Monday, September 28, 2009

And the North Wind Blows

It's cold here! The wind has been whipping around making the electricity go maddingly on and off. It blew away the wind chimes Lara's friend, Carrie, gave me. (I think they must be in the woods near the house; I can't believe the wind would blow something that big very far away.) It made the chickens prefer the chicken coop to being outside. And it sure showed me that Gorilla tape will not work to patch the end panels on the high tunnel. I even had to re-position the tarps on the firewood stacks by adding additional top weights so they wouldn't blow away.

Out in the field I pulled up all the Bulls Blood Beets. I am keeping them in the garage for tonight, and tomorrow I'll sort through them and make up the bundles for the customer in town who was looking for beets. Funny how people won't eat the beet greens and only want the beet roots. I'm the other way -- I'll take the greens over the roots (though I LOVE pickled beets). While in the field I covered the carrots and collards with Agribon 19 as it is supposed to get down in the 20's tonight. Then I dug up the Italian Flat Leaf Parsley that finally started to grow and planted it in a container that I brought to the house. I decided not to cut the Sweet Annie and to leave it where it is in the hope that it will self-seed. I love the way that Sweet Annie smells! I said good-bye to it, the Borage and the Calendula, as I am sure they will perish in the hard frost tonight. Yes, I talk to my plants!

In the high tunnel, I spent some time trying to patch the end walls but finally acknowledged utter defeat. If there are tax returns come next Spring, I'll try to buy new ones. I transplanted an unknown pepper plant (the name on the marker faded away) into a bucket and took that back to the house with the Italian Parsley. You should see my piano; it looks like a plant nursery! I picked more huckleberries and covered those plants with Agribon 19. Then, I raked up some straw and covered the herbs along the North side of the tunnel. I think they will be ok for the winter. That was about all I got done.

Back at the house after supper I went through all the brown paper bags I have the green tomatoes in, and I pulled out all the ones that have ripened. I would have made tomato sauce after supper in the Mehu Lisa steamer pot as that makes short work of the task, but I'm out of lemon juice. Normally I wouldn't worry about the tomato acidity, but quite a few of the tomatoes are not red so I can't be sure they are acid enough to go into a water bath canner. I put lemon juice on the shopping list and will have to wait to do the tomatoes till I get some. I'll make a batch of pickle relish with the last of the cucumbers tomorrow instead and do the beets. I checked the sauerkraut crocks, but even the kraut is taking it's own sweet time to ferment this year.

I brought back the dried radish stalks from the field to take the seed from, and the amaranth is still drying in the garage, too. Plus there is a good half bushel of dried beans to shell and put away. I bagged the dried hops -- they sure smell good -- and put them away for now; I want to get a beer making kit for my birthday. (Double purpose -- I also want to use the equipment to make alcohol that will run all our machinery. I bought David Blume's book and DVD, Alcohol Can Be A Gas, and I'm a believer!) I replaced the hops in the dehydrator with fennel fronds. Those smell good, too, and we all chewed on fresh fennel stalks for a treat while I packaged and froze the few small bulbs we had.

Tom wants to know when I'm going to butcher the rest of the chickens. . . .

He also wants more apple dumplings.

Language and the Oceans in Time

If you read The Shape of Things to Come reports from the good folks at Half Past Human, you'll know the reports mention the state of the oceans and the collapse of global fisheries. Well, today I came across a new documentary on the Natural Resource Defense Council's web site about ocean acidification, and guess what one of the consequences of doing nothing about the effects of CO2 on the oceans is -- that's right collapse of the ocean's great fisheries. Check it out. It isn't the best documentary I've ever seen, but it makes you stop and think, which is what a good documentary does. Right on, Time Monks!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Out in the Field

Today after lunch I went out to the field. I collected the hops bines and put them in the back of the truck. Then I harvested nearly a whole ice cream bucket (gallon size) of calendula seed. There are still quite a few plants blooming and I think I'll pick the blossoms and make some calendula oil to keep as a medicine. I was also able to harvest a good quantity of chive seed from out of the high tunnel. I think I'll start a bunch of new chive clumps to sell next Spring at the farmers market. I have a 50' row of mammoth dill, but I don't think I'll get any seed from it, which means I have to buy more seed for next year. Rats!

I tried patching the ends on the high tunnel again, this time with more feed sacks and Gorilla Tape. I'll see how everything holds up tomorrow. Inside the high tunnel I pulled down all the pole bean and tomato trellises, and I started piling up all the garden debris. Now, an interesting thing I noticed this past winter when I waded through the snow to check on the high tunnel was how many earthworms congregated in the ground under high tunnel. I figure it must have something to do with the fact that the ground temperature under the tunnel isn't as cold as the ground under the snow outside the tunnel. Anyway, I like using earthworms to fertilize the soil, so today I decided to dig a trench down the middle of the high tunnel and fill it with the garden debris. When I am finished turning the ground over and burying all the debris, I'll wet it all down so it starts composting, and let the worms feast and break it all down over the winter. (I wouldn't do this if any of my plants were diseased.) Around about the end of February I'll take the dog with me out to the tunnel and let her root out the voles while I check the earthworm population and maybe plant some seeds.

Some things in the high tunnel are still going strong. I am leaving the calendula that is still blooming and garden huckleberries grow as long as they can. I've already harvested a good half gallon of huckleberries. The catnip looks very happy, and I think I'll dig up the stray plants and put them all together in a corner. The rest of the herbs along the edge of the tunnel look fine, and I'll rake up some grass and cover them for the winter.

I had no sweet potatoes when I forked over a couple of plants, so I pulled all those up, and I yanked out all the eggplants. Of those, only the Turkish Orange bore any fruit even though it didn't mature. I did lift the Lemon hot pepper and Thai/Laos hot pepper plants and put them in pots. I'm going to try to overwinter them in the house. It feels pretty good getting the high tunnel organized. If the weather is ok tomorrow, I'll start cleaning up the hops section. It would be nice if I could finish cutting the grass in the small meadow and the north end of the field. I really need to get to the orchard and check on my poor, deer devastated fruit trees, too.

Here's a pic of my arena of action for today:

Those fall colors are fading fast! Shortly after I took this picture the sky got dark and it started to rain a cold Autumn rain. I packed up the truck and just got back to the house when it started to hail, not bad, but enough to say, "That's enough for today." Geez, before you know it, we'll be stoking the wood stove! (Good thing I got the wood stacks covered with tarps so the wood stays dry.) :)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

It's Autumn All Right

Autumn is moving right along here in the Northwoods where the leaves are falling like rain and at night you can hear the wind rustling the tree tops. When the sun goes down, it gets cold, and the fog builds in the marshes even before dark falls with ever increasing earliness. I've been busy. Sometimes I wish I had a clone to help me keep up with all the work.

Today I went to see Bernie at Seed and Feed and loaded up on chicken supplies -- feed, grit, oyster shell, wood shavings, and cracked corn. I shoveled out the coop and put down fresh bedding. I don't know which of the chickens is worse -- the nosy and underfoot hens or the ever crowing (soon to be in the freezer) roosters! Anyway, I felt better having the coop ready for the cold weather. I have a feeling that one day soon we're going to wake up and instead of Fall, it will be winter -- just like we never had a summer this year.

I turned over two of the garden boxes and added the poultry bedding to them. They will be ready for planting in a week or so -- I'm waiting for the Kettle River garlic I ordered from Ronniger's to come. The lettuce in Box 2 is still setting seed, so I'll turn over that box when I harvest the seed. That box already has the perennial garden sorrel and Egyptian Walking Onions, so I will add shallots and potato onions to fill it up. I will plant spinach, carrots, bunching onions (did I say I like onions?) and maybe some lettuce to try overwintering. When all the leaves are off the trees, I'll layer on a heavy mulch and come next spring we'll see what we get. We had so much snow last year that keeping the snow off the covered boxes became too much work, and I was afraid of falling, so I will just mulch the boxes and let the snow cover them.

I spent some time in the field yesterday harvesting the Cascade hops and picking huckleberries in the high tunnel. It took me longer than I thought it would, but I have a nice harvest of Cascade hops, and I must have at least a half gallon of huckleberries with the bushes still nearly full. I collected the last of the cucumbers and discovered that I had no sweet potatoes. I think I will leave the sunflowers in the field for the critters. I cut the amaranth tops and have the heads drying in the garage in brown paper bags -- I hope that's the correct way to harvest the seed; I was afraid that if I left the seed heads in the field that I would lose the tiny seeds. And I plan to make wreaths out of the hops bines; I'd like to do that tomorrow if the weather co-operates. There's so much to do!

I went with Tom and Ed and dug up the rest of his potatoes. We got three more bushels. I harvested the last of the cabbage, too, and Tom went through his corn patch and filled a bushel basket with the best formed ears. I think I will try to overwinter a couple of the best cabbage heads and re-plant them for seed next spring. I don't have much luck freezing corn, so I think I'll try canning some and see what happens. Dad was there and he looked good. As usual, he didn't want any help with his wood pile, and he didn't want any more food. At least I know he's eating well.

Well, it's getting late and I'm beat so I'll catch you later. Be well!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Happy Harvest Time

Our soldier girl, Sarah, surprised us Tuesday night by coming to visit. Mom is definitely happy! So, on Wednesday, I took her and Ed up to Bayfield and made my usual circuit to my favorite orchards. I bought apple cider, two bushels of Wealthy apples, 10# of pears, and 3# of Chestnut crabapples. Of course, we had to get some apple doughnuts, apple blintzes, and good cream soda to wash them down for the trip home. :) The weather was great, and it was a lovely drive.

Guess what I did on Wednesday AFTER Special Olympics . . .

I didn't finish till 12:30 a.m. My feet were killing me, but I even got the pan of requested apple slices done. I'll share with you my mother-in-law's recipe, and it's a good one!

Apple Slices

(You will need a 9" x 13" pan)

Crust: 2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup cold water
2/3 cup cold butter
2 egg yolks

Filling: 3 lbs. apples (about 12 medium apples), cored, peeled, sliced thinly
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbs. flour

Frosting: 1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbs. soft butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbs. milk

Mix crust ingredients. Form into dough. Divide dough into two parts. Roll one part on floured surface and place in pan. Layer apple slices on top of crust in pan. Mix flour, sugar, and cinnamon, and sprinkle over apple slices. Roll out other crust and cover apples. Tuck in crust around pan edges. Prick top crust with fork. Bake in 400F oven for 50 minutes or till top crust is nicely browned. Mix frosting and while pan is still warm, frost top crust.

I'd post a picture, but it's already been inhaled, err, devoured.

Tom wandered into the kitchen while I was waiting for the apple slices to finish baking and his only comment was, "No apple dumplings?" ! So after I came back from the field today from picking all the green tomatoes

to ripen in the basement, I made apple dumplings for supper. (I topped mine off with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup.)

Tomorrow I'll do the laundry and make Spiced Crabapples. I kept one bag of apples to make caramel apples for Lara and Ed as we get closer to Halloween.

Here are some of the fall color pictures I promised you:

Our house and front yard --

Out in the field, just before sun down --

Before I leave you tonight, I want to send a huge THANK YOU to the folks who sent me the suggestion on fixing my egg refrigerator. You know, I called four places today trying to get someone out here to look at it without success (we live in one of those "in between" places that no one wants to travel to, and I was really bummed out that I couldn't get anyone to come), so when I opened my e-mail tonight and read your suggestion, it really made my day! Thanks again.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Still Busy As A Beaver

Seems like I've been going non-stop lately trying to do as much as possible while the weather is nice. I've been butchering roosters as fast as I can; I try to do 4 at a time, and that pretty much fills a day for me. Yesterday and today I made sauerkraut with 12 nice heads of cabbage from Tom's garden. I filled both my 5 gallon crocks about 3/4 full. This year I had enough onions to use my own, which was really nice, too. This is going to be a good batch of kraut!

I bartered a used refrigerator from Linda and Bill Dayton for a couple of cut-up chickens and some eggs. We went to pick it up Thursday night. I was so excited to get the frig for storing my eggs. The down side is that the frig won't get cold. It runs, but doesn't get cold. It is a GE with the freezer drawer on the bottom (can't find a model number anywhere on it and it must be old because the cord has only two prongs). I think we may have screwed it up because when we brought it home in the truck we laid it on its side. I am trying to find a manual for it. Bill and Linda said it worked fine for them so I think it is ok; I just have to figure out what the problem is. I hope I can get it working quickly because I sure need that egg storage!

I pulled the onions from the field and have them drying in the garage. The field onions grew to a good size -- much larger than the onions I grew in the garden boxes. The beets and carrots are covered with Agribon, and I cut the radish stalks with seed pods to dry. Still have loads to do in the field!

I finished varnishing the farm signs and hopefully I'll get them put up tomorrow -- if I don't go for apples up in Bayfield. I've got the apple bug and want to get my apples for the year! I'd like to go to Bayfield while the trees are in full color and get some pictures; those hills are simply gorgeous this time of year.

My farmers market canopy broke so I had to order a new one. When I went to the market last week all my produce wilted horribly by the end of the first hour, so I told one of the vendors that I wouldn't be back until I had a new canopy to give me some shade. Northern Tool had them on sale -- a 10' x 10' with blue canopy -- for $69.00, and that is what I bought. It should come some time this week. With luck I'll be back at the farmers market on Saturday.

Well, that's it for now. I'll try to take some new pictures of the fall colors for you before they're gone.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

How About Some Twisted Humor

How about a laugh? I came to this link through Robert Plamondon's September newsletter (His link was actually to a different Screaming Eggs video -- which is great, too, but I like this one better):

Robert's web site is (I like to pass on links to family farm blogs.)

Another Busy Day

Fall is definitely in the air and the trees are noticeably changing color. It even smells like September. The weather was perfect, and I took advantage of the lower humidity to scrub the wood floors, vaccuum the basement and area rugs, and dust. I canned the chicken stock from when I cooked the chickens yesterday for the pot pie and got 7 full quarts. This afternoon, Tom and Ed came out to the field and we cut grass and filled the watering barrel. After we get the grass cut, we'll mow down the non-producing sections, turn everything under, and plant a cover crop, probably oats since I have about 100# on hand. I'd like to plant some clover, but I have to check and see if it's too late to do that. We have the short end of the field outside the fence to cut and the grassy buffer areas inside the fence. We'll let the hops section grow as long as we can. Tomorrow Tom goes to the dentist in the morning and I take Ed and Lara to bowling in the afternoon, so I'll probably butcher a couple of roosters tomorrow morning and not make it out to the field. Hopefully the nice weather will hold for a couple of days so I can get some more field work done.

Special Olympics Social and Fund Raiser

Yesterday we had our first Park Falls Special Olympics agency social meeting and fund raiser. No many people showed up, but as my husband said, there was not alot of notice and being held on a Monday was a bad idea. We'll learn! For the pot luck dinner I brought a chicken pot pie that turned out pretty good; and for the bake sale I brought pizzelles, little lemon pound cakes and little apple grunts. I used up my last jar of canned apples so now I have a reason to go to Bayfield and get some apples. ;D Still, we had a lot of fun. There was a DJ named Jay, who played a lot of music.

Eddy and Lara sure liked the music, too. Ed danced with Anneliese; her mom, Roz; Lara; and me.

John Smart and his foreign exchange student, Rahim (sp?) visited with us a while. We hope Rahim enjoys his stay in America!

Anneliese's Dad, and our agency manager, Tony, and his wonderful wife, Vicky, came with Nino and Kat.

Justin had music for the DJ to play, and he says he can't wait for bowling to resume at Feit's Bowling Alley in Park Falls on Wednesdays now that the lanes are refurbished. We give Feit's a huge HURRAH!!! for letting us bowl there, and we will be there this Wednesday.