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Back of Beyond Farm is a small, family run operation in Rist Canyon, Colorado. We work closely with natural rhythms to create wellness teas from indigenous and naturalized plants. 2013 marks our 4th year of supporting our community through tasty teas. In the year ahead, we hope to continue our work of not only producing healthful teas, but also exploring the edges of what it means to farm and be a part of a place.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Tool Care

Not the sharpest tool in the shed - we use this to subtly subject our less-witted friends to torment. And we are equally tormented on a small holding, like ours, when a tool doesn't quite do its job.

John Seymour places tool maintenance firmly in these Winter months. Around here, we choose to do our thorough sharpening sometime around February 24th - The Feast of St. Matthias. Characterized by an ax, St. Matthias day seems an appropriate time to tend to saw, and ax, and knifes, and the cutting tools of shovels and hoe.

The Self-Sufficient Life runs a listing of the most practical tools for each job - from "Making use of Woodlands" to "Making Wine". The illustrations and descriptions keep it simple. A jumping off spot for experimentation and moving from novice to expert with the given tool.

We all have dreams of the best of tools - the $60 hoe or the $200 Swedish, hand-crafted ax. But, just as likely our tools come as hand-me-downs and thrift and rummage sale finds.

I like to run a rag soaked in linseed oil over the wood handles a couple times a year. And I soak the heads of tools in a sand and used oil mixture (contained in a five gallon bucket) at the same times. Some of our tools are used almost daily - ax in the Fall and Winter - hoe in the Summer.

Now is the time to get them into working shape - using a grinder and whetstone to take out nicks and bends.

The hope is that I'll never get labeled for having less than sharp tools in my shed - figurative or otherwise.

Friday, February 8, 2013

By the Seasons

The idyllic life is laid out on pages 24 and 25 of The Self-Sufficient Life. Season by season Seymour tells us what to do:

Winter: Repair work - fences, tools, sharpening. Awareness of animals needs in the cold. Slaughtering. Spring tree planting plans. Brewing. Enjoy your past year's labors.

Early Spring: Work the land when you can. Spread compost. Order seed. Plant trees.

Late Spring: Sow seeds every two weeks once weather permits and the forecast says it makes sense. Keep after the early weeds to save time later. Early potatoes should head into the Good Earth. Make homebrew for Summer thirsts.

Early Summer: Check your homebrew supply (seems to be a theme here!) Plant out tender crops - potatoes and squashes, if you have access to good dairy - make the cheeses and dairy products you'll need later in the year.

Late Summer: Drink homebrew. Pick, harvest, pluck and preserve. Wild berries, garden produce, bounty of other farms and gardens. Canning, freezing, drying.

Fall: Harvest root crops, make Hard Cider, pick apples and other later maturing fruits, cut and stack firewood, pickle remaining crops, clean-up the garden and fields, get your food stores all safely tucked away and cared for.

Our rhythm works mostly like this - it's just the way of the northern hemisphere. We throw hunting in there for the Fall and the meat prep that comes with that. Additionally, we do a lot of our firewood in the Winter. Our herb harvest has its season for every plant with May with nettles, October with rosehips and June fir tips. Other things may flux, but this is always the season for these herbs.

Think through your year now - make the plan, put it on the calendar and then adapt to make it happen.