Thursday, December 13, 2007

It's Getting Close to Christmas

Lara and I had some fun today. She absolutely LOVES the English chef, Jamie Oliver, so I signed her up to receive Jamie's newsletter at my e-mail address. (Lara's screen name is Gingerbread4u on his web site. She picked the name out herself which I thought was cute. Lara doesn't use the computer on her own so she doesn't have a separate e-mail account.) Anyway, today she received her first newsletter and was SO excited. We probably spent 2 hours at Jamie's web site with me reading the different entries to her. She wanted to post something and the only thing I could think of for us to post was the new recipe she and I worked out for a fancy holiday coffee drink. We don't drink alcohol in our house so adding an alcoholic flavoring in something is a big deal for us. Lara was really happy when her name showed up on the blog after posting our recipe. I think Lara will be extremely happy on Christmas when she unwraps the Jamie Oliver CD and DVD she is going to get.

Today is snowy and very cold. It is about 20F today, but tomorrow is supposed to be around 11F. Tom took the van to town and got Ed a haircut. Ed was really pleased with how he looked. For someone who can't talk, Ed is great at letting you know his feelings!

I made cinnamon rolls yesterday. They turned out ok -- the buns baked in the glass pans burned a bit on the bottoms, but my steel pan buns were fine. I hate cooking in glass pans! Give me stainless steel and cast iron any time. I should have used my potato sweet roll dough recipe instead of regular sweet dough -- the buns always turn out tenderer with the potato sweet dough. But, they taste good enough and are going fast!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Time to Chew Data

Today I finally had a chance to call my friend, Jane, and catch up on what happened at the Price Driect meeting last month. I was rather disappointed with what she told me, but the news was not unexpected. It looks like the group will lay down and die. But, as Jane says and I agree, something will rise from the ashes when people realize Price Direct is gone. Jane kindly emailed me most of the results from the PD survey she sent out. There was a 8% response rate, which I thought was above average for a mailed survey (I would have thought 5% response was doing good). In order of importance to them, people were most interested in there being a(n) (1) co-op, (2) outlet store, (3) atlas, (4) newsletter, (5) kitchen, and (6) Web site. The most helpful aspect of Price Direct to each respondee was (in order of importance) (1) the Atlas, (2) newsletters (3) notice of marketing opportunities, (4)the opportunity to network and (5) educational meetings. A small number of those responding were most willing to help with (in order of importance) (1) outlet store, (2) newsletter, (3) co-op and (4) kitchen. For all the people griped about the Atlas, the majority felt that having an atlas and being in it helped them more often than not, and the majority agreed they would like to continue the atlas and even pay to be in it. What came across to me was that as long as someone else did the work, the rest were willing to take advantage of whatever system got set up. This, I completely expected. So now what happens?

Well, I would like to see a Scales Day held in April where farmers market vendors can bring their market scales to be calibrated; the cost would be spread out over the group. I have already talked with Randy from BSI Scales in Tomahawk who is willing to come to Phillips to calibrate the scales. I think I will go ahead and contact Landis at Hermit Creek Farm and the Ashland farmers market, and Mr. Ahonen from from the Hurley farmers market to see what their interest might be in a Scales Day. If there is enough interest, great; if not, I'll tell Randy at BSI there is not enough interest and I will get an annual contract with him.

Also, I will continue to work on my two-part plan to build the kitchen incubator. I have started reading Cameron Wold's book and it is GREAT! It is exactly what I hoped it would be. What a time saver! I think it will take me probably a year, year and a half, to put it all together.

I need to take care of Lara and get suppoer on, so I'll talk to you later.

Friday, December 07, 2007

In the Ditch

Well, I finally did it: I hit black ice this morning going down to Marshfield with Lara and we slid off the road and landed in a farmer's field. Thank Goodness I was not going more than 50 mph and we did not hit anything; the deep snow in the field cushioned our landing. We probably had a drop of about 8' off the highway. At first I didn't think I would be able to get us out because the truck just spun its wheels as I rocked us back and forth trying to get some traction. I tried calling Tom, but the cell phone wouldn't work. I thought about what I should do because I was not going to leave Lara alone in the truck; then I got mad. I said to myself, "This is a new Dodge Ram truck. If I can't get us out of here with this truck, I'm going to write Dodge a letter!" So, I got out of the truck and assessed our position, making sure we were all in one piece; then I rocked us back and forth until I had enough forward movement to put the truck in 4-wheel drive; then I put us in reverse and hit the gas. The 4-wheel drive dug in and I was able to back us up through the snow using our entry tire tracks almost up the slope to the highway. I braked and checked the highway for traffic, then put us in forward and turned the truck around so it was heading North, hit the gas, and we went up the slope and back onto the highway. I drove to the nearest street and turned the truck around (after giving my thumping heart a few minutes of rest), then we headed back onto the highway going South toward Marshfield. Not far down the road from where we slid, we passed a bad three vehicle accident, so I think the black ice was wide spread. Lara and I made it to Marshfield in time for our appointment, and thankfully, Lara was ok. Her cystogram was good and they removed the Foley catheter, so we are able to catheterize her as we did before the surgery. The only difference now is that we need to irrigate her bladder twice a day so we need to use a larger size catheter. Lara is happy to be rid of her "tubes".

I made orders to Fedco Seeds, Organic Growers Supply and Totally Tomatoes today. I am going to make my own pest control mix this year using Garlic Barrier and crushed hot peppers. Since none of the deer repellents I used last year worked, I might as well try an organic mix of my own!

I sent off my County tree order today. I ordered 25 hickory trees, more elderberries and I got some witch hazel trees. Those don't get too big, are pretty, and are a good medicinal to have around.

That's all for now. Peace in Wisdom Be on Earth and Among All Creatures!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Quick Trip

Today I went to the Post Office in Butternut where there was a demonstration of spinning. My friend, Jane Hansen, invited me to join her spinning group as I am interested in learning how to spin, but I haven't gone to any of the meetings because I don't have any of the paraphenalia for spinning. Anyway, I thought it would be neat to go to this demonstration and see what I need to have in order to get started. I found out that spinning is not a cheap hobby. However, tools once purchased can last forever; I think I will try to get what I need from some auctions, and Dad says there are three spinning wheels somewhere on his or my Uncle Louie's farm and I would like to see if I can find at least one of them to use. It was a fun day. Rose Herbst from Red Barn Farm was the demonstrator. Check out her web site at I plan to buy some wool from her. Now, the other hobby I want to get in to is basket making . . . .

Tomorrow Lara and I are down to Marshfield again. I plan to leave before 7:00 a.m. as the roads are slick.

Did I tell you Tom got a nice doe with his Muzzle Loader gun? He got it right before dark so next morning he went out to look for it and found it out in the swamp just north of our high tunnel. I was sure glad the swamp was froze up. It was pretty easy dragging the deer back to the house. So this year we got two deer. I love cooking venison in the crock pot because the meat gets so tender and it is easy for Lara and Ed to chew.

I got my revised edition of Establishing a Shared-use Commercial Kitchen by Cameron Wold yesterday. (You should have seen the UPS guy looking at the deer blood in the snow as he handed me the package!) My winter reading is certainly cut out for me! I can't wait to sit down and start reading it. Speaking of reading, I just finished A Farmer's Guide to the Bottom Line and Wiring 12 Volts for Ample Power. Both are excellent and I plan to buy a copy of Wiring 12 Volts for Ample Power for myself. It's the first book about electricity (and magnetism) I've read that I can understand.

Well, I have to keep this short as I still have a lot to get done tonight, so I'll catch up with you later. One last note -- I've started working on the 2008 Seed List for next year's garden and will post it as soon as it is complete. Stay safe and warm!

Monday, December 03, 2007

The White Stuff is Here

Well, we had a good snow yesterday and have about 4". It is deeper in the woods, I think. I love the way the balsams look when their boughs are heavy with snow. The roads were slick, however: I had to take Lara down to Marshfield again early to see the doctor. We left about 7 a.m. and got there just in time for our 10:15 a.m. appointment. I was glad I took the truck because it has better traction. Even so, there were a couple of times I felt us lose traction. We saw a wolf cross the road in front of us near Ogema, and the deer were moving. We have to go down to Marshfield again this Friday so I hope the roads are ok again.

Lara's surgery went ok. There was no cancer, thank goodness. and so far the healing is proceeding as expected. I keep thinking about when we first brought Lara home from the hospital after she was born: I was terrified to touch her. I was so afraid; her scar from the surgery to close her spine looked so big. I was scared I would hurt her. She was 1 month old before they let us bring her home, and she was two weeks old before I got to hold her. I was not feeling well either as I had had the C-section after almost 24 hours of hard labor, and I had gained 100 pounds with the pregnancy and had horrible swelling where my feet and ankles would turn blue-black in the evenings and I had trouble breathing. But we had an HMO at the time for insurance and I had crappy prenatal care. My doctor would just pat me on the shoulder and tell me, "You're just pregnant," whenever I asked questions or told him how awful I felt. I cannot understand how he could ignore my swelling. Well, that was a long time ago already. Anyway, taking care of Lara after this bladder augmentation surgery brought back all of these painful memories. Learning the new medical care procedures and changing the dressing around the abdominal tube was unsettling, but now that I am older I knew that I could handle it. Nevertheless, all the caregiving is very trying, and I am tired. Today the doctor removed the 2nd abdominal tube and reinserted the Foley catheter. Friday we will see if the hole in the bladder has healed. I don't know if La will need to keep the Foley permanently or not. It is my understanding that her bladder will need to be irrigated regularly for the rest of her life, but I may be wrong and will find out more on Friday. Que sera, sera.

When we got home I fixed some leftover Turkey A La King for us which filled us up so for supper I pulled a pound cake and strawberries out of the freezer and fixed us Strawberry Shortcake. It was good! Tom was out hunting so I fixed him some of the Senate Bean soup we had last night. He can't have the strawberry syrup, but there is some plain pound cake left for him for dessert. And now the frig is empty of leftovers. Yeah!

I got my first organic seeds for next year's garden already from Seeds of Change. They have different packages. I got some regular heirloom Delicata squash (I didn't care for the Sugar Loaf Delicata I grew last year), more St. Valery carrots, Indian Woman Yellow bush beans, Pawnee shell bush beans, Southport Red Globe onion seed, Queensland Blue winter squash, Lisbon White Bunching Onion seed, Newburg yellow onion seed, America spinach, and Forellenschluss lettuce (I just love this romaine type lettuce!). I have sent an order off to Seed Savers Exchange for more Copenhagen Market Cabbage, Mixed Colors Broom Corn, Early Fortune Cucumber, Chervena Chushka Pepper, Buran Pepper, Jimmy Nardello's Sweet Italian Frying Pepper, King of the North Pepper, Dragon's Tongue bush bean, True Red Cranberry Bean, Scarlet Runner Bean, Genovese Basil, Mrs. Burn's Lemon Basil, Lemon Balm, Spearmint, Rosemary, Wormwood, and something called Bee's Friend that I will plant in the rows here and there. I have sent off an order to Baker Creek for Perkins Long Pod Okra, Scarlet Nantes carrots, big Blue Hubbard squash, sorghum, and I forget what else, and ordered more Stuttgart onion sets as they turned out so well last year, Red Cloud red potatoes and Kennebec white potatoes from Fedco's Moose Tubers section. I am waiting for Fedco's seed catalog to come. My favorite!

This year I will grow all the tomatoes in the high tunnel. I am going to get a couple of 2"x4"s and hooks to make a scaffold and plant most of the tomatoes in hanging grow bags. That way I will use most of my high tunnel space. Pole beans will be in the high tunnel, too. Everything in the field I will try to cover or put a secondary fence around. Tom is going to rent a well digging machine and we are going to get a hand pump and try putting in the field well ourselves. I hope this won't be like hanging wallpaper together! Also have been working on a simple design for a larger coop for the new chickens -- something that is movable but secure from predators. Using 2"x4"s would be desirable, but I think I may go with 2"x2"s to be easier for me to move without help. I haven't decided if I want to keep the chickens by the house under the trees or put them out in the field by the high tunnel in that last undeveloped section, but I am leaning on keeping them under the trees as I believe they will be cooler.

Day before yesterday I cooked up about a bushel and a half of pumpkins for the freezer and put the seeds to soak in salt water overnight. I did burn my face pretty good though by not paying attention to how I took the cover off the steamer to check the pumpkin meat. It was a good thing I was wearing glasses. As it was, I actually burned off the skin on the tip of my nose and sideswiped my left eye. The eye seems to be all right but my nose looks funny. I think it will be ok. Then, yesterday I baked the seeds. They turned out terrific! What a great snack for wintry nights. And they are something low carb that Tom can eat.

When things settle down a bit I will get back to my research on my two-part plan for building the kitchen incubator with the aquaponics set-up. I was not able to get Cameron Wold's book on how to build a kitchen incubator through the library, but I did order the book direct from NxLevel. It was so weird because when I first found the book, the lowest price I could get it for was $199. Then, when I didn't hear from Mark that he had ordered it for me (I thought he might be able to get it for me cheaper with a professional discount) I went back to the web site and lo and behold they had it marked for $75! So, of course, I ordered it. It should be coming any day now, and if I find that Mark has ordered it for me, I'll just pay him for it and we'll keep the book in the incubator's reference library. With all of the aquaponics information I have gleaned and then the kitchen incubator material, I will have plenty of reading material to keep me busy this winter. I have bought a large D-ring notebook and will start working up a marketing plan for the aquaponics set-up with the help of my SBA marketing workbook. This is just like putting together a trial book in a law office or a research report on a legal topic an attorney might use in a case: start at point A and work your way through the topic putting your supporting material where it can easily be looked at. I figure it will take me a good year to put all the information together before I can start looking for funding. I think I could get a lot at least started with $100,000. Maybe there's an Angel out there who would like to help me take our Price Direct group to the next level by funding my project. This area is so economically depressed that any project to improve the economy I think would be welcomed. I know that if I can get an attractive project that has potential to expand and eventually be self-supporting off the ground under the Price Direct banner, people will want to join the effort.

Well, here I am rambling again so I think I will leave off for a while. Talk to you soon.