Saturday, March 27, 2010

Easter Eggs and Blessings

Here's a HUGE thank you to the First Congregational Church of Christ who bought some of our eggs for their Youth Group Easter project.   I'm glad the eggs dyed well for you and I sincerely wish you a most blessed Easter.  The hens here at Swamp Creek Farm send you a Halleluja cackle!

Today we celebrated Dad's 80th birthday (it's actually tomorrow).   We had a nice dinner with Dad and two of my sisters.  It was too bad the whole family couldn't have been here, but Dad still isn't very strong so it was probably a good thing there was only a few of us.  Ed enjoyed helping him blow out his birthday cake candles, and in our grace before meal prayer, we thanked God for giving us such a good father. 

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Friday, March 26, 2010


The direct marketing/selling of raw milk to consumers issue in Wisconsin is starting to gain steam.  Here's a link to an article about what's happening from The Country Today:
I guess there was quite a crowd that showed up in Eau Claire for the public hearings on the issue.  Great!  I am a member of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, and I am not happy that the WFB opposes the selling of raw milk.  I believe that if a person wants to buy raw milk that they should be able to do so. 

In other news -- we made it!  We are in the April/May issue of Mother Earth News magazine (page 89).  It's nothing big, but I never in a million years would have thought we'd ever be in that magazine.  I've been reading MEN since the beginning, and although I admit I was going to drop my subscription back in 2000 because I felt the magazine had strayed too far from its homesteading "roots" and gotten too "Yuppyish", they have turned the magazine around and I'm delighted with each issue again (and glad I didn't drop my subscription).  I really enjoy reading the modern updates on homesteading skills.  I guess I can't say it enough -- what a wonderful time to be young!  Even though the economy is awful and times are hard, the young people of today not only have the opportunity to tear down the old way of doing things, they will build a new social/cultural order, too.  How grand!

Not Enough Time

Boy, is the time ever flying!  It's been a wild week.  On Saturday I noticed that Ed was favoring one of his ears and when I checked it out I saw the ear was oozing behind the lobe and that the skin was supporating.  I immediately washed the area with hydrogen peroxide and painted the area with tincture of iodine.  When that dried I applied a triple antibiotic ointment and pulled out my homeopathic remedy box to give him some Hypericum for pain, Merc Sol for the swollen glands beneath the ear, and Belladonna because he was running a fever in the ear and its exterior was very red.  When we saw the doctor on Monday he checked to be sure Ed didn't have an ear infection and told me to continue what I was doing. 

The next day, I got a call from our doctor's nurse saying that my Dad was in the Emergency Room because he fainted while getting a Lovenox shot.  Dad said that the nurse who gave him the shot pushed the needle plunger so hard that he couldn't stand the pain and fainted.  When I got to the Emergency Room I made sure the ER doctor knew Dad's side of what happened.  Geez, Louise!  We waited until they released Dad and then Ed and I followed him home.  (I had to take Ed with me because Tom was getting ready to leave for his appointment at Marshfield Clinic in Marshfield for his melanoma skin check-up with the dermatologist there.  I left Lara at home and figured that if I needed to be away with Dad for very long that I would just go back to the house and get her.) 

We had Special Olympics bowling on Thursday.  There were six of the young people, and only Tom and I and Annie's Dad, Mike, who showed up.  I wound up keeping score (I don't mind because it gives me practice) while Tom worked with both Lara and the bowling ramp and Ed.  It was a fast two hours.

And, I've been trying to get my 200 gallons of collected maple sap boiled down before it spoils.  Fortunately the temperatures have dropped (it was down to 0F last night) so I'm not worried about the sap right now.  The bad news is that we are so dry here that the danger of forest fire is very high and I don't like the idea of boiling down the sap outside when these hazardous conditions exist.  We are very careful with our fire and as you can see from the picture that shows our sugaring set up (this is last year' picture, but the set-up hasn't changed) that we have a concrete block fire enclosure screen and we use a US Forest Service approved fire ring that is set over a shallow pit where we build the fire.  We always have a rake, shovel, and water handy.  And if it's really windy, as it was yesterday, we won't start a fire.

Today after taking care of the chickens and eggs, I worked on Dad's birthday sweater, did the laundry, and then ran out to the field after catheterizing Lara after lunch and scattered in the chicken pasture area the 5 lbs. of red clover seed that I bought from Bernie last week .  We are supposed to have some rain/snow tomorrow so hopefully that will be enough moisture to get the seed started.

While I was in the field I checked out the high tunnel and moved a couple of the downed fence posts.  That is one of my big projects for this year -- fixing the fence along the creek side of the field.  The other is repairing the end walls on the high tunnel.  I figure I will need about 50 fence posts for the fence, which I should have in my post pile that I gathered last Fall.  I am still thinking about what to do with the end walls on the high tunnel:  should I buy new panels or build solid frames and just have the poly side walls.  Hmmmm.

My new hops rhizomes came today in the mail so I will have to get them into the ground ASAP, and the cabbages, leeks, and herbs seedlings are doing well in the basement.  I need to get more seeds started!  I also have to get a couple of mushroom logs drilled and plugged with the Shitaki mushroom spawn I have.  I could sure use some time management tips (besides having to get up at the crack of dawn LOL).

Did I tell you that the big red fox is back? 

Oh, Dear -- there just isn't enough time!

Friday, March 19, 2010

It's Winter Still on the Feast of St. Joseph

Happy Feast of St. Joseph!

Well, after a couple of really warm days that had the radio announcers stating that this has been the warmest mid-March in Wisconsin in 10 years, winter made its comeback today.  It's snowing and my chickipoos are keeping their feathers dry inside the coop.  The sap isn't running today either. 

I decided to stay inside and do laundry, dust, and otherwise clean the house.  I know, it's a never-ending job; somethimes when I think of house cleaning I am reminded of hamsters running on wheels in cages.  Anyway, I have been busy.

I went the other day and bought chicken supplies:  feed, grit, oyster shell, and bedding.  After unloading the truck I went ahead and shoveled out the coop, and put down fresh bedding.  I love the way those clean wood chips smell.  I did trip and fall though -- figures!  I always was a klutz and accident prone.  I was carrying a 50# sack of feed, too, when I tripped stepping up into the coop.  I landed on my right knee, and the first thing I thought was, "I think I'm going to barf."  Well, in our family, we would rather die than barf, so I didn't barf, but I sure took my sweet time standing back up.  The good news is I have just a bruise on my knee.  I also managed to poke my left hand on a protruding wood screw point, and that is pretty ugly.  I probably should have gone for a couple of stitches with that one, but I doused the wound with hydrogen peroxide and iodine, and it closed up well enough.  There is still a little swelling and a gross-looking bruise, but since I just had a tetanus shot a couple of months ago, I'm not worried about it.  The chickens are happy.

Yesterday bowling for recreation started again for our Special Olympics kids.  They all seemed happy to get back together again, and Lara was especially happy because she finally got to use the new bowling ramp and bowl with the kids.  She had the biggest smile on her face; it was such a joy to see.  Eddy bowled really well, too, and he seemed to be really enjoying himself.  I was happy to see him smile.  He is alway more verbal when he's with other young people.  I wish that he could talk.

So far I have about 120 gallons of maple sap.  I was going to start  boiling it down today, but I don't want to chance starting a fire when it is windy, especially since we are so dry here.  The snow when it melted disappeared in just two days and there has hardly been any mud.  Frost heaves in the road will knock loose a kidney, for sure, but we are really short on moisture already. 

It's almost supper time here, so I'll let you go.   The moon is in Taurus till tomorrow night so it's a good time to get some seeds started!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Jaimie Oliver on the Obesity Epidemic

I couldn't resist putting this up on the blog since Jaimie Oliver is Lara's FAVORITE chef (though Gordon Ramsey is the guy she listens to every day on the BBC channel).  All levity aside, this is a most serious subject for everybody's consideration.

Catching Up

I've been busy this weekend trying to clean the house and get caught up with projects and chores.  I'm using up the winter eggs (I'm hard boiling them, chopping them up, and feeding them back to the chickens) to make room in the egg refrigerator for the new eggs which are coming on fast.  The maple sap is running in all but one of the trees I tapped last week, so I'll have to find one more tree to tap.  Those two big garbage cans I bought to store the sap in are working out well, and fortunately, I've only fallen down once trudging through the snow.  I finished the second of the filet crochet doilies I was working on so I have a fair number of thread crochet items to sell at the farmers market now that include the "Farm Fresh" and "Home Baked" round doilies, old time bookmarks with satin ribbons, and jar bonnets.  I'd like to get some dishcloth cotton and make some dishcloths and tulle pot scrubbers; those work up quickly in an evening.  When I get a chance I'll post the instructions for the Farm Fresh doily as that is my own design.  I also spent a lot of time yesterday down in the basement starting loads of herb seeds, Mammoth Red and Danish Ballhead cabbages, and Musselburgh leeks.

On my To Do list for this week is to (1) revise the farm brochure, (2) look for new recipes to hand out at the farmers market, (3) get fresh chicken bedding, (4) call Lori and get an appointment for Lara and I to get haircuts, (5) start more seeds, (6) call Kathy Howe, our County DATCP person and talk to her about getting the darn licenses so I can sell kefir grains and eggs off farm, (6) order my meat chickens and ducks, and (7) call more insurance agencies and try to get insurance. 

Since it's maple syrup time, I thought I'd post a picture of our syrup rig from last year.  When we start boiling down sap this year, I'll take some new pictures.  Tom says he feels like a d-head with our "red-neck" set-up, but I say simple is better and until we have the time to expand our syruping activities considerably, our little Forest Service approved fire ring and concrete blocks will do just fine, especially since we only make enough syrup for our family and a few gifts for the year. 

I almost forgot to tell you about the farmers market talk that Lara and I went to on Friday over at the Ag building in Phillips.  There were alot of people there from all over the area; it was nice to see so many people interested in direct marketing.  Diane Barkstrom, our farmers market manager was there, as were a couple of other people I know from the market, and it was nice to see them all.  Lara and I sat next to an Amish man and his two young daughters.  Those Amish people don't talk much to other people; maybe it's something with their religion.  Anyway, the talk was about tips for direct marketers on selling in general and improving their farmers market displays.  One thing I learned was that you shouldn't use a black board to write all of your prices on (which is something I do).  Individual price cards are better to use so I think I'll get some stiff card stock and print out some price cards with my Publisher program.  It was a nice talk and I wish it could have lasted longer.  Lara enjoyed it.

Well, that's all for now.  Talk to you soon.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


There are lots of people who make their living by analyzing this or that set of data, and since I consider myself a dabbler in an eclectic spectrum of subjects, I've noticed an interesting link between people who talk about Peak Oil issues and Astrology -- two subjects I would not have previously thought compatible.   The Peak Oil blogs I've read tend to be rather dismal and depressing while many of the astrology blogs I read actually avoid the issues of social and economic collapse entirely (which avoidance I find rather interesting, too).  But at the same time, the two subjects describe very similar future scenarios.   Anyway, I came across an unusual astrology blog that I think is very good, though I must say I do object to the author's constant villifying of Baby Boomers.  (Under his definition for Baby Boomers, I apparently fall into the nebulous  "Generation Jones" category having been born late in 1954, but whether that makes me a burgeois Boomer or an early Gen X-er, I don't know, and according to Dolores Cannon, we mid to late '50s born fall into a category she calls "The Wayshowers", a category that I have to say describes me perfectly).

 In any event, the Global Astrology blog is excellent in its analysis of the coming Cardinal Climax of this summer, and his predictions for global social events from now and on through this new decade are quite thought provoking and certainly geared to motivating the reader into action.  Check it out:

Hops and To Do List

I'm still thinking about hops, and thanks for the support, guys! Found out I will need 55 poles for an acre trellis.  Even though Monsanto is one of the producers of the following video along with the American Farm Bureau, here is a nice video about commercial hops growing. It's too bad there is no small scale harvesting equipment available. America's Heartland Video - Hops Crops.  I also found a couple of good links on hops info to share: and

Tom drove to Ironwood, MI today (we're about 30 miles from the WI-MI border) to buy a topper for his truck.  It was a nice day again for running errands.  He wanted an aluminum topper and had to order it; should be ready for pick up in about two weeks.

I took care of the chickens and emptied the sap buckets, then made a sour cream chocolate cake using some of my homemade sour cream from kefir.  Turned out great!  I want to experiment with lacto-fermented veggies using kefir.  The health benefits are supposed to be outstanding.  I cut the cake up into pieces and put it in the freezer so it wouldn't  immediately evaporate ;)  Then I cleaned off the top of my desk -- looks MUCH better.  I seem to accumulate reading material like our dog does ticks; don't know what it is.

Now tomorrow Lara and I are going to a farmers market talk about marketing and displays at the Ag Extension office in Phillips.  It starts at 10:00 a.m. and runs till noon.  (I try to make sure Lara gets out of the house as much as possible. Tom usually takes Ed with him when he goes somewhere.)  Tom will take Dad to get his next blood level test for me.  It will be a busy day.  I'll have to take care of Lara and the chickens early, then empty the sap buckets in the afternoon after we get home. 

Since two more insurance companies have told us they won't give us a physical and product liability rider to our current homeowners insurance policy for selling products from our farm and at the farmers market (they want us to buy our entire homeowners from them), and we haven't heard back -- again -- from our current insurance agent (who assured us that we could get a rider from her), I'm going to give Rural Insurance a call and see how much a commercial farm policy will cost since I have the farm incorporated as a single member LLC.  (Haven't made any money yet but we are incorporated). I can't tell you how pissed off I am at these insurance companies.  And I have to call that state DATCP regional agent to find out about getting the Food Processing Plant license (because I have to wash my eggs before selling them) and a Mobile Retail Food Establishment license (so I can sell my eggs at the farmers market).  Then if I want to sell my kefir grains from either the farm or at the farmers market, I think I will also need (at least) a Dairy Plant Processing license!  And, the agent has to come to the house and "inspect" my kitchen; she will "work with me" to meet state regulations.  I am so sick of government regulations I could barf.  A micro-entrepreneur in Wisconsin today is just crushed under all of the burdensome bureaucracy.  At least the state legislature passed Wisconsin's version of Minnesota's "Pickle Bill"; that's one step in the right direction.

Guess I've done enough ranting for today.  Take care!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

It's That Time of Year Again

It's maple syrup time!   I tapped about 24 trees all around the house and sap started running right away from most of them.  I timed the tree tapping perfectly this year.  Breaking paths through the snow to all the trees was tiring but I managed not to fall, and my feet didn't get cold or wet in my Muck boots.  This year I tapped three big old maples on the berm at the front of our drive.  They are so big I could have put in two taps, but I don't believe in bleeding out the trees and only put one tap in each of them.  Since I am trying to do everything here on the farm as simply and low cost as possible, I use recycled ice cream buckets for sap pails.  They work just fine.

Needless to say the chickens were very interested in what I was doing -- even if they don't like the snow.

They sure like the warmer temps -- today it got up in the low 40s.

Well, I'm kind of beat.  Talk to you later!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Gorst Valley Hops Workshop

Things are still very busy here.  We finally have two days where Dad doesn't have to go to this or that doctor for something.  It's been difficult trying to get everything done, but I did want to tell you about the Gorst Valley Hops workshop I went to on Saturday down in Madison.

Some of you may remember that about three years ago I planted a couple of hops rhizomes.  My primary purpose was to use the hops in herbal mixtures and in crafts.  Nothing big.  Well, after I bought the rhizomes I figured I'd better find out all I could about them, and that was when I discovered there was a huge hops shortage.  I joined an Internet Yahoo group called Grow-Hops and read most of their files about hops.  My good Bohemian uncle's eyes gleamed when he found out I was growing them, and so, when I saw a news article a couple of weeks ago about Gorst Valley hosting a workshop called "An Introduction to Small Scale Commercial Hops Production", I decided to go ahead and attend it. 

It was a long day.  I had to leave the house at 2:30 a.m. to get down to Madison by 8:30 a.m.  Then I got turned around in Madison because the driving directions took me to the Monona Terrace location on the wrong side of the street and I got messed up trying to turn around.  I had to stop at a gas station to get more directions.  But I did get to the workshop with some time to spare so I wasn't too stressed out.

The workshop itself was bare bones, no frills.  A lot of information was presented and it was all useful.  One hundred sixty-three (163) people attended.  I would recommend going to their workshop if you think you would like to grow hops commercially.  Only a few of us there were already growing hops.

The people at Gorst Valley are interested in the new regional business paradigm where local growers network with regional processors to provide premium quality product to area companies.  The key word here is quality -- it's quality over quantity, and that's flat.   It is the hope of the Gorst Valley people that their business model can translate to other types of crops, too.  Very interesting.  I noticed that many of the younger (under 40) people attending that I spoke with enthusiastically grasped the ideas behind this model.

While taking Dad to the doctor this morning, I told him all about the workshop.  He was really interested and thought that growing an acre of hops would be worth the effort.  (There's a LOT more work to growing hops than you might think.)  He said he would plow up an acre for me by the farm house to plant the hops in because of all the thieves I have where I normally grow.  The only problem with that is water.  Where I'm growing now I at least am close to the creek, and if I actually put in a well there in the field, I am confident the well depth is going to be less than 100'.  Getting water to an acre of hops near the farm would be a real challenge, and I already know that to put in a well there would be close to 200' or deeper.  You wouldn't believe how much water it takes to grow premium hops!  Anyway, the long and short of it is that I am going to go ahead and start increasing my hops yard to an acre.  Since I don't have the money to buy everything I would need at once, I will increase the hop plants through division and slowly build the yard over the next couple of years.  I currently have three Cascade and Williamette plants that can be divided this year, and I went ahead and ordered three rhizomes each of Zeus and Brewers Gold to plant this year.  The Nugget hops I planted last year are too small yet to divide.  For me the biggest expense will be the well and irrigation.  I am fortunate to have great hop soil and the wood for trellising.  I have to admit I have one of those weird "falling into place" feelings about this.  I think growing hops at Swamp Creek Farm is meant to be.