Category Archives: Gardening

Amanda – The Green Chemist & her Den Adel Community Garden Project

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A guest blog – by Daughter, Jessica.

My daughter, Jessica, is one of my kitchenaire assistants.  I have been known to lovingly and in great fun, call her a scullery maid.  Jessica is in the U.S. Army and a tough gal who speaks Russian.  No scullery maid she.  She is however, a study in conflicts.

She is a pretty, little pixie looking girl – but tough as nails.  She is traveled, even living in Kiev in the past – yet enjoys the small town peace and character.  She has a degree from MSU in Russian and possibly seeks deployment into scary areas of the world – yet happily dons a “Fetching Apron” and becomes a scullery maid for a day.  She reads War and Peace – but is currently helping me write a humorous cookbook.

So….that was a long intro….but I wanted you to know the author.  She writes about Amanda (and Kyle) who have gone from learning from me at Bygone Basics to create a phenomenal project.  At our first session, I actually asked Amanda if she knew how to pare an apple.  (she did)  My comments are italicized in red (my favorite color):

Bygone Basics was sad to lose Amanda Goudreau, but we all must grow up. Amanda was a celebrated Kitchenaire
Assistant in the days when Bygone Basics was still young and living in the suburbs of Whitehall, MI. (Amanda was my “scullery maid” for a long time and helped me build Bygone Basics into what it is and dreamt the dream of Amanda’s Bequest B&B with me as well.  She seems to think I named it after her!!  I am forever grateful for her friendship and assistance). After marrying Kyle, who had just arrived back home from Iraq, (his absence nearly drove Amanda….and those of us around her …CRAZY.  We are so glad he’s back and safe.)  the couple moved to Kalamazoo to attend the university there. To Mom, (Valerie) it must have seemed like one of her chicks was leaving the nest, but I knew that it meant the ideals Bygone Basics was founded on was simply spreading to a new city. And how right I was! ( I really tried hard to talk them into giving up the silly notion of attending University 😉 and having them buy a farmhouse just down the street….)
Kyle and Amanda Goudreau are excited to announce the opening of their community garden. There is a hideous, vacant half-lot directly next to their new house, and a condemned house on the other side of that. Why not make good use of it? If all goes well in their endeavors for the next couple of months, they will be able to use that plot of land to start a community garden….and hopefully they will even be able to remove the mostly-dead tree that stands smack-dab in the center of it. Currently, they are still in the planning stages, but the more community support they gain from the start, the easier it will go for them. Luckily, they already managed to find a supporter willing to fund 100% of their project, and to also help out with any legal matters that may need attending to. (I’m not going to lie, I fought a tear when I watched them find out they weren’t fighting an uphill battle alone.)   We were/are SO PROUD of them.

Amanda.

Local people will be able to secure a plot for a very small fee, which has yet to be decided, and will be provided with every opportunity to be successful in gardening their plot from the very beginning. They are also hoping to get some chickens for the garden, so that local children will be able to hunt for eggs, and will have a better understanding of where their food comes from, in all it’s forms. In addition to the garden, itself, Amanda and Kyle will be hosting several workshops, about one per week. They will, of course, be free to attend, and will cover such topics as: drying out seeds and saving them for the following year, vermiculture – composting with worms, animal husbandry – mainly with raising and breeding chickens and rabbits, and plenty of generic ones about gardening that will be immediately applicable on the plot.  (Understand that this isn’t just a pretty pipe dream.  These two Goodreaus are outstanding and intelligent young people – Amanda is in the Chemistry field and Kyle is studying Medicine.  I have zero doubt they will make numerous impacts on the world as they proceed through life.)

Any surplus crops from the community garden will be donated to local food pantries. The over-arching mission for this project is to promote community cohesiveness, and to improve the surrounding area through inspiration.

Jessica wrote this blog a few weeks ago….(yes, Jessica, I know, I know….it took too long for me to post!  But at least now I can add this good news follow-up…)  A follow-up note from Amanda tells us:

“Well guys, we did it. We’ve been given the green light for the Den Adel Community Garden Project. There are a few last legal details to iron out but we should be breaking ground before the end of the month. That gives us just enough time to get the tree removed, lay the beds, and get a fence up before the ground freezes.”  

There may have been occasional silliness occurring in the Bygone Basics kitchen (with Valerie Hanson, Mary Lynn Rabe, and Amanda (Putnam) Goodreau

If you are in or about the Kalamazoo, Michigan (USA) area and wish to be a part of this very neat project, let me know and I will put you in touch with Amanda.

Do you have a desire to learn some of these progressive AND retro (talk about conflicting words) skills (gardening, canning, baking, raising chickens/ducks, soap making, butter churning, composting…etc)?  Come visit Bygone Basics at Amanda’s Bequest!  Heck….you can even stay here while you learn (true immersion).

CONGRATULATIONS AND GOOD HARVEST WISHES TO AMANDA AND KYLE.

As Easy as Pie


Oh…the joys of Spring and Summer are upon us….no?  It’s Autumn, you say?  Really?  Where’d my Summer go?!!

You might also feel that way…just a bit?

These little 3 to 4 pound beauties make the best pies!

This post really brings me into reality.  I just realized it was time to bake the pumpkins. (still shaking my head that it is autumn)

“Oh how we love pumpkin season. You did know this gourd-ish squash has its own season, right? Winter, Spring, Summer, Pumpkin…. We anxiously anticipate it every year.” ~Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer, October 2010

I usually prefer to bake up actual pie pumpkins and my favorite one is the little “Winter Luxury” pie pumpkin, as smaller tends to mean sweeter.  I get the seeds from the Jung Seed company in Wisconsin.  But since my unofficial motto is (according to my husband) “Can it before it rots” I pretty much put-by food regardless of pedigree.  I rather enjoy carving a huge jack-o-lantern and baking a pie from the face parts I cut out.  It brings a chuckle to any kid in your home to be eating “face pie” on Halloween.  I also will use hearty sweeter pumpkin like squashes like Red Warty Thing and hubbard as pumpkin mash as they are pretty much interchangeable in recipes.

Pumpkin is the one thing I don’t can.  Instead I prefer to freeze it.  The pure density of squash leaves too much question about whether the pressure canning process brought the center of the jar up to the right temperature and for long enough.  Additionally, I prefer to take it out as ready to go mash.  NEVER, can mashed pumpkin as it is too dense for safe home processing.

So….this morning, my house was 59 degrees.  By George, I am NOT lighting the furnaces in September.  That makes it a perfect day to bake pumpkins.  Here is what I do:

Just halve the pumpkins and place on a cookie sheet to bake.

Preheat oven to 325 (you can do 350 for a faster bake, but don’t go higher).  You want to slow simmer the flesh, not bake it crispy.  Take a long carving knife and slice the pumpkin in half.  Scoop the seedy center our with a spoon and …in my case at least….feed that yummy center to the chickens and ducks!  Lay the halved pumpkin face down on foil covered (for clean-up ease only, foil bottom not necessary) cookie sheets and cover with foil.

Boy…that took all of 5-10 minutes.  Really…this isn’t that hard or time consuming.  I might lose my day-job if people realized how easy some of these very heirloom activities actually are….

Bake for 1 to 3 hours, depending on how much you have in your oven and how big the pieces are.  Smaller equals faster.

You know the pumpkin is done when a fork slides easily in all the way to the shell as if warm butter.

You know they are done when you can sink a dinner fork like into warm butter until it reaches the shell.  Take out and let cool a few minutes.  You probably can read half of “Fifty Shades of Grey” during this effortless time and people will thing you slaved to make them a pumpkin pie from scratch.  Your secret.  🙂

After baking let the pumpkins cool just enough to handle. It is easier to work with when warm.

Next is up to you.  At this point the pumpkin is ready to use in recipes.  I don’t like the texture of the occasional strings in the flesh.  So here is what I do:

With a soup spoon I scoop the now soft and warm flesh into my old food mill.  Press it with a few turns of my hand and it deposits into the bowl underneath.  Any strings are strained out by this extra step and it is also not time consuming.  Warmer is better.

If not using it right away, stir and premeasure into freezer containers or bags, writing the amount,date, and of course, contents on a label.  100% pumpkin.

SO EASY.  AND, it is your family food quality control … You know what is in that pumpkin puree and what isn’t.  You may not have read that aforementioned book, but I get a lot done when baking pumpkin and I adjust the oven temp lower if I have to run on an errand that is longer than an hour or so.

This food mill may be old, but it sure does a quick job of sending pumpkin through.

It is very easy to scoop out a baked pumpkin.

Mine almost entirely goes into pumpkin pie.  Which should be another post perhaps.  Equally as easy, but oh so tasty!  My favorite pie.  I actually had it be my “wedding cake” when I married.  I love it that much.

Do you bake your own pumpkin?  What is your favorite variety for it?

Ready for the freezer!

Holy Cow

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Holy cow, it has been a very eventful summer.  My apologies to you for a prolonged absence.

We have had twin grandaughters and a grandson born.

We have also learned of another grandchild on the way, and were saddened by the loss of a grandbaby-in-womb.

Our garden has been prolific lately, but as a result of much tending and watering due to the extreme high temps this summer and drought.

Our bed & breakfast, Amanda’s Bequest Bed & Breakfast, in here in Montague, Michigan  www.amandasbequest.com  has been busy.  Certainly for its opening year!  We operate as a farmstay and guests are immersed in a real working farm-stle home.  They collect eggs and can help churn butter or gather food from the gardens for breakfast if they wish.  We have enjoyed many wonderful and diverse guests from all over the world now!!  (How cool is that?!)  One guest, who was a world traveler, rated us as top two B&B’s in all his travels.  Turns out I’m I’m an ok cook.  He couldn’t decide who was better, a B&B in Scotland, or us.  I have to tell you, I was so dumb-struck at the remark.  After all…we are just..us.

Also busy for us has been our Bygone Basics culinary experiences.  www.bygonebasics.com  People are really wanting to know how to go back to the healthy nutritious foods that were on our predescessor’s tables.  I teach them how to use what tools they already have to get that heritage “kitchen is the heart and soul of the home” healthy foods back into their lives and in their “today” lifestyle.

We have had kitchen guests from 7 countries and 44 USA States now.

To top it all off, I’m now a licensed kitchen and am baking and selling heritage recipe and artisan foods.  All made to order and by hand from natural foods and basic ingredients (nothing you can’t spell or say!).

We have grown our little flock of hens from 6 to 12…plus a duck…but don’t tell Daisy, she thinks she’s a chicken.

My loving husband has been amazing as our journey has brought us to this kind of activity.  He just smiles and builds what I need.  🙂  I wish this kind of a husband on all of our daughters.

Anyway….

My niece Jade is now “apprenticing.”  Leaving me with a few hours at the end of the week to blog and do other things that I’ve been too swamped to do.  I taught her how to hoe the other day.  I told her she was going to be a great hoe-er someday.  She laughed.  I realized what I said.  Too funny.  She’s been learning to bake, make pies, artisan breads, hoe, can, make soap…she’s been a treasure of help to me too!

I will “talk” with you soon.  Just needed to catch you up on my busy-bee “holy cow, what changes!” summer.

Yours,

Valerie Hanson

A Sprung Spring

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See the plant nursery in the window? Pretty nice “digs” for them, if you’ll pardon the pun.

We try to use as much space as possible for planting. Even vertical shelving and mismatched planters. Soon the pots and shelves will be screened by moon flower and morning glory vines.

Rhubarb!! A seriously under-used food plant.

One of the lucky pepper plants that survived the greenhouse demolition. We don’t really know which of 4 varieties if may be!

Finally!  I got to plant my garden.  It has been a crazy spring.  80 degree March and 30 degree April.  Wind heavy storms.  I happily started seeds in the parlor windows in mid February so my little pretties would be ready to transfer out to the big outdoors greenhouse by mid to late March.  The weather was so nice in March, I was pleased to re-pot the now leggy tomatoes, ground cherries, and peppers, etc. and haul them all out to the sunny warm shelter of the outdoor greenhouse.

That’s when it started.

The Crazy Spring.  It was like Spring sprung a spring and went bouncing off its track.  The weather didn’t just turn cold, it turned frozen with night temperatures plummeting to 23 degrees and daytime ones nudging 40 and 45.  Certainly not growing weather.  I took to hauling the many flats of plants back into the house at night and then, out to the greenhouse by day.

Eh…it’s Michigan.

That’s what I told myself.  You do what you have to, to garden in Michigan springs.

Then, it warmed up a smidge and I let the plants have a sleep-over in the outside greenhouse.  That’s when disaster struck!  Fantastical high winds.  They arrived as if on a freight train and demolished my greenhouse and spilled my lovelies all over.   Broken stems and dashed harvest.  I did my best to find and re-plant what I could and hauled them back into the parlor to stay.  Then, fortunately, I had more seeds, I started new plants.

Here is a young row of strawberries interplanted with asparagus. In normal years, the asparagus would be much shorter! Plus, it has been left to grow healthy roots instead of stalks this first year.

That is one of the great things about starting a garden with seeds instead of nursery plants.  Extra seeds.

Well.  I finally got my gardens planted.  The recovered older plants are in the ground with smaller ones.  Rows of seeds are now sprouting into red trails of beet leaves and fine tendrils of newly emerging green onions.

There’s cabbage, broccoli, rutabaga, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, horseradish, sweet corn, peas, beets, ground cherry, squashes, beans, pickles, lots of herbs, nasturtiums, sunflowers, morning glories, marigold….and lions and tigers and…

Beets make a pretty row of red and green. My how the chickens love the little ones I pull out to thin the row.

Already in the ground were the perennial plants.  Strawberries, Asparagus, Rhubarb, Onion, Garlic, Blueberries, Raspberries, Currants, Apples, and Pears.  I’m loving my rhubarb harvest right now.  Couldn’t pick the asparagus as it was planted only last spring and it is best to give it a year or so without harvest to let the plant focus energies on the root growth.  The first crop of strawberries froze off but there’s more on the way.  We surely lost the pears and apples to the Crazy Spring.  I’m also getting lots of spring perennial herbs and the onions that make our food practically dance with flavor.

I can’t wait to start canning season.

I’ve been teaching a lot of canning lately and it is certainly the season

Herbs! Oregano and tarragon in front. Planted area for basil and cilantro next. Then, fennel, lavender, lemon balm, pineapple sage, dill, chives…

for canning pickled asparagus.  Bygone Basics guests enjoy taking their green jars of treasure home.  Now it is my turn.  This weekend…I’m canning as much as possible of this neat treat…for ourselves and our guests.

After that…Jam!…of the strawberry rhubarb varieties…and then…summer produce will be in full swing and all harvest will break loose.

What is your favorite food to grow?

What do you look forward to “put by?”

We grow things in the ground and in pots and buckets….here is some basil that will flourish in vertical space.

A newly “grounded” plant. It had just been rained on so it looks a tad bedraggled.

NEATO!

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How neato is this?  kalamitykelli nominated me (icanatbygonebasics) for the Versatile Blog Award.  It sure added a thrill to my day as I was over focused and drenched in paint doing a project (hand-painting a sign for our B&B).

Thank you kalamitykelli.  🙂   (http://kellisretrokitchenarts.wordpress.com/)

As a VBA recipient, I should tell you 7 things about myself:

  1.  I have 8 children (6 daughters and 2 sons), 2 grandsons, 1 baby grand son due in August, and TWIN baby grandgirls expected next month!
  2. I can move my eyes independent of each other (makes me look rather loopy!)
  3. I just opened a heritage farm-stay Bed & Breakfast (www.amandasbequest.com)
  4. I garden every open square inch possible….vertical and horizontal (I have peppers and tomatoes stuck everywhere in the summer)

    This is what I've been doing. Hand painting a sign for our Bed & Breakfast. I covered in paint and am told by my husband that I must roll in paint like a horse in sand. http://www.amandasbequest.com

  5. I am a crazy chicken lady (love my free range “girls”) and they follow me about like ducklings
  6. I teach heritage culinary and farm kitchen skills (soap making, pressure canning, gardening, baking breads and pies old-style…etc) in a 140 year old kitchen (www.bygonebasics.com)
  7. I have a novel pacing across my brain and back, rattling its cage, wanting to get out….

Here are 15 versatile blogs I enjoy (no particular order):

1.  The Soulsby Farm (http://soulsbyfarm.wordpress.com/) who believe in the same lifestyle I do of self- sustainable living and are random bloggers so you get a wonderful view of their lives.

2.  Jen Maan in Amman (http://jenmaaninamman.com/) an ex-patriot from Southern California who is currently in Amman with her husband.  Her blogs are humourous and cultural diverse…and have some interesting recipes too!

3.  Kath Usitalo (http://kathusitalo.com/) has a couple of blogs and a great writing style…and she’s continuously visiting interesting places and sharing them in her blog with great photography too.  You never know what she’s going to share next.

4.  In Toads Garden (http://toads.wordpress.com/) is a wonderful gardener in Denmark with a very natural earthy style that I enjoy.

5.  Yes You Can (http://yes-you-can-can.com/) is a wonderful country girl’s guide and covers sewing, cooking, gardening…lots of basic “how to’s”

6.  thesolitarycook (http://thesolitarycook.wordpress.com/) is all about FOOD!  She knows her stuff and clearly loves the enormous variety of foods she writes about.

7.  wallopingteaspoon (http://wallopingteaspoon.wordpress.com/) is also culinary pro in my book.  Her blogs are thorough and well written.  She blogs about food from tuxedo cupcakes to a good “sammich” to Red Snapper

8.  Rosey Dow Blog (http://roseydow.wordpress.com/) I like her old house blogs and feel an affinity.

9.  hippie itch (http://hippieitch.wordpress.com/) covers a lot of topics from healthy lifestyles to food to animals.  I love her passion for animals.

10.  The Domestically Impaired Guide to Retro Kitchen Arts (http://kellisretrokitchenarts.wordpress.com/) is a great blog on home canning…a KINDRED SPIRIT.

11.  Aquaponic Family (http://aquaponicfamily.wordpress.com/) is a fun blog about aquaponic gardening.  I live vicariously through them as I would like to do what they are….

12.  Farm Country Crafts (http://farmcountrycrafts.wordpress.com/) Pretty well described in the title but goes much further!  A fun blog and you’ll love her Five Reasons to Do Yard Work in the Shade.

13.  domesticateddilettante (http://domesticateddilettante.wordpress.com/ is a well-written and well-rounded blog about family, food, gardening… I love that she is determined to garden.

14.  The Cosy Creative (http://thecosycreative.wordpress.com/) is about a lot of things.  I really like her motto “feel happy, make something”

15.  Linda Stone (http://lindastone.net/) is a thinker and able to transmit those thoughts with good clear writing.  What can I say, I like thinkers!

Keep up the great posts!  And thank you for sharing parts of your lives with me.

Valerie Hanson

Larry is Gone

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Heifer is my most affectionate hen. She is the brown one in this photo. Larry and Darrell follow closely in affection too. Well...not Larry anymore. 😦 Larry's sister, Darrell, is the white Leghorn here.

Last night, I lost Larry.  😦

You might think it an odd name, but Larry is a chicken.  A white Leghorn hen.  One of my best laying hens and one of my two most affectionate and interactive “girls.”

I knew having free range hens was a gamble.

I know I would be furious and out for revenge if Larry was lost to a free running dog that a neighbor should have contained better.

But….Larry was taken by a Bald Eagle…doing what Bald Eagles do.

Now I don’t know how to feel.  Very sad, of course, I love Larry and all her fluffy, happy sisters.  She was a pet to me, like another person’s cat or dog.  But, how can I be furious at the eagle?  I would be a hypocrite if I took issue with nature taking its course.

All of my girls have odd names. Most have barnyard animal names. This is our biggest girl, Dog. She lays enormous brown eggs like clockwork every day.

It seems that I should be angry with myself for not keeping the hens in their little coop and, thus, exposing them to danger.  But…then they would spend their lives in a little pen, eating what kitchen and garden scraps and chicken feed I gave them; rather than running about happily eating bugs and grass seeds, selecting for themselves what foods they needed, with (and I swear this is true) big smiles on their beaks.

So I ask you.

What should I do?  Keep them penned in and safe?  OR Allow them free range in the midst of possible danger?

Here are some of my mixed variety hens. They lay a mixture of brown, blue, green, and white eggs for me.

Do you have chickens? 

How do you handle this problem?

Bunny is a very old Brahma hen. She raised the other's as chicks and really doesn't lay much as she is so excited by all the eggs that she wants to brood them all of the time. She's un pollo loco.

A Compost … Post

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Confessions of a Composter

Most who know me well, have seen me spirit food scraps from restaurants. Yes. I admit. I am one of THOSE people.

I can’t stand to see waste. I think it may be a disease, as it is getting worse as I get older.

My possible disease diagnosis aside <wink> .. I’m getting quite a nicely rounded bio-cycle. Food for human consumption enters the cycle (via my own gardens, grocery, gifts from other growers…and um…restaurant take-away… What isn’t immediately consumable is given to the chickens.

What my free-range feathery little girls who run about the lawns with happy little smiles on their beaks then do, is give me eggs! What chickens can’t eat, goes into the compost. The chickens also produce manure; and that, along with their straw bedding, is regularly put into the compost, too.

The compost eventually gets dumped into the garden. The chickens eat bugs from the compost after random spreading there and further spread it out in the garden with their scratching. And I get eggs.

The compost improves the soil, helping grow abundant good food in the garden…and the cycle revolves. Did I mention I get eggs out of the deal too!? So I have learned that the more organic resources I can introduce into this little bio-cycle, the more powerful the food growing cycle is.

Now please note, I live within CITY limits…in a neighborhood. But fortunately, I also have a few acres of space for gardens!  (yay me!)  This style of healthy living is possible even with small patio gardening. (you should fore go the chickens if there is no room for them to be happy) You can compost in small places and keep vigorous plants in that soil in containers on your deck even. I’ll tell you how:

There are some really nice home use and commercial composting equipment you can pay a pretty penny for and if you want to go that route, that’s fine. I prefer to look around first to see if there is something I can reuse or recycle before I go buy new things.

Let’s call it creative composting.  You can have a compost bin made out of just about anything.  Look around, what have you laying about?  Some cinder blocks?  An old tarp?  Old wooden pallets (these work great because you can stand your rakes and hoes, even Shepard’s crook flower holders to prettily screen your pile, in the outer wall).  Old unused small dog kennel?  A few 5 gallon plastic pails?  Discarded window screens (just wire them together).

We use the big bulk food plastic barrels that would be discarded by huge food processors and go to a landfill to never break down.  They are great for rain barrels too.  Since turning your compost is important, you need access into it with a pitchfork…or in the case of my compost barrel…John has made a lid that fits tightly on the top and I just knock it over and roll it around a bit and stand it back up.  When the time comes to put it on the garden, we just roll it there.  He did drill some small holes in the sides and bottom for proper drainage and aeration.

Essentially, you just need something that will contain your compost, give it some aeration and drainage, and allow you to turn it in some manner.

Start your compost with brown matter.  No…not poo.  Lawn clippings, leaves, even cardboard/newspaper.  Yes…paper is organic and will return to the earth as nutrients instead of a landfill if you mix it in a compost pile.  You can even toss in some soil to introduce the microorganisms that break down matter into soil.  Then you can begin tossing in your household scraps.  Keep throwing on the brown matter.  But there are somethings you shouldn’t put in your compost:

  • used cat box litter (could spread disease)
  • bones (won’t break down)
  • large quantities of fat in one glob (add shredded newspaper with it and stir the pile)
  • Meat (just be cautious as this may attract unwanted interest in your compost…I have never had a problem)
  • non-organic items (plastic, heavily glossy mailings…)

Definitely add your coffee grounds; paper filter and all!

See an earthworm after a rain?  Put him in too, to help break things down.

It works well to have two barrels as it takes about three to 6 months for a good compost to do it’s job.  I fill one and let it sit for a month or two (still need to roll it around once in a while) while I start to fill the other.  About the time the second one is getting full, it is time to put the first one on the gardens.

We have two kitchens at Bygone Basics/Amanda’s Bequest.  We keep two small compost buckets in the kitchen and dump them daily into the larger one out doors.  We just use a bucket we’ve found to re-use for this purpose, but you can purchase kitchen compost containers that are specifically made for this in many home-improvement stores.

Composting is a great way to boost your plants and food output, reduce your trash bill, keep a lot of paper and waste out of the landfill, take care of livestock manure, and of course, get eggs!  

(did I mention I LOVE eggs?)

If you haven’t already, have a look at our websites:

Bygone Basics:  www.bygonebasics.com

Amanda’s Bequest – A Heritage Farmstay Bed & Breakfast:  www.amandasbequest.com