Thursday, December 13, 2007

It's Getting Close to Christmas

Lara and I had some fun today. She absolutely LOVES the English chef, Jamie Oliver, so I signed her up to receive Jamie's newsletter at my e-mail address. (Lara's screen name is Gingerbread4u on his web site. She picked the name out herself which I thought was cute. Lara doesn't use the computer on her own so she doesn't have a separate e-mail account.) Anyway, today she received her first newsletter and was SO excited. We probably spent 2 hours at Jamie's web site with me reading the different entries to her. She wanted to post something and the only thing I could think of for us to post was the new recipe she and I worked out for a fancy holiday coffee drink. We don't drink alcohol in our house so adding an alcoholic flavoring in something is a big deal for us. Lara was really happy when her name showed up on the blog after posting our recipe. I think Lara will be extremely happy on Christmas when she unwraps the Jamie Oliver CD and DVD she is going to get.

Today is snowy and very cold. It is about 20F today, but tomorrow is supposed to be around 11F. Tom took the van to town and got Ed a haircut. Ed was really pleased with how he looked. For someone who can't talk, Ed is great at letting you know his feelings!

I made cinnamon rolls yesterday. They turned out ok -- the buns baked in the glass pans burned a bit on the bottoms, but my steel pan buns were fine. I hate cooking in glass pans! Give me stainless steel and cast iron any time. I should have used my potato sweet roll dough recipe instead of regular sweet dough -- the buns always turn out tenderer with the potato sweet dough. But, they taste good enough and are going fast!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Time to Chew Data

Today I finally had a chance to call my friend, Jane, and catch up on what happened at the Price Driect meeting last month. I was rather disappointed with what she told me, but the news was not unexpected. It looks like the group will lay down and die. But, as Jane says and I agree, something will rise from the ashes when people realize Price Direct is gone. Jane kindly emailed me most of the results from the PD survey she sent out. There was a 8% response rate, which I thought was above average for a mailed survey (I would have thought 5% response was doing good). In order of importance to them, people were most interested in there being a(n) (1) co-op, (2) outlet store, (3) atlas, (4) newsletter, (5) kitchen, and (6) Web site. The most helpful aspect of Price Direct to each respondee was (in order of importance) (1) the Atlas, (2) newsletters (3) notice of marketing opportunities, (4)the opportunity to network and (5) educational meetings. A small number of those responding were most willing to help with (in order of importance) (1) outlet store, (2) newsletter, (3) co-op and (4) kitchen. For all the people griped about the Atlas, the majority felt that having an atlas and being in it helped them more often than not, and the majority agreed they would like to continue the atlas and even pay to be in it. What came across to me was that as long as someone else did the work, the rest were willing to take advantage of whatever system got set up. This, I completely expected. So now what happens?

Well, I would like to see a Scales Day held in April where farmers market vendors can bring their market scales to be calibrated; the cost would be spread out over the group. I have already talked with Randy from BSI Scales in Tomahawk who is willing to come to Phillips to calibrate the scales. I think I will go ahead and contact Landis at Hermit Creek Farm and the Ashland farmers market, and Mr. Ahonen from from the Hurley farmers market to see what their interest might be in a Scales Day. If there is enough interest, great; if not, I'll tell Randy at BSI there is not enough interest and I will get an annual contract with him.

Also, I will continue to work on my two-part plan to build the kitchen incubator. I have started reading Cameron Wold's book and it is GREAT! It is exactly what I hoped it would be. What a time saver! I think it will take me probably a year, year and a half, to put it all together.

I need to take care of Lara and get suppoer on, so I'll talk to you later.

Friday, December 07, 2007

In the Ditch

Well, I finally did it: I hit black ice this morning going down to Marshfield with Lara and we slid off the road and landed in a farmer's field. Thank Goodness I was not going more than 50 mph and we did not hit anything; the deep snow in the field cushioned our landing. We probably had a drop of about 8' off the highway. At first I didn't think I would be able to get us out because the truck just spun its wheels as I rocked us back and forth trying to get some traction. I tried calling Tom, but the cell phone wouldn't work. I thought about what I should do because I was not going to leave Lara alone in the truck; then I got mad. I said to myself, "This is a new Dodge Ram truck. If I can't get us out of here with this truck, I'm going to write Dodge a letter!" So, I got out of the truck and assessed our position, making sure we were all in one piece; then I rocked us back and forth until I had enough forward movement to put the truck in 4-wheel drive; then I put us in reverse and hit the gas. The 4-wheel drive dug in and I was able to back us up through the snow using our entry tire tracks almost up the slope to the highway. I braked and checked the highway for traffic, then put us in forward and turned the truck around so it was heading North, hit the gas, and we went up the slope and back onto the highway. I drove to the nearest street and turned the truck around (after giving my thumping heart a few minutes of rest), then we headed back onto the highway going South toward Marshfield. Not far down the road from where we slid, we passed a bad three vehicle accident, so I think the black ice was wide spread. Lara and I made it to Marshfield in time for our appointment, and thankfully, Lara was ok. Her cystogram was good and they removed the Foley catheter, so we are able to catheterize her as we did before the surgery. The only difference now is that we need to irrigate her bladder twice a day so we need to use a larger size catheter. Lara is happy to be rid of her "tubes".

I made orders to Fedco Seeds, Organic Growers Supply and Totally Tomatoes today. I am going to make my own pest control mix this year using Garlic Barrier and crushed hot peppers. Since none of the deer repellents I used last year worked, I might as well try an organic mix of my own!

I sent off my County tree order today. I ordered 25 hickory trees, more elderberries and I got some witch hazel trees. Those don't get too big, are pretty, and are a good medicinal to have around.

That's all for now. Peace in Wisdom Be on Earth and Among All Creatures!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Quick Trip

Today I went to the Post Office in Butternut where there was a demonstration of spinning. My friend, Jane Hansen, invited me to join her spinning group as I am interested in learning how to spin, but I haven't gone to any of the meetings because I don't have any of the paraphenalia for spinning. Anyway, I thought it would be neat to go to this demonstration and see what I need to have in order to get started. I found out that spinning is not a cheap hobby. However, tools once purchased can last forever; I think I will try to get what I need from some auctions, and Dad says there are three spinning wheels somewhere on his or my Uncle Louie's farm and I would like to see if I can find at least one of them to use. It was a fun day. Rose Herbst from Red Barn Farm was the demonstrator. Check out her web site at http://users.dishmail.net/redbarnfarm. I plan to buy some wool from her. Now, the other hobby I want to get in to is basket making . . . .

Tomorrow Lara and I are down to Marshfield again. I plan to leave before 7:00 a.m. as the roads are slick.

Did I tell you Tom got a nice doe with his Muzzle Loader gun? He got it right before dark so next morning he went out to look for it and found it out in the swamp just north of our high tunnel. I was sure glad the swamp was froze up. It was pretty easy dragging the deer back to the house. So this year we got two deer. I love cooking venison in the crock pot because the meat gets so tender and it is easy for Lara and Ed to chew.

I got my revised edition of Establishing a Shared-use Commercial Kitchen by Cameron Wold yesterday. (You should have seen the UPS guy looking at the deer blood in the snow as he handed me the package!) My winter reading is certainly cut out for me! I can't wait to sit down and start reading it. Speaking of reading, I just finished A Farmer's Guide to the Bottom Line and Wiring 12 Volts for Ample Power. Both are excellent and I plan to buy a copy of Wiring 12 Volts for Ample Power for myself. It's the first book about electricity (and magnetism) I've read that I can understand.

Well, I have to keep this short as I still have a lot to get done tonight, so I'll catch up with you later. One last note -- I've started working on the 2008 Seed List for next year's garden and will post it as soon as it is complete. Stay safe and warm!

Monday, December 03, 2007

The White Stuff is Here

Well, we had a good snow yesterday and have about 4". It is deeper in the woods, I think. I love the way the balsams look when their boughs are heavy with snow. The roads were slick, however: I had to take Lara down to Marshfield again early to see the doctor. We left about 7 a.m. and got there just in time for our 10:15 a.m. appointment. I was glad I took the truck because it has better traction. Even so, there were a couple of times I felt us lose traction. We saw a wolf cross the road in front of us near Ogema, and the deer were moving. We have to go down to Marshfield again this Friday so I hope the roads are ok again.

Lara's surgery went ok. There was no cancer, thank goodness. and so far the healing is proceeding as expected. I keep thinking about when we first brought Lara home from the hospital after she was born: I was terrified to touch her. I was so afraid; her scar from the surgery to close her spine looked so big. I was scared I would hurt her. She was 1 month old before they let us bring her home, and she was two weeks old before I got to hold her. I was not feeling well either as I had had the C-section after almost 24 hours of hard labor, and I had gained 100 pounds with the pregnancy and had horrible swelling where my feet and ankles would turn blue-black in the evenings and I had trouble breathing. But we had an HMO at the time for insurance and I had crappy prenatal care. My doctor would just pat me on the shoulder and tell me, "You're just pregnant," whenever I asked questions or told him how awful I felt. I cannot understand how he could ignore my swelling. Well, that was a long time ago already. Anyway, taking care of Lara after this bladder augmentation surgery brought back all of these painful memories. Learning the new medical care procedures and changing the dressing around the abdominal tube was unsettling, but now that I am older I knew that I could handle it. Nevertheless, all the caregiving is very trying, and I am tired. Today the doctor removed the 2nd abdominal tube and reinserted the Foley catheter. Friday we will see if the hole in the bladder has healed. I don't know if La will need to keep the Foley permanently or not. It is my understanding that her bladder will need to be irrigated regularly for the rest of her life, but I may be wrong and will find out more on Friday. Que sera, sera.

When we got home I fixed some leftover Turkey A La King for us which filled us up so for supper I pulled a pound cake and strawberries out of the freezer and fixed us Strawberry Shortcake. It was good! Tom was out hunting so I fixed him some of the Senate Bean soup we had last night. He can't have the strawberry syrup, but there is some plain pound cake left for him for dessert. And now the frig is empty of leftovers. Yeah!

I got my first organic seeds for next year's garden already from Seeds of Change. They have different packages. I got some regular heirloom Delicata squash (I didn't care for the Sugar Loaf Delicata I grew last year), more St. Valery carrots, Indian Woman Yellow bush beans, Pawnee shell bush beans, Southport Red Globe onion seed, Queensland Blue winter squash, Lisbon White Bunching Onion seed, Newburg yellow onion seed, America spinach, and Forellenschluss lettuce (I just love this romaine type lettuce!). I have sent an order off to Seed Savers Exchange for more Copenhagen Market Cabbage, Mixed Colors Broom Corn, Early Fortune Cucumber, Chervena Chushka Pepper, Buran Pepper, Jimmy Nardello's Sweet Italian Frying Pepper, King of the North Pepper, Dragon's Tongue bush bean, True Red Cranberry Bean, Scarlet Runner Bean, Genovese Basil, Mrs. Burn's Lemon Basil, Lemon Balm, Spearmint, Rosemary, Wormwood, and something called Bee's Friend that I will plant in the rows here and there. I have sent off an order to Baker Creek for Perkins Long Pod Okra, Scarlet Nantes carrots, big Blue Hubbard squash, sorghum, and I forget what else, and ordered more Stuttgart onion sets as they turned out so well last year, Red Cloud red potatoes and Kennebec white potatoes from Fedco's Moose Tubers section. I am waiting for Fedco's seed catalog to come. My favorite!

This year I will grow all the tomatoes in the high tunnel. I am going to get a couple of 2"x4"s and hooks to make a scaffold and plant most of the tomatoes in hanging grow bags. That way I will use most of my high tunnel space. Pole beans will be in the high tunnel, too. Everything in the field I will try to cover or put a secondary fence around. Tom is going to rent a well digging machine and we are going to get a hand pump and try putting in the field well ourselves. I hope this won't be like hanging wallpaper together! Also have been working on a simple design for a larger coop for the new chickens -- something that is movable but secure from predators. Using 2"x4"s would be desirable, but I think I may go with 2"x2"s to be easier for me to move without help. I haven't decided if I want to keep the chickens by the house under the trees or put them out in the field by the high tunnel in that last undeveloped section, but I am leaning on keeping them under the trees as I believe they will be cooler.

Day before yesterday I cooked up about a bushel and a half of pumpkins for the freezer and put the seeds to soak in salt water overnight. I did burn my face pretty good though by not paying attention to how I took the cover off the steamer to check the pumpkin meat. It was a good thing I was wearing glasses. As it was, I actually burned off the skin on the tip of my nose and sideswiped my left eye. The eye seems to be all right but my nose looks funny. I think it will be ok. Then, yesterday I baked the seeds. They turned out terrific! What a great snack for wintry nights. And they are something low carb that Tom can eat.

When things settle down a bit I will get back to my research on my two-part plan for building the kitchen incubator with the aquaponics set-up. I was not able to get Cameron Wold's book on how to build a kitchen incubator through the library, but I did order the book direct from NxLevel. It was so weird because when I first found the book, the lowest price I could get it for was $199. Then, when I didn't hear from Mark that he had ordered it for me (I thought he might be able to get it for me cheaper with a professional discount) I went back to the web site and lo and behold they had it marked for $75! So, of course, I ordered it. It should be coming any day now, and if I find that Mark has ordered it for me, I'll just pay him for it and we'll keep the book in the incubator's reference library. With all of the aquaponics information I have gleaned and then the kitchen incubator material, I will have plenty of reading material to keep me busy this winter. I have bought a large D-ring notebook and will start working up a marketing plan for the aquaponics set-up with the help of my SBA marketing workbook. This is just like putting together a trial book in a law office or a research report on a legal topic an attorney might use in a case: start at point A and work your way through the topic putting your supporting material where it can easily be looked at. I figure it will take me a good year to put all the information together before I can start looking for funding. I think I could get a lot at least started with $100,000. Maybe there's an Angel out there who would like to help me take our Price Direct group to the next level by funding my project. This area is so economically depressed that any project to improve the economy I think would be welcomed. I know that if I can get an attractive project that has potential to expand and eventually be self-supporting off the ground under the Price Direct banner, people will want to join the effort.

Well, here I am rambling again so I think I will leave off for a while. Talk to you soon.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Finishing Up the Year

It was gray and damp this morning, so after I took care of Lara, I loaded up the van with the peat moss and manure I bought from Bernie at the Fifield Feed Store and headed out to the field to plant the Westfield-Seek-No-Further apple tree and the two Golden Spice trees that came yesterday from St. Lawrence Nursery. I enjoyed planting the trees and already am wondering how all of the plantings will fare over the winter. I wonder how many new trees or shrubs I will need to buy next spring. I checked all of them while I was out there. I put a larger fence around my Fameuse as that is my biggest tree and the small metal tree guards don't fit it any more. The Bali cherry trees look pretty good. And as it turned out, it was good I went out when I did because it started snowing after I got back to the house, big wet new that quickly covered the trees and ground. It looks quite wintry outside right now.

Yesterday I picked up a couple of dark plastic bins that I will use to start worms in after Lara comes home from the hospital. I think I will get European nightcrawlers. I hope I don't kill them. That is why I will not order very many. If I manage to keep them alive, I should have worms next spring to sell for fishing and for putting in the garden to build soil fertility.

Talking about soil -- when I went out to the field today there was a flock of tiny white birds eating my winter wheat. I don't know what sort of birds they were, but they were very pretty. They were all SO white; when they flew into the air they looked like sparkles.

I have updated our starter Web page at www.swampcreekfarm.us for November. On that page I mentioned that I will be selling day-ranged chickens from the farm next year. I am thinking about getting 50 layers to keep for eggs and then hold them over for stew hens the following year, and maybe 200 chicks to sell as broilers. I will get Dominiques for the layers, but I think I will get Delawares to sell as they will pluck cleaner than the Doms because they have white feathers. I need to see if I can rent a plucker -- there is no way I can hand pluck that many birds with my arthritis. I will tell you that we have eaten one of our Dominique stew hens in some chicken and dumplings and I honestly do not recall when I have eaten a chicken with such wonderful flavor.

The Price Direct group will be meeting November 12th at 7 PM in the Concrete Park meeting room (one mile south of Phillips on Highway 13). Please RSVP by calling 715/339-2555 if you are interested in joining Price Direct and would like to help decide the direction of the group now that our grant money is running out. Unfortunately I will be in Marshfield with Lara and unable to attend, but I have forwarded my thoughts to Jane Hansen who will present them to the group for me. She will let me know what happens at the meeting.

I don't know when I'll next be able to check my mail or write here, so have a safe and happy Thanksgiving and I'll talk to you soon. I'd like to wish all veterans a happy Veterans Day, and a warm belated Happy Birthday to Tom's Air Force buddy, Bill. Be safe Everyone!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ode to Chickens

Farewell good chickens
fine company you have been
these two years so quickly gone.
And now, when from
wintry weather's kiss I seek the friendly fire
Fondly I will remember you --
in
Chicken Soup,
Chicken and Dumplings, and
Chicken Stew!

Happy Birthday to Me

My birthday was this past Sunday, the 4th, and I decided to fix the leg of lamb I bought from Jump River. I cut slits in the lamb and stuffed the slits with fresh garlic. Then I rubbed salt, pepper, and garlic powder all over the meat like a rub, put it in the roasting pan, and sprinkled rosemary on it. 325F for 2.5 hours and it was great! I fixed bread stuffing and green beans (I wasn't in the mood for extra fancy) and Lara and I really liked it. Tom didn't care for it. I don't think Ed liked it either, but at least the "girls" in this house know what's good. Everybody did agree though that my German Chocolate cake was good. It was so good that when I went to cut a piece of cake to take to my Dad -- there wasn't any! Oh, well. I spent the day listening to meditation music and chilling. It felt SO good just to sit and relax. Did I get any gifts? My Sarah sent me a gift certificate for popcorn -- I bet she was remembering how I used to buy a big can of cheese popcorn at Christmas. So, I think I will save the certificate for Christmas and do just that. Then, I bought myself two pair of support hose from Vermont Country Store and an email subscription to Aquaponics Journal. All in all, it was a very nice birthday!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Season Slowing

Today was another cloudy, misty day. It was windier and colder than yesterday, and a day more suited to indoor activities, so I have spent the day reading on the Internet about a wide variety of subjects ranging from Alchemy, Spagyrics, and Mundane Astrology to solar water pumps, waterwheels, aquaponics, community kitchens, and the price of wheat. All sorts of things.

I got the October issue of Farmers Markets Today magazine. It's a small mag, but I really like it because it gives me lots of ideas for marketing my food. They do a lot of profiles and I really like those, too, because it's nice to see how other producers are working at their dreams. Check out its web site at www.farmersmarketstoday.com.

Yesterday was our only nice day in over a week so I took advantage of it and headed out to the field to work on winterizing everything. The first thing I discovered was that the beaver has been busy chewing down some more birch trees. The skid trough he has worked down to the creek is getting deep and smooth. As long as I don't flood, I don't mind that beaver; with drought the last three years I might need his pond. And I need a couple of more fence posts and the trees he has down are just right for me to be handle by myself! Anyway, it took a couple of hours to clear out all the weeds from the high tunnel and put all my bits and pieces of equipment into tubs for the winter -- I work slowly because my asthma kicks up in the Fall when the molds start -- but the tunnel really looked nice when I was done. I watered the rows where I planted winter carrots, spinach, and beets, and talked a bit to my great catnip patch and Italian parsley. I put all of the collards and cabbages in a row that I hope to get through the winter for seed production next year, and that was it. When the cranberries I have in the dehydrator are dry I may cut all the parsley down to the ground and bring that back to the house to dry. I don't worry too much about parsley because it's pretty hardy for me.

Tom and Ed came out to the field in the afternoon and helped me hoe all around the fruit trees. We put their winter bark protectors on and dug the new holes for the Westfield-Seek-No-Further apple tree and the two pear trees I have coming from St. Lawrence Nursery. I remember one pear tree is a Golden Spice, but I don't remember what the other pear tree is. I need to get to the Feed Store in Fifield and buy some mushroom compost, cow manure and peat moss to spread around all of the trees. Hopefully the new trees will come before I go to Marshfield with Lara. If not, then I will have everything ready for Tom so he can put the new trees in the ground for me. Now that we have been getting rain, the field looks pretty good. I still want to cut the grass around the beds one last time, and Tom wants to rake up some of the grass for winter mulch in his garden. I still want to turn over the ground where the potatoes were and sow some oats and rye grass -- as long as the seed sprouts, I'll be happy. It felt good to be outside working. I can't wait to get out and start working with the wood.

I am going to take down the chicken fence after I butcher Chin Lee and the remaining Lisas (I did three hens the other day. It didn't take me as long as I thought, but three was plenty for my arthritic hands). That way if we need to get Dad's tractor to skid logs, he'll have an easier way to get down into that section of the forest. Then I will clean out the coop and get ready for a new batch of chickens next year. I will use that coop for a brooder house and build a bigger coop for the layers.

We are on a pumpkin seeds binge. I figured out a way to make tasty pumpkin seeds and Tom just loves them. I did find, however, that seeds from the giant pumpkins don't taste as good as do seeds from the pie pumpkins; their hulls have too much fiber to chew and swallow. And now I have lots of pumpkin puree to use up. But that's ok, too, because we can have pumpkin pies, pumpkin bread, and Lara wants pumpkin soup, all of which I know I have recipes for. We have been drinking pumpkin juice, too. We had plain pumpkin juice, orange-pumpkin, cranberry-pumpkin, and pear-pumpkin juice. It has been fun experimenting with different flavors, and it is a good way to get Lara to drink more fluids. All I have left is 2 jars of unsweetened apple juice and one jar of plum nectar already. But the kids and I have been enjoying Fall. I made apple grunt and caramel apples with the last of the fresh apples I bought in Bayfield. Ed really liked the caramel apples. (I'm a grunt fan.) And I am still trying to get everything in the house taken care of and ready for when I go to Marshfield with Lara so it's not on my mind that I have to enter the bills into the accounting program or dust or clean the basement, etc.

When I took Ed bowling last Thursday, the coach didn't show up. I hope he is ok -- I don't have a phone number for him. Everybody was just standing around so I got the kids bowling and even though I'm not good at scoring, I wrote down all the pins and took the sheets home with me since no one else wanted them. I found an applet on the Internet that helped me score the sheets (I'm so happy I found that applet that I've been practising scoring and I'm confident I know how to do it now. Here's the site: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/kennmelvin/scorer.htm. I also had an e-mail when I came home from Special Olympics about special training that they wanted Class A volunteers to take -- it is a little awareness course that you do right over the Internet and when you submit the final test back to Special Olympics they sent you a confirmation e-mail acknowledging that you completed their requirements. When I got the acknowledgement e-mail I saved it in case someone asks if I took the course. Then I sent Billy an e-mail to let him know I had the score sheets (Bill Ertl is my godson and is head of the Chequamegon Agency Special Olympics in Ashland -- I'm VERY proud of him!), and I sent him everyone's score because I wasn't sure whether they needed the scores before the tournament in Duluth on the 20th. (I wasn't sending Ed.)

Well, back to the garden -- my thoughts are never far from it. I still have pumpkins for sale, mostly New England Pie Pumpkins, and a couple of giant Big Moon pumpkins. As long as the weather doesn't get too cold, I should be able to get dill, parsley, and maybe some cilantro, along with Bull's Blood beet greens, Southern Giant Leaf Curled Mustard greens, and Gilfeather Turnips. I might have some St. Valery carrots left out there, too, but would need to check. St. Valery doesn't get very big as far as carrots go, but it is a good juicer. I have decided not to offer any seeds in the Seed Saver Exchange book yet because I want to work on my production methods a bit longer. It would be nice to offer more than one variety of seed, too, and I want to be confident in my ability to save seeds from a number of veggies.

I have also been ruminating about next year's seeds, as well, and imaging in my mind how the field will look. I will leave the hazelnuts where they are, but I am going to move the plums to the perennial bed section next to the horseradish. I need to check how many of the elderberry bushes I planted are still wick, and then decide where I want to replant them because I am really thinking about putting a couple of pigs in that last grassy section next to the high tunnel. The thought of homegrown bacon sandwiches really makes my stomach talk.

I have been working very hard on my plan to build a shared-use commercial kitchen. Mark Kopecky (our Ag Extension agent) is trying to get a book for me, and I am trying to crunch numbers on the first part of the project. Since I don't want to borrow any money, it looks like I will have a lot of time to work on this. I need to build a small aquaponics system anyway and get comfortable with that process before trying to build a larger set-up. Once I understand how the process works, be able to troubleshoot any problems, decide on my fish, and establish markets, then we'll take a gander at a larger view. You can grow one hell of a lot fish and food on only one acre of land if you set it up right. I checked out an aquaponics farm in New York (Laughing Duck Farm www.laughingduckfarm.com ) that makes an incredible amount of money, and if I remember right, their aquaponics set up is on 1/8 acre. I have been reading government publications about aquaponics, and I really think we can get all the help we want if we (Price Direct) want to go this route to build a community kitchen with profits from an aquaponics operation. If not, I'll build the kitchen privately on my property and everything will go into a family trust.

Well, it's getting late so I think I'll sign off. Talk to you soon. BTW, I have about 4 more pictures to use up on the camera so hopefully I'll have some new pics soon.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Getting Cold

Today was pretty chilly, damp and grey outside. I put up my market table and set up a butcher station and butchered three of the hens. I was glad that I only did three because by the time I was finished my arthritis was really acting up and my hands were freezing. Dominiques don't clean well because of the dark feathers, and I will need to go over these once more tomorrow before I put them in the freezer, but these hens will make some really good soups and stews being 2 1/2 years old. I would sell them but I am not satisfied with my ability to butcher well enough to make a nice carcass. I am getting plucking down pretty well, but I have a hard time trying to remove the guts and innards in one movement; I can't get my big hand inside the carcass. However, once I get my technique down to my satisfaction, then I will offer processed chickens for sale off the farm. I tried dry plucking this time and like it better than scalding the birds.

Last Wednesday when Lara and I were down in Marshfield, a reporter from The Country Today called to talk to me about Price Direct. She left a number and said that Friday morning would be a good time to talk, but I tried calling her back twice on Friday and kept getting that noise you hear when the phone is off the hook so I figured I'd just let it go. Maybe Tom wrote down the wrong number; I don't know. Price Direct is in "coccoon mode" now anyway so there really isn't much to talk about at this time. I am working every chance I get on a two-part plan that would get a shared-use commercial kitchen up and running, but I have a long way to go yet as far as research goes. I did receive the information package from S&S Aqua Farm in Missouri, but I want to read and study the material some, and then work on approximating current set up costs for a system. I already see that I will need to set up a small experimental system to work with and become famililar with the various aspects of an aquaponics system. I think I would like to work with either tilapia or perch -- I don't want to deal with avid predators like bass and wall-eye. I would hate to go out in the morning to check the system and find I have one fat fish left in the tank. That makes me think of the time I made 70 cookies to send to school with Sarah. While the cooking were cooling on the table, I went to pick Sarah up from school, and when we got home we found our black Lab fat as a sausage and ALL the cookies gone!

I pulled out a jar of plum nectar and diluted it some for me and the kids to drink at supper tonight. Lara test tasted it and said we needed some honey in it, so I obliged her. I also brought up a jar of apple butter and tasted that. I was surprised! It isn't real dark like apple butter you get in the store, but it tastes like it. That steamer from Lehman's is really great! I pulled out some nice looking pumpkins that I will cook and save the seed from. I think I will cook up one of my giant pumpkins and we will eat those seeds. The last batch of seeds I made didn't last long -- Tom really like those.

Well, he and Ed are home from town so I'll check out for now.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Harvest and Transformation

September was a busy month and October is not giving me any rest yet either. We have had a lot going on with the family. For those of you who know astrology, you know that Saturn moved from Leo into Virgo at the start of last month, and you probably could feel the change; I know I did, and now, everyone in the family with Virgo in their charts aspected by Saturn in some way are getting zapped big time. All I can say is I'm glad I don't have any planets in Earth signs. (I'm just passing through this plane.) Anyway, at only 42, my brother is in full blown congestive heart failure. He finally came home after a stay in two different hospitals, and it looks like it's only a matter of time now as his heart is not strong enough to survive the surgery he needs. Then, last week-end we had my neice's wedding (a month early) because her fiance got shipped somewhere by the Army, and then her sister, went to Urgent Care down in Marshfield where she was interning a position and it turned out she contracted cellulitis somewhere and her eye was swollen from it, so she got thrown in the hospital and put on IV antibiotics. Fortunately, the infection had not spread to the eye or brain and she is back home again on the mend. Now we are dealing with our own "Missy La" and complications from her spina bifida. We are looking at bladder augmentation surgery with a long, painful recovery. We saw the neurologist in Minocqua last week, who sent us to Marshfield yesterday for an MRI to rule out whether or not Lara's spinal cord has re-tethered to her back bone. We had teh MRI done in Marshfield to be sure the urologic surgeon got the test results before we see him again on the 10th. His office called and told us that Lara has a two strain urinary tract infection so she is now on Levaquin for 10 days. Needless to say, Lara is very cranky and worried about having surgery. Everybody is stressed, and I know this is just the beginning. Just think, Saturn is in Virgo for two more years! Meanwhile, our Ed is enjoying his Thursday Chequamegon Bay Special Olympics bowling in Park Falls. It is a wonderful bunch of young people.

I managed to get the garlic planted on October 4th, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. I planted more Persian Star (Samarkand), Czech Tan, and Shvelisi -- another good garlic from Russia, similar to Samarkand. All my garlic seed cloves are certified organic from Seed Savers Exchange. This time I really tilled deep the garlic bed and added good compost from my compost bin by the house. I planted the cloves further apart, and put down some good mulch. I took the time to till up and add compost to the horseradish and rhubarb beds, too.

Did I tell you I moved all the currants and most of the rhubarb closer to the house where I can keep a better eye on it? I still have to move the gooseberries. Next spring I'll see if any rhubarb left in the field sprouts, and if so, I'll dig it up and move it at that time. My plan is to move everything but the asparagus and horseradish closer to the house, and plant more fruit trees in the field. (I think I have the orchard fruit bug!) I also have my eye on some hickory and butternut nut trees. But working with new orchard plantings other than the Westfield-Seek-No-Further apple tree and the two Golden Spice pear trees I've ordered for this Fall planting, will have to wait till next Spring. Everything I do is going to depend on what can be done around Lara's surgery.

I have another roll of film must about finished that has some nice pics of the Fall leaves, so I will try to finish up the roll and will post some new pics as soon as I can.

After I took Ed to bowling on Thursday, we ran to Phillips and picked up the 4-H fruit order and bought some more canning jars from Copps. I canned the rhubarb, raspberries, apricots and pie cherries after Lara and I got back from Marshfield. Thank goodness fruit doesn't take long to can. I made a couple of batches of jam and used pectin in the recipe to save cooking time. I left the blueberries in the freezer because I like them better frozen, and the mushrooms are better frozen, too.

I used my new Finnish juicer/steamer for cooking down some pumpkins and boy is that thing nice! I cooked about 6 pie pumpkins in about two hours, measured out the puree after running the pulp through the food mill, and packed it in freezer bags in no time. I don't quite understand how it works, but the steam in one chamber cooks the food you place in the strainer chamber, and all the liquid from the steam and produce recondense in a third chamber leaving the nearly dry pulp. You don't need to do any further cooking down unless you want to. I used the pumpkin juice and mixed some with orange juice, and some with cranberry juice, for the kids and canned that, too. Harry Potter won't taste any better!

I tried to get hold of Randy from BSI Scales in Tomahawk the other day to see if he would be interested in coming to Phillips for a "Scale Day" next spring, but I missed him. I left a message telling him I would try to touch base with him another time as I am in and out of the house so much lately with all the medical issues.

I have pumpkins for sale, some small Big Moon and mostly New England Pie, if you want pumpkins. I also have Forellenschuss leaf lettuce, some Bull's Blood beet greens, Southern mustard greens, some Italian flat leaf parsley, and maybe I can find some dill and cilantro out in the field. I usually cut the greens as people want them because I want the greens as fresh as possible and I don't have a produce cooler. The doorbell doesn't work so just come to the house back door (through the garage) and bang on it. If the green van is gone, I may not be home. If the truck is gone, we may be out in the field.

Well, I know I have more to talk about, but I'm pretty tired. I'll talk to you later.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Slow Down a Bit

Today I just couldn't get myself to move so I did the wash and hauled most of the canning equipment back to the basement. I love canning, but I hate hauling all those heavy filled jars downstairs. Still, they look pretty on the shelves. I tried making apple and pear butter in the crock pot for the first time this year. I will let the butters sit a while before trying them to see how they taste. They look all right. Tom wants me to make a relish with his Lemon heirloom peppers. He got the seed from Jungs and let me tell you, those babies are HOT. I wanted to make hot sauce with them and mix them with some of my hot peppers, but he wants a relish with them only so I guess I'll have to find a recipe. I put a lot of my hot peppers in the dehydrator. I'll use them in organic pesticide concoctions next year. While I waited on the clothes dryer, I harvested a lot of seed from different veggies, went outside and turned over my compost bins and started a new section with the unsalable veggies I harvested from the field before the frost. I think I'll wait another year before spreading out the compost on the field. I also made a 16 bean soup with a ham bone from the freezer and I tossed a Serrano pepper in the pot; it turned out ok, but it still feels like there is something missing.

We finally got some good rain last night. I don't know how much we got, but I think it was a couple of inches, and it soaked right in. Next time I go out to the field I'll check the rain gauge. We could probably use 10 more inches.

Tom wanted to make tacos for supper yesterday so I trekked out to the field to cut some fresh lettuce and dodged a rain shower by going into the high tunnel. Wouldn't you know it, everything in the high tunnel but the cool weather plants was black and dead. I don't know if the hard freeze got them or if they got cooked by my having closed up the high tunnel before the hard freeze. Looks like I need to do a bit of research on growing in high tunnels. No tomatoes this year after all! After I cut the lettuce I took a look at my sunflowers. They were drooping and blackened, too. I went and cut the broom corn and hanged the heads straw side down in the garage. It will be fun making good luck hearth brooms this winter.

Tomorrow is bowling day with Ed so I don't know how much in the field I'll be able to get done, but I would like to get all of the currants and gooseberries moved close to the house. I am already thinking about planting more apple trees . . . .

Sunday, September 16, 2007

First Snow

We saw our first snow on September 13th. Tom and I were having our morning coffee while watching the morning news when we looked out the window and saw snow falling mixed with rain. Of course, nothing stuck, but it was still snow. We had a light frost that night, but on the 14th we had a really hard frost. I was so glad I had cleaned out the garden and covered what was left.

Out in the garden Ed and I took all the vegetable matter and hauled it to the compost area (a large dip in the field where the old well was years ago when Nelson's Camp One was there). I will put all the compost materials there and eventually the dip will level off (I hope). I dug up a couple of cabbage plants and the deer-chewed collards and moved them into the hight tunnel. I may be able to get some collard greens yet since the central stems are ok, and the cabbages I hope to over winter and replant out in the field next year for seed. I will let the parsley that is already in the high tunnel go to seed next year, too. I have St. Valery carrots still out in the field -- they have been sold in the ground to a guy who plans to come out this way October 1st. There are plenty of White Egg and Gilfeather turnips still growing, Southern Giant Leaf Mustard greens, late planted dill, more parsley, Bull's Blood beets, and Forellenschuss lettuce (which looks much better than the early planted lettuce!) In the high tunnel I have late planted carrots, beets, spinach and scallions.

I have received the seed garlic for next year from Seed Savers Exchange: I got Czech Tan again, more Samarkand, and some Chesnok Red -- another purple stripe hard neck variety from Soviet Georgia; it is a medium hot, sweet when cooked without losing that garlic taste variety. I am looking forward to trying it. I will plant the garlic in October on Columbus Day weekend, so I will have some time to finish overhauling the garden before planting. I still plan to move the berries closer to the house and the new fruit trees will be coming so I need to ready their holes. I still want to work on the fence, too.

We have only two more weeks of market this year already. I can't believe the summer went so fast! It was a lot of fun again, and I really enjoy my regular customers and meeting new people. I only had one complaint this year, and it happened yesterday. I had a woman complain about the Hannah's Choice melons she bought. She said when she cut them open they were mush. I thanked her for the comments about the melons, and I told her I was hoping to get feedback on the melons as I needed to know if I should grow them again. I immediately gave her her money back plus some to thank her for the feedback; I think she was surprised I didn't give her a hard time. I honestly don't know if there was something wrong with the melons, or if it was merely a matter of taste because last week I had another woman tell me she absolutely loved her Hannah's Choice melon. I don't know. Anyway, I won't grow them again because when I tried the melons, I thought they had no taste. The interior color was great, and the melons smelled heavenly, but I really think they lacked for flavor. I was very disappointed in them overall. Now the Charentais melons were excellent and I should get a lot of good seed from them. (I kept most of them for ME). I will try a few of the Green Nutmeg -- I haven't tried to sell any of those because I'm not sure they are ripe. They are out in the garage with the pumpkins, along with the rest of the winter squashes and the remaining Moon and Stars melons, which I will definitely plant again. Boy, you put those Moon and Stars to cool and them cut into them, and OH, is it sweet!

I had a good day at market. One guy came and said he wanted some of those "little Laos peppers". A friend of his bought some and liked them, and this guy wanted some. Well, the peppers were really starting to ripen and the quart looked like a rainbow of color. He bought the whole quart! I sold quite a few of the Thai Hot 2 and 3, and my Chicago Bears man came and bought about half of the Early Jalapenos. Another young couple talked with me a bit about the difference between Asian and traditional hot peppers, then bought some of my Joe's Long Cayenne (my favorite along with Tabasco -- if I can ever get the Tabasco to fruit up here). Anyway, I was surprised the hot peppers did so well because I was told I would never get anyone to buy hot peppers this far north. I also sold another bag of White Egg Turnips, and I have people asking me for Collards. Seems lilke I am getting a reputation for having Southern cooking ingredients. The okra sold out every week and I am saving the remaining pods out in the high tunnel for next year's seed. I have even been selling the mustard greens, though those are a bit spicy for most people here. That's ok because I don't have ANY problem with freezing them for my own freezer! I love my greens. I am going to buy some bacon from Jump River and really look forward to frying it up and adding some mustard greens and onions and a dash or two of Tabasco sauce. A side of black-eyed peas and maybe some ham and biscuits. I better shut up before I talk myself into gaining back the 30 pounds I lost this summer.

With the cooler weather, Tom is in turkey mood. He fixed turkey for Sunder dinner today with all the trimmings, and it was great! Now, while he watches Sunday football, I am back in the kitchen making pickled beets (bought from Czerniaks at the farmers market yesterday) and I'm steaming the plums I bought in Bayfield the other day in my new Mehu-Liisa steamer/juicer I bought from Lehmans (did I tell you I went to Bayfield on Tuesday to get apples and came home with three bushels of Wealthy, Cortland and Fireside apples, 1/2 peck of pears and two pecks of plums?) My kitchen looks like a food co-op. I've got stuff all over the place. Anyway, I'm trying to get the canning done so I have more time to spend in the field. I want to be finished with everything before our Missy La has to go to Marshfield for her bladder surgery. We are still waiting to hear from the surgeon's office about that.

I have to go to town on Tuesday to renew my drivers license. When the Dell Horoscope magazine said that September would be a busy month for Scorpios, they weren't kidding! It seems all I have done this month is run. This coming Thursday, Eddy starts bowling with the Chequamegon Special Olympics in Park Falls (I was able to become a certified volunteer with Special Olympics). I was really happy when I got my volunteer card. I'm starting to feel like I am settling in as a community member. It makes me feel good.

It's such a beautiful day today. The leaves on the trees are rapidly changing color; I think the color may peak this week. The sky reminds me more of October than September with the steel gray clouds intermingling with white linen ones blowing across the bright blue sky on a cool northwest wind. It's nice to look out the window -- and smell my pickled beets simmering on the stove.

Well, I've ranted on long enough. It's time to check on the plums!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Makin' Hay

I have some new pics for you! Here they are:










They are in descending order: English Arrow pea vines drying for next year's seed; newly harvested Stuttgart onions; Tom building himself another compost bin; B's Flambeau Acres is one of our great market vendors; onions curing in the garage; our farm stand; another market vendor, Mary Lou Czerniak from Taylor County (Czerniaks make up the southernmost participant of Price Direct while I am at the northern end); and Rich Tobe from Jump River Dairy in Catawba. B's sells honey and maple syrup, the Czerniaks sell produce, flowers and great berries in season, and Jump River has organic eggs, great meats, and good, wholesome sheep milk.


We had a great market yesterday despite the fact that many people had gone to area Labor Day Festivals. You should have smelled my Hannah's Choice melons! They were heavenly and when the market opened, people lined up and bought most of them -- only the ones not quite ripe were left. One customer told me they wanted melon to eat today, not next week. So I wound up taking a couple of them home. Hopefully they will be ripe for next market. It was a lovely day, and I asked people to give me feedback next week on what they bought. No one wrote down on my sheet what they would like to see me offer next year; maybe they want to think about it. I took a bowl of hot peppers (from the Laos seeds Bill and Linda sent me) and because they were so small, I sold them 5 for $0.10. I sold most of them! One person told me that they love hot peppers so I told her I will bring all of my hot peppers next week -- the Laos, Thai Hot, Thai Hot2, Thai Hot3, Joe's Long Cayenne, and Serrano. I will have to check the Early Jalapeno and Tobasco because I don't know if those got any fruit this year. The peppers I don't sell I will dry and use in organic pest mixtures next year. Serrano peppers are going for at least $7.00 a pound!

We had our first unfortunate instance with a vendor this market. It was an old lady who was a crafter. She showed up at the market at 8 a.m. and set up. One of the other vendors who arrives early showed this woman a copy of the market rules which clearly state that you may sell crafts but at least 50% of your stand must be food items that you have grown. The woman read the rules and put up her stand anyway. I arrived late and saw the woman, said hello, and hurried to set up my own stand; I didn't look to see what the woman had on her stand thinking I would check it out later when I had a chance. Well, the market opened and I was busy for a while (melon rush). Then the market manager called me aside and told me that people had come up to her and said, "Do you know you have someone not selling food?" So, she went to check out the woman's stand, and then asked the rest of us vendors who have all signed market contracts and participate in making decisions about the market, what we wanted to do. At first I thought we should let her stay seeing as she was an old lady and already set up, but that we should tell her at the end of market that she couldn't come back unless she conformed her stand to market rules. But because we discovered that the woman had been shown a copy of the market rules and she set up anyway, the majority voted to ask her to leave. I support the group so I went with them. That woman had no interest in the goals of the market, what we as a group hope to achieve, or our rules. She is a professional crafter and all she gave a damn about was making her buck. She accused US of being greedy(!) and based her "right" to be there on an ad that was placed in the newspaper for the market. The ad did say "food and crafts" in it, but there was a phone number to call. It would have been logical (polite and ethical) to call first to be sure you conformed to market rules before showing up cold turkey. We apologized for any ambiguity in the ad that might have caused her to misconstrue it, and told her the ad would be corrected. This woman was a first class bitch and I am glad we told her to take a hike. Later that day I spoke to an attorney about the incident and was told that for the sake of good will we could have let the avaricious old sow stay the one day to get her "feed", but we did right in sticking up for the market rules; the woman was taking advantage of known customer traffic at the time and place allotted to the farmers market with no intent to conform to market rules or become part of the market group. (Being part of the market group is not required to vend at the market, but committed interest would be nice.) She tried to pass off the Indian corn she was selling as a food item, but when we looked at her stand, the wood crafts were front and center while the Indian corn was on the side line and being marketed as a decoration and not food. I told her that, which only incensed her and she glared at me. She threatened us. She said, "You can bet word of this is going to get around." I told her she could go sell at the Pamida parking lot in Park Falls and she replied she'd alreay been there! Obviously she thought she wasn't making enough money at Pamida. She also said she had a trailer full of crafts she could have brought and that she had a space rented for the Harvest Festival which she was tempted to cancel because of this "incident". We told her we had nothing to do with the Festival and that she should not take out any anger on the Festival people. (The attorney I spoke to told me that the old battleaxe won't cancel her spot at the Festival because she wants the money. I'm tempted to go to the Festival just to see if she shows up.) Anyway, good riddance to a most disagreeable person!

When I got home from market I was all nerves and got Tom and Ed to go with me to cut all the sweet corn. The market sold out of corn right away and EVERYBODY wanted sweet corn. I set up the canopy at the end of the driveway, but only made one sale. I should advertise, but I never know when I will be able to just sit at the stand for a couple of hours. Tom doesn't like to do it, and I don't like to leave him with the kids all the time. Lara can't (and doesn't want to) sit outside because she is sensitive to heat and sunlight with her medications even with the canopy, and Ed would be ok, but if he wants to go in the house, I would have to leave the stand alone because Ed can't be left by himeself at any time. Our schedule for September is already very busy so unfortunately it will be difficult to connect with us at the farm if you want to buy anything. (Just keep an eye out for the red canopy because that means I'm out at the end of the driveway selling.) It will be nice to build a good stand that has better shelter. (I have some wonderful building plans for one I got from the University of Delaware.) I might be able to run an electric line out to it so there would be heat on cold days and I could run a radio for Lara (If I could get her to come out with me for some fresh air). Anyway, next week I will have New England Pie Pumpkins, Sugar Loaf Delicata squash, and from Tom's garden, Sunshine winter squash, along with Perkins Long Pod Okra, Stuttgart onions, Forellenschuss lettuce, Southern Giant Leaf Curled Mustard, White Egg Turnips, hopefully some Moon and Stars, Green Nutmeg, Charentais and more Hannah's Choice melons (pray the hot weather holds) and all my hot peppers I mentioned earlier.

I have been really thinking hard about the garden layout. I have decided to move the perennial section to the house under the trees where I can keep a better eye on it and I will plant more fruit trees in that field section. Bill MacKentley at St. Lawrence Nursery in New York probably recognizes my handwriting by now! Drought three years in a row has just been devastating to me trying to get the trees started, but I know that I have good ground for fruit trees and if I can just nurse them along till they take hold, they will be strong trees. St. Lawrence Nursery has excellent stock! It sure tries to live! I plan to buy about 1,500' of 4' high deer fencing to overlap the woven wire and be on top of the smooth wire of the perimeter fence. I am also thinking about adding either 4 low tunnels or another high tunnel from FarmTek. And, I will build a gate since My Own True Love prefers to think about things to do instead of actually doing them. (I guess watching Cops is preferable to exercising your brain and body by building a needed wood shed and tool shed, but then again, those are things I want done.) There is another beaver around (I noticed a new skid mark going down to the creek) and several good sized trees down that I can use for fence braces, so if I can get to those things before the ground freezes the garden should be pretty secure.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bad Day

What a day! One of the hens is gone, the door knob on the back door broke, and when I went out to the field to pick what I figured would be about a bushel of various heirloom tomatoes for market on Saturday, I found the tomato section in ruins from what looked like the tracks of every wild varmint in the County, and every last tomato on every single chewed down plant was completely gone. I'm telling you I wanted to sit down on the ground and weep. Looks like the only tomatoes I will get will be from those plants I have in the high tunnel. The squash section was decimated as well, but fortunately I was able to harvest most of the Sugar Loaf Delicata. I was almost afraid to check on the pumpkins, but so far the deer have left them alone preferring to dine on my other veggies -- like my heirloom and Provider beans which are chewed down to the ground. Luckily, my pumpkins are coming in early because I started them are transplants and quite a few of them are mature, so I harvested quite a few of them. Hopefully over the next few days the rest will mature enough to pick and I will be able to get them into the garage to cure. The varmints are leaving the mustard greens and turnips alone, and so far the St. Valery carrots, Forellenschuss lettuce, Bull's Blood beets, cilantro and dill that I have under row cover are all right. My perennial section is devastated. I didn't know deer ate elderberry bushes, but all the elderberries, currants, and gooseberries are chewed down to nubs. The rhubarb for the most part is gone down to the crowns. The only thing that looks like it's thriving is the horseradish. I was so depressed by what I saw that I was afraid to look at the fruit trees. It looks like the animals were the only ones to benefit from the .8" of rain we got over the last two days. I am going to be making serious changes in this field!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Another Farmers Market Day

It was a gorgeous day at the farmers market. While we are in severe drought conditions here, I am thankful that we are dry and not flooded as is most of the Midwest. I am almost afraid to "pray rain". Many of the customers today reflected the same thought. I feel so sorry for all people affected by this horrible weather. I have heard that many of the organic farmers in the southern part of Wisconsin have been wiped out.

My market table looked pretty good today. I had Irish Cobbler and Red Norland potatoes, Boston Pickling and Australian Lemon cucumbers, White Egg turnips, Perkins Long Pod okra, Black Plum paste tomatoes, Black Beauty and Golden summer squash, beautiful golden cured Stuttgart onions, Samarkand garlic and some of Tom's sweet corn. I wanted to check yesterday for green beans in Tom's garden, too, and cut some of my good dill and Italian Flat Leaf parsley, but digging up the rest of my Irish Cobbler and Katahdin potatoes took all my energy, and wouldn't you know it, I had people wanting to know where the dill and beans were! Oh well, I'll hope to cut some next week. The melons may be ready next week, too. I hope so. I cut one Hannah's Choice to test it for taste and it seems a tad unripe right now, so I'm thinking one more week ought to do it.

This coming week I want to start cleaning up the field. We'll get the grass cut and raked, pick up all the vegetable residues that may be laying around, till the finished sections and plant an annual rye grass cover crop, prepare the holes for the replacement fruit trees that will be coming, finish cleaning up the asparagus patch, and maybe finally get get a gate put up for the fence. After all, I can't complain about deer getting my produce when they are not properly fenced out of the field!

I am picking my pumpkins as they turn a good orange color and letting them cure in the garage where nothing can get at them. I don't have many, but what I have sure is pretty. I have a couple of Big Moon pumpkins growing. With the drought they certainly didn't get very big, but I like them. I have picked my Blue Ballet winter squash and have that in the garage curing. The Sugar Loaf Delicata don't look at all ready and I want to check the growing requirements for that to see when I should pick them. The cukes are about done, and I doubt I'll see many tomatoes from the field. I know I will have tomatoes from the high tunnel plants though. And in the high tunnel, the okra and peppers are looking great. I even have a couple of eggplants slowly coming.

We have another beaver. When I went out to the field yesterday, I saw a fresh skid line going down to the creek, though the water level in the creek is so low, I don't see how anything will even float in it.

Finished reading Barbara Kingsolver's new book and really enjoyed it. I like her writing style and think I'll get some more of her books from the library to read.

Well, I'm beat so I'll sign off for now. See ya!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Getting Ready for Farmers Market Day

Friday is my get-ready-for-market day. It's usually an 18 hour day for me. I get up and take care of our Lara, make coffee, fill the water cans and then head out to the field. It is fun this time of year to go out and look for veggies big enough to cut and put in my bushel basket. Despite how dry we are here, there has been heavy dew all summer and I think that has helped the veggies some. This year is certainly better than last year when we had the drought. It is nice being outside so early in the morning and listening to the earth.

Today I had several more summer squash (Black Beauty and Golden), and I took a good look at my Sugar Loaf Delicata and Blue Ballet. I pray I can keep the deer off them. I had a nice batch of Boston Pickling cukes ready to pick, and the Australian Lemon cukes are starting to come on -- those are loaded with flowers. I was able to pick some Black Plum paste tomatoes. My first tomatoes! I am really impressed with Black Plum. It has shown itself to be very strong plant despite the dry weather. It germinated first of all my tomatoe seeds, and it is loaded with tomatoes. I have to admit that I don't think it tastes as good as Roma, but I absolutely love the color. I also thinned my white Egg Turnips and will bundle the thinnings to sell as turnip greens. That White Egg Turnip is another excellent germinator in hot weather. I am impressed again!

In the high tunnel I pulled about half the basil and planted beets and scallions in it place. I watered the new Cilantro planting and everything and checked out the melons. It looks like the only melons I may get are the Hannah's Choice. I am not sure when to pick them, and I will give them another week. I couldn't find any Charentais, Green Nutmeg, or Moon and Stars in the melon patch outside the high tunnel. I cut a bit of Italian flat leaf parsley and a good swath of Bouquet dill. I found I had a couple of Perkins Long Pod okra pods ready and I was delighted to find several Joe's Long Cayenne peppers. For some reason despite the blossoms I still have no eggplant. I wonder if they are just late in coming or if I will not get any.

By the time I finished watering the high tunnel the sun was over the trees and it was time to go back to the house and take care of Lara again. Boy, when the sun gets over the trees, it heats up fast! The morning mist disappeared in a snap. I was glad to go back to the house. It only took me a couple of hours to wash and pick through everything and make my market bundles. But with the heat and me not having a cooler to keep everything in, I don't know how much I will be able to take to market tomorrow. Last week my cucumbers turned yellow overnight. One of the women at the market (Diane from B's Flambeau Acres) who I rely on for marketing advice told me to sort my cukes by size and not to bother to bring any that turn yellow. She sure was right -- no one bought any cukes that were turning color. This woman is a real diamond -- she is generous with her help and I really appreciate it.

I wonder if anyone will buy the okra. We fried some up to try it out in a little butter with salt and pepper, and it was great! Fresh okra is not at all "slimey".

Well, it's time to lock the chickens up and take care of Lara before I take a shower and then look for some new recipes to take to market. I have a couple of older customers who come by just to get the recipes and chat. We have a lot of fun and it usually draws customers. Last week my big seller was the Samarkand garlic. And next week I should have the Hannah's Choice melons and my Stuttgart onions will be cured for two weeks. I'll check the Irish Cobbler potatoes for next week, too.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Heat is On

I haven't been out in the field as much as I should be because of the heat. I just can't breathe well when it is hot and humid. I managed to go out today and water some. I cut all the basil in half and will pick one more time before yanking it. I have beets, spinach, carrots, and short season cabbages to plant in the high tunnel as soon as I pull the basil and the melons finish. The Hannah's Choice melons should be done in about 2 weeks now -- I'll keep an eye on them. I can't wait to try them. I'll have to take a picture of them and post it.

The Black Plum tomatoes are starting to turn red for me, thank God! I watered the tomatoes. I pray RAIN! I wanted so bad to try all the different heirloom varieties I planted and now that it has been so dry, I don't know if I will get any tomatoes worth selling from them. 187 tomato plants I planted! I have a couple of Blue Ballet hubbard squashes, but I'm sure I would have more if I had more water for the garden. I am surprised the Boston Pickling cukes are producing as well as they are. The Sugar Loaf Delicata are running, but I don't know if I'll have any squashes from them.

In the high tunnel, the Perkins Long Pod okra is starting to come on. My Black Beauty eggplant has flowers but no fruit, and there are no blossoms at all on the Round Mauve. Several of the pepper varieties have flowers, and only the hot peppers from Laos have any fruit. I am waiting for these to turn red before picking them. The late tomatoes I put in the high tunnel are twice the size of the tomatoes in the field and are loaded with flowers. They may yield the only marketable tomatoes I get this year.

I haven't checked the melon and pumpkin patches only because I don't want to accidently step on something. Those melons won't be ready till the end of the month anyway, so I will leave them alone until we get close to frost. My beans are full of flowers, but no pods yet.

The White Egg turnips really grew well for me. I will definitely plant them again next year. I do have some Gilfeather turnips that sprouted, as well as some St. Valery carrots, more dill, and Southern Giant Leaf Mustard greens. the Provider green beans are just too dry and I don't think I will get anything from them. The collards are growing well, and I have some Bull's Blood beets growing, but the deer are murdering me despite using over 5 gallons of Deer Off, Liquid Fence, and Deer Away products. They have chewed my pole beans down to nothing. I was really looking forward to trying some Cherokee Trail of Tears.

Anyway, I am already thinking about how to protect the garden better next year. I really think I am going to put up a secondary fence around each growing section. Either that or grow most items under hoops and row cover. Lots to think about!

I have some nice Stuttgart onions curing in the garage, and the potatoes will be done soon. I got a roll of film developed that I found in the bottom of my purse, but the pics didn't turn out at all as the roll was from when I tried taking pics without a battery in the camera. Talk to you soon.

Weird Event

This past Saturday something weird happened. Just before I woke up, I had a dream that I was in a very dark place. Suddenly, there was a blinding flash and a loud sound like an explosion. I remember calling out for Tom. Then I woke up. It was before 5 a.m. because that was when I set the alarm for to get ready for the farmers market. Well, because of the dream, I was wide awake and got up to start a pot of coffee. When I got into the kitchen, I saw that the power had gone out at some point because the lighted clocks on the stove and microwave, and the dish washer were blinking. The odd think about this, however, was that the time on the clocks was 12 minutes AHEAD of what they should have been. I have never had something like this happen before. Tom got up and came into the kitchen while I was adjusting the time on the stove clock and immediately noticed the oddity when he saw the microwave clock. That was definitely weird!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Day of Rest












Got a new roll of film developed and thought I'd post some pics for you. There are the Fall seed crop rows planted on 4th of July weekend (White Egg and Gilfeather turnips, Green Wave mustard, Cilantro, St. Valery carrots, Bulls Blood Beets, Italian parsley, Bouquet dill, Forellynschuss lettuce, and lots of Provider green beans. Next to this is a pic of the melon patch under cover. The next row is a close up of some pole beans (Rattlesnake, Cherokee Trail of Tears, Scarlet Runner, etc.) and the beans that will be sold as dry beans (Vermont Cranberry, Soldier, Calypso, Dragon's tongue, Jacob's Cattle, Indian Woman Yellow). Next are pics of the pole bean tepees and other veggies (curly endive and Buttercrunch lettuce, dill, Detroit Red beets, Stuttgart onions, Champion collards, Copenhagen Market cabbage) and lastly a view of the potato section where I have Katahdin and Irish Cobbler growing. I am at war with Colorado Potato Beetles.

Yesterday was a beautiful day at the farmers market. It was not as crowded as last week and we didn't have as many vendors, but it was great to have customers come back to say how good the Green Arrow peas were that they bought last week and did I have more? I sold most of the bushel and a half I had, and all but one of my Copenhagen Market cabbages. One old timer bought all the Boston Pickling cukes -- those are just starting to come on. I sold all the dill I bunched; I trim the dill so you get good fronds in a bunch. Basil doesn't seem to go over too well up here, but that's ok because when there are any herbs left over I dry and bag them for winter. Didn't sell much Italian parsley either. All but three of the summer squash and zucchini sold, and I sold most of the Forellynschuss lettuce. That is such a pretty leaf lettuce! This coming week I should have a few more cabbages, but unless the Provider beans come on, I will have a dearth of produce as everything else is still flowering. I need to work on my succession planting.

The deer got into the cucumbers so I am waiting for my Deer Off to come from www.planetnatural.com and I can spray them and the tomatoes. I should get that tomorrow. Still, the garden is looking good despite getting less than 1.5 inches of rain for this entire season. Hauling all that water appears to be paying off, but I do think a strong factor is the heavy overnight condensation we have had all season. The cooler nights may also be why everything is so slow in coming. The okra and eggplants look good in the high tunnel the possibility of actually getting four kinds of melons (Moon and Stars, Charentais, Green Nutmeg, and Hannah's Choice (my only hybrid) makes my mouth water. The bees have found everything and I love hearing them buzz around me. Now if only the seeds planted for fall come on. . . .

I hope you enjoy the new garden pics; in some of them you can see the difference from mid-June to the last week of July. Note how brown the grass is -- that's a June picture.

Last of all here's a note for Bill: all of the Christmas catalogs and most of the spring/summer catalogs were snapped up by customers this week. I think the rest will go this coming week. I hope you get some orders.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Farmers Market Today

Today was a lovely day and my first this year attending the farmers market in Phillips. It was great to see everybody again. There was quite a nice crowd passing through and I met some really nice people. It didn't take me as long as I thought to set up, probably thanks to practising raising and lowering my new canopy last night with Tom. I received several nice compliments on how my stand looked and on my old timey costume. I sold just about everything and a few people even took some of Bill's catalogs and cards. When I came home I put the unsold basil in the dehydrator and the parsley in the frig. The cabbages were pretty wilted by the time I got home, so I chopped them up and made cabbage soup, which I will freeze in portions and eat whenever I get in the mood for a quick meal.

We are supposed to be very dry for the next few days so I want to get out to the garden early tomorrow and water before it gets too hot. I am excited because when I was picking produce yesterday I saw the zucchini and Boston Pickling cucumbers starting. Tomatoes are starting to come on, too. I hope I can get some more deer deterent before they get my tomatoes -- they got all of my beets.

Well, I am loaded with chores to get done so I'll talk to you later.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Rain, Rain, Come Our Way

Well, despite the last week of much cloudiness and off and on rain clouds, all the rain we got was a scant .6 inch. My tomatoes look pitiful. Still, the cooler weather has allowed some of the new seeds I planted for fall to sprout. But there has not been enough rain to get all of the seeds to sprout. I don't seen any cilantro or carrots yet.

The high tunnel crops look best. Hannah's Choice melons are flowering and vining; the basil is ready to cut; some of the hot peppers are fruiting; the okra and eggplant are flowering and getting tall; the dill is making seed for next year; the Italian parsley is ready to cut, and so is the Forellynschuss lettuce. Happily I saw a couple of bees among the mints and melons.

Spent some time squashing potato bugs today; I'll have to get the Dipel out and spray. It's only been a week since I hoed, but the weeds are all over the place again. This weekend for sure I'll go to the farmers market with Green Arrow shell peas, Genovese Basil, Italian Parsley, Copenhagen Market Cabbage, Endive, and Forellynschuss lettuce. I'll see if I can sell any of my green garlic.

My rhubarb is pathetic. I just don't know what the matter is. It is yellow; the leaves are bug eaten, and the stems on many plants are weak and thin. I can only think it needs water since I have religiously weeded and added compost to it. Maybe it will be stronger next year. I am starting to get summer squash and zucchini, and hopefully will have some ready to pick to take to market by Friday. The Boston Pickling cukes are starting to vine and I wrapped some of the longer stems around the support twine I have set up. The Moon and Stars, Charentais, and Green Nutmeg melons are doing well under the light Agribon cover despite the cool nights, and my Big Moon and New England Pie pumpkins are starting to cover the ground. The Mandan Bride flour corn and sunflowers are looking good (despite the deer bothering them and my pole beans). I cannot wait to get a well put in the field!

The road work seems to be coming along. The crews start as soon as it is light enough for them to see. We were told that they would be dynamiting around the 9th, but we never heard any more about it.

The bear came back and demolished our bird feeders. It bent the metal pole the feeders were on like a plastic straw. Tom is going to go to town tomorrow and get some more feeders as the birds are all looking for their seeds.

Yesterday was Lara's 24th birthday. I can't believe she is that old already. We had a bar-be-que and I took her to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at Phillips. She had a good day. I bought her several scented room sprays and her room is Scent City, let me tell you. But she is happy with them and that is all that matters.

Well, I'm kind of tired -- think I'm fighting off a summer bug of some sort, so I'll talk to you later.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Hoe, Hoe, Hoe

Went out to the field early and started hoeing. There was fog on the marsh and the air was nice and cool. Dad went and cut the hay around the field perimeter so I will need to rake it up as soon as I can get to it. I hoed the corn and sunflowers, the tomatoes, cukes, and squashes, the fall seeded veggies, and the high tunnel. I sprayed Safer Insecticidal Soap on the pole beans, and planted most of the late seeded tomato seedlings (the ones I started after blight hit the high tunnel) in the remaining space in the high tunnel. The high tunnel is now full and it looks great! The Hannah's Choice melons are about ready to run. The rest of the garden still needs a good rain though. Tomorrow I will fix a batch of Deer Off and spray everything. I need to get some bales of peat moss before I tackle the perennial bed. I hoed the rhubarb, garlic and elderberries, but will wait to take care of the raspberries, gooseberries, currants, horseradish, and asparagus until I get the peat. Revamping that asparagus bed alone will probably take me a couple of days -- if you neglect to keep the weeds in check, you deserve what you get, so I have nobody to blame but myself!

I came back to the house around noon and took care of Lara. Then, Tom, Eddy, and I went by Dad's and we hilled up Tom's potatoes again. Dad stopped to chat and then went and cleaned out his ash bin on the outdoor furnace to get it ready for the cold weather (that's next month already!) I was glad to come home and hop into the shower!

Tonight I am taking Eddy to the movie to see Transformers. I am sure he will like it. And, next week it looks like the new Harry Potter movie will be here so I will take both Lara and Ed to see that. Lara wants to see it for her birthday. I told her I would get Order of the Phoenix out and read it to her before we go so that knowing the story may help her follow the movie better. Our theater is not equipped for the blind but we don't care as we don't go that often.

Tomorrow is supposed to be 90F and humid followed by rain. Yuck! That is way too hot for this far north. I hope we get a good, solid rain without any storm damage.

Well, I have to go. Talk to you soon!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Call of the Wild

With the road construction going on, the wild life is on the move. Night before last the security light came on in back of the house while Tom was in the kitchen, and when he looked out the window, he saw a good sized black bear checking out the bar-b-que! When he called me to come see it, the bear looked at us a while then went back into the woods, but I know he hanged around a while because the security light periodically went on and off. That was a big bear and I wonder if it is the same bear we saw two years ago. Then, when Tom went to check his deer stand, he came up on a flock of about 10 wild turkeys and the dog almost caught one! But the biggest happening was when Tom let the dog out she surprised a doe with a fawn in the woods in front of the house. The doe went one way and the fawn jumped over the 4 foot fence and into the chicken run! I thought that fat old rooster Chin Lee was going to have a heart attack. The chickens were all making a racket while the fawn jumped all over the place until it finally jumped over the far side of the coop fence and dashed into a stand of balsams down by the north marsh, its white flag of a tail standing straight up. Oh Brother! It was a good thing the dog listened to me when I told her to "stay". I told Tom we can't let her chase deer. Then, somebody's male yellow lab got loose and was out in the front of the house. It was a good thing that Sandy was not out. I wonder whose dog that was.

Yesterday, Tom cut the grass along the hay road and I cut back a lot of the tree branches as far as I could reach so the road is passable. There are several low areas that need to be filled. Then, I put down my organic fertilizer mix around all the veggies and checked the potatoes for potato bugs. Only two plants had bugs so I spot sptrayed those two with Bt and squished all the bugs I could find. Ed and I finished putting in bamboo stakes for the tomatoes and we built our cucumber trellises. The garden sort of looks Japanese with all the bamboo, but it is pretty. The pole beans are looking good and hopefully will start to climb their teepees soon. The other beans I planted for dry beans are all growing well. It is cloudy today and rain is expected so hopefully we will get enough rain to get the new seeds I planted going. Where the oats were I put in rutabegas and white egg turnips, St. Valery carrots, Forellynschuss lettuce, French Breakfast radishes, Cilantro, dill, mustard greens, Bulls Blood beets, borage and calendula and LOTS of Provider green beans. The green beans will be the main green bean crop. I have just one small section that was left unplanted and I want some buckwheat to plant there. The wheat/oats section has a lot of weeds in it, but what grain there is is growing nicely. Guess when it's time to harvest, I'll have to separate the grains by hand, but it is a small patch and hopefully there will be enough for us for the winter. Anyway, with the flowers starting to come on many of the veggies, fruit and the farmers market won't be far away. I'll have to start checking my market supply bins and making ice.

Well, I want to do some reading on community kitchens so I talk to you later.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sunday

Yesterday, I went out to the field around 7 a.m. and hoed the pumpkins and melons, then all of the potatoes, and finally the corn and sunflowers. I watered the tomatoes and squash, and then I went back to the house around 11:30 a.m. for lunch and to take care of Lara. Then, Tom and Ed and I went to Tom's garden by Dad's and we hilled his corn.

I am going to take it easy today. I was so sore when I woke up this morning from all the hoeing I did yesterday that I could hardly move. I staggered to the bathroom and downed some homeopathic remedies -- Arnica and Hypericum for the pain, and Apis for all the bug bites. Then I took my usual constitutional dose of Bioplasma and now I feel pretty good.

Today we are having bar-b-que again. Tom is putting chicken breasts on the grill and I made Paul Deen's Squash Casserole recipe (I love it!). I plan to take it easy and work on some more baby booties. I find crafting very stress relieving. I was sewing a second pair of jungle boot booties together that I had already knitted and discovered that one top section was off by one contrast row so I had to unravel it and am knitting it up again.

It is a beautiful day even though it is expected to get up around 90F. We have the whole house fan on drawing air from the north side of the house and I have the shades down on the south side windows. It is very pleasant. Perhaps later I will put together the 7 shelf metal shelf unit I bought to put canning jars on.

I bought a DVD about Artisan bread making from King Arthur Flour and we watched it the other evening. Boy, does that process look time consuming, but I figure if I set one day aside to just bake, then the process won't be that bad. The big thing is remembering to start the poolish the night before so it has time to ferment properly. Just imagine coming into the house on a crisp Fall afternoon and eating a nice hunk of toasted Artisan Bohemian rye-potato bread topped with homemade sauerkraut from the crock, a couple of slices of crisp bacon bought from Jump River Dairy over in Catawba, and melted Swiss or Wisconsin Brick cheese. Add a cup of good, strong coffee and a slice of homemade apple pie for dessert -- sounds like heaven to me! Well, this is getting me too hungry so I'm going to go check on the bar-b-que. See ya!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Community Development Conference

I attended one day of the Community Development Conference in Appleton, WI yesterday for the Farmers Market Community Kitchen day trip. That conference was the BEST conference I have EVER attended. It certainly was not for the faint of heart and I really should have taken farm brochures with me. There were professionals there from all over the world and everyone was exchanging business cards and networking. If you didn't get hung up on what methodology was used to quantify data collected for this or that study and concentrated on sifting through what was said to get to the point, there was an unbelievable wealth of useable information to be had. I was the only "ordinary" person I could find there. Everybody else was affiliated with some type of governmental entity. I had people talking to me because I was NOT affiliated with any kind of bureaucracy and they wanted my take on this or that. I met a great lady from Saskatchewan who is going to email me info on how Saskatchewan's community kitchen is run, and I met a nice guy from the USDA at the comunity kitchen in Algoma, WI who I spoke with about our Price Direct group and he gave me his card and said to give him a call when we decide what direction we want to move the group in as he gives grant money to microenterprises. I talked with a sharp old codger from Ireland and after talking family history (where my mother's family came from in Ireland and the family name) we talked about cover crops and farming practices. Wow! It was a VERY productive day. I would love to attend the entire conference next year. It is being held in Saskatchewan. Unfortunately, I don't think I can in good conscience leave Tom with the kids for a whole week, and I don't have a passport; I understand with the new laws, it is difficult to get a passport and takes a long time.

While there I sat in on a rural leadership seminar that was comprised of three separate presentations. The first was held by two ladies from Louisiana who talked about a leadership module called S.A.L.T. (I missed what it stands for because I was late getting into the talk because of chatting with the lady from Saskatchewan)and they talked about helping develop new rural leaders in the wake of hurricane Katrina. The second presenter talked about identifying new entrepreneurial leaders in times of crisis and peace. She was from the University of Haifa, Israel, and her data was collected in the wake of the second Lebanon war of last year. Her talk was extremely interesting. The last talk was about doing feasibility studies for proposed projects and how to identify and assess needs. It was great. I was fascinated; it's been a long time since I was exposed to this much intellectualism and I'd forgotten how much I enjoy these types of discussion. It was just a great experience altogether and I am SO glad I went.

On another note, the road construction has started by our farm so be very careful if you plan on being out our way. While I was gone, a guy came to the house and told Tom that they were going to need to use dynamite and will be blasting some time around July 9; this guy and his wife wanted to come inside the house and take pictures of everything and I am so glad he said, "No." This is new construction and our new well is 60 feet deep with a 15 gpm refresh rate. The information is on record with various County departments and if my water supply gets screwed up somebody is going to dig me a new well, and the average well depth in this area is + or - 200 feet. Anyway, I think positive. The real problem right now is that I cannot get out to the field to water the garden. I am going to call my dad and see if he can guide me around the farm house so I can get onto the hay road with my water barrels to get to the field. The road sorely needs to be graded and I don't know if I can get the water out there without it spilling.

Talk to you again soon!

Finally Some Pictures

Here are some pictures for you! There are three from making maple syrup, seedlings in the high tunnel, and the Beaver tree.






Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Heat is On

The temperature today is around 85-90F and the flies are merciless. I got up early and raked some of the hay Tom cut yesterday for mulch that I put around the tomatoes, cukes, summer and winter squash and watermelons after I watered them. I came home, took care of Lara and refilled the water barrels. Then, I went with Tom to his garden by Dad's and helped him plant his squashes. By the time that was done, it was time to take care of Lara again. After I did that, I went back out to the field and watered the tree orchard and rhubarb, the hazelnut trees and the juneberry trees. Two of the apple tree cages had been blown down by the wind and I set them back up. I pulled the Persian Star garlic and will set it out to cure. Now, Tom is back at Dad's hilling his potatoes, so after supper, I will refill the water cans and go back out to the field, finish watering the plums and elderberries, and water everything in the high tunnel. If I have enough time, I'll rake up some more hay as I really want to have a lot of mulch around everything. Maybe I'll get the beans in the ground tomorrow. It's so hot I'm wondering if I should just till under the peas and try for a fall crop instead. I'll wait a bit on that. I think the county will be starting the road construction soon as the utility guys have marked everything and the survey team was back today. The potatoes need to be hilled already; I think I'll leave that for tomorrow. Whew!

I finally finished the roll of film that was in the camera and took it in to be developed so I hope to have some new pics for you soon.