Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rocky Mountain Soap Company Commission

In early October I got an email from the director of marketing of the Rocky Mountain Soap Company.  The company is basically a Canadian version of Bath and Body Works, but way more awesome.  They make all of their products with nothing but natural ingredients and run every aspect of their company as sustainably as possible (wind power, non plastic packaging, etc).  Anyway, Abby, the director of marketing emailed me to ask whether I could make a series of needle felted sculptures to decorate a new store they were about to open.  The amazing thing is that she found out about me by googling "needle felted animals" and coming across this blog!  So thank you everyone for getting this page fairly high up on the google search results!  So the commission ended up being for 4 sculptures: a barn owl, a songbird, a fawn and a fox, all of them significantly larger than anything I'd done before (with the exception of the songbird).  All of them also had to be done completely in greyscale (to match the rest of the store apparently), so the photos look like they are black and white photos but they actually are in color.  After working long hours on the project for the past month and a half I just finished the final piece this week.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Finally finished some new sculptures

To my loyal readers I sincerely apologize for not writing for so long!  This first growing season on the farm has been a little bit insane.  We've had to struggle with one of the worst droughts in US history on top of the usual work involved with starting a new farm so I haven't had much time for needle felting.  I've also been writing about all our farm exploits on our new Facebook page: because that's pretty much become our farm's official website.  I will try to do a better job of posting the same info and photos here whenever I can. 
So in the last 3 months I've only had time to complete 3 sculptures so on the needle felting front you haven't missed much.  All three of these birds: a barn swallow, a cardinal and a goldfinch were commissioned by my friend Kelty and her twin sister Hannah for their beautiful new online store, The Weaver House, where they will be up for sale soon.  So Kelty and Hannah's brilliant idea was to make life-size birds or other small animals that could be mounted on tree branches or rocks so that they resemble taxidermy, minus the dead animal.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Lucky Duck Farm's Big Debut

Market season has arrived and we are now selling at two brand new markets in the Chicago area.  One is the Ground Up Farmer's Market at the Browntrout Restaurant in Chicago.  Chef Sean Sanders
 was generous enough to open up his restaurant on his off day to host a small weekly farmer's market.  Emma and I have participated in the first 4 markets so far and have had a great time.  Business had been kinda slow but it is picking up as more people in the neighborhood learn of the market's existence.  And we already have loyal regular customers who love our truly free range eggs and our vegetables!  It's really nice to see familiar faces each week and know that there are people who appreciate what we're doing.
Just last Sunday we went to the inaugural Elmwood Park Farmer's Market.  We were pleasantly surprised to see how diverse residents of Elmwood Park turned out to be.  Most of the people that came through the market were immigrants from somewhere or another: Russia, Eastern Europe, Latin America or Asia.  We were also pleasantly surprised with how well our produce sold!  We brought chicken and duck eggs, pea shoots, mizuna and bags of stir fry mix (bok choi, mizuna and mustard greens) and all of it sold really well.
The weather in our area has been extremely hot and dry.  We just had our first significant rain in almost a month yesterday.  As a result our cool season crops: bok choi, chinese cabbage and mustard greens have been suffering, so we don't expect to be able to harvest too much more of them.  Everything else looks pretty good though so we will be bringing lots of hakurei turnips, daikon radishes and green onions to market soon!

Our Browntrout table

Our Elmwood Park stand featuring our fancy new sign! (made with fabric markers and a bed sheet)

Freshly picked pea shoots for sale in Elmwood Park

Monday, May 7, 2012


 I didn't have time to do any needle felting this week!  We transplanted all of our Chinese cabbage and bok choi into the field, went to our first market, moved our sheep and cow out of the barn and into the big pasture, moved all 6 pigs together into a single large paddock and moved our ducklings out into a new outdoor coop.  We also had another lambing but unfortunately this time it was a single stillborn lamb.  Iris, the runt of our flock was the would be mother.  Because of her small size we were a little worried about her ability to give birth so we are just relieved that she made it through unharmed.

Emma transplanting bok choi

Our honeybees delivering full pollen baskets (the  big yellow balls stuck to their hind legs)  The pollen is used as their main source of protein and is fed to the queen so that she can pump out lots of eggs.

Lucky Duck Farm's Big Debut!

Last Tuesday was our big farmer's market debut!  Shawn Sanders, chef and owner of Browntrout, a farm to table restaurant on the north side of Chicago had the ingenious idea of hosting a weekly farmer's market in his restaurant on his day off.  The idea is to help support new small farms just like ours.  We had an great time at last Tuesday's debut market.  My mother, grandmother and aunt and several of our friends all showed up to lend us some support and just hang out.  And we managed to sell all of our duck eggs and all but 2 dozen of our chicken eggs.  For this first market all we had available were chicken and duck eggs but starting this Tuesday we will also have vegetables!  This week we will be harvesting our first batch of pea shoots to bring to market.  So from now until at least September 18th we plan on making the weekly trip up to Chicago to take part in the Browntrout market.  If you are in the Chicago area you can come check out our produce (and my latest needlefelt critters) every Tuesday evening from 5-8 pm.  The great thing about this particular market is that while you are shopping for fresh produce you can stop to eat some of Browntrout's amazing food or grab a drink at the bar! 
Our brand new logo designed by my brother Toru

Our very first farm stand

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Spring has definitely arrived

The past couple weeks have been a little bit crazy around the farm.  We practically doubled our animal population over the course of a week (well if you count the bees we increased it by a factor of 1000 or so).  We got the 2 lambs I mentioned in my last post, 2 bee colonies, 100 chicks, 30 ducklings and 4 piglets.  In addition to all this we were working in the vegetable field every day planting bok choy, daikon radish, turnips, snow peas, mizuna, komatsuna, shungiku, turnip greens, mitsuba and transplanting our chinese cabbages.  I didn't even have time to do any needle felting for a whole week!

Number 1
Number 2
Freedom Ranger chicks are bred to do very well on pasture
These Khaki Campbell ducklings are going to lay lots of eggs for us when they grow up

Red Wattle cross piglets from our certified organic neighbors at South Pork Ranch

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Last night we added two new members to our farm family.  Gretel gave birth to two beautiful, healthy lambs.  That makes these little guys the very first animals born on our farm!

The new happy family

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

American Kestrel

This is a life-size sculpture of an adult male American Kestrel.  They are beautiful, tiny little falcons that are fairly common in our part of Illinois.  We actually have a mated pair living very close to our farm.  When they hunt they use the wind to keep them almost completely stationary in a spot above an open field, then as soon as they spot a mouse or other small rodent they dive in for the kill.  I got to watch this the other day right in one of our fields.
This little guy is now up for sale in my Etsy shop

Yes, their feathers are actually these colors

Beautiful photos by Kelty Luber of The Weaver House

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

After having to wait an extra day for a grain drill, today we successfully planted all 6 acres of our pasture and cover cropped our 2 fallow vegetable fields! It was all made possible by our incredible new friends and neighbors, Terry and Judy Bachtold. Terry and Judy raise 100% grass fed beef cattle at their farm, Grazin' Acres Farm in Strawn, IL. We got to know them because Terry is our local USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service representative and Judy is our mail lady. We also bought our steer, Number 13 from them. We only met them a few months ago but already Terry and Judy treat us like family, trying to help us out in any way they can. We've also helped them out by looking after their cows for a couple days while they were out of town. However, after all they did for us over the past few days I don't know how we can properly repay them. Terry helped arrange our pasture and cover crop seed order with a local seed supplier, he then found and delivered to us a grain drill (a tractor implement that plants large quantities of small seeds very efficiently) to borrow free of charge, and then spent almost 5 hours helping us actually plant our pasture and cover crops this afternoon!
One of the reasons Emma and I chose this way of life was because we wanted to live in a place where we would actually get to know our neighbors and become a part of a true, mutually supportive community. Thank you Terry and Judy for showing us that we came to the right place.

Terry and Judy helping us load the grain drill

Emma and Chad loading orchard grass seed

Terry teaching me the finer points of using a grain drill, like obstacle avoidance

The student becomes the teacher... not quite

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Goodbye corn field, hello pasture

Today we spent a whole lot of time on the tractor.  We borrowed our landlord, Mr. Harms' John Deere 3020 and tilled up 6 acres our new land.  Year after year, for the last fifty years this acreage has been planted in conventional corn and soybeans.  Tomorrow we will be planting it with clover, alfalfa and grasses, just the way it was for a hundred years before the "green revolution".  We also tilled 2 more acres of our future crop fields.  These we will plant in a cover crop of peas and oats, which we will then let grow for the rest of the year to protect the soil and provide fertility for next year's vegetables.

She's a cowgirl.  On a steel horse she rides.

Ridin' dirty

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012

First seeds

 Today we planted our very first seeds in the greenhouse.  We made our own potting soil using Elliot Coleman's recipe and packed it into soil blocks.  Into these little blocks we planted several varieties of Chinese cabbage, 2 Asian varieties of basil and Japanese green onions.

Making soil blocks

Planting Thai basil

We also bought 32 cubic yards of compost from a neighboring farm, soon to be spread on our vegetable field

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Buh buh
If this has you scratching your head, just watch this:
And for more details check out my etsy shop: