Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Meet speaker Cathy Lafrenz

Today we are having a little chat with Cathy Lafrenz, also known as Miss Effie to her blog readers and customers in Donahue, Iowa. She has a you-pick flower farm and an on-farm store called the Summer Kitchen where she sells locally made crafts and foods. She also hosts parties on the farm. At the conference, she will be talking about gardening, canning, homestead businesses, and farmer's markets.

When did you move to your homestead?

I moved out here in 1996 ... Cliff had lived here since 1983 or so.

What was the first thing you did, garden or livestock, and why?

Walter the duck
I started gardening the first year. I had always canned but I always lived in apartments. So I was thrilled to have a veggie garden and of course, flowers!! And herbs ... fresh herbs are such a part of my life.

Livestock came in 2002 in the way of chickens ... I started out with 16 and now have close to 100. And ducks!! God's pest control patrol.

What is your favorite part of homesteading?

I love the sense of self-sufficiency. I love knowing that the power can go out and I still have the ability to cook a meal, have some heat and have food in the pantry. I love the ping that canning lids make. I love having hand knit socks .... made out of yarn I spun myself. And my absolute favorite thing ... is an omelet in the spring made from our asparagus, eggs, chives and chevre that I made from local goat milk!! 

Cliff doing an apple cider making demonstration
And as you know, I love to share my lifestyle with others. So the agri-entertainment business works great for me.

What is the toughest part?

Losing animals .... losing a crop .... winters are sometimes hard. For a while ... there was a sense of loneliness .... but FB, blogs ... have made us all closer. And I am seeing more and more people reach for the lifestyle. Some with success .... some without!

What are your plans for the future?

My business has grown a lot and I have had to change the way we live. We have down-sized our veggie gardens and have joined a CSA. Now -- I still have 20 tomatoes and 12-15 pepper plants but I no longer grow green beans, brocolli and cabbage. I have gone to supporting other local farmers so we all have a chance to make a living off the farm.

I would like to teach more. And I would like to have the time to spin more yarn and knit more. And I knit alot ... but not for us. And that is what I really am looking for.

I can't see the business growing anymore physically ..... but we still have lots of ways to grow financially. So I am working on ways to make the "farm" pay for itself.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Register now for early bird discount

The early bird deadline for registration is rapidly approaching on July 31. Until then, registration is only $75 for the day, which includes six educational sessions, as well as lunch. On August 1, the cost of registration will be $89. If you want a vegetarian lunch, be sure to mention that in the comment section when paying.

Registration is limited to 80 people for the whole conference, so the sessions will be small enough for you to get your questions answered. We have three rooms at the Joliet Junior College Conference Center, and each one comfortably seats 30 people. Once the maximum limit has been reached, you will not be able to select any quantity other than "0" for purchase, so if you are able to register, that means that you are in!

The post-conference goat workshop on Sunday is now full.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bookstore gift certificate winner

The winner of the $25 gift certificate to the conference bookstore is Naomi from Minnesota! When you arrive at the conference, you'll get the certificate in your packet at check-in!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Register now for a chance to win

It is hard to believe the conference is less than seven weeks away! In addition to our seven exciting speakers presenting 18 interesting sessions on various aspects of homesteading, and a free magazine for every attendee, there will also be a conference bookstore selling a variety of the best books on gardening, livestock, bees, fiber, sustainability, and more. Just a few of the books that will be available:
  • Four Season Harvest
  • Small-Scale Poultry Flock
  • Gaia's Garden
  • You Can Farm
  • Natural Beekeeping
  • Yarns to Dye For
  • Felt Frenzy
  • Start Spinning
  • Homegrown and Handmade (autographed)
  • Aquaponic Gardening

And to help you get started in buying the books you want, we are having a give-away. Register for either the conference or post-conference workshop by 11:59 p.m. central time, Wednesday, July 18, for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate for the bookstore. If you've already registered, don't worry! You are automatically entered in the give-away.

The winner will be announced right here on Thursday morning, July 19, and you'll receive your gift certificate when you check in at the conference.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Curious about solar power for your home?

Ron Cowgill will be talking about solar energy for today, including what’s new in the industry. He’ll discuss costs and Return on Investment (ROI), the benefits of solar in a world where the traditional energy costs keep going up while alternative energy costs are coming down, and what it means for individuals and small businesses interested in incorporating more alternative energy options into their lives. He’ll also talk about federal and state incentives to help both individuals and businesses defray some of the costs of installing solar.

Ron has been in the remodeling/construction business for over 20 years. He is the owner of both D/R Services Unlimited (18 years) and WinSol Power Company (2 years), and has always incorporated green and conservation practices into his projects. He has been actively involved with solar and wind since 2009, and has worked with various village boards in updating the codes that govern the use of solar and/or wind in the communities. He says he also enjoys long walks on a short plank.

Ron has a variety of Certifications, including Certified Remodeler (CR), Certified Kitchen and Bath Remodeler (CKBR), Green Certified Professional (GCP) through NARI, Licensed electrical contractor (1998-Current), Licensed general contractor in Highland Park, Evanston, and Chicago (1995/96-Current), Certified Pella Installer, Certified Generac Installer, and has taken several week long PV and wind turbine site selection and installation courses. Ron also hosts Mighty House, a home improvement radio show heard on WCPT in Chicago (820 AM, 92.5, 92.7, & 99.9 FM) Saturday mornings from 7-10 a.m.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Free magazine for every attendee

May/June, 2012The publisher of Countryside, Backyard Poultry, sheep!, and Dairy Goat Journal has generously donated enough magazines for every conference attendee to get a copy of whichever magazine they want. As a current or former subscriber to three of those magazines, I'm really excited that everyone will get to take home a copy of one.

Countryside is an all-around magazine about the homesteading lifestyle and skills. When we first moved to the country, it was one of the two magazines that I subscribed to immediately, and I kept reading it for years. If you are not familiar with Countryside, click here to check it out. Of course, the titles of the other three magazines are self explanatory, but if you'd like to learn more about them, click on these links: Dairy Goat Journal, sheep!, and Backyard Poultry.