Saturday, December 23, 2006

Happy Holidays

This morning I awoke to a gorgeous white Christmas outside my bedroom window. What a lovely Christmas present! Our family is all together and the house is warm and bustling. My Cookie Monster (right) is now grown, but cookies are still part of our holidays and the oven has been busy. The Christmas tree Tom went out into the woods and chopped down with our son, Eddy, just after Thanksgiving has held up quite well, and its simple beauty warms the heart. I look at all the ornaments and remember my life events -- good and sad, whatever, and hope that I have grown spiritually through their experience. With all the problems in the world, this time of year certainly makes me reflect on all my blessings. And so, this year I pray for all the souls of our beautiful planet. May we come to regard each other with Love, and may we all learn to live together in Peace and Tolerance.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

2007 Seed List

Well, I have the seed list for next year's garden pretty well finalized and I thought I would put it up on the blog for all of you.

Root Crops
Carrots -- St. Valery
Turnips -- White Egg
Rutabegas -- Laurentian
Scallions -- Evergreen Hardy
Onions --New York Early Globe (will also have onion transplants but haven't decided on what varieties)
Beets -- Bull's Blood
Potatoes -- Katahdin

Collards -- Champion
Lettuce -- Forellenschluss (romaine type)
Beet greens -- Bull's Blood
Mustard greens -- Southern Giant Curled

Boston Pickling
Australian Lemon

Beans, Pole
Scarlet Runner
Cherokee Trail of Tears

Beans, Bush
Jacob's Cattle
Indian Woman Yellow
Vermont True Red Cranberry
Dragon Tongue

Moon and Stars
Burpee Crenshaw

Hot Peppers (*indicates seed from Tom's Viet Nam buddy, Bill Betz, and his wife, Linda)
Early Jalapeno
Thai Hot*, Thai Hot2*, Thai Hot3*, and Laos*
Hot Portugal
Joe's Long Cayenne

Sweet Peppers
Cal Wonder
Cal Wonder Yellow
Chervena Chuska
Jimmy Nardello Sweet Italian Frying Pepper

Perkins Long Pod

Summer Squash
Golden Dawn zucchini
Raven zucchini

Mandan Bride (flour corn)

Polk hard red spring wheat
Oats (organic variety undecided)

Mammoth Russian

Arkansas Traveler (pink slicer)
Stupice (good all purpose)
Black Plum (paste)
Riesentraube (cherry)
Rutgers (good all purpose, not an heirloom but I love it!)

Rosa Bianca (this has low yields where nights can be cool so I may change this)

Winter Squash
New England Pie Pumpkins (from our own seed)
Dill's Atlantic Giant
Blue Ballet (a little heirloom Hubbard)
Sugar Loaf Delicata (requested by a customer -- keep those requests coming!)

We will be putting in a large herb garden this year in front of the high tunnel that will include Genovese Basil, Cilantro (another request!), Anthem Dill, curly and flat-leaf Parsley, Summer Savory, Thyme, Salad Burnet, Rosemary and many more. We will also be planting lots of flowers again and our usual cover crops of peas, buckwheat, oats, and annual rye.

In the spring I will also purchase some more Bali pie cherry trees and one more apple tree to finish replacing the trees that died.

Tomorrow I start cooking for Thanksgiving. Happy Holiday to you all!

Friday, October 27, 2006

On the Go

It has been a busy month. It took me two weeks to get all the leaves raked around the house, and the lawn looks nice. I had just finished raking the front lawn on the 11th when it snowed. We got about 3 inches over the next three days. Then, the sun came out and the snow all melted. I was able to go out and rake the back lawn.

Meanwhile, I still had the three bushels of apples to can, and on the 18th I went to Phillips and picked up the fruit order from the 4-H truck sale. So I put up all the fruit, deciding to can most of it because Tom worries he won't have any freezer space should he get his monster buck if I put the fruit in the freezer, and then I made 5 gallons of sauerkraut and have that fermenting in the crock out in the mud room. We have plenty of jam, applesauce, and fruit for baking to last us all winter now.

I am working on some knitted dolls to sell at the last Farmers Market next year. The last Farmers Market coincides with Phillips Harvest Festival, and I think it would be a good time to have crafts on hand for early Christmas purchasing. I'm making my pioneer doll in different colors, and will design a boy doll to make a pair. I think I will knit the boy doll with either red or gray long johns, a pair of blue overalls, and some sort of neckerchief. I'm still thinking about whether or not to give him a hat of some sort.

What I need to do is sit down with all of my paperwork from the market garden, organize it, and go see an accountant to help me put it all in order. I want to make a decision regarding sending off for the organic certification pack from MOSA and formalizing the business beyond a d/b/a this winter.

I've also been working on my seed list for next year. I already received the 2007 FEDCO tree catalogue. I could buy all sorts of things from them, but I am going to stick with St. Lawrence Nursery because Bill MacKentley sells trees and shrubs grown for our Zone 3 climate. The trees I had that died, died because I didn't water them as I should have. I can't fault the nurseryman for my neglect. It was an expensive lesson and I won't make the same mistake again.

We also are dealing with the Iron County eminent domain road project that I expect to hamper me considerably next year. We just met with the engineer and found out that about 400 feet of my 10' tall fence is going to have to be moved out of the new right of way. At first we didn't think the fence would have to be moved, but after the survey crew came out and staked, it was easier to see how the new road is going to lay. Well, now I have to consider how I want to move the fence -- do it myself, hire someone, or have the County do it. I hate government.

Last Monday we all went to the court house in Hurley and had the guardianship petitions for Lara and Ed heard. Lara was a bit nervous, and Ed was wide-eyed but quiet. Thankfully, Judge Madden heard our cases a bit early and we were in and out quickly. Lara was happy to get home. Tom and Ed were glad to get out of their ties and suit clothes!

I have too much to get done today, but I do plan to add some more Halloween Tales to this blog before Halloween. You all take care, and I'll touch back here soon.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

October Tales

Well, the brilliant light of our recent full Hunters Moon and these October days when the leaves flee the trees to cover the ground and talk to me as I walk has me thinking about Halloween and strange but true stories, which stories are, in my estimation, the scariest stories. And so, let me share with you some of my real, true experiences -- things that have happened in my life that I cannot explain -- for your Halloween pleasure . . . .

The Balls of Light

The first home I remember was a second floor apartment in an old two-flat on Rockford Avenue in Forest Park, Illinois. One of my earliest memories is of being in my bedroom there and hearing someone calling me by name. I looked up and saw a shimmering lavender-pink-purple-gold ball of light hovering in the air near me. As I watched, other balls of light of similar and differing colors joined the first. The more the balls came together, the louder I heard my name called in my head. I knew somehow that these balls of light were "people", but I didn't know what they wanted from me. Finally, my name was being shouted so loud I clapped my hands over my ears and shouted "Stop it!" I went into the kitchen where my mother was and yelled at her, crying, "Tell those people to stop calling me!" I remember she gave me the most intense stare and I think it was because I was so little that she didn't know I could speak a sentence that long. I was very small at the time. I don't remember what happened after that, but I have seen similar balls of light over the years. When they touch me they feel soft, almost furry, and when I touch them, they give easily under my touch and feel -- I can only describe it -- like cold electricity.

Seeing Auras

I was rasied a Catholic. That is why, after I started school and could see colored light around people, I subsequently called the light "halos". I saw them around everybody. I could tell if a person was good or bad, happy, mean, sick or sad, or even tell how close to death he was, just by looking at their halo. In fact, I used to see the "halo" and not the physical features of the person; i.e., the person would be perceived as not having a face. Such physical detail seemed not as important as the "halo". I somehow knew that the physical body was heavier than the "halo".

One day at lunch recess I made a comment to another girl about how bright the "halo" was around one of the nuns, and the girl looked at me like I was crazy. She didn't know what I was talking about, and she couldn't see the halos. She laughed at me and told another girl what I said. This girl, too, could not see the "halos". I was surprised and realized then that not everyone could see what I could see. Their derision was painful, and I stopped talking about the halos.

Over time, it became harder and harder for me to see them. Now I know that what I saw was that person's aura. I have to make an effort of will if I want to see someone's aura these days, even though I have always been aware of the aura's presence around people because I can feel it if I am close enough to them.

The Corner of Belvidere and Dixon

When I was seven my family was able to buy an old Victorian house in another part of Forest Park and I was deemed old enough to walk to school in River Forest. I didn't like walking down Franklin Avenue to go to school because the workers at the meat packing plant there used to whistle at me. I used to cry because of it but my mother thought it funny and told me not to worry about it. So, I often walked the longer way which led me down Dixon Street to Lathrop Avenue. It was on this way that I had to pass the corner of Belvidere and Dixon. On this corner was a big, old gray house. This house always fascinated me because the shades were always down on the windows and I never ever saw who lived there. It was the kind of house a little imaginative kid like myself yearned to wander in and check out every nook and cranny. But as magical as the house, itself, appeared to me, the southeast corner outside that house -- and the corner across it to the South -- brought me only terror.

My first experience was odd enough. I used to pray as I walked to school -- so many steps to complete an Ave, so many for a Pater Noster. I never could see very well so when I walked I tended to watch the ground to keep from tripping and falling. As I crossed Belvidere I briefly looked up and spied a boy walking toward me. He seemed to come out of nowhere and I didn't know how I could have missed his presence before as he was already in the middle of the block and Dixon Street was very straight and narrow, being an old brick paved street. The boy was looking directly at me as he walked. I was a shy girl and my sisters and I had combed the neighborhood when we moved into our house looking for boys and girls to play with. Alas, we were surrounded by old people and had no one but ourselves to play with, so the first thing I thought when I saw this boy was that he was new to the neighborhood and a potential playmate. But, being shy, I was afraid to speak to him and determined that I would watch where he went and one day by happenstance see him at his house and invite him to ours. He seemed to smile as I thought this. Just as we met, I froze. I simply couldn't move my feet. I looked at him. He was a bit taller than I, very thin and pale. So pale, and his skin seemed like rice paper thin and very smooth. His hair was dark like mine but straight, and his eyes -- I've never seen such eyes since -- were deep and black as the darkest obsidian. You couldn't tell pupil from cornea. They were fathomless wells of black. He wore blue jeans and an over large blue flannel shirt. He held a red rose I hadn't noticed before. "Are you Catholic?" he asked me. "A convert!" I thought mindful of my Baltimore Catechism. "I'm a Roman Catholic," I specified. How was it I could hear nothing but his voice? The early morning sounds of rush hour traffic were silenced. "Will you say the Apostle's Creed for me?" he asked. So I did, slowly and clearly. "Thank you," he said, and suddenly I could move again. I took two steps, remembered what I had wanted to do, and felt brave enough instead to ask him to come and play. I whirled around -- but he was gone. Vanished. There was no way he could have gone into a house that quickly. And I never saw him again.

Often when strange things happen to me, I experience different sensations. Most often I hear a tone. I have learned that when I hear this tone, I stop whatever I am doing and focus on the moment. I don't go into an altered state or anything like that, but I become more aware. This is what would happen to me if I walked on the South corner of Belvidere and Dixon.

On several separate occasions I would hear the tone which would drown out the normal sounds of everyday life. I would look up and down the street before crossing, and there would come running around the corner from the end of the block by the playground, a pack of wild dogs running straight for me. These dogs would follow me for about a block, snapping at me and snarling, catching my clothes with their teeth, buffeting me but never bringing me down to the ground. I remember being so scared I could hardly breathe for my heart pounding. I couldn't even cry. And then they would just run away from me and disappear into thin air. Once a huge brown dog put his head on my shoulder while the others were particularly vicious. He wasn't mean like the others, but I was afraid of him, too. I can still feel his breath on my cheek. Sometimes I would close my eyes and just walk as straight as I could until they went away. I never panicked and ran though because I remembered my father telling me I needed to keep my head in scary situations. I don't know how many times that happened to me. And then suddenly it stopped.

As I grew older, I had no more "experiences" on the corner, but I always felt something there, like a disturbance in the air pressure. I wonder if that old house is still there.

I have more stories, but October is a long month . . . .
I have more tales

Thursday, September 28, 2006

September's End

I just love this time of year! Today the sky was brilliant blue with fast moving clouds that varied from gorgeous white to dark steel gray. The light bounced off the already fading tree colors. It was a beautiful day altogether. The wind was not too bad so Tom and Ed and I were able to finally get the main piece of plastic in place on the high tunnel. We started working on the twist-of-the-wrist assembly, but a blast of really cold wind hit us and it started to sleet, so we decided to pack everything up and will try to finish tomorrow.

Tomorrow I will go back out to the field and pick some collard leaves to take to the Open House at North Country Vet on Saturday. I will have wheat bouquets, Hubbard Squash, some heirloom tomatoes, I'll see if I have any Lemon Cucumbers left in the garden and check the Basil, some corn stalk bundles, and, of course, New England Pie Pumpkins. There will also be some of my crocheted jar toppers and bookmarks and knitted dolls. I hope the good weather holds, and I am definitely dressing warmly!

I put a profile of our farm on the Savor Wisconsin web site, so if you get a chance check it out. The tree fruits, of course, are not producing yet, but next year I should have some of the small fruits, asparagus, rhubarb, and horseradish. Did I tell you I planted Czech Broadleaf and Samarkand certified organic garlic for next year, too? I'm already watching the mail box for next year's seed catalogs and dreaming about filling up the high tunnel.

There was a great recipe for organic fertilizer in the June/July issue of Mother Earth News that I cut out and intend to try next year. I currently use Neptune's Harvest and Sonic Bloom with my own composted chicken manure, and I am really curious to see how this recipe compares. The author uses soybean meal in the recipe, and I wonder why that instead of alfalfa meal. He uses 4-6 quarts of the mix per 100 sq. ft. so I am thinking this must be a pretty potent recipe.

Speaking of compost, I turned over my compost the other day and is it ever looking good! I was debating going ahead and putting it on the field, but I think I will give it another year. I have one more bin to turn over into the first bin.

My dad turned over a 100 x 100 ft. section next to the farm house for a garden for Tom next year -- he doesn't like his current location because there are too many rocks to deal with. Anyway, we need to go over and pick rocks out of the new field, which is ok because I need rocks for my herb garden and landscaping in the front yard. Dad has a plow for his tractor and will go over the plot a couple of times so I think we will be able to pick out most of this year's rocks. I wonder what Tom wants to plant?

Well, it's getting dark and I have to shut the chickens in for the night so I'll check out for now. I hope to have some pictures to post soon for you all to see.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Market End

This past Saturday was my finale at the Phillips Farmers Market for this year; I just don't have enough items to make the trip worthwhile. I have been invited to participate in an Open House for a new vet clinic in Park Falls on September 30th, and I do think I will try to go to that as it is much closer to home and I like to help newcomers to the community. All I have is pie pumpkins, wheat bouquets, and a few Hubbard squashes and heirloom tomatoes. One vet is from Florida and another is from Vermont. Wow! I hope Florida likes cold weather. Anyway, the Open House is from 10-2 pm on September 30, 2006 at North Country Veterinary Clinic at N14722 Kundinger Road, Park Falls, WI 54552. It is right off Highway 13, across from the old Grunerwald restaurant.

Some of my customers told me they would like to see more fresh herbs, especially cilantro, next year. Delicatta (sp?) squash was another request and more carrots and little cabbages. Fruit is a biggy. I can't wait till my fruits start producing! I got some tips on caring for my raspberries and growing peppers, which I really appreciate. I learned a lot this year and did much better than I thought I would considering the bad drought. Tom and I almost have the high tunnel up, and I have ordered 2 Wealthy apple trees, 1 Chestnut crab apple, and 1 variety called "Joyce" (I couldn't resist that one even though it is not an heirloom variety). So, I still have much work to do out in the field before the ground freezes.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

In Defense of Collards

The farmers market yesterday was a first for me in that it absolutely poured rain for just about the entire market. Not only did we vendors get soaked to the skin, but the wind turned turned cool enough at times to see your breath. I had to take down my umbrella because the wind turned it inside out, and the only other canopy had to be held down at each corner to keep from blowing away. Naturally there were few customers and we all decided to pack up and leave about 11:30 when the next downpour started. I felt bad because I am trying to get my brother-in-law to come and sell with me as he always plants three huge gardens, and I took some of his corn stalks tied into bundles to sell for him. I thought if I could show him that he could actually make some money with his gardens that he might be more amenable to joining our group. So, it was a shame I could not sell any of his sheaves, and he is just not interested in marketing. I am certainly going to be working on designing a sturdy, easily portable and erectible stand this winter.

This week I had beautiful collard greens to sell. I picked them Friday and to keep them fresh, I bundled 10-12 nice stems (depending on size) and stood them upright in tall plastic ice cream buckets lined on the bottom with wetted paper towels. I set the buckets in a larger plastic tub and placed ice blocks around the buckets. Then I wet newspaper sheets and covered the collard tops, tucking in the paper edges so that the newspaper looked like a sealed cover for the larger plastic tub. I put the tub near our whole house fan so air would circulate well near the collards and kept the newspaper wet. When I was ready for market, I re-wet the newspaper, drained the melted ice and added new ice blocks. The collard stems stayed perfect! I had been worried about keeping them from wilting because the temperature had risen to near 80F on Friday, but they came through like champs. But the reason I am talking about collards is that I have definitely noticed that people up here don't appear to be familiar with this fantastic vegetable. I have heard people pass by and say "But what do you do with it?" and "They don't have any taste." Hence, this little aside on the merits of one of my favorite vegggies.

My mother was from Louisiana and we kids grew up no strangers to Southern cuisine. I remember my mother going shopping in the black neighborhoods of Chicago to get "Southern" food ingredients because she could not get them in the grocery stores near our house. Collard greens was one of the items. After I got married and we moved to our own house, the first thing my husband and I did was carve out a garden area in the back yard. Collards were always a staple.

Easy to grow and ornamental in the late summer/fall garden, collards are a member of the cabbage family and are often called "headless cabbage". The leaves are large and well-veined on strong stems. They have been grown since Greek and Roman times and the plant originated in the Mediterranean area. Some people like the taste of collards after frost has tinged the leaves, but I actually think they are more tender before frost hits and I cover my collards with row cover to protect the leaves from frost. Collards like warmth, but grow very well in cool temperatures, as do all brassicas. They grow quickly in the late days of summer and I have not found them to be picky about the soil they are grown in.

I begin picking collard leaves in mid-September, starting with the lowest leaves on each plant as these are the first formed and most mature. I use a pocket knife to cut the stems, but my mother used to twist and pull toward her each stem -- much the same as picking rhubarb stems. As you pick the leaves, the plant produces more leaves higher up on the stem, and as the season progresses, the collard plants can twist and turn creating delightful visual garden accents.

To prepare collards you first wash the leaves in water. Be sure to use leaves that are green and not yellow, as yellow leaves do not have the nutritional benefits green leaves do and are tough. It is an imperfect world, and the leaves may have bug holes chewed in them; that doesn't bother me (you can't see the holes after the collards are chopped and cooked anyway). Trim off excess stem (some people slice and cook the stems, but I prefer to add them to the compost bin), fold the leaf in half using the center vein at the fold point, and slice along the fold to remove the main vein. I then fold the leaf a couple more times and slice it into smaller pieces. Voila -- chopped collards!

Collards will shrink down when you cook them, much the same as spinach, chard, and other greens, and you can substitute collards for other greens in recipes. I have used collards instead of spinach in lasagna and think the collards give a better taste. Besides being high in Calcium, B vitamins (especially B1, B2, B9), A and C, collards are high in fiber and 1 cup of collards will give you 4 grams of protein. I have read that you can blend collards into fruit juice for a healthful drink that supposedly helps gouty conditions, bronchitis and poor blood circulation. I do know that lack of vitamin B2 has been linked to depression, so if you tend to suffer from depression, try eating some collard greens and see if it helps you. Lastly, collards freeze and can well, and believe me, there are few things more satisfying than eating fresh garden produce that you have stored in the dead of winter when the snow is blowing. To learn more about collards, just do a Google search and you will find plenty of information about them.

And in the meantime stop by my farm stand at the Phillips Farmers Market in Phillips, Wisconsin on Saturday morning, and buy some collards. This is my first year as a market gardener, and I don't have much to sell, but I am sure that once you try collards, you will want to buy more of them.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

I finished building some nest boxes for the chickens this morning. I built it from an entertainment center we had that got warped when we had our furniture in storage while our house was being built. I was surprised how good they turned out. I got six nest boxes, and Tom helped me put them up in the chicken coop. I think I will make some curtains to cover the entrances. Right now the hens just look at the boxes and prefer to climb into the wood chip bag to lay. I will give them a few days to get used to the boxes before I take away the bag.

This afternoon, Tom, Ed and I went out to the field. There weren't many zucchinis or cucumbers, although the plants are loaded with flowers. I dug up the sweet potatoes and Yellow Finn potatoes. I was surprised at how many potatoes I did get considering how bad the drought was. They many not be very big, but they are a good enough size to eat. No sweet potatoes though. Too bad. We went through the pumpkin patch and picked the ones that were mature -- 21 New England Pie Pumpkins. There are more growing, but the deer have decimated both the pumpkins and the winter squash sections horribly. I almost picked the few pumpkins I thought were close to being mature, but I decided to leave them in the patch and hope for the best. My Agribon 19 fabric is supposed to come tomorrow. I hope to have everything covered before frost. Tom and I both cut more grass. We almost have the field done, and there is yet the meadow to do.

Tom and I remeasured the length of the high tunnel. We will get some 2" x 6"s for the base in the next couple of days. There aren't too many good days left to get work done.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Harvest Time

It's been busy here at Swamp Creek Farm. I am trying to get the high tunnel up and start the simple wood shed while taking care of the field. We have most of the hay cut, but still need to finish, and now I need to till in the wheat and oat straw. I dug up the elderberries from the orchard and brought them to the house until I decide where to move them because they were so close to the fence that is probably going to have to be moved because of this upcoming eminent domain road job. Eddy and I checked the orchard trees and dug up the dead trees. I was ecstatic to find that both the Nova and Golden Spice pear trees were still alive, as are the Knobbed Russet and Egremont Russet. So along with the Fameuse that is thriving, I still have three apple trees, two pear trees, and one Bali pie cherry tree so alive. I want to place an order for trees for fall planting from St. Lawrence Nursery in New York early next week and the cost now is going to be a lot easier to bear! I think I will move the orchard to the south end of the field but still have not decided exactly where I will put everything.

Went to the Farmers Market yesterday and got all the way to Fifield before I realized that I had forgotten the change purse. I wound up being half an hour late, but Nate (a fellow vendor) graciously parked the van in a tight spot for me and I was able to get quickly set up. I was surprised at how many people were there. I sold just about all the zucchini and squash this week, my Stupice tomatoes, and all but two of the Lemon cucumbers. No one is buying my wheat bouquets yet, but I will not go down on my price. The wheat is an unusual variety for this area (Polk hard red spring wheat from Johnny's Seeds in Maine) and I spent a good two weeks sorting, counting stems and bundling each bouquet. In the garden I still have summer squash and zucchini coming, and the fall Bull's Blood beets are looking good. Those will probably be ready about the middle of September. The winter squash is looking good as are the New England Pie Pumpkins -- if I can keep the deer out of the patch! I really want to have some Blue Hubbard squash to eat. I ordered a roll of Agribon 19 from Johnny's Seeds and hopefully will have it before the full moon on September 7th (when I expect the first hard frost). If I can cover everything before hard frost occurs, I think I can keep the harvest going till the end of the farmers market. I am still hopeful about getting basil and beans, but the sweet corn and okra I think are goners. Tomorrow I will dig the sweet potatoes and Yellow Finn potatoes for next Saturday's market. Also will bring some collard greens. I love collards! I think they are the best tasting of the greens, and they are great to freeze, which I think is the best way to preserve their flavor. I will save the German Butterball potatoes for a later market.

Chin Lee and Lisa 1-7 are doing well. Most of the hens have grown back their feathers from molting and egg production is picking up again, although I expect that will not last too long with the daylight hours decreasing. Next year I will increase the flock.

We did well at the Butternut Fair this year. I was pleasantly surprised to get blue ribbons for my French cut green beans, the Dominique eggs, sugarless strawberry jam, lemon cucumbers, a Victorian crocheted doily, and my hand knitted scarecrow doll. The kosher style garlic dill pickles got a second place, and the Clarimore zucchini got third place.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Farmers Market Today

Went to the Phillips Farmers Market today. It was my second time going there. I had a lot of fun and met some really nice people. I was surprised to see all the customers; the farmers market is starting to take off. I wish all of us vendors had more to sell! I can't wait for my small fruits to begin bearing. I sold all my mesclun, half of my zucchini squash, one wheat bouquet, and several crocheted jar toppers. I had several people comment favorably on my display. Talking about recipes seems to be a good conversation starter. It has always been difficult for me to talk to people but I think that is an acquired skill. I hope that over time I get better at it.

Today I put an overturned bucket under the table and set the bucket I put the umbrella in on top of that, and the umbrella was just at the right height. I was so happy. I had noticed last time at the market that people had to constantly duck under the umbrella to get to the table and I needed to raise it up some. I also separated the squash into their respective varieties and put them in separate wicker baskets. Doing this gave the appearance of having more produce than I actually did and gave a nice "country" accent. I was disappointed that the wheat bundles didn't sell well, but it is early in the harvest season and if I don't sell the bouquets, I know Chin Lee and Lisa 1-7 will certainly appreciate them this coming winter. This week I will make some wheat weavings and some more jar toppers.

I am keeping watch over my Yellow Finn and German Butterball potatoes; they should be ready to harvest in about two weeks. The New England Pie Pumpkins and the winter squashes are growing well. I just love winter squash! My sunflowers didn't grow nearly as tall as they should have, but they are starting to head out and hopefully by the time the potatoes are ready I can have some sunflower heads to sell, too.

Yesterday, Tom helped me put up the rafters to the hight tunnel. Boy, that was more of a job than I thought it would be. When you put those pipe pieces together they get pretty heavy! But at least I had everything plumb and squared correctly; I am very proud of myself for doing that all by myself. Now I have to put the cross bars on the rafters.

The grass is about half way cut around the fence. I hope to get the rest of it cut in the next couple of days. Then I need to cut the grass inside the fence. The work just never seems to end. Still, I like keeping busy and the work helps me lose weight -- I have lost 30 pounds this summer so far. I need to dig up the dead fruit trees, and I will move the elderberries, probably to the south end of the field.

Well, I think I'll leave off for now. Talk to you soon!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

August Already

Where is the summer going? Between hauling water out to the field at first light because of the drought and helping my Dad make firewood in the afternoon, I am beat! When we had the 102 temperature on July 31st I was afraid for Lara and Ed as we don't have air conditioning, but early in the morning while it was still cool, Tom and I turned off the whole house fan and closed the house up. We turned on room fans and the dehumidifier, and I closed all the curtains to shut out the sun. We stayed inside and just lay around all day. The hottest it got in the house was 87 and I was able to keep Lara and Ed comfortable. I am sure glad we only had one day of that blistering temp. And then, the storms came and we lost power altogether. The power went out Friday night and didn't come back on till Sunday night. I lost everything in the frig and all the 12 dozen eggs in the egg frig. If I had been thinking better, I could have hardboiled them and made pickled eggs, but I didn't think of it till after the eggs were lost. Items in the basement freezer were starting to soften up and I was getting ready to start canning the meat when the power was restored. Whew! Thank goodness Lara had her emergency dynamo radio to listen to or life would really have been difficult. And with all that I was just happy it was raining and I didn't have to go out to haul water. I heard there was a tornado touch down in Butternut that caused the power outage. I am sure the newspaper will have the story this week. I wonder how Butternut Pioneer Days went.

I was lucky enough to make it to my first Farmers Market two weeks ago in Phillips. All I had was some Bull's Blood Beets and Amish Snap Peas -- not the best quality, but still edible (and I won't sell what I won't eat myself). I figured I had enough items to make the trip worth the gas. I also had some craft items I made. It was a lot of work, but I learned alot and got to meet some really nice people. I was very nervous and even made mistakes making change, but people were pretty friendly and understanding. Their attitude sure helped me calm down. I sold most of the beets and just about all the peas, and I even sold one crocheted jar bonnet. Everyone loved my display. And I noted that I made one sale because I sold heirloom varieties; I made another sale because I had recipes to go with the produce; and I made another sale because I am WIC and FMNP program authorized. The other vendors were very friendly -- I was really envious of their beautiful produce. I sure wish I had a well out in my field! Well, everything will come in time; one day I will have my well. The squash is starting to come in now that we've had a good rain and the wheat should be ready soon. My poor oats are shot. If it is nice tomorrow morning, I'll go out and check for more squash and see if I can start cutting wheat. I planted hard red spring wheat, variety Polk, seed purchased from Johnny's Seed in Maine. I am very pleased with how the wheat grew even with the horrid summer we've had. I will sell some of the wheat in unthreshed bundles. If I can sell just three bundles, that will make the trip to Phillips worth the gas. I hope to thresh enough wheat from the stand I planted to last the chickens for the winter. We'll see how it goes. The wheat will make very nice harvest decorations. I think I will get out my wheat weaving book and see if I can make something before market day to give people some crafting ideas.

Tomorrow Lara and I plan to go to the Price Direct meeting at the Ag extension office. Lara is looking forward to going. There is supposed to be a guest speaker. It has been some time since Lara was out of the house and I am sure she is feeling cooped up. I need to make a beauty parlor appointment with Julie for the two of us to get our hair cut, too. Some times I feel so overwhelmed with everything I want to do and just can't seem to get done as fast as I'd like.

As far as the garden goes, I dug up all the beans that managed to sprout and transplanted them into the main veggie section. I then planted the short season sweet corn, Scarlet Runner Beans, okra and basil that I had started in flats the end of June. I consolidated the cucumbers and squash. Everything looks like it is growing well, especially with the rain we've had. It looks like a different garden! I am very happy with the pumpkin patch and can't wait to get some pumpkins. Tomorrow I will plant some fall St. Valery carrots, more Bull's Blood beets and just regular peas (I'm out of any more heirloom seed for this year). The Yellow Finn and German Butterball potatoes should be ready in about two weeks. And next week it is supposed to be cooler so I hope to finally get the high tunnel finished. When that is up I will plant some Forellynschluss and mesclun lettuce under it.

After that it's finishing up with cutting the grass and digging up the dead orchard trees. Since it looks like I will have to move the fence because of the eminent domain action, I think I will move what is left of the orchard to the South end of the field. I am still thinking on this as to where I can put what. In any event, I plan to dig holes this fall for new trees to be planted next spring. Maybe I will line the South end fence border with elderberries. At least it will look pretty in the Spring! I will certainly hate to move the cherry trees though as I am not sure they will make the transplant, and I am very proud of my hardy little Fameuse apple tree, but that will need to be moved as well. I sure hope I don't have to move that asparagus bed. Getting that bed established was a lot of work and having to move it will mean a loss of two years work. Well, we'll see how things go.

I see that it's getting late so I will leave off for now. Talk to to you soon!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Garden Update

Well, I was out hoeing in the pumpkin section this morning when welcome rain interrupted me, so I figured I would write down some of what has been on my mind lately.

All the seedlings were planted the end of May and by June 1 all the seeds were put in the ground. Then on June 10 we had a frost warning. Other chores had kept me out of the field that day and when I went out to the field after supper to cover everything against the frost, I discovered that most of the frost tender plants had already demised. We must have had a clear frost (low temperature with just the right amount of wind chill) on the 9th. I covered what I thought was salvageable. The next day I took a closer look at everything. I think I miss the sacrlet runner beans the most; I never grew them before and was really looking forward to watching them climb the 10' teepee towers I made. Most of the heirloom tomatoes are gone, and I can't find any sweet bell peppers. In fact, the other odd thing I've noticed is that for all of the seeds I've planted, almost none is coming up. I don't understand what is wrong. I know I planted the seeds correctly, and I've hauled water out to the field religiously. I don't see any deer tracks, so the Phantom Guard and Pro (cougar hiss anti-varmint device) must be working. My dad thinks it's probably grubs. I suspect earthworms, too. Anyway, I have never had this problem before. I will give the seeds some more time, but if they don't start coming up in the next two weeks, I'll turn everything under and plant some buckwheat and more short season beans. I replanted sunflowers and Mandan Bride flour corn in the pumpkin section, but have not seen any seedlings there yet either. I figure the crows will get most of the corn, and I will be happy if I can get even a couple of ears for next year's seed. I was upset to lose the 72 Moon and Stars (long) and Crenshaw melons. I was able to replant the Moon and Stars, but will have to try and locate the Crenshaw now that Burpee and Fedco are no longer offering it. That is a wonderful tasting muskmelon. I replanted Pride of Wisconsin in Crenshaw's stead. Kentucky Wonder and Kentucky Blue pole beans took Scarlet Runner Bean's place. I was heartbroken when I saw that all of the giant pumpkins were gone, but there is always next year.

What have I learned so far? Hmmmm. (1) Working in the field is more comfortable in the very early morning or in the late afternoon after supper. (2) Transplants seem to do better than planting by seed. (3) Do not plant frost tender plants in the garden until after the full moon in June. (4) Buy more seed -- I think I plant too thinly; better to plant thickly and thin than not fill in the planting area.

Yesterday I hoed the perennial and small fruit section. The rhubarb is looking great this year, and the Bohemian horseradish is starting to take off. Next year I will have both for the farmer's market in Phillips. I need to bury some flashing to keep the horseradish in bounds. My uncle says that the only thing that will get rid of horseradish is to run pigs over the area. Well, I don't want pigs and I don't want horseradish to take over the field, so I need to get that bed hemmed off. Still, I think the horseradish is looking good. I planted some garlic last fall and it is looking good. So are the chives I brought from my old garden. Those chives must be close to 25 years old. I will plant some Czech heirloom garlic this fall (fron Ronnigers). It is a tan color with mild flavor. I turned under the bed where I want to plant strawberries next year. I want to have that soil in really good shape by next spring. The red currants are all doing nicely; I hope to have berries beginning next year. Less satisfactory are the gooseberries. I bought 6 bushes this spring and they are all dead. My husband bought a couple of bushes, too, and his are dead as well. I have been growing gooseberries for over 20 years, and I say we both received bad stock, and we purchased from different nurseries! The gooseberries I bought last year are ok. They seem to be growing much slower than I am used to them growing, but I notice that all of the elderberries in the orchard section are not taking offer either. I think I need to add more manure all around. The raspberries for the most part are alive and well. I have a few questionables. The asparagus is looking fine. I replanted both the asparagus and most of the raspberries this spring. I hope replanting does not become a habit, but this year we seem to have had more rain than we did last year, and I have more cans to haul water in than I did last year, so hopefully the new stock will dig their roots down far enought to make it through the winter.

What's on the schedule? Mowing the grass around the sections again, tilling under the bean section as nothing is growing there but grass. Maybe I'll put some buckwheat there to be followed by annual rye grass. Putting up the high tunnel. If I can get that high tunnel up, I'll plan for a fall garden.

Looks like I'll have to replace most of the apple trees and both pear trees. Only the Fameuse apple is alive and well. My Egremont russet is hanging on, but is "iffy". Three of the Bali pie cherries are doing well. I think I will get two Wealthy apple trees (I really like Wealthy's taste). a Chestnut Crabapple, St. Edmund's russet, another McInstosh and perhaps a St. Lawrence, as well as two more pear trees and another Bali cherry. Looks mostly like winter kill and fireblight (on the pears). Not enough water last year didn't help any. I can't wait to get a well in the field.

The chickens are doing well. On a good day I'll get between 5 and 7 eggs. Chin Lee and Chardonnet the roosters, keep the ladies in line. Chin Lee is the boss of the chicken yard. Some times I call him Chairman Mao as he keeps poor Chardonnet on the run all the time. Still, it's better to have two roosters in case something happens to one of the them. I can't get the ladies to set, but I have time to build up the flock. I would like to build a nice little brooder house before I get more chicks. So that is another of my "to do" tasks for this year.

Well, it's getting late, so I'll leave off for now. Happy gardening to everyone!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Lovely Day

Today the weather was absolutely perfect. I got up early and took care of Lara, then let out the chickens and headed out to the field around 7:00 a.m. It was cloudy and sprinkled a bit, but the sun was soon shining. There was a nice breeze, not too strong, and the morning passed quickly. I worked on the tightening up the fence wires. I ran out of Daisy in-line wire strainers and will need to order some more. Boy, are those things nice! I went back to the house around noon and grabbed a bite to eat. Tom had been busy planting in his garden. He and Ed came back out to the field with me around 1:00 p.m. after I took care of Lara again. He turned over the soil in the pumpkin patch again and then used the hiller/furrower to make rows throughout. Meanwhile, Ed and I pounded in 19 more fence posts and stretched the woven wire. I am going to wind up with arms like Rosie the Riveter! I would like to get probably about 20 more posts and a couple of bags of T-post insulators. The fence is starting to look pretty good! I can't wait to get it where I want it to look. Of course, a 10 foot woven and high tensile wire fence isn't any good without a gate! Still, I will get everything done as soon as I can. By the time we were done with the fence posts, Tom was done with the pumpkin patch, so I took the BCS and went down the vegetable section and scraped the sides of the raised beds. The moon is good tomorrow for planting and my Red Norland and Katahdin potatoes came from Ronnigers today, so I will be out again tomorrow planting. I wonder when Shumways will ship my sweet potatoes. I feel good about getting so much done!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Ready, Set, Go!

Vernal Equinox, March 20, 2006

Last week I started cleaning out the chicken coop. So far I have spent 9 hours on the project. $24.00 (w/o tax) on black plastic bags to bag the bedding in. I bought 3 boxes of Huffy drawstring bags, which turned out to be lousy product. I then bought Hefty black drawstring trash bags. These were not much better in quality, but a bit more so than the Huffy. I think I will have enough bags to finish the project and double bag the bags that will need more strength so they will not break when I go to transfer them to the pick up bed. Tomorrow is supposed to be partly sunny so I will get an early start by finishing the shoveling out of the coop and will scrub it down with bleach and Borax. I am sure the chickens will like to have some fresh bedding.

Spent the last three days starting seeds down in the basement. I set up the folding picnic table and it took me 3 ½ hours to hang the 4 fluorescent shop lights over it. Talk about being mechanically challenged! Here are the seeds I started:
Name Number of Cells Planted
Georgia Collards 36
Thompson Broccoli 18
Thompson Broccoli (OG) 18
Dani Lemon Basil 12
Garden Sage 12
Rosemary 48
Curly-leafed Parsley 72
Copenhagen Market Cabbage 72
Hot pepper from Laos 12
Hot Hot pepper from Thailand 24
Hot Hot Hot pepper from Thailand 12
Tabasco hot pepper 18
Hot Portugal pepper 18
Rutgers tomatoes 6
Riesentraube tomatoes 12
Hard Rock VFN tomatoes 6
Arkansas Traveler tomatoes 6
Amish Paste tomatoes 6
Bloody Butcher tomatoes 6
Druzba tomatoes 6
Lillian’s Yellow tomatoes 6
Stupice tomatoes 6
Mortgage Lifter tomatoes 6
Black Plum tomatoes 6
Banana Bill sweet pepper 6
Jupiter sweet bell pepper 12
Golden Bell sweet bell 6
Caribbean Red hot pepper 12
Early Jalapeno very hot pepper 24

(The following were sowed in flats.)

Victorian Posy Pansies
Marine Heliotrope
Sweet Annie
Bee Balm

I did not plant the entire packets of most of the vegetable seeds in case these die on me. The flower seeds are all old; the Bee Balm and Echinacia are from my old garden in Oak Lawn. Next month if these seeds grow, I will start more of the same and additionally start cucumbers, summer and winter squash, and pumpkins. I should have the high tunnel up by then, too. The recent 2’ of snow we got on March 15 is melting rapidly.

April 7, 2006

Decided to replant some seeds today as it is too windy for me to work outside. Wind chill is pretty cold, as well. I planted more:

Seed Name
Jupiter Bell
Golden Bell
Hot Portugal Pepper
Caribbean Red hot pepper
Early Jalapeno hot pepper
Green River Parsley (Leaf)
Lillian’s Yellow Tomato
Black Plum tomato
Copenhagen cabbage
Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil

I wanted to plant more Riesentraube cherry tomato seeds, but I already planted all that I had. None germinated. I really want some of these so I will have to order more.

If the weather cooperates tomorrow, I will load the poultry bedding into the back of the truck and take it to the field.

April 10, 2006

Spread the chicken manure out in the field and around the orchard. It was composting nicely in the black plastic, and bagging the bedding turned out to be a pretty good idea. It made putting the bedding exactly where I wanted it a lot easier.

April 26, 2006

Yesterday, Tom and I turned over the soil in the field section that we started last year and broke ground on a new section (about 50’ x 75’). It was a good day to turn over the ground as the moon is waning and in Aries. The ground was nice and soft as the snow just melted, and it was easy to break. We will turn this new ground over again before I plant the pumpkins and squash in it. The new moon is tomorrow in Taurus so I will plant the oats, wheat, peas and onions on the 28th barring bad weather. May 2d and 3rd are also good days to plant as the waxing moon will be in Cancer.

Checked out the orchard. The trees all look good and so do the elderberries. The stems are dead, but growth is plainly visible at the crown base. Less sure am I of the raspberries. My book says that the top cane may often die back and this is normal, but growth should come from the base of the stem. As everything is still thawing out, I will hold my breath and hope for new growth. If worse comes to worse, I will have to re-order plants. The currants and gooseberries plainly are growing, and Tom found some rhubarb sprouting that I thought had totally died last year. We checked the asparagus and found nothing but deer tracks! Boy was I pissed. I can’t wait to get that fence tightened up!

Uncovered the high tunnel and T-posts Chris gave us and hauled all to the field. If it is nice tomorrow, I will gather the fencing materials and go work on the fence. Tom is planning to go to town so we will see how it goes.

While out in the field I saw two eagles circling high above me. Day before yesterday a falcon lighted in back of the house. Boy, you didn’t see anything at the bird feeders and you didn’t hear any sort of cheeping either. The chickens were under their punji stick hut and Chin Lee a/k/a Chairman Mao wasn’t strutting his stuff. No telling where poor Chardonnet was. Tom thinks it may have been a prairie falcon because that was the closest picture to what he saw in the Bird Field Guide.

The seedlings that we potted up and brought upstairs to grow in the front room are all doing very well. I need to pot up my peppers and may do that later tonight.Well, I better check on the chickens and gather eggs.

April 27, 2006

Busy day today. The weather was lovely -- just like yesterday. Went to the field and was greeted by a pair of sand hill cranes that must have a nest nearby. I put together the rafters of the high tunnel. As usual, a parade of vehicles appeared and s-l-o-w-l-y drove by. I was very proud of myself because I figured out how to work the drill with the 3/8” drill driver.

Spent about 6 hours potting up seedlings and starting several more veggies. New ones started are Lemon and Armenian cucumbers, Blue Hubbard squash, Crenshaw melons, Big Moon pumpkins, and I have Moon and Stars melon seeds that I saved from a melon I bought at the Oak Lawn Farmers Market several years ago soaking overnight in a solution of Sonic Bloom that I will plant tomorrow morning.

I used up all the paper pots I made this morning; I can’t believe how I go through them. I think the living room is going to become very crowded very shortly. I really need to get that high tunnel up as soon as possible. I am a bit afraid because the next thing I have to do is square the base posts and I don’t understand how to do that. This is something girls were not taught when I went to school. I understand why the frame needs to be squared, but I don’t understand how to do it. We will be planting peas, beets, carrots, dill, wheat, oats, onions, spinach, radishes and several types of flowers, including a packet of Hungarian Breadseed Poppies that I have been saving for several years -- I just hope that some germinate so I can collect the seed. I believe that these may be the kind of poppies my great-grandmother planted.

Also tried out the Earthway spreader I bought and seeded two bags of shade and sun lawn seed under the maples out in the front yard where I raked away the duff layer for fire safety. Well, it is the new moon in Taurus tonight so everything should grow well.

April 28, 2006

Busy again today. Went out to the field about 10:00 a.m. and wanted to get all of the early seeds planted, but could only get the early flowers, wheat, oats, and peas done. I have Polk wheat from Johnny's in Maine, plain oats from the feed store, Dwarf Gray Sugar snow peas, Sugar Snap peas from Fedco and Amish Snap peas from Seed Savers Exchange. Came back to the house after 3:00 p.m. and felt like going to bed! But at least I got that much done. Now I have to wait till May 2 or 3 to plant the rest of the early seeds. We have another section under way where I will plant pumpkins and corn. Think we will enlarge this another 50’. Tom actually agreed with me that we should make that section larger.

Made some more paper pots early this morning and will finally pot up the sweet pepper seedlings and bring them upstairs. Will start hardening off the seedlings already brought upstairs to the living room tomorrow, weather permitting. I think it's interesting that the hot peppers sprouted so much easier than the sweet peppers.

May 5, 2006

The day started out with rain/snow and by 10:30 a.m. the sun was shining. I went to the Price County Normal Building for the Wisconsin Tested Flock info meeting. Bird flu hysteria! Now I have to find someone that will come to my farm and test my birds before I can buy new chicks and introduce them into the flock. New chicks purchased from a hatchery are considered "clean" birds until they reach maturity (4 months of age). If I add new chicks before my existing birds are tested as "clean", my chicks lose their "clean" status and will have to be tested as well. If I wait to buy chicks until my existing birds are tested as "clean", then I will only have to test my existing birds this year and will start to test the entire flock beginning next year. If I have my existing birds tested before the end of June, I will have to get them tested again this year because the annual test results are only good from June to June of the following year. It also means I will be getting chicks late in the season. Do I want to do that or lose a year in building up the layer flock and just wait till next spring to get chicks? Brother! At least the testing cost is not supposed to be too bad. Flock owners can do the testing themselves --if they are certified by the state. But the state revised the certification process earlier this year and has already held the mandatory certification class, so everyone not certified is trying to find someone that is certified to test their birds. The real inconvenience is that most of the people who are certified to do poultry testing do so on a volunteer basis and usually in connection with a community function like the 4-H kids or the community fair. Asking them to come out to your farm to test your birds really inconveniences them. I think the state should have county certifiers, or, the state needs to make this poultry testing certification process more readily available, perhaps by offering the class throughout the year at area Ag extension offices. As I understand it, this annual testing law has been on the books for several years but was never enforced. Most people I know never heard of it.

My MacDonald rhubarb came yesterday from Johnny’s in Maine. Don’t know if I will get out to plant them today or not. I have a headache from working outside yesterday. But at least I did a lot yesterday. I used the hiller/furrower on the BCS and made six raised beds and hilled several rows for tomatoes and corn and whatever else I can fit in there. The raised beds should hold just about everything. With more rain forecast over the next week, the early flower seeds, oats, wheat and peas should get off to a fine start.

May 6, 2006

Another busy day. The weather was very changeable and cool, alternating between clouds, sun and wind. Helped Tom clean the garage; I vacuumed the van out. Then Tom, Ed and I went out to the field and planted the replacement rhubarb, raspberries, and asparagus. Never made it to the raised beds to finish shaping the ones I had left from the other day. The planting took us over three hours; I can’t believe how long it takes to get that work done. I always think I can finish quicker than I do. Some times that is very frustrating for me as I want to finish everything quickly. (I have Aries rising.) Well, hopefully the weather will continue to cooperate and I will be able to get my planting done on time. Today the moon was in Virgo and I want to start planting on the 9th when the moon goes into Libra and be able to have everything planted when the moon is in Scorpio. I am hardening off the seedlings and I have to say that they are not looking too good. I don’t know what is the matter with those collards; they should tolerate the cold weather better than the hot peppers, but the opposite it happening. Only the broccoli is looking really good. Most of the tomatoes are ok as are the hot peppers. I hope to get the high tunnel up after the initial planting is done. I need to remember to get the hoeing done around the elderberries as soon as I can.

Yesterday I ordered some more seeds from Baker Creek's web site: Pride of Wisconsin picnic melon, St. Valery carrots, Forellynschluss romaine lettuce and Rosa Bianca eggplant. And today I felt like some books so I ordered The Key and The Language of Birds from Unknown Country. I haven’t bought any books for a while so I figured I was due. My Phantom Guard N Pro should be coming soon. I can’t wait to try it out. I sure hope it keeps the deer off my new asparagus plants!

May 9, 2006

Today my Sarah is 21! I hope she has a fun day and that the weather is good for her. I am very proud of her!

Woke up to steady rain here. I am glad because I was not looking forward to having to haul water to the garden so soon. Still, I cannot get out to the field when it is like this. Think I will start some more seedlings down in the basement as the moon is in Libra. I have Blue Hubbard, Butternut, and Acorn Squash sprouting nicely, and several of the Big Moon pumpkins are coming up, too. I am ecstatic that nearly the entire 72 cell flat of Moon and Stars melons is sprouting. I only started two varieties of cucumbers -- Marketmore 76 and National Pickling (not an heirloom, but older seeds I already had and didn't want to waste) -- that are sprouting as well and will start the heirloom varieties directly in the garden at the end of the month.

Last night I went to the Normal Building in Phillips for a farmers market meeting. I am really looking forward to going to the Phillips Farmers Market on Saturdays. It will go from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. beginning Memorial Day Weekend (the 27th). July 4th will start the Tuesday market and that will run from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. There is a nice group of us and it looks like more people will come as they can. As far as I can tell, I am the only person selling heirloom veggies. Too bad my fruit orchard isn't producing yet. Soon enough! It was a really nice meeting. Several of us were able to get certified to take WIC and Senior Farmers Market program coupons even though we do not live in Price County. I thought that was great. The woman from the Health Department even gave me a form to send in after I get my registration packet that will allow me to register my farm as an approved vendor location. I wish all government was as nice and easy to deal with! Thank you Price County!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Ready to Go

Well the snow is just about gone and the frost is rapidly coming out of the ground. Yesterday, I finally got the chickens to come out of the coop, and they watched me carry the poultry bedding bags to the driveway from around the coop and delighted in scratching up the spillovers left on the ground. The outcoming frost softened the ground to an ankle deep mud patch on the slope between the coop and the driveway by the time I finished moving the last of the bags. The job took me a good half day, but I got it done. Today, Tom helped me load the bags into the back of the pick up truck and we moved them all in only three loads to the field where I dropped two bags per apple tree and left the rest of the bags around the field area. We hope the weather cooperates on Wednesday as we plan to till in the manure and start turning under the next half acre section where I want to put the pumpkins and sunflowers.

The seeds I started in the basement the middle of last month look pretty good. A few of the tomato varieties had poor germination -- Riesentraube immediately comes to mind, and most of the sweet peppers did poorly. The hot peppers for the most part sprouted well, but Tabasco peppers were rather poor germinating. None of the curly leafed parsley sprouted so I replaced it with some Green River flat leaf and we'll see how that does. The Copenhagen cabbage was about 60% germination. I planted more of whatever needed filling in the seed starting cells and plan to start the cucumbers next week. I will pot up some of the tomatoes. Now that the snow is just about gone I can retrieve the high tunnel frame and set that up out in the field.

The chickens are still laying well. They laid all winter for me and I got between 5 and 7 eggs a day from my girls. Petty good for only 7 hens. I butchered three of the roosters when the weather started to warm up and now am down to two gents. Still too many for the number of hens, but I'd rather have a spare rooster in case something happens. I ordered egg cartons, a candler, and a new waterer from and am looking for a decent used refrigerator to keep the eggs in. Once I have that, I'll be able to start selling eggs from the farm. I made a little shelter from fallen branches for the chickens at the opposite end of the run. I put some hay over the top of it and it looks like a punji stick A-frame. The chickens really like it. At the end of the day they come running when they see me because they know that they will get some scratch when they go inside the coop. It's pretty easy to put them in at night. I can't wait to give them my own wheat and oats.

There is so much to do; I wish I could work more quickly, but you just can't with this type of work--you'll only injure yourself. I keep remembering that German proverb: Slow and steady goes long into the day. Amen to that! I keep telling myself that the really hard work is now until I have everything built and the permanent plantings done. After that, it's all maintenance.

I better sit down and make my shopping list for Easter dinner! Until next time!

Sunday, February 26, 2006


I was thinking about how I am going to clean out the chicken coop and get all of the bedding out to the field to put down in the garden. The coop is not easily accessible to simply shovel out and toss straight into the back of the truck. I was going to take the bedding out a 5-gallon bucket at a time and throw it into the truck, but my sister said to put the bedding into big garbage bags. As I thought about that, I think it may be a pretty good idea. If I get a box of good quality black plastic garbage bags, I can bag the bedding up a couple of bags at a time over the next couple of weeks. I can put the bags in the sun where the bedding will continue to compost. Then, when I'm ready to turnover the garden, the final clean out of the coop won't take but a couple of hours. I can shoo the chickens out into the yard while I disinfect the coop and air it out, and I can easily toss the bagged bedding into the back of truck and head out to the field. When I'm ready, I can turnover the garden area, make my raised beds and selectively work the bedding into specific beds or spread the bedding over the entire garden area as I decide. I'll think about that some more. If I work the bedding into specific beds, it seems I wouldn't waste any bedding by having it fall into walk ways. And by purchasing good quality bags, I can re-use them if I store them properly. Anyway, I thought I would write this idea down before I forgot it. When you don't have a lot of equipment, you just have to work with what you do have!

Monday, February 20, 2006

One month till Spring

Well, we made it through this past cold spell all right. I was worried about the chickens, and they were indeed "frosty" when I checked on them, especially after the second -40F night, but I didn't lose any of them. I shoveled most of the bedding against the coop wall and threw down a bag of fresh wood shavings on the floor. Then I lowered the brooder lights (I have 3 lights with 125w bulbs) closer to the roost. When I went to check on them the first cold morning (when it went down to -35F), all the eggs were frozen, but the chickens had burrowed down into the fresh wood shavings and stayed warm. They lined up for me to hold them inside my coat! I held each one and warmed their feet. My rotten roosters especially like being held, but I prefer to hold the poor bald hens. I know I have way too many roosters, but I don't think my tiny flock would have made it this far through the winter with lower numbers. At least the roosters keep everybody moving.

I have been doing research on solar heating, and I am going to put together a solar window heater for the big south facing window in the chicken coop. I can't find anyone that has used solar heat for any of their livestock buildings up here, but I certainly think there is enough sunshine at this latitude to use solar energy for multiple applications. The chicken coop will be a good starter project. I need to figure out how to store the heat produced by the window heater for overnight use. I know I can certainly scrounge the materials I need to make it. I want to look around at kinds of insulation for the interior of the coop, as well -- moisture resistance, R value and all that. When I get it all done, I'll post pictures and full instructions. I have to do something because we got a letter from the electric company saying they are raising their prices big time because of their fuel transportation costs. I'm going to replace all the light bulbs in the house with those more expensive energy efficient bulbs, too. I have had people give me conflicting comments on the performance of those bulbs, so I'll just have to try them for myself and see how cost effective they are.

Looking at the picture (top) of my grandfather's barn being built back around 1930-1931 got me thinking about getting work done, and while I may not be able to do much outside because of all the snow, I have been busy inside. I ordered most of my seeds, plants, and seed starting supplies. I am still thinking about getting some strawberries and a couple of crabapple trees, but I'm not sure yet. I went to Fleet Farm in Marshfield and bought shop lights for starting seeds the end of April down in the basement. And I will have plenty to keep me busy once the snow melts -- like cleaning out the chicken coop and hauling all the winter's bedding out to spread on the field. I have over 150 kinds of seeds, not including the plants I've ordered to put in the garden, although some of the seeds are old and may not germinate well. I created a database document of all my seeds and sorted it by type of plant. Then I sat down and graphed out the garden using wide rows, raised beds, and blocks in two half acre sections. It took me about two good weeks playing around with this and that factor before I came up with a planting and rotation plan I am happy with. I'll have to wait and see how it works now. I'm using interplanting with companion plants for pest management and possible enhancement of food flavor. With the raised beds and wide rows, everything will be intensively planted. The block sections are for flour corn, sunflowers, pole beans, spring wheat, and pumpkins. It will be interesting, no matter what happens. If I can get a third half acre section turned over, I'll put the beans there.

I guess I'm starting to come down with Spring fever!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


New snow this morning made the gray day bright. I spent the morning cleaning the house. Later, I put together a seven shelf metal unit using the 18v cordless drill driver I got for Christmas. Boy, is that tool nice! I can't wait till the temperature warms up a bit so I can use it to start putting together my high tunnel! Resolution 1: Put up the high tunnel. Anyway, I was able to put all my canning jars on the two 7 shelf units and put most of the "stuff" in boxes that was on the floor up on the larger 4 shelf unit that the canning jars used to fill. I feel MUCH more organized. Now I will start going through all of the "stuff" and select the items I will sell this summer with my produce. By the way, I don't have a picture yet of this year's snow yet so I thought I would post an old picture taken on my Dad's farm of winter time. The ice on the trees was really beautiful.

I went to Fleet Farm after I drove our Sarah to the Amtrack Station to head back to college. I bought (I hope) enough supplies and tools to finish the fence. All I will have to build then is the gate. I should have enough insulators to run one hot wire between the top of the lower woven wire level and the first strand of smooth wire that is already tacked up. Right now the deer just go sailing between that area. Resolution 2:Finish the fence.

I've ordered more currants, gooseberries, horseradish and rhubarb roots to plant. Bought some more organic wheat from Johnnies in Maine. I still have some more seeds to order and need to get the seed potatoes. I like to get mine from Ronnigers. They are a small family potato farm. They are organic and have a nice heirloom selection. I will have 1/2 acre in vegetables, and 1/2 acre in oats, wheat, peas, and sunflowers. I don't have any harvesting equipment so I have to keep plantings small enough to handle by hand. I will sit down in a few days and work out the garden plan and finalize my rotation. I am really looking forward to planting! Resolution 3: Finalize the garden and rotation plan.

So far my tiny flock of Dominique chickens are tolerating the cold pretty well. I lost one hen. She was my tiniest hen and I think the roosters may have killed her. She was the hen that always laid the double yolk eggs. I think she was the one that laid the triple yolk egg, too. I took a picture of that egg and will post it when I get the roll developed. Perhaps laying those double yolks all the time was a defect. I don't really know. The rest of the chickens are doing all right. I have three brooder lights inside the coop for heat and turn the bedding over every day. When the days are warmer, the bedding really starts to cook. It can be almost balmy inside the coop. I leave the outside door open to help freshen the air and lower ammonia levels, and I toss around a bag of wood shavings to absorb excess moisture. We have a nice big picture window that we scrounged and put in the south wall of the coop. It helps the coop warm up on a sunny day. I really like having chickens and am thinking about ordering a few more. I'd like to keep about 50. Resolution 4: Order more chicks -- from a different source than last year.

I received a comment from a forest ranger in West Virginia. He invited me to read his blog, which I did. It's nice to read about what other people think and do. It's sort of like mini-histories that document the era.

I'm fixing rhubarb grunt and venison stroganoff for supper so I have to leave off for now. Until next time. . . .