Stocking up

Been spending some time recently getting stocked up on products we sell at Christmas time.  Today, that meant a batch of beeswax lip balm and hand balm.

I started making these for one simple reason … I don’t like waste.  When we started keeping bees, we all of a sudden had a large supply of freshly rendered beeswax. What to do with it?  Some quick research found a simple recipe for lip balm.  A minor tweak to the recipe also produced a nice hand balm, and here we are.


Melting the rendered wax before adding the other ingredients …

Filling the lip balm tubes ….

Beautiful, finished hand balm.

Christmas order forms will be up on the website this week!

Part-time farming

We’re coming up on another holiday season, and it just occurred to me that I haven’t written a single post in almost a year.

I can explain.

It can pretty much be summed up with this – pretty terrible weather, combined with full-time off-farm jobs, combined with a commitment to spend less time working and more time with the kids has meant terrible communication on my end.  Thanks for bearing with me.

In spite of a tough farm year, we are okay.  Never have we been more thankful to have off-farm jobs than we have been this year.  If we had been relying solely on farm income … yikes ….

Here are a few of the challenges our farm has faced this year:

January and February brought bitterly cold temperatures – right at the same time our goats started kidding.  That means we spent most of our free time checking goats, breaking water, hauling hay, and warming up baby goats inside.


I lost count around eight – the number of baby goats who were born during freezing temps that we had to bring inside to try to save.  This one is Belle.  Her story was one of the few successes we had.  You may remember her story from Instagram … after hours of working to revive her, her mama wouldn’t take her back.  However, we successfully paired her with another mama whose baby had died the night before.


Anyway, kidding season was gut-wrenching.  It was hard work and emotionally exhausting.  We ended up with 26 healthy babies.  About 1/3 less than we should have.

In April we picked ourselves back up, shook off the winter losses, and got to work planting the garden.

In early May, this happened:


I’m standing in the garden in this picture.  Yes, it’s covered with water.

Then in late May, this happened again ….


This picture is of our front pasture.  The flood waters have nearly covered it.  During this flood, we evacuated half our goats and all of our hogs.  The garden also got it again.  The flood waters rose even higher the second time.

After the flood waters receded and things dried out a bit, we had to go into the garden and destroy all of the produce the flood waters had touched.  The garden rebounded for a bit, but didn’t come close to producing what it usually does.

This summer, instead of scrambling like crazy to catch back up after the floods, we just …. didn’t.  We went fishing more.  We took a vacation.  We drank a beer or two on the porch.  In short, we took some time to enjoy life.  There was still plenty of produce picking, processing and selling, but this summer, we didn’t let it run our lives.

This fall, we’re spending plenty of time doing what we want to do.

Playing with the puppy …


Playing in the sand we bought for a patio project (that we haven’t gotten to yet)


And enjoying the beauty of fall.


There is lots of work to do around the farm.  But there always is.  For now, we’re happy in the knowledge that the pigs are happy …


The goats are happy …


And most importantly, the farm kids are happy.


Christmas Gift Baskets Available

Excited to announce that we are again taking orders for Christmas gift baskets!

Werner Creek Farm Holiday Gift Basket Order Form

We have two basic gift baskets but we can customize a package for you if these aren’t exactly what you want.

Our Large Holiday Gift Package includes: a one pound local, raw honey, one pint local salsa, two local fruit jams/jellies, and one beeswax lip balm from our bees, all in a cute buffalo plaid crate.  Cost for the large basket is $30.  Upgrade to a 2-pound honey for $7 more.  Include a beeswax hand balm for $10.  (Pictured below with a 2 pound honey)


The small package includes: a 1 pound jar of local, raw honey, one pint local salsa, and one jar of local fruit jam/jelly for $20.  Increase the 1 pound honey to 2 pound to make the price $27.


In each gift basket, you can specify the following:


Mild, Medium, or Hot


Jams and Jellies:

Spiced Tomato Jam (sounds gross, tastes amazing! trust me!)

Elderberry Jelly

Blackberry Jam  Sorry sold out!

Blackberry Jelly

Blackberry Jalapeno Jam Sorry sold out!

Apple/Grape Jelly

Aronia Berry Jam Sorry sold out!

Mixed Fruit Jelly  Sorry sold out!

Point of clarification – jelly is made from fruit juice, so is therefor smooth and with no pulp.  Jam is made from the whole fruit, so it will contain chunks of fruit and seeds. All of our jams and jellies are made with produce from our farm, or from our friends’ farms nearby.

We can also change the gift tags to say Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Holidays or whatever message you choose.

To streamline things this year, we have an online order form here –

Werner Creek Farm Holiday Gift Basket Order Form

We would also love to sell individual products, if that is more your style.  We have three sizes of honey – 2 pound for $14, 1 pound for $7, and half pound for $4.


Pint jars of salsa are $7

Quart jars of salsa (mild only) for $12

Half pints of jam or jelly are $4.50.

Beeswax lip balm is $3

We also have 1/4 pint jars of beeswax hand balm available for $10.

The individual items aren’t on the order form, but just make a note in the instructions if you want to add on any of these items.

Please contact us with any questions you might have!  My email is and my cell is 620-222-5821.


Strawberry Jam


I bought some delicious strawberries this week from some other local farmers.  Despite my daughter’s protests (she would have eaten them ALLLLL), I made strawberry jam for the first time in years.

On our farm, we usually make jams and jellies only from the fruit we produce.  But, we love having a source for local strawberries, since we don’t currently grow them ourselves.


Making our canned products – jams, jellies, salsas, etc. – with local products is important to us.  Locally grown, locally made is our philosophy.  On a rare occasion, we might have to substitute something like onions in our salsa, but only when our local sources have run out (which isn’t often!).  And then, we look for the From the Land of Kansas tags on the onions in the grocery store, so we can at least buy from Kansas.

I used to be intimidated by making jam and jelly, but just like with anything, after a little practice, it’s no big deal.  For me, the there are really only two key factors to making jam.  The first is understanding the basics of home canning safety (check out for great information).  The second is understanding the role pectin plays in gelling your jam or jelly.  I didn’t take the time to understand this when I first started out.  If I had, it would have saved me a lot of frustration.

This is a really great article that explains how pectin works (plus, it’s really funny):

If you’re thinking about making some jam or jelly, don’t be scared! … just dive right in and give it a try.  Here are a few things I’ve learned (disclaimer, these are intended to be helpful hints, not a full-tutorial on home-canning).

Step 1: Prep your jars, lids, and rims (


Step 2: Place clean and de-stemmed fruit in pot.


Step 3: Mash ’em up with a potato masher.  If you’re not always in a hurry like me, you can take the time to methodically chop your fruit.  But who has that kinda time?


Step 4:  Add the pectin and turn up the heat!  It’s important with jam or jelly to continually monitor it.  But honestly, the entire stove-top process takes less than 10 minutes, so it’s not big deal.  Turn on Netflix.  Just keep stirring.

Step 5: (This is the part where if you want to pretend jam is health food …. look away)  Once the fruit and pectin has just begun to boil, add the sugar.  LOTS of sugar.  (But don’t feel bad!  The sugar is part of what keeps jams and jellies from spoiling!)


Step 6: Stir the sugar until it is completely dissolved.  KEEP STIRRING.  This is the part where it is easy to get impatient, but don’t.  This part is critical.  Your mixture should reach a boil that cannot be stirred down.  I repeat, CANNOT BE STIRRED DOWN.  No flimsy boils – a full rolling boil.

Once it has reached this point, keep boiling (and stirring!) for a solid minute.  Cannot stress this enough.  Jam has to have enough time at that really high boil for the extra water to evaporate.  If the water hasn’t evaporated, the pectin can’t bind, and you will have runny jam.


Step 7: Fill your hot, sterilized jars and follow your recipe’s processing instructions.


Step 8: Slather on toast (or better yet, a biscuit!) and enjoy!


Helpful hints:

Use a good pot for jam-making.  A really good pot.  One with a thick base is best for keeping the heat evenly distributed and to keep it from heating too quickly.

Sometimes it’s helpful to wear long sleeves, especially for step 6, as boiling jam tends to pop.

Depending on what fruit you are working with, it can sometimes take up to a day to gel.  My tomato jam always takes longer to gel than others.  Don’t get discouraged if yours hasn’t gelled right away.  Just give it a little more time.

Make sure you use recipes from trusted sources.  It’s possible to make your own recipes once you understand the basics of jam-making and how pectin and sugar interacts with different fruits.


See?  Easy, right?  Homemade jam is simply the best!  Locally grown, locally made jam is even better.  🙂




Season Extenders


26 degrees overnight in April?   Check.

Tomato plants all tucked in tight?  Check, check.

We frequently get questions about our high tunnels (also know as hoop houses, or season extenders) and why we have them, what they are used for, etc.  Well, this right here sums it up – we can plant delicate vegetable crops (meaning they can’t take a freeze or even a frost) as early as March, even February with our high tunnels.  Without a season extender, that would be next to impossible in Kansas.

Of course, we do go to extra lengths to ensure our plants survive when then temperature drops below freezing.  If it’s going to be 28-32, we put on row covers (pictured above) to give just a little extra insulation.

We also stick a jug of water in between each plant at the beginning of each season.  On warm days, the water absorbs the heat, and then they slowly let off heat as the temperature drops.

Lastly, we fire up the heat when the temp is in the low to mid-twenties.


Propane heaters in the high tunnel last night.  Wood stove and blowers heating up our other high tunnel (pictured below).  This year Gage made improvements to the wood stove in this season extender, and it is much more efficient – we are excited to see what we can keep growing in there into next winter!  We also put new plastic on this house.  We didn’t open the box with the new plastic in it until the day we were to put it on.  We then discovered we had ordered white plastic, which only has 55% opacity.  Whoops.

However, the white (instead of the usual clear) plastic keeps it from getting overly hot in the high tunnel on sunny days.  But, we were worried there would be too little sunlight to grow tomato plants.

Not the case!  Once the plants were established, they have been growing like crazy.  Once we are past the risk of frost and freeze, we will roll this plastic all the way up so they will then get full sunlight and rain.  So far, ordering the white plastic looks to be a lucky mistake.


Below is one of the tomato plants  – a month ago.  You can use your imagination to guess what they look like today.  🙂


We were blessed to get our high tunnel funded through the NRCS EQUIP program.  Programs like this are a huge asset to small farmers when they are starting out.  We have worked hard to start and grow our farm without having to take on debt.  Programs like NRCS EQUIP help make that possible.