Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
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A Little Trick for Measuring Honey

baking trick for measuring honey

Yesterday I made pancakes. I usually make a large batch and freeze them for easy breakfast options later in the week. My recipe called for sugar but on a whim I decided to use honey instead. Fortunately for me, I had just used the same measuring cup to add cooking oil. Why so fortunate? Because I discovered this little trick: A wee bit of cooking oil in the measuring cup helps alllllll of the yummy, sticky honey slide right into your recipe!

Perhaps some of you are thinking “Duh… I’ve always known that.” It certainly makes sense, but I never thought of it before. So today while making bread, I tried it again. I added a drop of cooking oil to my 1/4 cup measuring cup… I added the honey… and lo and behold – allllll of the honey made it into my recipe lickety split! No waiting around for it to ooze in… no leftovers lingering on the measuring cup… no ultra-sticky mess to clean up. So if you’re cooking something that can handle a drop of oil… go for it!

Why didn’t I think of this before?

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Local Sour Cherries

sour cherries in southwest michigan

{Image Credit}
Understory Farm and Orchard
This picture is from June 19. On Monday (July 1)
the trees were bursting with fully-ripe cherries!

It’s cherry season! On Monday Owen and I picked 30 pounds of beautiful sour cherries at Understory Farm and Orchard in Bangor. Understory has been under the stewardship of Chanterelle Vogtmann and Matt Steele for two seasons. According to their Facebook page:

“Understory is a 20 Acre Farm and Orchard with a focus on sustainable/organic methods. Owned and operated by Matt Steele and Chanterelle Vogtmann, two Michigan natives with a shared passion for good farming and land stewardship.”

We were fortunate to meet Chanterelle and Wendell (the farm dog, whom Owen thoroughly enjoyed!) during our visit Monday. The orchard is absolutely beautiful, bursting with cherries and according to Chanterelle, probably “at peak” right now. If you’re looking for sour cherries for baking and preserving, you’ll want to visit very soon. (They’re decent for fresh eating too.) Here are the details:

Understory Farm and Orchard

28120 County Road 215 (54th Street)
Bangor, MI 49013
Chanterelle 1-269-808-7773 Matt 1-810-701-6522

Open whenever the sun is up!
U-Pick Sour Cherries: $1.50/pound
Pre-Picked Sour Cherries: $2.50/pound

Later this week I’ll be sharing about our adventures in cherry pie making and canning for future use!

Anyone know of a source for sour cherries at a better price? We’d love to hear about and share with everyone!


Have you heard about Locavore90?

Locavore90 is a FREE program provided by Arcadia Farms and Flowerfield Enterprises that challenges and equips families in Southwest Michigan to incorporate more local foods into their diet for 90 days. It includes a monthly meal plan that incorporates in-season foods. For details, click here.

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Local Strawberries

Basket Full of Strawberries

This spring may have been cooler than usual but it is still, after all, spring. My goal for May and early June was to stock up on three early-spring crops: Asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries. We’ve purchased and preserved more than 12 pounds of asparagus already. (Two or three pounds were consumed right away!) We sampled some tasty rhubarb, however, I discovered that my family is not as fond as I am soLocal Strawberries I opted not to preserve any. And now *drumroll* it’s time to pick strawberries!

We do have strawberries here at Arcadia Farms, but the plants are still getting established and not bearing enough to supply our customers. (Next year!) I needed to find a pesticide-free source of strawberries both for our family’s preservation plans (jam, anyone?) and to pass along to our CSA members. Thanks to the Eat Local, SW Michigan! Yahoo group I was able to connect with Shirley at Patch & Pasture in Battle Creek (20975 Pine Lake Rd; 269-964-3942). In her own words she has “gobs” of naturally-raised berries. A quart is $3.50 pre-picked or $2.00 if you pick yourself. Patch & Pasture is open from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM Monday through Saturday. They also have naturally raised turkeys for sale (pre-order).

While there are several no-spray strawberry options around the area, of the few we looked into, Shirley had the best prices. Battle Creek seemed like a reasonable distance away for pesticide-free berries and such great prices and since I was going to be east of Kalamazoo for a birthday party on Friday anyway, I decided to make the trip. First of all, the drive was much longer than I was thinking… took me 40-some minutes to get there from Portage. Yikes. With the cost of gas these days, I figure the berries ended up costing me about $3.05 per quart. Not too bad for naturally-raised berries… (plus I was happy to give my money to a local farmer).

Preserving Strawberries

There are lots of ways to preserve strawberries. I plan to spend some time today making strawberry jam (for the first time!). We don’t eat very much jam or jelly at our house so my goal is to have twelve 8 oz jars of various jams created by the end of the summer. We eat jelly at the rate of about 1 jar a month (maybe longer) that should supply us for the year. (We still have 1 jar of violet jelly left from early this spring!) I’ll be sure to share my jam-making adventures later this week.

I’ve also frozen about two-and-a-half quarts of strawberries. It was super easy and I’ll be sharing about that tomorrow.

Other preservation options include canning strawberries in syrup (perhaps for pie making later) or dehydrating. Neither of those options work well for the food our family eats so I decided to skip them.

Honestly, I’m also wishing I had picked enough berries to make strawberry extract for future baking. Thankfully, my helper (thanks Owen!) and I did pick enough to have strawberry shortcake tonight!

Does anyone else know of sources for naturally-raised berries in the Kalamazoo/Portage area? Anyone have strawberries at home? I can’t wait until ours are abundant enough to supply our customers… and our family!

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Chicken Week (Psst! We Have Chickens!)

Guess what? We have chickens!

chicken close up 1

We are the proud owners of six ISA Red egg-laying hens who are six weeks old as of today! If all goes well, they’ll be supplying us with fresh, brown eggs by the end of the summer. We selected ISA Reds because they are docile, quiet and good egg layers. Those traits make them a good fit for our suburban setting and our need for a family-friendly flock. Our girls came from Tractor Supply Company on Shaver Road in Portage. Here’s a tip I learned from one of the TSC employees: If you show up the day before the next batch of chicks are scheduled to come in, they’ll sell you the week-old chicks at a discounted rate to make room for the newbies. So you spend less AND TSC nurses your chicks through the first week where some chicks tend not to make it. The chicks were origianly $2.99 and I paid $1.00 for each of them. Winner winner chicken… well… *ahem*.


When I was growing up, my aunt raised chickens and turkeys (Hi Aunt Bonny!) so I have a general idea of how to chase care for them. But as an adult, I have to admit I was (am?) a wee bit clueless about what goes into raising healthy birds. I’ve heard that chickens are super easy to care for so I set out to learn how and why. I started my search for chicken knowledge on the good ol’ world wide web. I found lots of helpful info at’s Small Farm pages and a few other blogs which I’ve saved to our Chickens board on Pinterest.

But by far the most helpful information I found came from the forums at (If you’re interested in sustainable living, the information – and support – in these forums will make you drool. Grab a napkin and go check it out!) This website was created by Paul Wheaton (dubbed the Duke of Permaculture) and provides an avenue for him to share his knowledge on the subject as well for others to contribute. In this ongoing forum post, Paul describes five ways to raise chickens (coop and run, chicken tractor, truly free range, pastured poultry in pens and pastured poultry in paddocks) and then provides compelling arguments for why pastured poultry in paddocks is THE way to go. This info helped me think outside the box regarding how to raise our chickens in a manner that is healthiest for them and ultimately for us. I’m working on putting my own this-farm-is-in-the-suburbs-and-needs-to-look-nice-without-costing-a-lot spin on it. More on that later this week…


In addition to information and inspiration from Paul Wheaton (and other permies), I also received great practical and design advice from the book Free Range Chicken Gardens by Jessi Bloom. To be honest, I’m a sucker for packaging, and it was originally the beautiful front cover that compelled me to check this book out. The whole thing is full of brilliant coffee-table-worthy photos but thankfully the book itself is worth as much as the pictures. This book provides a practical overview of how to raise chicks to become healthy chickens along with detailed advice on how to design your yard to meet your chicken’s needs without sacrificing style or function. I’m glad it’s in my micro-farm library!


Now that I’ve gathered all of this great info on chicken-keeping, I’m no expert, but I am a well-armed newbie! In celebration of our girls’ first week living outdoors, I hereby dub this week “Chicken Week” at Arcadia Farms and plan to share all of my new-found poultry insight with you. If you’ve been thinking about raising backyard chickens but have wondered what it will really entail, come back for more throughout the week as I share with you both what I’ve learned from experts and what I’ve experienced in real life. I’ll be talking about:

  • Why we decided to raise backyard chickens (and why you should consider it too)
  • Which birds make good urban or suburban chickens
  • How to care for baby chicks
  • Designing a chicken-friendly garden/yard in the suburbs
  • Reducing (or eliminating!) the cost of chicken feed
  • Building a chicken coop (ours cost $0!)

Also on our Facebook page we’re running a contest this week where you get to help us name one of our hens. Stop by and vote for your favorite name (or make a suggestion of your own) and then please stop by Friday to see who wins!

I can’t wait to share Chicken Week with you!

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