Friday, December 21, 2012


Yep.  I did it.  I finally qualified for my Technician Class Ham radio license.  I am SO excited!  I couldn't find anyone locally that would give me the exam so I looked on the ARRL web site and found an exam session that miraculously was at 1:00 p.m. and that wouldn't require me to get up at 3:00 a.m. to drive to reach a 9:00 a.m. test session.  It was still 3 1/2 hours away, but the 1:00 p.m. time made the drive doable for me. So, on December 8th (just hours before a snow storm was expected), I drove down to the McMillan Library in Wisconsin Rapids.  Other than one of the Volunteer Examiners (VEs), I was the only woman.  I passed the exam with a perfect score so they offered me the General Class exam to take.  I didn't pass but I did get 18 of the questions correct which I thought was pretty good considering I don't know anything about General Class.  The VEs were so nice and said if I needed help with anything to just contact them.  They really made me feel like a new welcome family member.  Now all I have to do is get a radio!  Many thanks go to Andy (KE4GKP) at The Ham Whisperer whose wonderful site I used for study along with the ARRL Technician Class License Manual.  I already bought the General Class Manual and intend to use Andy's site again; I already started his International Morse Code course.  And last night I was surfing You Tube and came across N7TFP's  channel and Ham Nation.  I think I'll learn alot just from these two channels.  Tom asked me what I was going to do as a ham and I said part of the fun will be dabbling in this or that area just to decide what I'd like to do best.  I do know I want to get involved with emergency communications and learn Morse Code.  There are also three dead computers in the basement that might be resurrected to serve ham functions.  Once I get more familiar with the hobby, maybe I can find a way to help Lara become a ham.  I know there are resources out there for disabled hams.  Anyway, a whole new world has opened for me.

I have also been busy working with my loom.  I went out in the forest garden and cut down two basswood poles that I trimmed and attached one to the fabric apron and one to back warp beam.  I'm not sure what I did but I wound up with half the warp threads I wanted.  I did manage to get the warp wound onto the warp beam, sleyed through the reed, and threaded through the heddles.  I bought a DVD called Beginning Four Harness Weaving that is fairly useless if you have a counterbalance loom.  I think All Fiber Arts has more useful information for this type of loom.  Once I balanced the shafts, made sure the warp was straight, and switched the treadles from back to front on the frame, I was able to get a decent shed and have been practising simple tabby and two two twill patterns.  Once I like the way my weaving looks I think I'll re-thread the warp and try weaving a scarf with a different pattern.  This web site has all the weaving drafts you can imagine. It certainly has enough drafts to practice reading. 

I've been coaxing the chickens out of the coop with winter squash.  They have been eating the squash with no problem.  So have other critters:

Our house will be full this holiday season so I'd like to wish all of you now a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Peace Be to all of you!

Thursday, November 22, 2012


 Joy in good company.
Comfort wherever you may be.
Peace on Earth and among all creatures.

Indian Summer

First off, a quick observation:  I don't know about you, but the Internet here is giving me fits lately.  It's very slow or doesn't work at all.  Several times I gave up trying to blog posts.  I even had to take some pictures off the blog in order to get it to load.  Surfing and just reaching many web sites is almost painful. I'd be more upset except that I expect the grid will go down entirely at some point.  I'll miss electricity, but then we are used to having the power go out here. 

Hunting season has been good for us this year.  Tom got a buck with his bow on the first day of bow season, and he got a nice doe the day before yesterday with his rifle.  I was grateful he shot it before it got dark -- I hate trying to drag a deer out of the woods after dark.  Yesterday when he was out in his deer stand across the road, someone got smart and decided to spend the day in the back yard.  She liked munching on my blackberries and kept eyeing my Honeycrisp apple tree that I wisely enclosed with a fence.  The chickens watched her warily from afar (perched on the forest garden fence that protects most of the other fruit trees and berry bushes).

My Solar Return (a.k.a. birthday) was pleasant and uneventful.  It was three years since I made myself a birthday cake so I figured I would make my favorite -- German Chocolate cake.  It lasted all of three days around here!

I bought myself a beautiful pair of wool combs from Paradise Fibers and 400 heddles to add to my loom.  Now I can buy a whole fleece and practice combing the wool.  Here's a question for you fiber artists out there:  Can I spin wool from just combing it, or do I have to get some carders and card it first? 


Sarah sent me some fancy coffee beans and hot sauce. I ground the coffee in my Great-great-grandmother's coffee grinder. Boy, the smell of that freshly ground coffee was wonderful!

Tom bought me a neat book called Putting Down Roots.  I really got into it because I found that I am doing what a lot of the early pioneers of Wisconsin did like growing gardens in beds as opposed to row gardening, making fences with wood brush, drying and preserving crops for winter food and next year's seed, and so on.  There are even recipes; I may try making the rutabega pudding though I won't tell any of the picky eaters here what it is until after they eat it!

We had some more snow right before Election Day, but since then the weather has been mild enough.  I've been able to get most of my fire safety zone cut back and expect to finish in a couple of days.  It feels good to believe I am moving forward in my homesteading work.  I'm eyeing a spot near the house for a root cellar.

Well, it's a holiday weekend so I'll keep this short.  Be safe and have a wonderful holiday!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Leaves Have Flown

I can't believe the end of October is here again.  Happy birthdays go out to our friends, Bill (Tom's Air Force buddy) and Pat (Carrie's mom). 

Tom helped me fix the road side facing fence in the field before the ground got hard.  The fence looks alot better!  I didn't realize just how many fence posts were down!  I have been trying to figure out how many 6' and 8' fence posts I'll need to replace the creek side of the fence next spring.  Cutting poles in the woods will make for good exercise before the snow gets too deep.  And speaking of snow, we had our first snow on October 5th.  The weather went from balmy --


in a matter of hours.  Happily the snow melted quickly though the temperatures have steadily declined.  When I got up this morning it was 18°F.

The chicks are getting big and nearly feathered out.  I have given them the run of the coop and leave the door open in case any want to venture out into the yard. 

The bigger hens are not bothering the little ones.  In fact, I have two hens that insist on staying with the chicks and laying their eggs in a corner of the coop near where the smaller chicks like to congregate.  They coo and cluck while some of the smaller ones watch them build their makeshift nests.  I am surprised that the hens are laying.  With sunlight hours decreasing I did not expect to get any eggs till spring.  The eggs are too small to sell yet, but we are happy to eat them.  Even though they are tiny, what a difference in taste to store bought eggs! 

I canned up my sauerkraut.  This year I tried using plastic bags filled with water to seal the kraut under the brine.  It worked very well on one crock, but the bag was leaking on the second crock and I had to replace it.  I worried about the brine being watered down, but because the kraut had only just started to ferment, I decided to leave it alone and the batch turned out fine.  In the first crock I didn't even need to remove the top layer, but I skimmed a bit off anyway just to be sure the kraut was ok. You readers sure leave some great comments! 

I also went on my yearly trek to Bayfield in search of apples. (I forgot to take my camera so no pictures this year!)  I was not disappointed.  I came home with three bushels that went into apple pies and canned apple slices, apple sauce, apple juice and apple jelly.  Two bushels were "seconds" and sold for half price, and I bought one "first" quality bushel for fresh eating.  Since I was in "canning mode" I took the last of the hot peppers from the greenhouse and tried making some hot pepper jam.  Oh, yeah.  It's good.  Hot, but good.  Then I dug up some horseradish roots and made some horseradish.  It came out pretty mild, but that's ok.

Tom decided to dress up the fireplace so we hired our neighbor, Scott Tomek, a stone mason, to do it for us.  He did a beautiful job! I could feel the feng shui improve as he worked!

Say, I found a neat You Tube series from the BBC called Wartime Farm.  It's very enjoyable and broken into hour long segments that make it easier to watch.  I learned a lot!  It was amazing what the farmers in Britain had to put up with and did during World War II.   Food for thought . . . .

The wild rose hips are pretty hanging on the bushes.  I decided to leave them this year for the birds instead of collecting them for tea.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Small Farm Conference

I had a chance to get some time for myself so my sister, Mary, and I attended the Small Farm Conference in Tony, WI at the Flambeau School.  What a lovely area!  The school looks like a big red barn and you can tell from the school's condition and its various grounds that the community supports education.  If I wanted to move to a rural area, I would check this town out. 

The keynote speaker at the conference was the great John Ikerd.  I have been a fan of Professor Ikerd's writings for years.  I even took my May/June 2002 copy of Small Farm Today magazine that published the professor's essay on The Three Economies of Agriculture and asked him to sign it.  (He graciously did and that put me in 7th heaven.) He gave a wonderful, uplifting speech about the future of agriculture in this time of world transformation.  It sure made me feel good about my choice to be a farmer.  I have been very interested in the possibility of a sustainable economy after I read the Mother Jones magazine special edition from April 1997 that they called natural CAPITALISM

There were a couple of informational "classes" about different subjects that you could choose to attend, and then there was the choice to visit either two different vegetable market farms or two different livestock farms.  As much as I wanted to visit the grass fed beef and sheep farms, I decided that the vegetable market farms were more practical for me to attend so I chose that tour.  (Mary did go to the livestock tour.) It's always nice to see what other people are doing and I get good ideas, too.  About the only similarity between the small farms I visited and my operation, is that we all use raised beds, greenhouse/high/low tunnels, grow vegetables and small fruits, and sell our produce at farmers markets.  I have yet to find someone who raises heirloom vegetables for sale and seed, and who grows medicinal herbs.  One of the farms did raise chickens -- and she had some handsome roosters, too -- as I do, but she keeps her chickens in a large pen and treats them more like pets.  It's a nice large area for them to run in, but I kind of like letting mine roam the woods, and I mean my chickens to be "working gals" -- give me the eggs or go into the pot.  I bought a jar of Fiesta Pepper Jam from Fresh to You Farm that is simply to die for it tastes so good.  I should have bought two jars.

The wonderful thing about Rich Tobe, the new Rusk County Agriculture Agent, is that he is creating programs for micro-farming operations -- people who are starting farming from scratch with little or no previous farming experience.  This is something that has been sorely needed and it's wonderful that Rich has his finger on the farming transition pulse.  These new farmers are more open-minded and likely to share their experiences with other new farmers. This important attitude ties right in with John Ikerd's idea of people's moral and ethical concensus being necessary to develop the ecological economy, the third leg of John's three economies of agriculture. It was a great day and I can't wait to go to the next Small Farm Conference!

Looking Around

I had a chance to drive along the River Road that runs along the Flambeau River in  Park Falls and thought I'd take some pictures for you.

I just love this old log house and stone corn crib. I wonder when they were built; I know they are very old.  I've been told that in the pioneer days of Wisconsin,  Bohemian immigrants were considered very good stone masons because while they didn't have much wood in the old country, there were plenty of stones to work with.  I don't know if that is true, but it's what I've been told.  Now every time I see some old stone building I wonder if it was built by some old Bohemian. I've seen many remnants of forgotten farms where all that remains are a solid stone foundation, a chimney, corn crib, or perhaps an old bridge's footings sticking up out of the grass to bear witness to the presence of life in a time long past.

I want one of these!  This one looks like it sends water from the well to a cow barn. Wonder how deep that well is.

Almost home when you see these signs:

(We actually live in the town of Mercer but our mail comes out of Butternut).

Steely gray clouds are dropping rain here and there.  I caught this pretty site while watching it rain to the east of us.

Have a wonderful day!

Last Days of Summer

Honestly, I just don't know where the time goes.  I can hardly believe we are in the latter part of September already.

My version of Buffalo Bird Woman's garden yielded mixed results:

The Jerusalem Artichokes row (rear in photo) are tall and lush, and the allium row in front of them where I had the onions, Egyptian Walking onions, and Musselburg leeks did well despite the heat, but most everything else was a bust.  I did manage to harvest enough sunflower heads to get next year's seed, and for some reason, it was a great year for Blue Hubbard squash and New England Pie Pumpkins.  Otherwise, nothing grew but weeds.  I liked growing the squashes on the inside perimeter because they did (for the most part) keep the deer out.  The critters seemed to be content munching on sunflowers and whatever grew on vines that ran outside of the garden area.  In the potato patch where I grew the Red Cloud potatoes, I managed to harvest enough small potatoes to use for next year's seed.  Those are such good potatoes that I am confident I'll be able to keep them through the winter.  But there will be only store bought potatoes to eat this winter.  Ugh! Anyway, I picked the squashes and pumpkins, and  I am satisfied with that much of a harvest.

We had company!  Lara's friend, Carrie, and her parents (Pat and Mel) came to visit.  We had a great time.   Lara and Carried had a lot of fun together.

 Pat helped me bring some pumpkins and squashes and the girls to the farmers market in Park Falls.  We gave Carrie her own sunflower farmers market apron so she matched with Lara.  It rained quite a bit, but we managed a few sales.  We even had a few people that knew what the Blue Hubbards were -- that made me happy!

We had an early morning phone call on the day that Carrie was to leave to go back to Illinois.  She went with me to the Post Office in Butternut and then very carefully held the box the Postmaster gave us while we drove back to the house.   Carrie was very excited and couldn't wait to open that noisy little box . . .

Yep.  They came.

And after everyone had enough of holding baby Dominiques, we put them in the brooder with food and water and heat lamps to keep them warm.  I lost two of them to chilling before I got the lamps adjusted correctly, but they are doing just fine now.

Until next time, Blessings Be to you all!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Work and More Work

Now that the temperatures are not so bad, Tom and I have been busy, busy, busy trying to make up for lost work time.  Tom's garden has produced enough for me to get at least mustard greens, some green beans, and collards canned. His rutabegas are looking good, and so is his winter squash.  No beets or carrots though from either of our gardens.  I will be making the trek out to my garden in a day or so to take stock of things.  Sooner or later I'll have to brave checking out my potato patch. The hot peppers and tomatoes grew well in the greenhouse despite my having to put up a shade screen to keep everything from getting sunscald; this was probably the only year we didn't need to have a greenhouse!  Anyway, we gobbled up all the tomatoes as they came in so I am looking for a bushel of tomatoes, carrots, and beets to can.

We've also started working with my sister and her husband to get Dad's firewood cut, split, and stacked.  Making firewood is a job!  I keep the DMSO and arnica handy for when we creak back home.

And yesterday and today we made the sauerkraut.  This year we got about 12 1/2 gallons.  The temperatures are on the warm side so I expect the kraut will finish in about a month.  This year I'm using one of my reader's recommendations of using a filled water bag as a weight to seal the kraut below the brine.  I'm really looking forward to seeing how that works.  Tom thinks we should get another 5 gallon crock.

He also wants me to make some horseradish so maybe that would be a good blog entry.

I'm down to 10 chickens so I went ahead and ordered another 15 pullets and 2 roosters.  They should be feathered out by the time the cold settles in and they can all work out the pecking order on their own.  The exercise should keep them warm enough, at least until I get the solar window heater built for the coop.  That project should only take me a day to finish.  I'm worried about the cost of feed so I plan to buy some bags of various whole grains and mix and coarsely grind the feed as I need it.  Since I don't have that many chickens I figure this is something I can do.

Fence work is ongoing and coming along.  Well, you do what you can do when you can do it, right?  

I'll try to get some pictures for you soon. Until later then, Be Safe and Blessings to you all! 

Saturday, July 21, 2012


I ruminated for some time about writing this blog entry.  Part of me said not to do it because people will think I am crazier than even originally thought, but the other part of me said to go ahead because anything I write cannot be crazier than current events portrayed in news venues.  So, I am going to tell you about my two latest really weird, "true" dreams. You know, the kind of dreams that are "different" from "normal" dreams. The "real" dreams.

Now those of you who have followed this blog for a while know that my family has always been "big" on dream messaging.  Unlike the abhorrent transhumanists that are everywhere you look in today's media, I prefer to uphold the spiritual side of humanity -- The Way of the Heart.  I do believe in the power of dreams to educate, warn, and otherwise help people. 

In the first dream, I dreamed I was standing in the woods.  Of all things, a tree spirit was talking to me!  I was so excited to actually be in the presence of such a being that I had difficulty attending to what it was trying to tell me.  I never really believed such spirits existed.  I always thought the Ents in Tolkien's trilogy were mere fancy.  But not now.  Of course, this creature did not look at all like the Ent in the movies.  This tall spirit was surrounded by a luminescent, bright green light.    Within the light I could perceive a thin figure moving, but I could not quite discern it.  It was very friendly toward me and actually seemed eager to teach me.  I was almost beside myself with excitement.  The incredible antiquity imparted to me was mind boggling.  It possessed awesome but restrained power.  It was the owner of ancient, ancient knowledge.  I was truly overwhelmed.  I couldn't believe such a creature wanted to talk to a nobody like me. But it did.  And it liked me.  It told me that it would not be long now before the earth changes would reach us here in the Northwoods.  It told me that I needed to know that the big trees that survived the tornado from two years ago had decided to gladly give up their lives to shelter the young trees that have taken root since the forest was opened up by the tornado from terrible hail storms that will be coming.  I am not to worry and I will be guided in helping the forest to regenerate. I am not to delay -- but I can't recall in what.

And that was all I can remember.  I have noticed though that since I had the dream, I have an urge to re-read many of my books about trees, herbs and wildflowers, native grasses, and weeds.  I keep getting the idea to not look to planting traditional food crops, but to look instead at cultivating weeds and other wild plants for food.  Doing this seems perfectly normal to me though I have a hard time seeing me eating things like yellow dock and burdock. 

The next dream was very short.  Tom, Ed and I were working out in the field.  Suddenly I noticed that everything was dead silent.  I stopped what I was doing and looked around.  Nothing was moving.  Then I looked up at the sky, and coming from the north, I saw a thin rainbow arc moving rapidly over us across the sky.  For a moment I thought it might be a weather front moving in but there was no accompanying temperature change. Then I screamed, "Run!" because I realized that it was the edge of some kind of shock wave.  I grabbed Eddy's hand and ran to the creek.  We slid down the bank and crouched just above the water.  It wasn't much protection, but it was below ground level.  Tom didn't come with us; he stood where he was and didn't understand what was happening.  My thoughts were with Lara because I knew there wasn't enough time to get back to the house where she was.  Then the wave hit us, and that's all I remember.

Strange dreams for strange times, I reckon.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer Heat and Winter Omens

If the old maxims are true that "as high as the weeds grow, so deep will the snow be" and " many berries in the woods foretell a severe winter", then we are in for it this winter.  The weeds are nearly as tall as I am, or even taller, and I have never seen so many berries.  Get your wood piled high and fill your pantry!
The horrible heat has devastated the garden.  Despite my watering and the couple of heavy rains we had, hardly anything sprouted.  No carrots, beets, parsnips, celeriac, beans or rutabegas.  I thought the Mandan Bride corn would grow well with the heat, but it grew misshapen:  the stems are pencil thin and about an inch above ground solitary ears grew; the height of the plants to where they flowered was no more than 4' tall and they looked stunted.  Very strange looking.  I pulled out most of the stalks and in their stead planted a short season hybrid variety of sweet corn that I found in my seed bin.  The weather is strange enough this year that the new planting may be harvestable. The potatoes have been devoured by potato beetles and insect predation is horrible altogether.  I have to say though that the Jerusalem Artichokes are massive and beautiful; the leeks and onions looks good; the mustard greens are bug chewed but growing; most of the sunflowers have had their heads chewed off by the deer but they are still growing; the Blue Hubbard squash actually look pretty good even though I had to break down and spray them because of the squash bugs; the New England pie pumpkins are not happy but hanging on; and the melons despite needing to be bug sprayed look fairly happy.

Back at the house in the garden boxes all the lettuces and Wong Bok chinese cabbage bolted.  I tried growing Red Burgundy okra for the first time and that is grasshopper chewed and looks stunted.  It is a pretty plant and I would like to try planting it again.  That is another variety I thought would do well with the heat.   A different variety of mustard greens and early planted beets and carrots  managed to get enough top growth on them to shade the soil before the heat torched everything and are doing well.  For some reason these are the only veggies that are not bothered by insects.  I don't understand it.  None of the herbs I planted sprouted, but I am hoping that cooler weather and a thin mulch over the seed bed will make them decide to grow.  I pulled the garlic and am tieing bunches together to hang and cure for a couple of weeks in the garage. The heads are on the small side, but ok otherwise.

Sweltering in the Northwoods
Tonight I pulled everything that bolted and tossed it onto the big raised bed I'm building in the forest garden where I transplanted the horseradish, some rhubarb, and garden sorrel a couple of weeks ago.  You know, it's almost impossible to kill horseradish, and sorrel is just a weed anyway, so I don't worry about it either. As it turns out, they don't seem to mind the weather one bit and love their new location.  (I made some horseradish with a few roots and was it ever good -- milder than expected and tasty.)  I planted beans and beets where the bolted items were and hope for some kind of fall harvest.

I found deer poop right in front of one of my Haralson apple trees out in the forest garden, so I have been working on my fence.  Fortunately, all the fruit trees have been spared any nibbling and I hope that tightening up the fence will keep them that way.
Just look at how healthy this Hudar pear tree is without any spraying in this permaculture garden:

Hudar pear tree
There's no doubt.  Nature is the best farmer.

Be safe, Everybody!

Taking Summer Slowly

Our Independence Day holiday was quiet.  We had a simple bar-b-que and Dad came over to eat with us.  The heat has been so oppressive that we only work at a slow pace, and we just stop working if we begin to feel the slightest bit ill. 

The other day while we were out in the field, I saw a BIG snake gliding over the garden area.  I never knew snakes could move so fast; it looked like it could fly.  I think it was a fox snake and it must have been 4' long.  Of course I froze on the spot.  "OMG," I said, "Look at the size of that snake."  Tom grabbed a shovel and ran to chop it up.  I would have let it go because it was obviously in a hurry to get across the garden and down to the creek, and, because it was a BIG snake I was sure it was finding plenty to eat in the field, but that was me.

We had another snake incident, too.  Tom had just left the house to drive to town when I saw him suddenly stop the car in the driveway.  I thought he had forgotten something so went on doing my housework.  It turns out that there was some sort of snake, another large one, that had somehow gotten inside the car and started slithering on the dashboard toward him! Tom grabbed it and threw it out of the car and into the woods.  All I can say is that it's a good thing I wasn't driving!

I finished planting the perennial flower seeds in the forest garden, and while I was doing that I found a little patch of wild strawberries.  I took them in the house and split them between Lara and Ed.  I told Lara that I had found them in a fairy's garden beneath a balsam tree branch. She thinks the fairies like our forest garden because we leave them cornmeal near the foxgloves on Midsummer's Eve and she didn't think the fairy would mind us eating some of its strawberries.  They tasted great, too!

Grandpa Ott's morning glories are starting to climb their trellis. The Scarlet Runner Beans aren't far behind them.

It's refreshing to find some plants thriving despite the hot weather.  I wish I could handle the heat better.  Some days are better than others.  Tom actually bought a little air conditioner that we put in a living room window and turn on when the heat gets to be too much.  Lara's air conditioner is on pretty much all day and she likes staying cool in her "cave".  Ed likes sitting in front of an open window when we have the whole house fan on.  Mostly I try to get everyone to drink lots of water and just take it easy. 

Tomorrow if the heat does not unduly bother me, I'll get out to the field and hill my poor potatoes.  They were drowned by the same rain storm that flooded Duluth, Minnesota, then they were baked by the ungodly heat wave that has seized this country, and now they are devoured by hordes of potato beetles.  I doubt I will get any amount of useful harvest.  Big sigh. 

Take it easy, Everybody!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Still Planting

I was getting very nervous at how wild the forest garden is looking so I got out Sepp Holzer's Permaculture book and re-read it.  I calmed down.  Everything is OK out there.  Since I spent so much time last year working the forest garden, this year I am basically observing, and it is quite an eye-opener.  All of the fruit trees are thriving without watering or pruning, and most other plantings are growing great, too.  The foxgloves are spreading all on their own, the artemesias are doing their thing -- nothing much bothers them, and even last year's finnicky Valerian is growing well.  The hyssop didn't make it over the winter, and the gooseberries don't seem to like where they are.  Most importantly I am not seeing any insect pest problems, at least not yet.  I still have time to plant the perennial flower and herb garden just behind the fence I'm building, and I hope to get that planting done in the next few days.  All of the Grandpa Ott's morning glories are planted and the Scarlet Runner beans are planted next to them.  We had some good rain the other day and they seem to be holding their own.

Here is a picture of the field garden; I thought I'd take a picture of it before the deer get into it as I don't think I'll be able to get the fence put up in time to protect it from the deer.

This is my take on Buffalo Bird Woman's garden -- only I've added lots of raised beds.  Like her garden, the outside perimeter is filled with sunflowers.  Inside them are New England pie pumpkins and Blue Hubbard winter squash. Inside the squash are rows of Mandan Bride flour corn with Kentucky Wonder Brown pole beans planted around each corn stalk, and in between the corn rows are raised beds of Bull's Blood beets; Danvers Half-Long, Autumn King, and Atomic Red carrots; Southern Giant Curled Mustard; non-GMO sugar beets; Prague Celeriac; Hollow Crown parsnips; Laurentian rutabegas; Banish Ballhead and Red Ace cabbages; and two beds dedicated to Provider green beans.  Next to the corn are two rows of Moon and Stars, Charentais, and Green Nutmeg melons, and then a row of many packets of mixed annual flowers.  The raised bed at the front of the picture is Jerusalem artichokes and the bed next to it is my perennial allium bed that is filled with Musselburgh leeks, Egyptian Walking onions, and this year's Ailsa Craig onions.  I have a trench surrounding the entire section where I plan to dig in the fence posts.  As the plants grow, I will add wood chips and grass mulch that will not be removed at the end of the season.  My 350' of Red Cloud potatoes are in the half-section next to the hops.  I thought I had a picture of them but I can't find it so I'll have to take another for you.

Lots of wild life activity, some good and some questionable.  It's turtle reproductive season and they are all over.  We had a HUGE turtle come out of the field and cross the road into the woods next to Minnow Lake. Whether it was coming or going I don't know.  I couldn't tell what kind of turtle it was as I was driving the car at the time.  We also have lots of different birds, but not the usual ones.  I haven't seen a Nuthatch in almost two years.  We had our first Orioles,

but they didn't stick around.  There don't seem to be as many hummingbirds this year despite the fact that we set up two more feeders for them. I've heard cardinals but not seen them; robins and blue jays have been definitely been sighted,

but I haven't heard or seen any woodpeckers, either downy or big Red-headed, no Indigo buntings, or wood thrushes.  There was a lovely sounding song bird for two nights, but I have no idea what it was because I couldn't catch a sight of it.  There have been several different hawks around, and one morning I saw two crows bully a turkey vulture away from the yard.  Turkey vultures are unusual this far north.  I've only seen one doe with a fawn.  I don't know where all the fawns are this year.  We have lots of good-sized deer, but no fawns.  Perhaps my favorite animal sighting so far is of three river otters that I spied coming out of Minnow Lake and running across the road near my neighbor, Dale's house.  Tom said he thought they were going through the woods on our side of the road to get to the creek, and sure enough a couple of crows promptly started complaining.  I was so excited!  This is the first time I've ever seen river otters, and the fact that they are here is a great indicator of fishes in the creek and in Minnow Lake. 

While I was working on the forest garden fence I came across this fantastic flower:

Moccasin Flower
Moccasin Flower close up
I get really excited when I see rare flowers like this.  I will watch this spot carefully and see if the flowers increase next year.  I'm not sure how it propogates, but this looks like a seed pod:

I have managed to start two yellow gentians (also rare) in the greenhouse and hopefully I'll be able to plant them near the moccasin flowers.

Cousin It wanted to see how the chicks are doing so here a few new pictures of them:

These chicks are only two weeks old and are feathering out nicely.  They are already able to jump up onto the perch in front of the nesting boxes.

Well, I've been rambling on long enough for one night so I'll let you go.  Take care!