans $855

We are offering some fresh food incentives from our farm, and some great rewards for anyone who is farther away.  Go to This link and help fund us and you too, can be a part of the positive community that surrounds and resonates from this farm.


Gravel Road Farm Holiday Gift Guide

Looking to support local food networks and accomplish gift giving as well?  Our small farm offers a couple of green and healthy gifts for the local foodie on your list, or anyone who appreciates small family farms.

1. Gift Cards  Our paper punch cards are available in two denominations, $25, and $50.  They are good for the 2016 season at our market stand.  If you would like to purchase one of these cards for someone this holiday, we will have them available at the Waupaca Saturday Winter Farm Market on December 12 & 19th, located in the lobby of the library/city hall.  Or you may also make arrangements to pick them up at our farm, or have them mailed to you directly.   Just email us at, phone 715-281-0812, call or text.

2. CSA membership   If you are interested in buying a CSA membership for someone, please contact us directly about this option.  Our 2016 CSA information will be ready after the first of the new year.  Our CSA membership is a weekly or bi-weekly box of vegetables delivered to a local drop site, or for pick up at our farm.  Each week we fill our wooden crates with the best produce that is in season. Here is a long list of everything that we grow on our farm.

3. Wool   We have bundles of wool batting for spinning, or fiber fill, or needle felting, or other crafts.  We also have queen sized quilt battings.  All of our wool is from our small flock of California Red Sheep, it is a natural cream color, with red and grey hairs mixed in. All of our wool is $20/lb.


Join Our Newsletter!

If you haven’t already signed up for our email list, please take the time to sign up here. We send out weekly farm news on Thursday or Friday, detailing all the items we hope to have at the Saturday market. It is a good way to know if you want to special order anything if you can’t get to the market right away in the morning.

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Dill Pickles, 2 Day

20140727_112734I’ve made lots of pickles.  I’ve tried all sorts of recipes, but I end up going back to this one.  It says ‘2 Day’ in the title, because there is an important step included that I think makes a difference in the quality of the pickles.  Before you do any canning, you put the cucumbers in large crock, or stainless steel pot, and chill them down with water and ice, and salt for half a day.  If you can’t do the presoak, I find that making pickles with the freshest cukes you can get is the best way to have good tasting crisp results. Get nice firm ones, not too over ripe, maybe with a little texture on them still.  Different sizes are good, so you have some for pints, and some for quarts, and some for spears and some for slices.

Gravel Road Farm Dill Pickles, 2 Day

(Adapted From Balls Complete Book of Home Preserving)

8-10 pounds cucumbers (trim the ends, or not)
16 ice cubes
1 1/4 cups canning salt
6 cups apple cider vinegar (or you can use white)
12 cups water
2 tbsp pickling spice (I make my own, but anyone can buy this at a grocery)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (don’t skip this ingredient)
7 tsp. mustard seeds (red or yellow both are good)
10 fresh dill heads, or 7 tbsp chopped dill weed (I use a combo)
14 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

This recipe will yield approximately 7 quarts or 14 pints

1. In a large clean crock, glass or stainless steel container, layer cucumbers and ice.
2. In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, dissolve 1/2 cup of the pickling salt in 4 cups of the water. Pour over the cucumbers and add cold water to cover the cucumbers, if necessary. Place a large clean inverted plate in on top of the cucumbers and weigh down with two or three quart jars, filled with water and capped. Refrigerate, or let stand in a a cool place) for at least 6 hours, but no more than 12 hours.

1. Prepare canner, jars and lids: Wash jars, lids and rings with HOT soapy water, rinse and put jars and lids in large canning pot.  Fill pot with water half way up if you are using quart jars and turn heat on to medium.   (Do you have hard water?  Add a tablespoon of vinegar to the canning water to prevent sediment on the outside of your jars.) Let the jars simmer, you will want them relatively hot when you fill them with cucumbers, and the hot liquid.

2. Tie pickling spice in a square of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag.
3. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine remaining 8 cups of water, vinegar, remaining 3/4 cups pickling salt, sugar and spice bag. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently for 15 minutes, until spices have infused the liquid.
4. Transfer cucumbers to a colander placed over a sink and drain. Rinse with cool running water and drain thoroughly. Slice, or spear, or leave them whole, then pack cucumbers in jars to within a generous 1/2 inch of top of jar.  Add 1 tsp of mustard seeds, 1 fresh dill head, or 1 tbsp of chopped dill, and 1-2 cloves of garlic into each hot jar. Ladle hot pickling liquid into each hot jar to cover cucumbers leaving 1/2 inch head space, if necessary, by adding more hot pickling liquid. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
5. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes for pints, 15 minutes for quarts. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool, and store.

6. Don’t forget to label your jars!  Very important step so you can keep track of what you made.  I often will write the item, date, recipe book, page, or other info so that I can remember what recipe did well. My last piece of advice is to start a canning notebook.  I bought a bunch of notebooks at the end of summer a few years ago to keep track of things on the homestead, like one for my sheep, one of my bees, etc.  I tape recipes into it, where I bought produce, and note how fresh it was.  Sometimes there is just a date and the item I canned.  Whatever you make, I hope it turns out great, and best of luck with your canning.

For the Love of Sheep

20140209_141603We have currently 13 sheep, 6 ewes, 2 ewe lambs, one ram and 4 ram lambs. The lambs are almost the same size as the ewes, at around 5 months old. They are a very unique breed of sheep, (likely not many other sheep of this breed in Wisconsin.) The breed is called California Red, and if you google that, you will come up with a variety of pages, all telling a similar tale about the origin of this breed.  Long story short, a shepherd in California wanted to try to build a medium sized, gentle sheep, that was resistant to parasites, with good mothering skills, and heat and cold tolerant. By combining some hair sheep (Barbados) and wool sheep (Tunis), a new breed was born, but the result was not exactly what was wanted, so the flock was sold to other shepherds, and they developed was is now the California Red sheep. They are a naturally polled breed, which means they are born without horns, with red hair on their faces and legs, and beautiful cream colored wool with flecks of red and grey. They are born dark red brown, and grow their cream colored wool as they get older.  They are good mothers with rich milk, and very docile, although their personalities vary. The wool is great for hand-spinning, of medium weight and softness. They are good for both meat and fiber, the small scale farmers dream come true.

So when a nearby farmer called us on a Wednesday in August of 2013 about selling her little flock of California Red Sheep, we were at a crossroads. We have always talked about sheep, and now we had a real live farm to keep them. But were we really ready? We had never heard of California Red Sheep. We decided to look at the them the following Friday. I fell in love with their beautiful doe-like faces and darling personalities, and we proceeded to bring them to our farm on Saturday using a borrowed trailer and truck. 20130818_133236

20130818_133701We had just moved to our farm in May of 2013, and were very busy with our vegetable operation, but the chance to welcome such a unique breed of sheep to our farm was hard to pass up. We have about 7 acres around our farmhouse that was horse pasture in the past and would be so great to keep a few sheep. These sheep are so very gentle.  We love having animals that our children can be with and pet, and know by name and personality.

We bought our chickens, and their coop and fencing and supplies from the same farm at the same time with our plan to follow behind the sheep doing rotational grazing. They work up the manure the sheep have left, and scratch up the top of the soil, and of course eat the greenery, and bugs. It is a good system, and has been helping to build the soil. We decided not to keep the sheep and chickens in the same fence together for a few reasons, but mostly because the sheep were eating the chicken feed, and the chickens were perching on the sheep, causing bare spots in the wool.20140703_152205_resized20140703_152949_resized

Sheep eat grass, very simply, we don’t have to feed them anything else.  We buy local grain that we tempt them with when we need to move them from place to place.  Grain is like candy to sheep, best kept at a minimum.  We also give them a small amount of minerals each day. The minerals are important, since the pastures have been neglected and are likely missing nutrients, and the sheep are always eager for them.  When the sheep are pregnant and lactating, they need more hay, more water, more minerals.

Our current goal is to continue growing our flock of sheep until we have around 10 breeding ewes and one ram. We raise our own hay, (a neighbor has been baling it for us in small bales) so we know that it is good quality mix of grass and alfalfa. Besides storing the hay there are a variety of jobs required by a small scale shepherd. We bring them fresh water every day. We move them around the pastures using portable electric fencing, and this requires us to have two sets of fencing, grazing the pasture one section at a time. We have had some crazy days in the past nine months where they sheep have pushed under the fencing, their wool insulating them from the zap. We’ve learned that they don’t like to be separated, don’t like to be hungry, and don’t like fireworks. The first few times they escaped, it was like a most exciting adventure in farming. The 50th time, surprisingly, not as fun. We are getting a new permanent fence later this summer that should really help keep our troubles to a minimum.20140117_150156

We also have to trim their hooves, which can be okay in the winter when the ground is snow covered, but not very pleasant in the spring when things are muddy. When the ewes are lambing, we patiently wait for the lambs to arrive, watching, waiting. When they do come, there is much celebration! Last winter was hard, very hard for us, every day, frozen water, and carrying hay through the deep snow. But we lost only one little lamb out of seven due to the cold, and all the ewes made it just fine.20140228_130533

20140504_145933We had the sheep sheared in April, and it went really well. We took the wool to a small woolen mill in Appleton, down on the river called Courtney Woolen Mills. I highly recommend taking your wool there to be cleaned and carded. As a new shepherd, I needed help figuring out what to do with the wool, and Tom Courtney, the owner, provided excellent customer service. He is a third generation owner operator, and uses the same machinery they’ve used for many many years.  If you are a shepherd, please consider supporting them. As with many small businesses, it is hard to find a way to meet your costs these days.

20140703_154620_resizedSo now we have cleaned, carded wool made into batts for spinning, or for quilts. Anyone could buy the batts for crafting too. It would be great for stuffing into small toys, or pillows. It is going to be used for some dyeing projects, and for needle felting here on the farm, and of course for our children’s school projects. Next week, at the Saturday Farmer’s market, we will be bringing our wool to sell, and we can’t wait to show everyone our ‘golden’ fleeces.

We also have cuts of lamb available, shoulder roasts, leg roasts, ground lamb and stew meat.  The boneless roasts are $12/lb, the bone in roasts are $10/lb.  The ground and stew meat are each $7.50/lb.  If you are ordering a whole or half lamb the cost per pound is much less, but you would pay the butchering fee.  We do have to pay license ($165) fees every year to sell our lamb at the farmers market, so we have to figure this into the cost.  As it is right now, we have only taken four lambs to the butcher, and we put one of those in our freezer so that we would be able to try the meat ourselves.  I would have to say that I really do like the taste of our lamb.  It is somewhat closer to the flavor of venison, but almost like grass fed beef. We have simplified our cut list to roasts, ground and stew because some of the other cuts are just not as practical for our uses (lamb chops), but if you order the whole animal, you can get whatever cuts you prefer.

So if you are interested in coming out to visit with the sheep, buying some wool, or ordering a whole lamb, please contact us 715-281-0812, or


A Dog That Needed A Farm and A Farm That Needed a Dog

Sometimes you go to the market, not knowing what to expect. Sometimes you sell a lot of stuff, sometimes, you take a bunch of stuff home. But sometimes you are compelled to go just to mingle with the farmers and get a morale boost. All the farmers at the market are usually going through the same things. We talk about the weather, we talk about what we are planting, and what we are hoping for this season. About three weekends ago we set up our tent on the street to sell what little potatoes and onions we had left, and talk up our new CSA box.

There are some new farmers at the market this year, and it is really starting to feel like a great regular crowd. One of the small organic farmers with a meat and egg operation mentioned that they had a puppy who was looking for a home. But not just any home, they really wanted this dog to go to a farm. Their border collie (with Australian shepherd) had eight puppies, a few more than they were planning on, and they found homes for most of them. The last little pup was just waiting for the right people to come along and meet her.

We thought it over for a week, then went to meet the puppy. She was the last of the little ones to find a home, which made me apprehensive and not able to decide until I saw her with my own eyes. This was not the case at all. She has a fabulous temperament, somewhat submissive, and good with little kids. She had been living outside at her home farm, with her brother and mother. We are not ready to have a 100% outside dog, so we were unsure about how a taste of indoor life would work.

It has been three days, and we are so happy to have been given this gift. She already knows how to sit, and has been great at house training. We are going to be teaching her down, stay, fetch, and crate this week. If you met this dog, you would understand how happy we are to have found her. She is very interested in the sheep, but hasn’t been aggressive at all. Her instincts are there, just waiting for the right time to use her skills. She does need some work with chickens, but I think we can master that in no time.

We have been waiting for a long time for this dog, for as long as we have been dreaming of a farm.  We know that every farm needs a dog, a special dog that knows how to greet new people, keep the livestock in line, protect the home, play with kids, learn commands (and not eat the cat.) We weren’t really ready last year, with the stress of moving and starting the farm business, to go through all of that with a new pet. But just about a month or two ago, we started talking about a dog, and opened our hearts and minds to the idea of a good working farm dog.


I’m sure I am not the only one that these things happen too: the perfect dog, just the right time, the right season. I’m sure anyone who knows puppies might think we are crazy with all the work there is to do on the farm this month, but imagine the most well behaved puppy there ever was. She has arrived, and we hope she is here to stay for a very long time. Welcome home Sweet Pepper!


Volunteer Day! Saturday, May 3rd

Volunteer Day, Saturday May 3rd, 10am

Although the forecast doesn’t look as nice as we would like for Saturday, we are going to be having our first volunteer day on the farm.  We have 60 blueberry bushes, and 200 raspberry plants arriving this week, and we will need to get them into the ground as soon as possible. We are looking for as many able bodies as possible, all ages, and skill levels are welcome.  Our children are always raring to go when there is a new project on the farm, I hope other families will consider joining us if they can.  Please be dressed for outside weather, boots, gloves, layers, and a hat are all great pieces of gear to have.

We will start at 10am on the dot, meeting at the farmhouse yard, and walking across the road to the fields.  We will work until lunch time, and be serving egg salad sandwiches on home made bread.  Cookies will be for dessert.  Please RSVP by call or text at 715-281-0812, or, so that I know how much food to prepare.  Our address is N547 Gravel Road, and a link to a map is found here on our brochure.

Our goal is to not only have help completely this large project, but we are also interested in sharing our knowledge of these two plants and how to care for them properly.  We have two perennial fields already prepared for the plants to go in, all we need are the holes dug, and the plants placed carefully in the ground and soil filled in around the bases.

Blueberries growing at our old home in Pennsylania.  Our new plants won’t be nearly this beautiful yet.

I’m really excited about hosting this workday on our farm.  We really hope we get a great crew of workers and get all the planting done.  After lunch, if anyone has time, we hope to give walking tours of our farm, meeting the animals and see all the little plants growing.



Farmer by Day, Librarian by Night.

So the other day a little friend that I know came into the library with her mom for story time. She stood at the desk I was sitting behind, and paused for a moment. She looked up at her mom, then asked in a hushed voice, “What is she doing here?” It was just a day or two before that she had stopped by the farm with her mom to buy some eggs, carrots, potatoes and onions. Her mom and I both had a chuckle at her young brain trying to decipher the situation.

Of course I don’t blame the 4 year old for being confused. I myself have wondered how I came to be a farmer by day and librarian by night. On Tuesdays, I start work at 4pm, and close the children’s library at 8pm. I help kids find books, get them library cards, organize book displays, create bulletin boards, and smile a lot. During the day I take care of my littlest farmhand while the other farmer gets some work done. This time of year, he is starting seedlings, getting equipment fixed up, making spreadsheets, and seeding calendars. But oftentimes during the summer, I found myself down in the field around 3:15, putting away my farm tools, hiking back to the house, to do a quick change into my library clothes.

It was not quite a month after arriving in Waupaca that this job opened up at the library. We had gotten our library cards the day after we emptied the moving truck. It was the second thing we did in town after opening our bank accounts. The library was definitely a place of security, and solace for us, having left everyone we knew, and all our favorite places behind in Pittsburgh. We went to the library pretty often that first month, seeing as we didn’t have internet at our rural rental house and our cell phone service was pretty spotty. If you came to my library, you would understand why people use it so much. Our library has the most friendly helpful staff ready to serve every patron with whatever they need from books to technology.

I’ve talked about our library briefly in this past post, but it is anything but little. This library is located right on Main Street, exactly the same place where our farm market is held in the summer-time. (Sometimes, I get to help set up my farm stand before working my occasional Saturday shift in the basement.) The children’s library is absolutely on target with all that is good and modern. It has all different kinds of healthy toys, and games to play, as well as an expansive collection of picture books, kids magazines, non-fiction and chapter books. And you wouldn’t believe me if I told you about the teen room. It is a huge space for anyone age 13-19, run by teens, staffed by teens, decorated by teens.

I recently was able to record ‘my library story’ in support of my library. I read a short three paragraph essay I wrote about why our library holds such importance to me and our community. My boss hopes she can use mine, and others’ stories to demonstrate how much the library means to everyone in Waupaca. Do you have a library story? Please share it with me, or your favorite librarian.

And by the way, this is National Library Week! And Gravel Road Farm is offering a special deal this week for signing up for our CSA. We will give you a free bottle of honey when you sign up for our full or half share vegetable box, and show us your library card. Check out our CSA sign up form here. And check out the other businesses that are offering specials this week in exchange for showing you have the most important card in your wallet.



April 13, 2014Permalink 2 Comments