Friday, November 25, 2005

Looks Like Winter

Well, the first snow of the season fell on November 15. We had about 3 inches. It stuck to the trees and according to folk lore, next year should show a bountiful harvest. The ground started to clear but a winter storm blew in for Thanksgiving and we have a couple of more inches.

The chickens weathered the -18F wind chill from the other night all right, but they don't like going out in the white stuff. They are perfectly happy to stay in the coop. I put a thermometer on the wall to monitor the temperature and go out a couple of times a day to check for eggs and keep an eye on the temp. It was about 10F in the coop with the -18F wind chill factor, and after I gave the bedding a good turnover, the temp actually climbed. When the sun shines, the coop can be quite cozy and seems to average about 20 degrees difference between inside and outside temperatures. The chickens all look good and seem to like the two additional heat lamps I put up. When I go into the coop I pick up each chicken and hold it inside my coat to warm it a bit. They actually line up to get picked up and some of them try to fly and perch on my shoulders. The water in the waterers is frozen each morning, so I put one waterer in the coop with hot water in it in the morning and again last thing at night. The chickens like the warm water. I have been rolling oats for them to add to their feed and find that they eat more oats if the oats are rolled. I add oats 1:1 with the layer ration. The hens lay very well for me. I get between 4 and 8 eggs a day and I only have 8 hens. One of them consistently lays double yolk eggs. I don't know if that is good or bad, but our very first egg came on October 24, the Feast of St. Raphael the Archangel, and it was a double yolk egg, so I consider it a good omen.

I went to the Price County Direct Marketing banquet and meeting on November 17 and it was a lot of fun. The food was all locally produced and tasted GREAT. There were reporters there from The Bee and The Country Today and an article in the following issue of that paper, but all she seems to have done was talk to the caterer. What a missed opportunity for a good sized newspaper to bring some attention to a blossoming, regional local food ring with high tourist potential in the Northwoods area! Hopefully this coming year we producers can increase our advertising and get some more tourist dollars to boost our direct marketing efforts. As far as I can ascertain, we are the only local food ring in the northern half of the state, and we are located in an area that the U.S. Government still considers "rural". All of us in the group produce items that do not duplicate anybody else in the group, which is really great. I am -- so far -- the northernmost farm in the ring, but that doesn't bother me. I am very excited to be part of the group and can clearly see the potential benefits for the local communities served by such a direct marketing group. I hope we can keep everybody communicating and working together.

Well, it's about dark and I need to check the chickens one last time so I'll leave off for now.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Feeling Squirrely

Went out to the field after lunch today and painted the fruit trees below the first branching on each with white paint to protect them from sunscald this winter. I am waiting for the tree wraps I ordered from Jungs to come so I can finish wrapping the trees, mulching them, and putting my wire cages around them for the winter. I am debating adding an additional wrap of wire window screen over the tree wraps and may go ahead and buy some screen when I go to town this week on errands. It was so nice out in the field. It seems like the minute I go to the field traffic picks up and people s-l-o-w down and crane their necks to see what I am doing. Some wave at me. I wave at some of them. I wish I knew their names. The air felt warm and the wind is picking up warning me that rain is on the way. The trees are peaked in their fall colors and beautiful in the bright sunlight, and the leaves are falling like rain. The orchard area looks pretty good now that I have finished the final hoeing for the season and cut the grass. The gooseberries, currants, raspberries and asparagus need only their winter mulch. I took some pictures. Hopefully I'll have enough pictures to choose from soon to put together a farm web site.

This week I have to go to Phillips and pick up my 4-H truck order of fruit for canning and the freezer. The Bayfield Apple Festival is this weekend; I am itching to go and get my yearly fix of apples, pears, and pumpkins there. When the cold weather finally sets in I am ready to bake and can! Nothing beats the smell of apples, pumpkins, and bread cooking in my kitchen. This time of year brings out the squirrel in me! I can already picture my basement shelves lined with shining jars of new jams, apples for pies and applesauce, spiced pears, and pumpkin puree. Yesterday my sister, Mary and I, went to Dad's and all of us made sauerkraut the old way in the crock; 22 gallons worth of Bohemian style kraut that we will go back and can probably the first week of November. Dad sharpened his homemade krauter slicer and it only took us about 3 hours to get it all done. He taught us how to make it the way his mother did, and he oversees how much salt and caraway seed and onions we add while he slices the cabbage on the krauter. My arms ache from tamping the cabbage down in the crock, but I can't wait to get some of that kraut with a duck in my big crock pot with some potato dumplings.

Saturday I also have the Landowners Tour with the Price County Ag Extension. These kinds of educational trips are my "vacation" days. I get to socialize and stimulate my intellect. I am already making mental lists of things to do inside the house this winter.

The chickens are getting big and all of a sudden I find I have a choir of roosters that sing all day. I am somewhat angry about having this many roosters because I paid for female day old chicks. The company I ordered my chicks from guaranteed 90% accuracy on the sexing and even as bad at math as I am I don't think 8 pullets out of 25 chicks ordered makes for 90% accuracy. I will find a different hatchery for next Spring's order and the next cool weather we get I'll do some butchering. My pullets will then be able to mature in peace and feed costs will go down.

Well, I better get going and fix supper, so I'll leave off for now.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


It's hard to believe that we've been in our new home for six months now. I still need book cases and kitchen storage, but the majority of our belongings are pretty much in place and the house is beautiful!

I love looking out the windows in the early morning and evening -- you never know what you'll see. One morning Tom and I saw a family of sand hill cranes behind the house. They walked quickly into the woods heading toward the north marsh. Foxes and deer seem to prefer the east marsh. Right after we moved in, two pair of pileated woodpeckers and a throng of finches came to our bird feeders, and for a while I think we had a wood thrush with its haunting evening song. In June, a wood chuck waddled out of the marsh and checked out our bar-b-que grill. If it noticed Tom and Ed sitting in lawn chairs, it didn't react, but only stood on hind legs to sniff the ribs cooking, then waddled back down to the marsh. I really need to get a good camera!

I can remember chomping at the bit once we moved to the house to start executing the farm plan that I spent 15 years researching and putting together. I had a whole list of tasks I was going to accomplish this first year. Ha, ha! Boy, did I get a dose of reality! The farm plan hasn't gone out the window, but it is being mightily edited.

While nothing is 100% completed, we did manage to tack up the wire fence around the field where I will have my market garden. It isn't pretty, but it was good enough to keep the so-and-so's with ATVs from tearing up the field any more. We also wound up getting the Dominique chickens -- the laying flock wasn't supposed to be started until next year, but I was afraid I wouldn't have the money so I went ahead and ordered 25 female chicks from Strombergs. My dad told me to keep the chickens close to the house (I was going to put them in the market garden field) so we picked an area close enough to the garage that I can run an electric line out to the coop if I need to, and Tom helped me put up the coop. Except for a coat of paint and some hay bales to help insulate it against the cold, it is pretty much done. The chicks love it! My sister gave me a cute gnome hex sign that she bought at a craft show and I put it on the door below the St. Benedict crucifix I also affixed to the wall. I have just finished building a "winter pen" around the coop for the chicks to run in, and I'm working on a portable day range shelter for them so I can day range them in the market garden field next year. And speaking of the market garden field, while we have the fence tacked up, I still need to build a gate! I did manage to plant the orchard: 8 heirloom apple trees, two pear trees, 4 Bali sour pie cherry trees, 20 elderberry bushes; and in the second section: 25 McDonald rhubarb plants, 25 Bohemian horseradish roots, 6 Pixwell gooseberry plants (I happen to like Pixwell), 6 Red Lake currant bushes, 50 Latham raspberries and 100 Jersey King asparagus plants. And, I have to admit that I didn't water everything as I should have so when I get back out there to winterize everything, I'll see what the damage is -- I may have to buy new stock next year, and if so, it's my own fault. I know better.

Yesterday, Tom helped me turn over the next half acre section that I had planted the end of June with buckwheat, some heirloom potatoes and a package of sugar pumpkins. (My BCS 722 tractor was supposed to arrive the end of April but I didn't see it until the first week of June -- not enough time to properly prepare the ground and plant the garden I wanted to have this year, but I just had to plant something!) And Ed and I put down 100 pounds of lime and broadcast about 60 pounds of oats and alfalfa for green manure to be turned under next spring. Boy, did I feel good when that was done! I still need to cut the grass again (I cut it in June and used the brush cutter attachment for the BCS), but this time I'll rake it up and make a hay stack in the chicken's winter pen. I have cleared about half the duff layer away from the woods in front of the house (part of my fire prevention plan gotten from the wood lot management conference I went to in April through the Price County Ag Extension), and we tilled a garden patch for Tom. My high tunnel is still laying unbuilt and the wood shed hasn't been started yet, but all in all, for only being in the new house for six months we have accomplished a good deal. And even though my farm plan is being revised, everything we've worked on this year is somewhere on the plan, and it is great to be able to have that plan as a guide.

I have been going to the Direct Marketing meetings held at the Price County Extension office and I put the farm in the Price Direct brochure. Unfortunately, that was before I found out I wasn't going to get my tractor on time and wouldn't have a garden this year. I felt horrible when an elderly couple pulled into the drive and I had to tell them I had nothing to sell this year. But my spirits lifted yesterday while I was putting down the lime when out of the blue a man stopped on the road and asked me about what I was doing. I explained to him what we had planted in the field and what we were planning to do as a farm, and he said that he and his family come up to our location every year and will plan on stopping to buy product from me. Whoopee! The work is hard and every muscle aches, but I love being a new farmer and carrying on my family's 112 years of farming on my portion of our family's 1991 Century Farm, possibly the last Century Farm in Iron County, Wisconsin.

ElderberryWine4u with 8week-old Dominique chicks Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Changing Times

It's curious how one becomes more aware of the levels in the events that transpire in one's life as one ages. The primary, superficial sensation of an experience expands to include causes, effects and consequences. Ripples in water. If one also believes in spirituality of some sort, that belief increases one's sensitivity to the emotions felt; it becomes a barometer for telling emotions and a self-disciplinary gauge for measuring intellectual expanse. In the last year and a half I unjustly lost my job, my husband of nearly 30 years retired from his work, I sent a middle child off to the Army Reserve and college, sold my home of 28 years, and packed up and moved to another state to a place where both the climate and the common lifestyle is completely different to what I know. I compare myself to the mythological phoenix -- my life has been consumed in the fires of time and I am in the process of being reborn. I feel weird. Karma.

Outside my window I can see snow falling and being whipped by the invisible North wind. Eight inches or so the weatherperson says to expect. Normal for this area of the Northwoods and the time of year. How bright the sunlight is reflecting off the snow banks -- time to buy some good sunglasses to ward off snow blindness. I like the cold and don't mind the snow. Shut up in this tiny apartment I bide-a-wee the weather and wait for our builders to finish construction on our new house. Perhaps I am a xenophobe at heart.

Perhaps not. The depressing, subjectively aligned news presented on the television reminds me to take my blood pressure medicine. I change the channel and wish I could change current events as easily; I am glad I left the city and moved to a rural area. The move triggered a change in my perspective of the world view that is overwhelming, and I am optimistic about the future. I believe fascism will destroy itself and good change will come from the grass roots of America. It is said that sometimes Evil wins over Good, but I think not this time.

I refuse to be afraid.

The people here are very different from most I have known. They delight me. I doubt I will ever be considered one of them because I was not born and raised here, even though my family is one of the seven original families that settled the area; technically, I am related in one fashion or another to a whole lot of people here. I should ask my sister who is who as she was raised here and is the family encyclopedia. The nuances I preceive in the body movements, spoken language, and social mannerisms of townspeople are surprisingly simple, yet I return to the idea of levels of awareness. The simplicity is deceiving. Good earth under a blanket of snow. I cannot wait for Spring.