Spaghetti Squash

I love it when I rediscover an old favorite food item. I bought a spaghetti squash the other day at the grocery store. I really really enjoy spaghetti squash, but sometimes just forget about them.
I’m sitting here at my desk at work with a big bowl of spaghetti squash in front of me. I seasoned it with butter, salt, garlic, and lemon, giving it a kind of scampi-esque flavor. It really is divine.
If you’ve never made a spaghetti squash, fear not. The hardest part about it is cutting it open…it has a bit of a “shell” so it can be difficult. But, it’s not that bad.

So, here’s what you do:

First you cut it in half lengthwise and scrape out all the seeds in the middle.  Next you put it, cut side down, in a baking dish with maybe an inch of water in it.  Then you stick it in the oven and cook it till it’s tender.  That’s it.  Cooking time will change depending on the size of the squash, bu 20 minutes is a good guesstimate.  When you take it out of the oven, flip it onto a plate and flake the squash into noodle-like strands.  It’s easy, but be careful not to burn your fingers.

I really like spaghetti squash with butter, lemon, and garlic…with maybe some Parmesan cheese.  You can also eat like spaghetti, with a tomato based sauce and some Mozzarella.  It would even be good with just salt.  It’s a relatively bland squash, that takes on the flavor of whatever seasoning you choose.

One of the things I love about spaghetti sauce is that it’s fresh and healthful.  It isn’t breaded and deep-fried, or over-processed and pre-packaged.  It’s just good wholesome food.

National Correspondence Writing Month

February is National Correspondence Writing Month.  The idea is to hand-write a letter every day of the month…29 in all, since this is a Leap Year.  To those of you who know me personally, you’ll understand when I say that I have, in fact, written at least one letter every day this month so far.  I have not, however, actually mailed any of them.  Hopefully, I will get them in the mail in the morning.  Yep, that’s how I roll.

I really like the idea of writing letters by hand.  Emails are fine, especially if you’re conducting business and want to get to the point.  Texting is somewhat less fine, but if you need to make a quick connection, it’s OK.  A card with a brief, sentimental message is better than anything electronic, but still…if the only personalization involved is the signing of a name, it isn’t that great.  But a real letter, with a hand-written message, shows that you are taking the time to let someone know that you’re really thinking about them.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Any kind of communication is better than nothing, even for personal messages.  I’ve sent birthday greetings via email before, or using FaceBook messaging.  I’ve only recently learned to text, and I’m not fond of it, but it’s great when you just want to send some information and don’t necessarily need a reply.  Sometimes a person just needs to get the message sent, one way or another.  But a real letter, hand-written, takes time and thought.  It takes care.

When I write a real letter, I go all out.  I have pretty notecards for shorter letters, and good stationery for longer ones.  I use a fountain pen with a special color of ink.  I make sure that the stamps are beautiful and don’t in any way clash with the color of the envelope.  I use my best handwriting and make sure I spell everything correctly.  I plan what I’m going to say and make it a personal message, for the recipient alone.  I express care, in a way that an electronic message simply cannot.  With a hand-written message you can express conviction by adding pressure to your pen, or by underling, by using larger script, slanting your letters, or in any number of ways. Likewise, you can express timidity, love, worry, sadness, joy…all in the way your pen touches the paper and the ink flows onto it.

When I was in high school, forty years ago, I had a couple of penpals.  I found Michael Webster from Australia and James Mbutu from Kenya through an organization that handled such things.  I’m not at all sure now how it all worked.  I didn’t have to pay anything, so I have no idea how the company conducted business.  They probably no longer exist.  That sort of thing is obsolete now, which is kind of sad.

I wish I could say that I plan to be an avid letter-writer from now on, but it just isn’t so.  Life is too fast now, too fractured.  I’ll write my daily letter this month because I said I would, and I’m stubborn.  But when the month is over, I’ll likely go back to emails and texting and an occasional birthday card.  Oh, I’ll try for a while, but life is too busy for things like fountain pens and pretty stationery.  It’s a shame.

Spring Chores

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chives

People think that this time of year is “quiet time” on the farm.  It’s true to some extent.  There’s no garden to tend, no produce to can, no butchering or birthing going on. The bees are resting and, usually, the weather is nasty so we’re stuck inside.  But on a farm there’s always something to do.  Late winter is when you get started on spring chores.

January is a big planning month.  The seed catalogs come in, so you start thinking about the garden. If you plan on ordering bees, this is the time to contact the apiary…they sell out early and you don’t want to miss your chance.  Do you need to increase your chicken flock?  Are you adding some new projects?  I always have a couple of things in the works.  This is the time to be thinking about all of that.

February is when you start acting on January’s plans.  The garden is planned out?  Get those seeds started so that they’ll be ready to transplant after the first frost.  Did you order bees?  They’ll be delivered sometime in April, and they’ll need a hive to live in.  And if you have bees already, you’ll be wanting to add some boxes for them to fill with spring honey. Are you adding livestock, expanding a pasture, building a shed?  Whatever project you have going, there’s always some prep work to do.

jersey calves are so pretty

jersey calves are so pretty

March is when the babies start being born…I don’t have sheep or goats, but lambs and kids usually start in February, calves and foals in March.  I try to not let the hens set till late March so that the chicks are born in April…and if I order chicks, I try not to have them delivered till May because they need to be kept very warm for the first few weeks.  March is also when you direct-sow your cold-weather crops…radishes, spinach, lettuce, kale, peas, potatoes, etc.  You want to do that as soon as you can get into the garden; these plants can handle some cold.

In April you can direct-sow the more tender crops.  They’ll germinate in a week or two, so don’t get in too big of a hurry.  You don’t want them nipped by frost. It really is better to wait an extra week or two. My garden is in a slightly soggy part of the property, and our soil is heavy clay, so we can’t get in to work it till it dries up some anyway.  But there’s a lot more than the garden to think about. April is when things really start to get moving.  There are fences to mend and barns full of manure to clean, and lots of general tidying up to do.  All winter, when the weather is nasty, we stay inside and pretend that all those outdoor chores aren’t really piling up.  But pile up they did, and now they need to be dealt with.

I want to build a cold frame this year, next to the house, to get a head start on the growing season.  I haven’t been in the beehives (you don’t open them up when it’s cold out) so I don’t know what my winter losses are, but I’d like to add another three or four hives to the apiary.  I want to add some ornamentals to the garden, such as Indian corn and birdhouse gourds, maybe some broom grass.  I’d also like to set up a tank to raise some kind of fish…tilapia probably.  I’ve been thinking about these things since the whirlwind of Christmas ended.  And now it’s February…time to put some plans into action.  And even before I start on the projects I’ve been thinking about since Christmas, next year’s projects are already being formed.  There really is no end to it.  There’s always something to do on a farm.

Direct Sales-Premier Designs

I think I’ve mentioned before that I sell Premier Designs jewelry.  I’ve been somewhat inactive for about five or six months, but recently decided to get back into the game.  People have asked me if there’s money to be made in direct sales.  The answer is a slightly qualified “yes.”

Direct sales is when you sell products for a company; in my case, Premier Designs.  It could be Tupperware or Avon, Thirty-One or Young Living Essential Oils.  Different companies set up the details of their payment and recruiting rewards differently, but they’re basically quite similar.  You show your product or catalogs to people, take their orders and their payment, and send the orders and payment in to the company. In my opinion, Premier has some advantages over some of the other companies. Premier has, for one thing, a pretty respectable payout.  They also have a generous recruiting policy. They’re good to their hostesses, also, which makes it easier to get bookings.  And you have a lot of freedom to run your business the way you want.  If you want to offer additional incentives, you can.  If you want to put an item on sale, you can.  If you want to take a few months off, you can.  There are no minimum orders, or set schedule, so you can work when you want to, although I wouldn’t advise taking too much time off because then you have to start all over again.

With Premier, as with most of these types of companies, a hostess holds a home show at her house. She invites the guests and provides some simple refreshments.  I come in and set up my jewelry, maybe give a little sales pitch and/or answer some questions, then take orders and collect payment. When I put in my order, the ordering program tells me how much I’ve sold, how much of that is my commission, and how much I have to send to the company. With some companies, you send in the full retail amount and they pay your commission in the form of a check or direct deposit, which makes for a gap between the time of the sale and the time you get paid.  I’m also allowed to sell my samples, for people who don’t want to wait for an order, or if the product has been discontinued.  I’ve worked for companies that didn’t allow selling “from the table” but Premier is OK with it.

So, now let’s get back to the original question:  Can a person make money selling Premier Designs jewelry?  Yes.  But…and there’s always a “but” isn’t there?… you have to work.  The money isn’t going to fall into your lap.  The orders don’t come rolling in as soon as you put out the word that you’re in business.  You have to treat direct sales like you would any other job, and you have to do the work. If anyone tries to sell you the idea that Premier (or any other direct sales company) can offer you “easy money,” don’t believe it.  There’s nothing easy about it.  You need to work.

The work isn’t difficult.  Most of it is kind of fun, actually.  I like going to visit people.  I like to sit and talk.  I like to try to find people the best deal possible.  And, let’s be honest, I like making money.  But there are parts of it that I don’t like. I don’t like calling people and asking them to do a home show with me.  I don’t like getting turned down, although I don’t take it personally the way I used to.  I don’t like hitting up my friends and family for a show or an order or a lead.  I don’t enjoy keeping my paperwork organized or making follow-up calls.  But these are things that must be done. It’s part of the job, and if you don’t do them, you aren’t doing a good job and your paycheck will suffer.  If you don’t remember to offer an incentive to people that host a show for you, you won’t get the referrals for more shows.  If you don’t ask people to join your team, or if you don’t support the people that are on your team, you won’t get those residuals (a percentage of the sales of people that you recruited) that can make such a difference in your income.  In short, if you don’t work, you won’t make any money.

On the other hand, if you work a lot, you can make a lot of money.  You get out of it what you put into it.  I mentioned before that Premier has a generous commission scale…about 50%, minus some ordering fees and such.  So if you have a show that sells $1000, and this is not unusual, your commission will be about $450 or so.  If you have a show that sells $500, you’ll end up with about $200 or so.  If you recruit people to join Premier, you make 10% of their sales, plus 10% of the sales of your recruit’s recruit, and 10% of the sales of the ones that they recruit.  This is one reason Premier is so successful.  I have a real interest in the success of anyone that I recruit, and in the success of the next two “generations” because I share in that success.  It’s in my best interest to help the ones under me, rather than view them as competition. So, rather than encouraging their people to be competitive, Premier encourages us to be cooperative. They encourage us to be nice, and I like that.

In my next article, I’ll go over some tips to being successful in direct sales. I will leave you with one bit of advice today, though.  Whether it’s Premier or some other company, try to take advantage of the training that’s offered to you.  If they give you a DVD, watch it.  If they offer an informational meeting, go to it.  If you have a question, ask.  The people running the company have, in most cases, years and years of experience.  They know what works and what doesn’t.  They know how to help you succeed.  Take advantage of that; it’s a good thing.

If you have any questions about Premier, email me at glitzandglam@rebeccasfarm.com.  I’ll either answer your question myself or refer you to someone else.  If you live in the St. Louis area, and would like to host a home show or would like more information about signing up, let me know.  I’ll help you any way I can.  If you’re outside of my area, you can go to the Premier Designs website and they’ll help you find someone to get you signed up.

 

Market Schedule

Some of you may know already that I make and sell homemade soap.  I sell some other crafts, such as crochet washcloths, handsewn bags and aprons and such.  But the main thing I sell is homemade soap.  I sell big bars, about 3.5-4 ounces for $6 a bar, or 4 bars for $20.  I’m located in the Greater St Louis area, but tend to stay mostly on the Illinois side of the river.  I can also ship soap to you, if you like.  Just contact me at thesoapery@rebeccasfarm.com.

As of this writing, Farmers Markets are over till late April or early May.  During Market Season, I go to 3-4 markets each week, and I will post that schedule this spring.  Right now things have moved indoors.  We’ve almost wrapped up what I call Event Season, which mostly runs October through Christmas, with just a couple of events in January and February.  There’s some overlap between Market Season and Event Season…a lot of the Farmers Markets run through September or October, and Event Season gets going in October.  But Farmers Markets rely heavily on produce vendors, and the produce is mostly gone by the end of September.  The focus at most vendor events is handcrafted items (such as my homemade soap) or direct sales (such as Premier or Tupperware) or some combination of the two.

This Spring I will be hosting my first Vendor Event.  It will be at the American Legion in Prairie du Rocher on Saturday, April 23, 2016.  That’s taking a lot of my time and energy right now, so I haven’t signed up to attend many other events at this time.  Once school lets out at the end of May, I’ll be able to hit my Market schedule pretty regularly…Thursday morning in Swansea, Thursday afternoon in Carlyle, Friday afternoon in Sparta and Saturday morning in Mascoutah.  If you need any information, just email me at rsd@rebeccasfarm.

 

I’m going to “stick” this post so that it stays at the top of my posts, and will edit the information as my schedule fills up.  I’ll delete events that are past, and add events as needed.

If you have any soap-related questions, email me at thesoapery@rebeccasfarm.com.  If you have any other questions, email me at rsd@rebeccasfarm.com.  I’d love to hear from you.

Money Matters

Money is always a concern these days, isn’t it?  My husband and I both have good full-time jobs.  That said, there’s almost always some kind of financial issue.  It could be something catastrophic, like a medical emergency.  It could be something serious, like a broken furnace or new tires needed. It could be something mildly irritating, such as not having enough money to go out to eat on “date night.” It could even be something good, like saving for a vacation or some other fun thing.  It could be any of these “somethings,” but it’s always something.

In this section, I will be addressing ways to make extra money.  Some of them will be ways to make money doing things here on the farm.  For example, I have a calf to sell, and expect to get at least $700 for her, and I sell milk and eggs, honey and herbs that are produced on the farm.  Some are cottage-industry type things that could be done in any home, such as the homemade soap that I sell at farmers markets, or my feeble attempts to monetize this website.  Some of them won’t be farm-related at all, like selling Premier jewelry or providing a service in the community.

As I come up with ideas, I’ll post about them here.

Events On the Farm

 

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We frequently hold public events here on the farm…you just never know what we have to offer.  I may be having a sale on homemade soaps and assorted crafts.  I might be teaching a workshop or selling some livestock, setting up a hay ride, holding a yard sale or putting together a Haunted Trail for Halloween.  If you’re going to be in the Greater St. Louis area, check us out and see if we have something going on.