Dec 29, 2009

It *was* a merry Christmas Town

Back on a balmy morning in August as I hawked my wares at the Williamsburg Farmers Market, a lovely lady named Laura Barrow approached me about a new event at Busch Gardens called Christmas Town. Despite the swelter of summer, crafters, like larger retailers, are already planning for the holiday shopping season, what products to offer, what venues to attend, etc. With the prospect of setting up at a major theme park, one I had personally been trying to get back to visit for twelve years, I leapt at the chance.

A thought occurred to me as I set up my booth - Busch Gardens is really helping to fight the recession, and not just for their own benefit. Dozens of crafters and independent concessionaires were able to extend their season and the employees were provided with at least six more weekends on employment in a difficult job market.

The management at Busch Gardens did a lot right. The park was decked out in the quaintest holiday style, the pinnacle being a 45 foot tree with a choreographed light and music show (somewhat less whimsical after listening to it every half hour for fifteen nights). Propane heaters were set up in regular intervals, at least in Germany, so visitors and vendors alike could sidle up and thaw out. Equally common were vendors with hot cocoa. If you went and didn't get a cup of the peppermint fudge cocoa, you missed the best part. The live shows were extremely popular - people would wait an hour or more for seating. The glimpse I had of 'Deck the Halls' looked captivating, but I would really have loved to take my nieces and nephews to the Sesame Street show. (You're never too old for Muppets.) There was even snow and live penguins.

They are also to be commended on good use of social networking. Their Facebook page allowed them to get far more feedback than the old system of hoping a customer feels motivated to send an email or look for an 800 to call. They looked at the comments and implemented changed the following weekend. Not next year, next week.

The cold did make for difficult working conditions at times. You really had to pack a lot of layer-able clothes and I never left the house without those little hand and toe warmers, the one that feels like a teabag of sand. I was there fourteen our of eighteen nights, but it turns out I only had about thirteen nights worth of resilience in my body and spent the last night shivering. But it's late December, whatchagonnado? If there was one thing I would have done away with, though, it was the music. While walking from country to country, the thematic music gives great ambiance. However, when standing in the same spot for 105 hours, listening to the same eight German carols play in an endless loop, it's somewhat less enjoyable. (In fact, I am fully convinced that when I arrive in Hell, that's the music that will be playing in the waiting room.)

All in all, I would call Christmas Town at Busch Gardens a success. I look forward to working it next year and hopefully even have time to visit.

Nov 19, 2009

Social Networking = Free Stuff for You!

(Let's just pretend it hasn't been months since I've posted here and jump right into it.)

Don't let the fact that I milk goats by hand fool you, I'm all about technology, especially the interwebs. In addition to our website and blog, we also have a Facebook page and Twitter (and here's my semi-personal page if you're keen).

Why should you Follow, Friend or Fan us? To win free stuff, of course!

For the next five weeks, we'll be offering free product for our Facebook fans. Twitterers who re-tweet (e.g. repost) the message we post on Friday mornings will be entered to win two passes to Busch Gardens' inaugural Christmas Town event.

Pretty sweet deal, huh? :D

Aug 17, 2009

A swiftly tilting schedule

'You cannot plan enough'. That's been a motto of mine for years now. But maybe I need to update the mantra to, 'You cannot plan enough for contingencies.' Left and right, I'm finding out that I won't be doing shows that I was counting on and am left scrambling for substitute events.

On that note, keep a close and constant eye on our calendar for changes, such as adding (hopefully) Chesterfest and Blackstone Arts and Crafts Festival and loosing Indian River Craft Show and Newport News Fall Festival of Folklife (which I'm going to try like hell to weasel my way in to).

To stay as up to date as possible, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Aug 13, 2009

Front Page News!

Huge thanks to Elyse Reel for her incredibly informative article on the front page of this week's Chester Village News.

Grab your free copy at locations like The Weekend Brewer or Old Dominion Animal Clinic. (There are tons more, but those are the only two I can think of right now.)

Jul 27, 2009

Countdown to Shockoe Chef Showdown!

If you missed last year's Shockoe Chef Showdown at 17th St Farmers Market, you owe it to yourself to go this year. A dozen local restaurants will be on hand doing marvelous tasting plates and some of the chef will participate in a live Iron Chef-style competition at 2. There will be free kids activities and live music all day and of course crafters, artisans and growers with fine wares on offer.
Last year's Showdown was a great event to do. Not only did I have good sales figures, but every time there was a lull in customers, I ran to a different restaurant's booth for a tasting plate. There was everything from bar-b-que to cold soba noodles to abusively hot but very tasty Ethiopian chicken, and I must have tried it all!

(grapic by Linette Bond)

Jul 14, 2009

Regarding our absences from the South of the James Market (Forest Hill Park)

"Are you still doing the South of the James/Forest Hill Park market?" folks ask me.

In theory, yes. In actuality, no, apparently. I've been scheduled to be there once or twice a month all season. However, as things began to get tough for the business, I had to sit out some Saturdays for lack of product. Then of course, we were closed for a month of so. Now we're back up and running, but no sooner did I re-start the website, but so many orders flooded in that I'm about out of product again - popularity is a double-edged sword.

So if you don't see me at South of the James market on a date you'd expected to, it's because I don't have a whole Saturday's worth of product. Rest assured, you can always find me Thursday morning at 17th St Farmers Market in Shockoe Bottom. Be sure to check our calender of upcoming events often for changes. I try to keep it as accurate as possible.

Jul 6, 2009

Speaking of triumpant returns, it's time for Shockoe Tomato

The typical, oppressive summer heat-and-humidity combo may be holding off for the time being, but one July tradition is upon us - Shockoe Tomato Festival at 17th St Farmers Market.

This Saturday (7/11) from 11-5, head down to the Bottom for all things red, ripe and wonderful. Admission and parking are free and there are kids' activities and face-painting all day. The New Oldz will be playing and there's a Tastiest Tomato competition at 2 and the nearly-world-famous Hot Tomato Talent Contest at 4. If you've never seen the Hot Tomato Contest, you've never really lived. Email the staff at the market to sign up to compete.

Me, I love Shockoe Tomato and wouldn't miss it for the world.

Jun 30, 2009

Our triumphant return!

After nearly a month with no farmers market or craft show appearances and no online ordering, Wild Heaven Farm is pickled tink to announce we will be at Williamsburg Farmers Market this Saturday, July 4th from 8-12 and back at 17th St Farmers Market every Thursday morning. Thank you for your patience during the down time, especially our CSA customers.

As always, check our calender for a complete list of upcoming events.

Why do I always say 'we'? It's just me. Maybe it's the royal We, I dunno.

Jun 5, 2009

Do you RSS?

So I says to my sister the other day, I says, "Yeah, ever since Alan taught me what an RSS reader is, I follow, like, 160 blogs."

"I don't know what that is," my sister said.

In basic terms, an RSS reader brings you updates from your favorite websites and blogs, as long as they post in an RSS feed, which everyone worth their salt does.

"How does one get an RSS reader?" you may be asking yourself. It's pretty much a lock that you already have one on your web browser. Here are some tutorial videos on following RSS feeds.



Google Reader:
(Of course, if you're using Google Reader, you probably didn't need this video.)

I can't think of a better way to test your newfound RSS prowess than by subscribing to our feed. Go ahead, give it a shot!

Jun 3, 2009

Last events before the shut-down

For those wishing to purchase product or a CSA share (membership) in person before we temporarily close up shop, your last opportunities will be Thursday and Saturday of this week, both at 17th St Farmers Market. Thursday is a regular market day, 9-2, give or take, and I'll have my doeling Prieka with me.

Saturday is a fun event called Animalia, 11-4.
Grab the dog and the kids (or just the dog) and come on out. There's a Greyest Muzzle beauty pagent, petting zoo, Niftiest Pet contest, and of course it's free! For Animalia, I'll also be dragging our beautiful, if shy, Nubian buckling Ford along too.

Remember, Saturday 6/6 during Animalia is your last chance to purchase CSA shares. Drop me an email if you have any questions at all.

Jun 1, 2009

A funny exchange

Tilling an 85' by 45' garden with a flower bed-sized tiller had been an arduous task at best. Ever so badly, I wanted to rent a great big, self-propelled tiller, but they have to be moved on a trailer and I don't have one. Thankfully, the counter man at the United Rental mentioned off-hand that trailers are only $15 a day to rent. If only someone had told me that when I called to check prices three weeks earlier!

That rented tiller absolutely devoured the garden plot, turning over the dirt for me in about an hour and half. As the counter man was processing the equipment return, he started to make small talk.

Counterman: So, you're putting in a vegetable garden?

Me: Yeah, for us and to take the surplus with to 17th St Farmers Market when I'm selling my soaps.

A Loader, leaning against the counter: No, she's putting in a meat garden. What else would it be?

Counter: Well...c'mon now, you know what I mean.

Me: Actually, we're fattening some pigs for the family this year and they'll be eating from the garden, so it kind of is a meat garden.

Loader: Are they eating everything from the garden?

Me (seeing where he's going with this): I'm made of meat.

Loader: Yeah, but you're more water than the pigs are.

Me (wow, this guy's dedicated to his point): I'll have to look that up. I know anatomically-speaking, we're very similar.

Thankfully, just then, a receipt came across the counter for me to sign. Goodness knows where the debate would have gone from there. :)

May 29, 2009

It's official - we're closing.

They don't call these things inevitable for nothing.

Wild Heaven Farm will be halting all sales, in person and online, effective June 6 after Animalia. That will be the last day for buying CSA shares (memberships), which are also conveniently available on our website. We sincerely hope to be out of commission for no more than a month, but we don't really know at this point.

If you have any questions about the CSA, please don't hesitate to email me.

May 22, 2009

Soap CSA: back-story and update

The muddy season is nearly over as the dusty season hovers in our peripheral vision. This is normally the time of year when the big spring craft shows are over and we coast through the summer with bi-weekly appearances at the better area farmers markets. Pre-season production begins with whatever modicum of supplies still remains after the last craft show in mid-December. I make a small quantity of soaps and other products and sell them to get money for slightly more supplies. I make slightly more soap, which I sell to get money to buy even more supplies, and it grows from there. This year, however, due to a number of causes (the slower economy, the costs involved with the dying goat, good ol' fashioned bum luck, etc) the soap-supplies-soap cycle got smaller instead of bigger. Instead of building momentum, things began to grind to a halt. In short order, I had to skip the higher earning Saturday markets for lack of product, which would certainly not help the situation.

To put a fine point on it, we are officially in danger of closing, at least for the summer if not for the rest of the year. That is why, in an effort known to business types as bootstrapping, we have begun a CSA (see last week's post for full details).

This week's updates:

  • We've already sold $400 worth of shares - go team! There are still $600 worth of shares available, so don't sit and fret that they may be gone, buy yours today.

  • Which brings me to the second update, CSA shares are now available for purchase on our website.

Please don't hesitate to email us with any questions you have regarding the CSA or our products.

May 19, 2009

Bacon and Eggs

Presenting, our gorgeous new Tamworth feeder pigs, Hamish and Spamantha:
Their red color makes then more suited to sunny weather than Yorkshires, the large white pigs that are the majority of our modern pork stock. Their paddock is nice and shady, so the red hair is just a bonus.

And this morning, one of our little hens laid her first egg:
Inasmuch as the egg is white, it was probably the work of one of our Buttercups, or a really dedicated prankster.

May 18, 2009

Save on soap all year!

Wild Heaven Farm is pleased to announce the launch of our latest money-saving effort, a Soap CSA.

For those unfamiliar with Community Supported Agriculture, it is a program that allows buyers to get the freshest local produce each week at a savings over non-member prices by virtue of pre-paying their “share” before the season begins.

Our Soap CSA will operate in a similar fashion. For a lump-sum payment, customers will receive a bonus of shopping credit with us (see below), to be spent incrementally over the remainder of the season, on any soaps and skin care products. Soap CSA customers will also receive one bar of each of our limited-edition seasonal fragrances.

An up-front payment of: will buy you this much credit for product:

$25 .................. $26 (4% bonus)

$50 .................. $54 (8% bonus)

$100 ............... $112 (12% bonus)

$150 ............... $174 (16% bonus)

$200 ............... $240 (20% bonus)

To Sign Up: Email us at, with "Soap CSA" in the subject line to arrange your payment. Payments may be made with cash, check, or major credit/debit card.

The Fine Print: Payment must clear before weekly purchases may begin. Weekly purchase limit will be the lesser of one quarter of the up-front payment or $20. Weekly purchases may be made at 17th St Farmers Market on Thursdays between 9am and 2pm, through October. Other dates may be possible, please email for availability.

Special thanks to Mr. Rob Brandham for spurring me into action implementing this idea.

May 16, 2009

A Bean Grows in Richmond

(vid wouldn't embed, sorry)
Community Garden at 17th St Farmers Market

May 4, 2009

You put your weed in there.

WeedS plural. Sorry. For some reason the state of my garden reminded me of that early 90's SNL catch phrase.

Those interweb users who follow me on Twitter or are my friends on Facebook will already know that I was very excited about my garden and put a lot of work into preparing. I mean a lot. A lot a lot. It was marvelous to get out there and start planting. We initially put in spinach, lettuce, peas, beans, carrots and beets and I started seeds for brocolli, cauliflower and cabbage. Nothing came up in the garden. The seedlings in the trays came up, them promptly died. Somewhere in these last few months, I seem to have forgotten that I have a black thumb. You are reading the narrative of a person who planted kudzu and couldn't coax it to grow. The growers down at the 17th St Farmers Market got a big kick out of that, I tell you what.

So nothing's growing for weeks and its very discouraging and I sort of stopped paying attention to the garden. Well, not sort of, that's exactly what I did. In the meantime, while the vegetables were busy not growing, the weeds got on like a house on fire.

I've got a job of work ahead of me, sure'n'all, and no money to spare to rent a tiller. So I'm hitting it old school, shoveling and hand-weeding, plus considerable mulching, until the garden is back under my control. I'll post pics of my victory (knock wood) soon. In the meantime, a gardening tip - before you head out to work, claw your fingernails into a bar of soap, preferably one that's soft from recent use. That way you'll have soap under your fingernails and not dirt. The former is much easier to wash off than the latter.

Bonus pic, my lovely birthday beehive,
but, quel dommage, there are no bees in it.

Apr 28, 2009

Of Supplies and Demand

What the average person doesn't know about soap, amongst other obscure facts, is that it requires four weeks of curing time. That means that after it comes out of the mold, it needs to sit and air-dry and harden so it won't melt like buttah when you use it. Additionally, this means that each winter I have to begin laying out money for supplies a month before I can hope to start bringing any money in. This typically creates an early-spring lurch wherein I don't have a lot of product for the first few shows. Sell a little soap, buy a little bit of supplies, sell a bit more soap buy a bit more supplies, etc.

This year, however, things aren't progressing as they should. It's the cusp of May and my soap bins are nearly empty. It's been 'sell a little soap, buy the tiniest amount of supplies, sell slightly less soap, buy slightly less supplies.' Being financially restricted to purchasing my oils, labels, and what-have-you in the smallest available increment means paying a higher per unit price, thus further harming net profits in a period of reduced sales. What that translates to it a vicious cycles of skipping craft shows and farmers markets for want of products, then not making any money to buy supplies to make more product.

So if you see my table looking a little bare, please be patient and come check out what I do have. If you don't see me in my usual venues at all, at least you'll know why.

Be sure to stop by my booth at this weekend's Arts in the Park and (most) Thursdays at 17th St Farmers Market.

Apr 21, 2009

The week: Baby Goats at 17th St Farmers Market

This post goes out to all the people who've ever asked me "Why don't you bring a goat with you?" at a farmers market or craft show. On Thursday April 23 (9-2) and Saturday April 25 (10-4), I will be taking two six week old baby goats with me to the 17th St Farmers Market.

Here's a pic of the female, Prieka, when she was just a few days old:

Who could resist that little face? :D

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that Thursday isn't a lock. My husband is having spinal surgery on Tuesday and the doctor wants him to stay in hospital for two days. Further updates as they become available.

Apr 20, 2009

No good deed goes unpunished

Things are about to get very busy down on the farm and not just because farmers market season starts this week. With heartfelt thanks to the ElderHomes organization, we're about to have a great deal of renovation done to our house and property to get it up to code. One of the tasks before them is demolishing the old workshop because of its dilapidated condition and proximity to the house. This workshop was chock full of stuff when we bought our farm - vintage car radios, nuts and bolts, milk glass, light fixtures, you name it. Me, I hate waste and I didn't want to see potentially useful objects razed by a bulldozer and scooped into a dumpster. To that end, I posted a "freesale" on Freecycle and Craiglists. For those who may not be familiar, Freecycle is an internet community to give thing away or find things for free and a freesale is like a yard sale but everything is free (stop me if I'm going too fast). We had done this once previously with the old barn down by the street, which has been crammed floor-to-ceiling by the hoarders we bought the property from, and that had been a rousing, and easily managed, success.

The freesale was set to start at noon on Sunday and run until six o'clock. People began arriving at ten and were promptly turned away while my husband, who is having his fourth spinal surgery the day after the demolition and construction work begin, worked hurriedly to get our belongings out of the workshop. A number of items were too large or heavy for us to move, so I labelled them with signs that read "Sorry, this stays. We just didn't get it moved in time," including but not limited to my husband's air compressor, rolling toolbox, and the deconstructed engine of a 1963 Ford Galaxy 500.

At 11:40 or so, my father-in-law popped by for a visit and warned me that a crowd had developed at the bottom of our 200 foot long driveway and was growing in size to the point that one man had appointed himself to direct traffic. A few minutes later, my sister arrived with her children, all of whom have been staying with us while she does vital repairs to the house she just bought. She told me she had to shout "I live here!" at the people to get by. The thought of that crowd growing anxious and seeing two cars go past them and not immediately return began to make me nervous. It put me in mind of the 1979 Who concert in Cincinnati where 11 people were trampled to death when people at the back of the crowd mistook roadies tuning the sound system for the concert starting and surged towards the two unlocked doors.

Ten minutes before the opening time, the crowd began to advance up my driveway, twenty abreast, like an army, a mighty phalanx of freecyclers and craigslisters. Here is a picture of half the crowd.
It doubled as soon as I carried one more armful of tools to the storage box. When the clock hit noon or near enough, I approached the crowd to make a basic announcement and they began to move forward, encroaching on me like "Dawn of the Dead" (the original, not the zombies-can-run-now remake). I barely held them back long enough to tell them where they would be scavenging. No sooner did I yell "Merry Christmas, y'all" but they nearly broke out in a run. Remember a few years back when Henrico sold their surplus iBooks and a stampede ensued? I sure did (though I can't find a clip on YouTube for some reason). "Calm down!" I yelled. "I don't want to be on the internet for this. That's not the kind of fame I'm looking for."

Despite having pointed to the workshop and described the workshop, some joker ran immediately over to the patio of my house and started snatching decorative items from around my door. Thankfully, my sister-in-law Dani, a no-nonsense Latina, had just arrived, too late to schlep and carry but just in time to be a most effective bouncer and guard our home.

It was pandemonium. People were rushing everywhere, grabbing things and hot-footing it back to their cars. If there was a couple, one had to stand guard over the pile of stuff because anything unguarded would be snatched by someone else. A number of people had toddlers and babes-in-arms with them, which I directed over to look at the goats and chickens to keep them out of harm's way. Bear in mind that the workshop has no electricity, not everyone brought flashlights as instructed, there's broken things and about-to-be-broken things on every inch of floor and now there's twenty to thirty people elbowing their way through to find broken lamps and old junk with no conceivable use to anyone.

A woman coming out of the workshop very early on in the proceedings warned me that people were moving my signs, so I rushed inside. Sure enough, there's a man digging through my husband's tools. Do we look rich enough to cast perfectly good socket wrenches before swine? I stuck two more signs on that corner and posted my husband in the workshop for crowd control. Poor Kevin was already well in pain but at least it was dim in there and he likes that - he'd live in a cave if I'd let him.

We would learn later that one woman got knocked down and another woman was standing on her leg, refusing to move until she's gotten what she wanted. There was also reportedly a fist-fight down at the street while people were waiting. It's any wonder my neighbors didn't call the constabulary. At one point we heard someone screaming blue murder down by the old barn, which people were also offered to dig through. I rushed down to find out what was going on, only to have it be that someone took a picture frame off an old woman's pile. "It was obviously my pile!" she insisted, which is patently ludicrous. How could anyone tell a pile of junk made fifty years ago by the previous owners from a pile of junk made today, let along that that pile "belonged" to someone? I had to stand by her pile went she went to get her truck just to make her quiet.

The peak of activity ebbed and I went inside to check the time, expecting the freesale to be half over. It had only been an hour and a half! We were already exhausted. Everything not nailed down, and a number of things that had to be pried up, had been taken. The savages even stole our newspaper!

One bright spot in all of this was a family group who came out hoping to find scrap metal to help support themselves - one of the brothers had recently been laid off and he had a wife and two kids, with another on the way. Not only did they find a lot in the workshop and old barn, but we took them around the property to caches of old appliances and engine parts, which have been the bane of my existence every winter for nine years when the leaves die off and they reappear. These folks made three trips yesterday with their pick-up truck and trailer piled to the limits of reason and they plan to come out again today. They're even taking the walls and ceiling of the workshop itself and the old VW Beetle out in the woods (that we could never figure out how they got it there because its completely surrounded by trees). The sub-contractor hired to bulldoze the workshop Tuesday should be pleased to find a lot of the work done for him already.

If you've got vast cubic yards of stuff to get rid of, a freesale can be a good idea. But next time, I'm hiring armed security.

Apr 18, 2009

Odds from the farm, 2

You're never too young to learn a trade and apparently 5 years old is the idea age to begin teaching welding. Here my darling husband Kevin gives our nephew Rieley his first lesson.

Don't worry, Kevin never took his hands off Rieley's and they only cut one hole in a scrap piece of pipe.

Apr 14, 2009

This weekend: Celebration of the Vine (Chesterfield)

My booth is near the main entrance, though I can't say specifically because I haven't gotten my map yet. The weather looks just perfect, mid seventies and mostly sunny.

from the official website:

About the Festival

The Celebration of the Vine will be held at Chesterfield County Government Complex
9800 Government Center Parkway
Chesterfield, VA 23832

11:00am - 6:00pm

Be sure to bring a blanket or chairs and to enjoy your food, wine and the band!

Please no pets and no coolers
There are no refunds for ticket purchases
This is a rain or shine event

Casper, a popular Richmond-based band whose musical repertoire covers great dance music from many decades and genres, including Motown, rock, funk, swing, and country will be taking the stage during the festival. Their energetic and enthusiastic sets will provide the perfect ambience while you enjoy tasting samples from participating wineries.

Attending Wineries
Amrhein Wine Cellars
Blue Ridge Winery
Chateau Morrisette
Cooper Vineyards
Davis Valley Winery
First Colony Winery
Grayhaven Winery
Horton Cellars
James River Cellars, Inc.
Lake Anna Winery
New Kent Winery
Peaks of Otter Winery
Virginia Mountain Winery
Woodland Vineyard Farm Winery

Purchase Tickets Online Now »

You can also buy your tickets at the following locations:
Flagstop Carwash & Quick Lube - 11031 Iron Bridge Rd.
Village Bank - 4221 W. Hundred Rd.
Village News - 4607 W. Hundred Rd.
The WeekEnd Brewer - 4205 W. Hundred Rd.
Chesterfield Chamber - 9330 Iron Bridge Rd., Ste. B
Chesterfield Co. Parks & Rec. - 6801 Mimms Loop
Village Bank - 6551 Centralia Rd.
Vineyard's Corner - 6523 Centralia Rd.
Colonial Heights
Boulevard Flowers - 2100 Ruffin Mill Rd.
Flagstop Carwash & Quick Lube - 610 Boulevard
Medallion Pools & Spas - 840-A West Roslyn Rd.
Fort Lee
MWR Information, Tickets & Travel Office - 9024 Battle Dr.
Appomattox River Peanut Co. - 424 S. 15th Ave.
Bella Vino - 12010 Southshore Pointe Dr.
Village Bank – 13521 Waterford Pl.
Village Bank – 6736 Southshore Dr.
Village Bank – 13531 Midlothian Tnpk.
Village Bank – 1120 Huguenot Rd.
Village Bank – 11450 Robious Rd.
Village Bank - 15521 Midlothian Tnpk., Ste. 200
Wine Cellar - 2017 Wal-Mart Way
Java Mio - 322 N. Sycamore St.
Belle & Kitchen Kuisine - 3044 Stony Point Rd.
Once Upon a Vine - 4009 Macarthur Ave.
Once Upon a Vine - 2817 Hathaway Rd.
Strawberry Street Market – 415 N. Strawberry St.
Strawberry Street Café - 421 N. Strawberry St.

Odds from the farm

What a great way to start a Monday. Yesterday morning, I hosted two visitors to the farm during morning chores for a milking lesson - a nun and her sister. Her actual sister, not another nun. I met Sister Eva, the nursing director of the local house of Little Sisters of the Poor, (who are having a French food festival this weekend, by the way) at the Church Hill Irish Festival. She had her younger sister Anna, an aspiring vet tech visiting from Pennsylvania, in tow at Easter on Parade. They seemed thrilled to hear that we let folk come out the farm and scheduled their visit for the next morning, the only time that would work before Anna had to go home. We all had a great time. Eva in particular had lots of great questions. Here's a pic of us, with me in my fuzzy first thing in the morning' best. Don't think I need to tell you which sister is which. :)

P.S.: To the sister and her sister, sorry if I goofed your names up, hope I was close.

Apr 10, 2009

This weekend: two events

Williamsburg Farmers Market, 8:30 - 12:00: keep a weather eye open for my booth. The manager has decided to put a small number of vendors across the street in front of the bookstore, me among them. I've asked for first dibs on any openings in the main market, so fingers crossed.

Easter on Parade, 1 - 5: dress up the dog and bring the whole family!

I apologize in advance, but we are still running very low on product. If you see something you like, don't stand on ceremony.

Mar 26, 2009

This weekend: Gloucester Daffodil Festival

Yes, the wise and world-weary weatherman are calling for rain most or all weekend, just like last year, but the temperature should be at least twenty degrees warmer and that will make all the difference in the world.

From the official website:

23rd Annual
Daffodil Festival

Saturday, March 28 & Sunday, March 29, 2009
Main Street - Gloucester, Virginia

2009 Daffodil Festival Program

Calendar of Festival Dates

The Daffodil Festival Committee and the Gloucester Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism sponsor the Daffodil Festival. The Daffodil Festival Committee's goals are to sponsor a festival to celebrate the heritage of Gloucester County and the daffodil industry, to promote a positive image of the county, to provide a family atmosphere and to encourage involvement of civic organizations and individuals in the festival which will create a sense of community.

The festival is held rain or shine.

Mar 19, 2009

This weekend: Church Hill Irish Festival

From the official website:

Join us for the 24th Annual Church Hill Irish Festival on March 21st and 22nd in historic Church Hill. The festival will begin Saturday at 10:00 a.m with a walking parade to include traditional Irish music and dancing. The celebration will continue with a street festival in front of St. Patrick's Church on North 25th Street between Broad and Franklin Streets and will run from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm on Saturday and 10:00 am to 6:00 pm on Sunday.

Traditional Irish musicians, bagpipers and dancers will perform throughout the weekend. This year's lineup includes Uisce Beatha; the Janet Martin Band; Andy, Cindy and Then Some; Page Wilson; Gary Gerloff; Tinkers Damn; Bart Chucker Band; Susan Greenbaum and many other local favorites. We will also have a Bluegrass Stage (see our Saturday and Sunday schedules for more info.)

In addition to great entertainment, there will be plenty of family fun, including children's games, face painting and Irish-themed crafts. Over thirty Irish vendors will be in attendance! Food and refreshments will also be available. Enjoy wonderful "Irish Lasagna" prepared by the Ladies of St. Patrick's, "Fish and Chips" and other favorites provided by Rare Olde Times Irish Pub, and many more.

A huge children's play area will be sponsored by the great folks from "Connor's Heroes", an organization that assists families and children who are fighting childhood cancer.

Proceeds benefit the St. Baldrick's Society and their fight against childhood cancer, the Church Hill Association, the Church Hill Crime Watch, Richmond Hill, Child Saver's Clinic of Richmond, St. John'n Church, the St. Peter's Meals Program, Stone's Circle of Friends and many other neighborhood causes. Proceeds also benefit the historic preservation of St. Patrick's Church, a "little church with a big heart" built in the 1850's by Irish Immigrants to Richmond, and its outreach programs.

A $2.00 donation will be collected at the gate. Sponsored in part by Guinness & Harp Beer and our friends at Loveland Distributing.

We kindly ask that you leave all pets at home. For more information, please email us or call 804-356-1093.

Vendors don't get their booth assignments until we show up Friday evening to set up, but I should be on the Broad St end, near to where I've been in previous year.

See you there!

Mar 15, 2009

Birthday, baby and birds

Thanks to all the friends on Facebook and all the folks I ran across last Tuesday who extended their wishes for my 30th birthday. My sisters try to razz me about the year (even the older sister, which is kinda self-defeating), but like they say 'age ain't nothin' but a number.'

My mom stopped by with a darling little cake for me, which was splendid since I hadn't made one. The topper was a little box, containing an antique gold and diamond ring belonging to my family back when we were the Spencers, the same line that produced Princess Di.

Our new Nubian buck Ford finally arrived, his delivery having been rescheduled twice by the February flu and the March snow. He's gorgeous! And ironically patterned exactly like a French Alpine. The plan is to have our herd Queen Dierdre adopt him so he'll come up with rank in his new herd. Thus far, progress is slow. He's not bonding to us very well and was resistant to the playful advances of his kid-pen-mate Prieka. Thankfully, he's beginning to warm up and even accept a bottle from me with minimum struggle. Once he's more settled, we'll make another run at Dierdre. He likes to sit on the couch with us, but I can't tell if its fondness or passive resistance.
Here is Ford with my nephews Rieley and Biscuit.

We also came into possession of half a dozen chickens whose owners have to move and can't take them with. They are Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, a Rhode Island Red and something else. We lost two the second night to the crafty wild predators that call our property home.

And what's a birthday without presents? My darling husband Kevin gave me a pop-up card with kissing gophers (some kind of woodland creature at any rate) with the handwritten message at the bottom, "Good for one starter bee kit." Squeeee! And my sister Joey, mom of the aforementioned nephews brought me a glass vase of cut sunflowers, the bottom of which was filled with something shiny. It turned out to be a small fortune in dollar coins! Seed catalog, here I come!

All in all, a pretty good day on the old farm.

Mar 13, 2009

No Shamrockin' this week

Shamrock the Block, originally scheduled for Saturday 3/14 12-6 on the grounds of the 17th St Farmers Market, has been moved to 3/28 due to the miserable crap weather being forecast.

Unfortunately, due to the change of date, I won't be available to set up my booth as I'll be at the Gloucester Daffodil Festival. With a little luck and a fair amount of bribery, perhaps I can get one of my many sisters to do the Shamrock booth for me - hope springs eternal.

Remember, you can always check our website for show dates. I promise to try to keep it as accurate as possible and be everywhere I say I'll be.

Feb 27, 2009

No orangutans were harmed in the making of this blog

Earlier this afternoon, a concerned email dropped into my box. Well, the email itself was rather indifferent, but the author, whom I'll call Ms. A, had a troubling issue to raise, see below:

"I have purchased your products the past couple of years at Newport News fall festival. This past year I looked at the ingredients on one of the soaps and was sad to see Palm Oil listed. Your products are wonderful but as an orangutan advicate [sic] I am trying to cut this product out of my purchases. Please take a look... "

Ms. A is not wrong in worrying about the orangutans because according to the WWF (the animal one, not the wrestling one):

What is the connection between orangutans and oil palm?

* Orangutans live in areas that are favoured for establishing oil palm plantations: fertile lowland soils close to rivers.
* The orangutans’ forest home is being converted into oil palm plantations at a massive scale. This conversion is being driven by growing global demand for palm oil, which is pushing up prices and hence encouraging the development of more plantations.

Impacts of oil palm development on orangutans

* The development of oil palm plantations causes the fragmentation of forests, which reduces the natural habitat of orangutans. There are about 25,000 km2 of oil palm plantations in Borneo, and the area is ever increasing.

* Where forests are being converted for oil palm plantations, poaching of orangutans for the illegal pet trade is more prevalent. This corresponds with reports from WWF and TRAFFIC that show an increase in the trade in baby orangutans over the past decade.
* Forest fires are set deliberately to clear land for plantations. Not only do fires destroy vast areas of orangutan habitat, but thousands of these slow-moving apes are thought to have burned to death, unable to escape the flames.
* In some areas of Borneo and Sumatra, orangutans are shot as pests by plantation owners or farmers.

I, too, was shocked and dismayed to learn that I might be contributing to the deaths of our fuzzy, orange cousins and set to work immediately researching my ingredients in depth. With much relief, I discovered that I've been using Malaysian palm oil since the inception of my business and that Malaysia has worked for sustainable palm oil farming for over twenty years. In fact, no rain forest land has been converted to palm oil since 1990! 60% of the country is rain forest and must remain so under national law. For more details on Malaysian palm oil, click here.

Remember, we list the ingredients on all of your products, in the brochure and on the website. If you ever have a question or concern, just ask!

*Alternate titles considered: 'Have you hugged your Orangutan today?' and 'The wild man of Borneo says 'it's okay to buy soap'.

Feb 21, 2009

Seasonal Fragrances for 2009

Here at Wild Heaven Farm, we keep a stable of soap fragrances year-round and rotate out seasonal fragrances. For the first time in the history of ever, here is a special preview of limited-edition scents for 2009.

April: Cherry Blossom - Washington DC's got nothing on us!

May: Strawberry Tart - the syrupy sweet beginning of summer.

June: Summer Vacation - if it's summer-y, it's in here, like pineapple, bergamot, sunflowers and ocean rain

July: Green Fairie - a fresh and zesty green scent

August: Pina Colada - bet you're singing that song now, huh? :)

September: Apple Cider - smells the apples, not just the cinnamon

October: Harvest Moon - an engaging autumnal fragrance

November: Cranberry Celebration (watch out for possible Thanksgiving-scented soap)

December: Santa's Pipe - a cherry-vanilla cavendish

I ask only one thing of my loyal followers - be prepared for these soaps *not* to be ready on the first of the given month and for them to possibly run out before the month is done.

Feb 12, 2009

It starts with birth and ends with death

In the fall of 2001, a well-intentioned Chesterfield suburbanite with dreams of homesteading bought three Nubian goats, two does and a buck, from a farm in Tidewater. This was the beginning of the herd of goats who would supply the milk for Wild Heaven Farm's handmade goat milk soaps. The buck, Big Chief (slightly silly registered name: Belle Rive Rainbow Warrior), passed away a few years ago, when wet weather conditions made intestinal parasite populations burst out of control. We were lucky only to have lost Chief and two young females that year; a meat goat farmers I know in the 434 saw her's die faster than she could bury them, which eventually necessitated a backhoe. Sadly last night, another of the O.G.s (“original goats”) died.

Kidding season for 2009 had started well enough. Our herd queen Dierdre gave us two big healthy doelings, who took to the bottle straight away and didn't give me a lick of trouble between being born and going off to their new home with the just-had-a-human-baby-the-same-week Woods family. Their names were Cin-Cin and Eviva, pictured below.

A week later, ostensibly on the day the first babies left, Ceres was laying around in the apparent discomfort usually associated with labor, but there were no contractions. A call to the nearest goat vet (“nearest” being almost in Montpelier) put us on to pregnancy toxemia, for which I ran to Southern States for supplements that were the nearest approximation to what I needed. When your farm is in the middle of the 'burbs, you get used to feed stores with limited supplies. In the past few years, we've also had to get used to a limited number of feed stores, with the two closest ones, included one I worked at briefly, closing. Ceres got glucose, electrolytes, B12, and active cultures for digestion, with my sincere hope that she'd have the vigor for labor when it actually came.

Labor, as it turned out, came in the pre-dawn hours the following morning. A glance out the kitchen window revealed a prone Ceres and a standing kid, named Prieka (below), being looked after by Dierdre, with her overflowing of maternal instinct.

That overabundance which often leads her to steal babies from other goats was a real blessing to us this year, because Ceres couldn't get up to tend Prieka herself. She was flat on her side with a prolapsed uterus, meaning that during or after giving birth, her uterus had inverted and was now laying on the ground behind her. A quick Google image search confirmed my hypothesis and no extra research was needed to tell me this was well beyond our ability to fix. We called Dr B.J. Campbell, DVM, explained the situation and asked her to come out.

If you're squeamish at all, you might want to scroll past the next picture with your eyes very much squinted. We propped Ceres back end up on a bale of hay and Dr Campbell replaced her uterus. She also injected Ceres with calcium, the dearth of which is blamed as the cause of the problem, and a schload of other things.

Two and a half hours and $313 later, Dr Campbell left me with antibiotic, painkiller, oxytocin to tighten the uterus and a gritty nutritious supplement. We also started giving the other does mineral supplements with calcium in hopes of preventing a repeat of this happy happy joy joy fun.

If you've never tried to forcefully syringe feed an adult goat and the opportunity presents itself, I suggest you give it a miss and go on to something easier, like shaving a coked-up ferret. Poor weakened Ceres had just enough strength to give me the business when I tried to feed her the gritty nutritive water that the vet called simply “green stuff.” She had also began a good chesty cough that fateful day, so there was also the concern of her aspirating the green stuff as I wrestled her head back and squirted it down her throat. Making things worse, every two or three squirts of the big fat syringe caused it to clog up with the finely chopped alfalfa that gave green stuff its moniker. Periodically, she'd nibble at food, but never really ate, per se, even when I brought her a fat armload of English ivy I scavenged from the job of chainsawing a dead tree that had fallen from our property onto a neighbor's erstwhile vertical chain-link fence. That's the dichotomy of my day – bottle-feeding tiny baby goats one minute, lumberjacking the next.

It was Sunday when Ceres kidded and for the next three days she just got weaker and weaker, refusing to eat or even drink. The force-feeding put tremendous stress on her. Wednesday, she couldn't or wouldn't walk. Dr Thomas Rohlk at Old Dominion Animal Hospital, a gentleman and a scholar, sold me four liters of lactates ringers saline and an IV line with needles to subcutaneously rehydrate Ceres. I sequestered her in my cozy six-by-seven milking parlor with a board blocking the door, but it was hardly necessary. She didn't move. Even when she tried, she couldn't stand or squirm far enough to endanger the IV. Later that afternoon, I got her to take a little yogurt (for its calcium, cultures, and sugar), which she had refused outright in the previous two days. At evening chores, I was able to get the whole pint of green stuff into her, a frightening circumstance because it meant she lacked the power to fight or do anything more than low quietly in between syringes. A few hours later, she laid her head down and died.

Digging a shallow grave by moonlight with a single accomplice holding a flashlight didn't make me feel as much like a mafiosa as I would have thought. I can think of four different ways in which her death is ultimately my fault, but my wonderful husband, who took over the harder parts of the burial while I feed the kids, pointed out to me the awful luck this goat had been afflicted with, luck bad enough to rival his own. Ceres was totally blind in one eye (which I attempt to show the photographer below) and mostly blind in the other, she was always the goat who got injured when something bad happened, showing up for milking on at least two occasions with a huge, bright red bleeding idopathic wound to her udder, and she had had two set of stillborn triplets. I acknowledged his point, but can't let myself off the hook.

Like any other farm, we've lost babies and few yearlings over the years, but this is only the second time we've lost a full-grown goat, animals I've worked with every day for several years. While it doesn't pain you like loosing a beloved pet, there is sadness here. I've decided to keep the doeling Prieka, who will be bred next year to the Nubian buckling I hope to buy soon and give to Dierdre to raise, which will give him rank and privilege in our herd.

Deep breath. Thanks for listening.

Feb 2, 2009

It starts - the first baby goats of 2009!

Let's give a big Wild Heaven Farm welcome to Cin-cin and Evivia, the first kids of 2009, born Saturday dinnertime to our herd queen Dierdre.

Can you guess the naming theme for this year? There's a prize in it for the first person who does. :)