Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Having Fun

Today Tom and I made pierogis.  Yum!  We always make them together because they are so much work.  We made enough for supper and then froze two bags.  We only made cheese pierogis because they are Tom's favorite.  It took two pounds of ricotta cheese filling and three batches of dough. 

You make the filling:  2 eggs per pound of ricotta cheese; pinch of salt; and a tablespoon of sugar

Then make the dough:  3 cups of flour; a good pinch of salt; three eggs beaten with 1/2 - 3/4 cup cold water; all ingredients mixed well.  Dough should be on the stiff side.  Divide dough into three pieces and knead each piece till smooth.  It helps to let the dough rest about 10 minutes before rolling it out and cutting.

Fill the circles and seal.  You don't have to have a pierogi form, but it does make the work go faster.

Drop the pierogis into boiling water.  When they float to the top they are done; takes about 3-5 minutes.  Drain well and let cool before packing into freezer bags and freezing.  We browned the ones we had for supper tonight in butter and ate them with venison sausage and sauerkraut.  It was a great meal on a cold day!

Here's a picture of my spinning wool and Turkish spindle.  I just love it.

Stay safe and warm, Everybody, and have a wonderful New Year.  Tomorrow I'll be working on next year's garden plan and watching the Three Stooges while sipping a glass of wine . . . .

Now Why Didn't I Think of This?

George Ure had a link to this Huffington Post story on his Urban Survival blog today:
What a great idea!  Sometimes, you just can't see the forest for the trees -- why didn't I think of this?

You can check out your local bank or look for a "safe and sound" bank here: 

Our town has a population of around 450 people.  The people at our 4-star bank know most all their customers by name.  When you walk through the door you always get a smile and, "How are you doing?" 
A couple of years ago there was a rash of bank robberies in Wisconsin, and wouldn't you know it, our little bank thwarted the bank robbers.  The story made newspapers all over the state, and there were plenty of local laughs to go around about "country folk" besting "city slickers".  (Not to mention the fact that it's a BIG mistake to try and steal money from people of German and Eastern European background.)  Think about it:  People in small towns (especially if they're like us) don't take money from the Government; don't borrow money unless you really need to; only lend money to people you know; and should worse come to worse, you know where the banker lives.  Your small community bank has LOTS of incentive to treat you -- and your money -- right.

I'll give you an example.  I happen to be interested in developing a local food network in our area, and earlier this year I was doing research to see if publishing a local food atlas for the 12 northern counties not currently represented in any local food atlas was worth the effort.  I called our bank to see if it would be interested in being a sponsor for the atlas, and I received an enthusiastic, "yes".  Unfortunately,  my data showed the project was not feasible for a number of reasons, but the fact that the bank was instantly willing to entertain sponsorship just goes to show how willing local banks are to encourage economic growth in their respective communities.  I think the video posted above clearly highlights this point.  It also makes me think of the study done in Minnesota a few years back that showed how $1 spent locally increased in value four times as it circulated.  So, yes!  Keep your money local and strengthen your community; don't give it to the big banks.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sound Off and More Great News!

On another web site I came across an interesting link.  It seems the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is seeking input from people about corporate agribusiness and its influence on agriculture and small farmers.  Here's your chance to sound off and give them your two cents worth!

Wow!  Do you remember how I told you I posted some pictures of the chicken skid I built this past Spring on Mother Earth News magazine's C-U Section of its web site?  Well, I received an e-mail from one of the editors who expressed an interest in the skid, so I sent her off a response that told her how I built the skid and my inspiration for it -- Herman Beck-Chenoweth's book Free-Range Poultry Production & Marketing (available from Back40Book).  Well, this morning I got a call from editor, Heidi Hunt, and the story about my free-range chicken skid (scroll down on the right side of this blog to see a picture of it) is going to be in the upcoming April/May issue of Mother Earth News magazine!  It won't be a "feature" story, but a blip in the Country Lore section with a link on the Mother Earth News web site to the picture album in the C-U Section.  Still, I'm very proud that a magazine like MEN thought that something a beginning farmer like me was doing was worth a mention by them.  It sure gives me encouragement to keep going!  BTW, links to both Mother Earth News magazine and Back40Books are on the right hand side of this blog under the "Useful and Favorite Links" section.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Snowing and Blowing

Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents -- the day that commemorates the Bible story of the murder of baby boys under 2 years of age by King Herod.  It also happens to be my sister's ( Mary) birthday.  So, I decided to brave the icy roads and blowing snow and go to town to visit her a while because she always takes her birthday off from work.  Well guess what?  Yep, She decided to go into work and I wound up leaving her birthday gift by her back door.  I bought her a Yankee candle, the Christmas Wreath scent.  While I was in town I took Tom's Muck Boots that I bought him for Christmas over the the UPS center in the Pamida store to send them off for exchange because they were too tight on him and he wanted a larger size.  All in all, it was a quick trip.  The roads were very icy and I had to have the 4-wheel drive on in the truck the whole way.  Snow devils on the wind abounded.  Darn!  I wanted to visit Mary a while and drink a cup or two of tea.

While I was in town Tom said six big wild turkeys wandered through the front yard.  I told him he should have grabbed the camera and taken a couple of pictures of them for the blog.  He didn't think of it.  He said they flew up into a tree on the far side of the chicken coop when he and the dog went outside to look at them.  I figure they were probably looking for the corn I toss to the chickens.

I started practising spinning on my new Turkish Spindle.  I really like it.  Of course, I have to go slow and my yarn is, well, not exactly uniform, but it sure is fun.  At first I was really uptight because I kept breaking the fibers and the yarn size was either really thin or chunky, but I just unwound what I thought was too poor a quality and pulled it apart to re-spin.  I'm getting more comfortable at feeding the wool into the twist. My wool is a lovely natural gray -- I prefer natural colors.  I hope I wind up with enough yarn to knit a sweater.  Tom bought it from Red Barn Farm, a local farm here in Butternut that sells spinning supplies.  Here's the link:

Tom and I are planning New Year's dinner.  We will have ham with biscuits, sweet potatoes and green bean casserole.  And I will make pineapple upside down cake for dessert.  I always make pineapple upside down cake for New Year's because Tom's father's birthday was January 2, and that was his favorite cake.  You know, one of those family traditions that keeps memories of loved ones long dead alive.    I think the holidays are hard for Tom because he is the last one of his family left.  I know it would be hard for me if the situation was reversed. 

Well, the Bears are playing Minnesota, so I'll let you go.  May you all be safe and warm and enjoy the Season!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

That Twilight Zone Time

This is the time of year that I really look to for getting some rest.   I like to indulge my creative inclinations now and explore new ways of handicrafting.  It is so relaxing!  While I craft I envision my garden for the coming year and picture myself accomplishing everything I want to do. When I'm happy with what I see in my head, I write it all down and try to set up a time table for achieving the goals.  Of course, it never actually works out the way it's laid out on paper, but some things do manage to get done. 

For Christmas Tom bought me a drop spindle and some wool to spin.  Learning to spin is something I've wanted to learn how to do for many years.  I hope it isn't too difficult.  It will be nice to look out the window at the snow and just be able to stay inside and spin.  And the seed catalogs are still coming, too. They will be pleasant to browse through while enjoying a cup of hot coffee or cocoa and maybe a couple of Christmas cookies. 

This is the still time of year.  That Twilight Zone time when you are neither here nor there and the veil between the worlds is thinnest and you may or may not hear advice whispered on the wind or in night shadows.  A time of rest and renewal.  A time of peace.  Oh, blessed Peace!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Northwoods Christmas

As promised, here's the link to my 3rd place winning Christmas Memories contest story.  It was in today's issue of The Country Today newspaper.  Hope you like it.

I'd like to take this opportunity to send every one of you who reads this blog my best wishes for a happy holiday season no matter what your beliefs may be, and that all of you are showered with blessings in this coming year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Party

Last night was the Special Olympics Christmas party.  It was held at Northern Pines Resort in Butternut.  There was great food, and everybody bought cakes and holiday cookies for dessert.  The company Jukebox Hero provided karaoke entertainment for the evening, and we all had a great time.  I actually got up and sang two songs:  Hank Williams' verson of "Kaw-Liga" and Simon and Garfunkles' "Last Night I Had  The Strangest Dream."  Jerry Smart dressed up like Santa Claus, and I brought my camera and took lots of pictures.  I'm going to have to re-read the instruction book though because most of the pictures  are coming out fuzzy and I think the problem is with me; I'm probably not doing something right.

This is Jerry (Santa) with Lara and Ed.

The Erba family:  Kat, Vicky, Tony and Nino

Kay and Jerry Smart with Roz and Mike Gelina, and Sharon, a respite worker who works with Annelise. 

Linda and Bill Dayton with Chris Olson, one of our Special Olympians

Ed and Lara with Annelise and Amy

Our Wisconsin Special Olympics
Northwoods 3-13 athletes (front to back): Lara Paski, Annelise White, Amy Hannemann, Ed Paski, Chris Olson, and Antonino Erba (blue shirt).  Not shown are Justin  Baker and Jonathan Dayton.

My Own True Love and Yours Truly

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sewing and Seeds

It was cold and snowy again today, and I was content to stay inside and do some mending.  It took me most of the day to put a new jacket zipper in Tom's winter jacket, but the project went quicker than I thought it would.  I hand sewed the zipper in place with a double threaded needle, but I will pull out the sewing machine tomorrow and reinforce the seams.   Maybe next week I'll replace the zipper in my jacket -- it's shot, too.  The coat I wear is one I bought for my mother a long time ago.  After she died the coat came back to me.  It was originally a fuschia color, but when she was little, Soldier Girl hated it and used to tell me that I "looked like a pink Kirby" (whatever that is) in it, so I dyed the coat navy blue so she would stop nagging me.  Only the outer shell took the dye, however, so the coat really looks pathetic now with blue on the outside and mottled blue/fuschia on the flowered print lining.  I just had to mend one of the pockets on it that I caught and tore on a nail, too.  I keep telling myself to give it away, but I just can't let go of it.  It's a really good coat.  I can take the lining out to make the coat wearable in less cold weather; I can wear the lining as a short jacket; I can remove the lining's sleeves and wear the shell as a vest.  And it's washable.  It's really a nice coat.  I have worn it in temps as low as -65F (yes, Chicago where we used to live really has gotten that cold!) and been warm as toast.  Now that I think of it, that coat is going to have to fall apart before I get rid of it.

I'm having a lot of fun looking at the seed catalogs.  I have noticed, however, there is less of a selection in many of them.  I will order some seeds this year from  That will be a new company for me so I'll let you know how their service is.  I printed out the order form from Horizon Herbs and will sit down a while with that and work out my medicine wheel garden layout.  I can't wait to have a good medicinal herb garden growing.  I have been looking forward for some time to being able to make my own medicines. 

I almost forgot to tell you my even better news!  Mr. Massey from The Country Today  newspaper called again yesterday morning and told me that they had to disqualify their original 3rd place winner in the Christmas Memories contest so my story was moved up to 3rd place, and that means I also win $25.00.  Wow!  That will buy some seeds. 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Tales and Wish Lists

Had some great news yesterday!  I received a telephone call from Jim Massey at The Country Today newspaper.  He called to let me know that the Christmas Memories Contest story that I submitted to the paper won Honorable Mention and will be published.  I was so excited by the news that I forgot to ask which upcoming issue it will be in, but that's no matter.  It will either be next week or the week after.  The name of the story is "Northwoods Christmas".   I was so surprised that anybody liked the story and I had no idea it would do so well in the contest.  Mr. Massy encouraged me to submit more writings to the paper and he said I could write.  Wow!  The first thing I thought of was tieing a ribbon around the issue of the paper that the story runs in and giving it to my Dad for a gift -- I didn't tell anyone in the family I was submitting a story.  (Have to tell Dad not to chuck it in the woodstove without reading it LOL.)  If there is an online link to the story after it is published, I'll try to post it here.

It is still really cold here.  I put down some more wood chips in the coop for the chickens who all seem to be doing all right.  The hens wait for me to bring in the warm water for them in the mornings.  I have found that it is easier to scrape down the roosts when the temps are around 20F or better.  I keep the coop door open for the chickens to go outside during the day, but they don't like going out in the snow even though I have shoveled a little area for them in front of the door for them to run on.  I toss some oats and corn for them to scratch there.  It got down to -25F the other night and I was afraid I might lose a couple of them, but it seems my idea of slightly overcrowding the coop to utilize body heat for coop warmth is working well.  I have also shoveled snow up against the coop walls and on top of the leaf bags for additional insulation.  So far so good.

Checked out the egg refrigerator after that -0F cold spell and had to throw out half the eggs because they froze.  Tom said the refrigerator isn't running right because the eggs should not have frozen, but I don't think running a frig in an unheated garage makes for good appliance running conditions.  Just makes me mentally add a commercial refrigeration unit to my monthly new moon wish list.  Do you know about making a new moon wish list?  The new moon of each month is a very good time to make wishes.  On the day of the new moon, sit down and make a short and simple wish list -- less than 10 items.  Then, stick the list on the front of the frig or somewhere you will see it regularly, and visually image yourself receiving what you wished for as the month goes on.  Draw a line through the items as you receive them and send out a blessing to anyone in need.  You might be surprised at how quickly some of those wishes get fulfilled.  Of course, you're not going to receive everything (I'm still wishing for a winning Powerball ticket LOL), but making the list is a good exercise in mentally focusing on goal achievement.

I took a sneak peak at the 2010 St. Lawrence Nursery catalog and by the time I finished penciling my wish list, the dollar amount was over $300.  Ooops!  Maybe it will be better if I make smaller purchases each month instead of all at once.  I want to add some pears -- I'm not picky here so I'll get the $64 dollar package that consists of 4 trees.  Then come more apple trees -- two Golden Russet (cider) and Honeycrisp (fresh eating and farmers market), and one Northwest Greening (great pie apple) -- $20 each tree.  I need a couple of replacement elderberry bushes ($38 for 8).  Rugosa Rose bushes are $55 for 10 bushes; same for Sumac bushes.  And lastly I'd like to try planting some Seaberry bushes ($25 at $5 each).  Last year I neglected the whole orchard area so this year I plan to get out there early and make it look good.  I would sure like to put a bee hive out there, but that will have to wait.

Well, I'm making apple dumplings for supper so have to get going, but I did want to put up a picture of Lara when she helped me make Christmas cookies (they are going fast!).  She had a good time grinding the nuts in my antique nut chopper.  She had some difficulty turning the crank because she only has limited use of one arm, and she doesn't have much strength, but she did manage to chop 1/2 cup for me, which was all I needed. 


Monday, December 14, 2009

Whiling Away the Hours

I have to admit I'm using the cold weather as an excuse not to do anything outside.  Of course, there isn't much I can do now that the ground is frozen and there is some fair snow cover, but I think I should be more industrious.  I could always cut more fence posts.  I did make some nice Christmas cookies:  gingerbread men, kolaches, plain oatmeal cookies and some with raisins, plain sugar cookies, Reese's chocolate fudge peanut butter cookies, and fudge with peanut butter and nuts.  I will have to put some cookies on the side to be sure we have some to take on the 21st to the Special Olympics Christmas party.  I have been working on knitting hats and mittens with scrap yarn, too.  I am nearly finished with a second pair of mittens.  As usual, I'm looking for a specific hat pattern and can't find it.  Ugh!

Yesterday the weather warmed to around 20F so I took the opportunity to run to Fifield and get some chicken supplies from Bernie.  Then, since he is located right off Highway 70 on Highway 13, I took Highway 70 East over to County Road D and checked out the new Goodwill store that had its grand opening in Lac Du Flambeau.  (I won't be going back.)  Then, it took me a good hour to unload the truck and carry all the chicken supplies to the coop and put them away.  Good exercise!   I spread new wood chips down for the chickens and filled the nests with new chips.  The coop is pretty cozy.  Some of the roosters got frost bite on their combs from the below zero cold we had a few nights ago, but otherwise all the chickens are ok and seem to be acclimated to the cold now.  I bring them warm water every morning and give them some extra corn and oats.  The oats especially give them higher carbs to help their metabolism keep them warm.  They aren't too keen on going outside the coop, but I do open the door for them.  They like to congregate in the open doorway and are content to look outside. 

I will have to go through the egg refrigerator and cull any eggs that have frozen.  I wish I could put the refrigerator inside the house, but there just isn't any room for it.  I have more eggs to wash, too.  I am still getting about a dozen eggs a day so the ladies must be happy.   In January I will call our DATCP (Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Department) and find out about getting an egg license so I can sell them at the farmers market and to grocery stores or restaurants. 

I am enjoying looking at the seed catalogs as they come in.  Around February 10th we get back to 10 hours of daylight and I will start onion and leek seeds then.  One of the things I can do is go through my seed bin and see what I have left.  I planted most of my squash and pumpkin seeds last year and got no harvest so I will  have to buy more of those seeds.  For sure I want to get a solid medicinal garden growing and will need to get some more seeds since the chickens devoured all my herbs last year.  I will put the herbs in the hops section out in the field next year.  I think they will look pretty there.  Horizon Herbs is the best place for herb seeds, plants and roots in my opinion.  Everything they sell is certified organic and the quality is simply excellent.  It's always fun to plan the garden. 

Well, that's about all for now.  Take care!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Christmas Shopping

The last few days have been exhausting.  At least my Christmas shopping (for the most part) is finished.  And I never left the house!  I have our soldier girl and my Dad left to buy something for.  Dad is easy -- all he ever wants is pipe tobacco.  He counts the cans he gets from me and my sisters and squirrels them away in his cupboard.  He knows exactly how many pipes he gets out of each can and figures out how much he can smoke until his birthday comes and he receives more tobacco.  We also give him tobacco on Father's Day. So between my sisters and I, Dad generally is kept in Half and Half pipe tobacco heaven for the full year.  Soldier girl is the hard one to buy for.  I suppose Tom and I will make it easy on ourselves and just send her money. But at least the gift shopping is mostly taken care of.  I thought very hard about what gifts to buy.  Mostly I bought necessities -- food and clothing.  Next was how-to books.  Lastly, for entertainment I bought some DVDs.  To say the least, this is a very frugal Christmas for us. 

This Christmas I am very mindful of the suffering of the many Americans who have lost their jobs, homes, health care.  Those whose lives are in ruins and have been displaced because of the economy or weather related disasters.  On my Net roaming I came across this video:

Pretty grim, and from what I've been reading, the worst is yet to come.  We probably won't see the bottom until March of next year at the earliest.

No one person can dry America's tears, but each one of us can do something to help.  Drop a coin in the Salvation Army bucket; buy a bottle of eye wash or hand lotion for a donation box going overseas to soldiers; give a food item to your local food pantry.  Or do what I am doing and knit warm hats and mittens for needy children.  Whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do unto Me.  Let your heart lead you. There is always a need somewhere in your neighborhood that you can fill, so rise and let your Light shine this Christmas -- and always.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


I just can't believe it's December already.  I must be the queen of missing time because hardly anything seemed to get done this year.  Still, small accomplishments do build up (like soil) and eventually the bigger picture becomes visible, so I will just have to wait a while to see the results of my efforts!  Astrologically, this coming year is another year where most of my planets reside in cadent houses, and that means another year of basically educating myself, working on my infrastructure, and preparing for more active times in 2011 when my current efforts will be tested for soundness.   Challenges I can deal with (I have Aries rising and a Scorpio sun); it's the detailed prep work that frustrates me (Aquarius moon). 

Tom went to town and bought a Christmas tree.  (We have all kinds of trees in our woods and he had to go and buy one!)  But I have to admit it is gorgeous.  Eddy and I put it up this afternoon.  Isn't it pretty?  In the early '90s I collected Hallmark ornaments and I love hanging my Folk Art Angel and Santa, my silver Victorian ornaments, and my Star Trek Enterprise NCC-1701.  Christmas tree ornaments tend to accumulate meaning as the years pass:  the ornaments the children made at school in certain years; this one came from so and so; what happened in life the year this ornament came to you -- that sort of thing.  And, of course, ornaments get broken and glued or parts are lost forever, but you still still hang them up because they are your ornaments.  It always takes me a long time to decorate the tree because of all my side trips down memory lane. 

We've finally gotten a little bit of snow here.  Certainly not enough for any snowmobiling (the trails opened today) and that doesn't bode well for the businesses that cater to the snowmobiling crowd.  Also not doing well are the businesses that cater to hunters because the hunting is almost non-existent -- there's hardly a deer to be found.  Tom has caught a few on his deer cam but always at like 2 a.m., and he's seen buck sign, but when you go outside, there's no rifle sound and the woods are still.   Here's a shot of the moon from last night; maybe because it is almost full, it will give the hunters some luck.

Well, for those of you who follow the good folks at Half Past Human, here's a heads up that the latest issue of The Shape of Things to Come will be coming out December 6 (by the way that happens to be the Feast of St. Nicholas -- Little Christmas as my family calls it).  You can reach HPH from this blog through the link I have posted on the right hand side of this page under my Favorite Web Sites and Useful Information section. 

Tomorrow is Special Olympics again.  Lara's paperwork finally came back so she is officially an athlete now.  She was happy when I told her that.

Well, it's getting late.  Take care and Be Good -- we don't want to deserve any coal in our Christmas stockings now!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Winding Down

Still plugging along here.  I should have been outside more the past couple of days, but I just wasn't up to it.  I'm steering into winter mode and spent time with my books down in the basement.  I found my favorite crochet lace bookmark pattern from a 1990 issue of Annie's Attic and sat down and made a bookmark.  Then I perused my copy of Herb Mixtures & Spicy Blends by Maggie Oster that filled me with all sorts of warm ideas.  I'm looking forward to getting out my craft supplies and building up my craft inventory for selling at the farmers market next year.  I am really going to try to be more focused and business minded.  I recognize that this is my problem -- I'm an artist at heart, not a business person.  It's really difficult for me to deal with the numbers, but I am certain I can learn.

Today I worked at picking up more brush on the east side of the front yard and started building a brush fence -- another idea from one of my fence books.  Should look pretty good when it's a bit higher.  Then I helped Tom with the bathroom toilet.  We've been having a horrible time with the main floor toilet acting like it's plugged up, so Tom went to the hardware store and bought a new wax ring, and we took the toilet off the pipe and checked out the situation.  Thankfully, it was just a bad mineral build up that was quickly corrected.  (I was glad I decided not to wash the bathroom floor yesterday.)  After the toilet was re-installed, I bleached down the whole bathroom; that's one less thing to do before Thanksgiving.

I finally pulled my seven pound bag of cranberries out of the freezer, made cranberry sauce and canned it.  This year I ran the berries through the food mill to screen out the skins and fed them to the chickens.  They really liked them.  I kept one jar in the fridge -- I love homemade cranberry sauce. 

My young cousin, Ivan, stopped by tonight for a visit.  He is staying by Dad and plans to go hunting tomorrow.  Tom is going to go out, too.  It's too bad there aren't many deer.  Tom was lucky to get the little buck he did get, but I would sure like some more meat in the freezer.  We've hardly seen any deer this year.

Wednesday we missed Special Olympics as Lara, Ed and I went to the dentist.  Thankfully everyone had good checkups.  On the way home as we were driving by the field, I noticed that there were several trees down at the north end of the field.  Tom went out after supper to check it out and came back saying that the beaver is back in business.  Well, beavers have to eat, too.  I will hate trapping him if we start getting flooded; I'm rather fond of that persistent critter.

For Thanksgiving dinner we are going to go by Dad.  My sister, Mary, and her crew (whoever makes it back home, that is) is coming, too.  That will be alot of fun.  I will bring candied sweet potatoes, cornbread stuffing -- just a little as Tom and most everybody else likes regular bread stuffing -- deviled eggs, cranberry sauce, and maybe a pie or two. Tom is going to make dinner roll dough in the bread machine.  Dad likes to make the turkey, and he usually bakes a pumpkin pie that he gets from the Schwan's truck.  Mary is going to bring a load of food, too, and I am sure everyone will be happy.  Times like these remind people of the importance of family.  Did you notice how each of us is contributing to the dinner?  A family feast doesn't have to break the bank when people work together. 

Well, it's getting late so I'll leave off for now.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

That Little Voice

Odd occurrences of late are starting to pile up.  Do you remember me telling you about the unmarked white helicopter that hovered over our house a while back?  Well, even earlier this year I received an agricultural survey from our the State of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection that wanted to know all sorts of details about my farm.  Now, just last year (or maybe the year before -- I can't recall exactly) I received a FEDERAL so-called Ag Census that I HAD to fill out under THREATEN OF FINE and return,  and I was really pissed off about that.  And since I am not viewing ANYTHING from ANY government with favor lately, I threw the state survey in the trash and forgot about it until yesterday.  That was when I received a TELEPHONE CALL from DATCP about where was the survey, and oh, so friendly, the survey questions were asked even though I politely and succinctly told the inquisitioner what I thought of government.  I suppose I honestly would have shrugged the whole thing off except for an instant during the conversation when the inquisitioner mentioned "78 acres".  Now, 78 acres is approximately the number of acres I own.  I did NOT give the inquisitioner that information so she had to be looking at information about my farm that had already been compiled.  THAT raised the hair on the back of my neck and set off alarm bells.  I seriously believe that SOMETHING, folks, IS BEING PLANNED BY THE GOVERNMENT FOR THOSE OF US WHO FARM, and I will wager that whatever it is, it is NOT going to be in our favor.  On one of the forums I frequent another farmer mentioned having a similar experience.   Keep your eyes and ears open, and post your experiences on the Internet to alert others as to what is happening to you.  Maybe we can figure out what the plan is.  I don't know if this is happening just in Wisconsin, or if it is nation wide.  I only know that I have a very bad feeling about this.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

About Making and Canning Sauerkraut

Some people are asking me where is the Part II  for my Making Sauerkraut in a Crock post.  If you scroll down the right hand side of this blog you will find a "Special Links on This Blog" heading.  Under that heading you will see "Making Sauerkraut in a Crock Part I" and "Canning Sauerkraut in a Pressure Canner PART II".  Canning Sauerkraut in a Pressure Canner IS THE FOLLOW UP POST to Making Sauerkraut in a Crock. Hope this clears up any confusion that may be out there. 

Monday, November 09, 2009

Indian Summer

I got a lot done today.  I picked up the last two big logs out front and put them on my pole pile.  Then I started working on the chicken coop.  I actually finished shoveling it out and laying down clean wood shavings by supper time.  I put the bedding in the garden boxes, around the blackberries, and around the rhubarb.  The chickens were very nosy about what I was doing inside the coop and were under my feet most of the time.  I opened the coop window and aired it out well -- I needed to after I took the broom and swept all the cobwebs from the rafters.  Talk about dusty!  The new wood shavings on the floor and in the nest boxes smell great.  I get a lot of pleasure from having a clean chicken coop.  I am going to go through my fabric bin and make a nice curtain to hang in front of the nest boxes, and a dark thermal one to hang over the big window to act as a solar curtain.  I read about solar curtains in a little book about easy solar projects I bought from Knowledge Publications called Sunshine to Dollars.  The coop should stay nice and warm this winter now that I have the leaf bags stacked up around the outside, too.  The bags don't go all the way up the outside walls -- just half-way -- but I think what is there is enough of a wind barrier and insulation.  I was hoping to get the last of the garlic, potato onions and shallots planted, but I finished with the chicken coop too late.  Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow -- is another day.  Thanks Goodness for Indian Summer!

I wandered around the dashboard and discovered that missing Followers is an outstanding issue that Google is working on so I will try to be patient.  I did have Friend Connect working briefly, but I saw that it, too, was missing when I logged on, so I deleted it and put the Followers widget back on. I hope they fix the bug soon.

Working outside feels so good.  I will miss the outdoors when the deep snows come.

Sunday, November 08, 2009


Well, I'm not sure what I did, but I finally got my Followers back.  I did have to delete the original widget and go with the Google Connect, but I guess you periodically have to upgrade widgets the same as Microsoft forces you to upgrade your version of Windows -- regardless of your wishes. 

It was a slow day.  In fact, after lunch I actually took a long nap; must have needed it.  I'm glad I missed the Chicago Bears losing another game. 

I've been reading Sharon Astyk's new book, A Nation of Farmers.  I really like it; it's thought provoking and not preachy.  When peak oil books get preachy, they lose me.  I've read a couple of books about building communities post oil collapse where the models were based in the UK and I couldn't even finish reading them because I got sick of the "degenerate Americans" slant. 

There is a part in Sharon's book that discusses how little Americans cook their food that I found particularly interesting.  I was shocked at the statistics, probably because I have always cooked and can't imagine people not cooking.  Maybe cooking is something you have to learn from parental example; I don't know.  My parents were children of the first Great Depression.  My father was raised on a farm, and while they were poor, they fared better than my mother did.  She was born in rural Louisiana and she often went hungry.   I believe that early experience of my  mother colored her perception of food.  She was always very concerned that there be "enough" food in the house.  Food and cooking were very important to her.  When she passed away from complications of diabetes the picture we put of her on remembrance cards was of her smiling as she basted a turkey.  When I was 17 and started dating, she took me into the kitchen and taught me how to fry chicken; she said it was the only thing I needed to know how to cook.  (She was right!)  From my mother I learned that cooking was a skill integral to keeping a home and raising children. 

Over the years I have refined my ability to cook from scratch.  When my husband and I bought our first house, we built garden boxes for veggies and herbs in the back yard and planted elderberries, raspberries, gooseberries, and rhubarb as landscape plants around the fence line.  It took me 20 years, but by the time we sold the house, the garden was just beautiful, and my gardening skills and food preservation skills were almost second nature.  The freezer was always filled with venison my husband hunted or beef and chicken I bought from the butcher (it's hard to find a good butcher in the city, but not impossible), and I had shelf upon shelf of home canned fruit and beans.  I canned and prepared food for the week on weekends.  I never had a hard time cooking from scratch.  My husband and I worked full time -- he worked nights while I worked days -- and we raised three children, two of which were severely handicapped, and we always had the time to cook from scratch.  I think Tom likes cooking better than I do; I'm more of a baker than a cook.  It isn't difficult.  I think people who don't cook are just lazy; they don't want to make the effort to plan their meals. 

Sharon's points about the pros of cooking from scratch are well taken.  Many times I had teachers ask me what I did because my children, despite their handicaps, were hardly ever sick compared with their peers.  I believe it was because we cooked our food from scratch using wholesome ingredients.  We did not fill our kids with preservative laden garbage.  Anyway, the book is a good one, and I recommend you read it.

Take care, and have a good week!

Tidbits and Dumplings vs. Mashed Potatoes

Well, I'm really getting frustrated with not being able to fix my Followers widget here on the blog.  I did try to use Google Connect, but that showed up as a blank, too, and so I deleted it.  I am not too keen on Facebook take-offs anyway, especially as I really don't like Facebook.  I have a Facebook account but just can't seem to get into the "social networking".  Maybe I'm more of a hermit than I think I am.  I am glad I was able to upload and embed the bowling ramp video though.

I've been working hard to finish raking up the leaves and picking up brush in the "fire safe zone" around the house while the weather holds.  Indian Summer kicked in today with temps in the 50's F.  I didn't even need a sweater to work outside.  I almost got to where I could work on the garden boxes in back of the house, but Tom decided he wanted to go to the American Legion fund raising dinner so I had to put off the garden boxes till tomorrow.  I sure hope I can finish all the field work.

The dinner was GREAT.  There was a steady stream of people either coming in to eat or taking out orders.  There was sauerkraut, dumplings, gravy, pork tenderloin, biscuits, and choice of chocolate brownie or pumpkin tort for dessert -- all served family style and all you could eat.  You should have seen the kids chow down.  I was flabbergasted at Lara, and even Ed didn't need much prodding.  What was even better though was that Tom had gone to the Legion Hall yesterday and made the dumplings with a bunch of the guys.  It was a nice outing.  This dinner was the Hall's biggest fund raiser event for the year.  The Hall doesn't have a handicap entrance, but we were able to get Lara's wheelchair down into the basement eating area ok as it was only about three steps.  The competition between the Butternut and Park Falls Legion Halls was funny, as well:  Each Hall placed an ad in the newspaper right next to each other.  Butternut bragged that they were "all you could eat" and had "dumplings", while Park Falls served "plates" and "mashed potatoes".  The argument was that you can eat mashed potatoes any day, but dumplings were "special"! LOL.

Have you seen the documentary, Food, Inc., that just came out on DVD?  It was good; I actually thought it would have more bite to it, but it is worth watching, if you get a chance to see it. 

Be safe!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A Nice Surprise

When we went to Special Olympics bowling this past Wednesday we got a nice surprise -- The Salvation Army is going to buy the bowling ramp we need in order for Lara to be able to bowl with the other athletes.  Feit's Lanes has agreed to keep the bowling ramp there for us.  Lara was SO happy!  The coaches have already received training on how to assist her while using the ramp.  The announcement was a surprise for Lara:

Well that was a wish that quickly came true!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Another Year

My favorite cake is German Chocolate, and most years I only make it on my birthday -- that would be today :D.  The recipe is from Meta Givens Encyclopedia of Cooking which is my favorite cookbook set.  I was glad I took this picture after I frosted it yesterday because today there already isn't much of it left!  The weather is gray and damp but my heart is warmed from the cards and gifts I've received from friends and family, and even though gifts are not important, I do appreciate them.  Thank you!  (Now I think I'll settle down and read some of Carla Emery's book, The Encyclopedia of Country Living that My Own True Love gave me this morning -- and have a piece of cake. . . .

Monday, November 02, 2009

Is It Really November?

I can't believe how fast this year is flying.  There is so much work I want to do and it seems as if there just aren't enough hours in the day to get it all done.  Today, I worked in the front yard raking leaves.  I managed to get half of it raked into piles, and some of it put on the compost pile, but now it is supposed to rain-snow tomorrow and  I don't know if I'll get back to it.  At least the chickens had fun scratching the ground behind me. 

The other day Tom took me for a walk in the woods to show me where he found another chaga growing, and I noticed then how many broken tree branches there were laying around.  I told him all we need to do for firewood next year is drag out the fallen wood.  I was surprised how much damage an early snow could cause when the trees still had their leaves. 

Tonight Lara, Ed and I finished up the Halloween candy and our Harry Potter Butter Beer -- 2 liters of good cream soda with 1 cup of Butterscotch Schnaps.  While we don't get any trick-or-treaters out here in the woods, we always have some Halloween fun.   

Well, I think I'll hit the sack early tonight.  Talk to you soon!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Sometimes, if you're lucky, someone says something to you that, as a parent, you hope that you will hear one day from at least one of your children, but seldom do.  I was lucky to hear such a thing.  And so, Madison, this post is for you.  THANK YOU!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Back To Work

Yesterday and today the weather cooperated enough to let us get more of the outside work done.  Yesterday I raked leaves and bagged them, and started stacking the bags against the north side of the chicken coop.  I only managed to get 17 bags done.  Holy Cow!  I have a long way to go.  I sure didn't think this job would take so long to complete.  Fortunately, I have a whole big box of heavy duty trash bags so work will proceed as long as the weather favors me, and my chickipoos will have a snug coop for the winter.  My goal is to get all the leaves raked and debris picked up within 100' of the house to secure my fire safety zone.  Today, Tom, Ed and I worked out in the field.  Tom turned over the two big garden sections while Ed and I cleaned out the high tunnel.  I planted oats in the high tunnel and on one garden section; there was enough vegetative matter on the second garden section Tom turned over that I'll let it decompose without additional planting so I shouldn't have too much trouble next Spring turning the ground over again.  It sure would be nice to have a bigger tractor with a disc.  And a rake.  And haying equipment . . . . 

My sister, Mary, called today and asked me if I wanted her old windows and front door since she had new ones installed.  Great!  I told her that I surely would take them.  It would be great to scrounge enough materials to build a regular greenhouse.  I could even use something like that as a dedicated brooder. 

I got really tiffed today.  For the last week or so a mysterious white helicopter with no markings has been flying over our neighborhood.  This morning it actually hovered for a couple of minutes right over our house just above the tree tops.  I heard it, but at the time I was busy getting Ed out of bed; it was Tom who saw it as he was driving home from doing some grocery shopping in town.  They flew off as he neared the driveway.  I want to find out who those people are, and I want to complain.  That really makes me mad.  I'm quite sure the chickens were freaking out at the giant "hawk".  I want to swear, but I'll take deep breaths instead!  I put new batteries in the camera and should I hear that thing again I'm going to get pictures of it. 

Seeing red reminds me that I have one last bag of tomatoes in the basement that needs to be checked for ripeness.  I'm sure they're ready to process.  These are bigger tomatoes and I think I'll just stew them.

Tomorrow is Special Olympics bowling again.  We are having a short Halloween party for the kids afterwards.  Lara can't wait to go; she loves parties -- and candy. 

That's it for today.  Take care!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Stuff That Glitters

Radio reception where I live is pretty lousy so I like to roam the Internet and search for radio shows to listen to, or surf YouTube for short videos to watch.  On Fridays I like to listen to the Zeta Talk show on The Micro Effect.   I hardly ever get to really listen to it because it comes on at our supper time, but I still try to tune in.  Anyway, on that radio station I happened to catch part of a new show called The Remedy.  (I don't know if it really is a new show on The Micro Effect; I only just noticed it.) As a person very interested in alternative medicine and natural health practices, this show really grabbed my attention.  I hopped into the chat room to get involved in the discussion with the show host, but wouldn't you know it, I got a phone call that took me away and I missed the rest of the show.  The next day I located the host's web site and wound up migrating to his YouTube site where I spent almost the entire day absorbed in watching his fascinating videos about making natural remedies.  This guy, Tony P., is a real treat to watch.  He is very down to earth and his instructions are easy to follow.  I thought I would post one of his two-part videos here for you to see what I mean:

I equate surfing the Internet with gold mining, and the web sites I uncover are my gold strikes.  It certainly is fun on dreary days -- like today when the Chicago Bears are getting clobbered . . . .  Some times I positively feel like a billionaire from the knowledge I mine -- and it sure helps to forget about the Bears. 

We had a good 3" of snow that happily is now melting, but the damp is miserable.  The chickens like staying in the coop.  I will have to buy them some more feed this week.  Too bad the green grasses will soon be gone and they will be dependent on mash.  I have a bag of oats and will start adding some to their feed now because the oats give them more carbs to better weather the cold.  I will be happy when this snow melts (and I think it will) so I can finish bagging the leaves up and stacking them around the coop for additional insulation.  And, there is still the rest of the garden work I need to do.

Well, I have to collect eggs again.  See you later!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Taking It Easy

I should be outside working but I have to admit I'm more inclined to indulge my comfort zone today.  Besides, the temps are in the 30'sF and it's gone from snow to rain and expected to go back to snow later tonight with 2-5" inches expected depending on where you live.  Even my chickipoos are staying inside the coop -- except for one crazy hen who stands sentry and starts cackling madly whenever she sees a squirrel move.  Hmmm, what else can I use for an excuse -- oh, yeah, I butchered another 4 roosters yesterday and canned a couple of quarts of chicken broth I made from the carcasses, and my back hurts.  In fact, last night my back hurt so bad I got out the Conair Family Fitness Touch 'n Tone Plus with Infrared Heat (I just call it "the vibrator") and used the deep muscle attachment on my cramping back muscles to keep me from writhing on the floor in agony.  I'm going to have to work on building some kind of butchering table that is tall enough for me to work at comfortably.  (I bought that Conair massager years ago to use on our Ed (he's autistic) to calm him down when his behavior started getting out of hand.  I don't know why it worked to calm him, but there were sure times it saved my sanity.  It still puts him in la-la land.)

Anyway, today I had to go in to town to give some blood for my doctor who is monitoring me on my diet, and wouldn't you know there was a book sale in the clinic lobby -- book sales are one of my admitted weaknesses -- and, of course, I had to rummage after I got stuck.  (First, the diet could be going better -- bad, bad Joyce!-- and second, it only took two times for the girl to get the blood she needed. Hurray!)  I bought two neat, royalty free graphic books with CD's that I can use when I get around to setting up a farm newsletter, and I couldn't resist buying a cook book with over 600 ribbon winning recipes from county fairs all over the country.  Lara and I love to talk recipes, and we're slowly making up a simple menu for when we build our dedicated farm stand that will have a small cafe/shop area and commercial kitchen.  We will have some good times discussing some of this book's recipes.

Potato pancakes are on the menu tonight for supper.  They are always a nice supper on a cold day.  I like mine topped with applesauce, while Tom and Ed like theirs with sour cream or maple syrup.  La says she is tired of potato pancakes, but said she'll try one topped with apricot preserves.  So, everyone will be happy!

There is good news for our Northwoods Special Olympics kids:  the girls came in 1st place and the boys came in 2nd place in the regional games that were held in Duluth, MN last week, and now they will be traveling to Wausau, WI for the state games.   Congratulations and good luck to them at state!  Thanks to Feit's Bowling Alley for letting us bowl there, and thanks to the Park Falls Lions Club for sponsoring our group.  BTW, if anyone would like to donate to our Special Olympics chapter, we can use a bowling ramp that will assist athletes in wheelchairs (like our Lara) to bowl with the other kids.  They cost around $160.  Our Chapter is Wisconsin Special Olympics Chapter Northwoods 3-13, and our regional office is through Eau Claire, WI.  Tony Erba is our agency manager. 

Stay warm!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Surreal and Real

This may sound crazy, but do you ever feel as if you are standing "outside" of time?  That life around you is speeding by while you eeever-so-slooooooowly impartially observe events?  That the tasks you do seem to take all day instead of the short time they "normally" take?  I've been having alot of that feeling lately.  Maybe it's stress; maybe it's a part of growing old; maybe it's because it's Autumn and the year is winding down.  I don't know what it is, but the whole sensation is just nuts!  Then, just as suddenly, the opposite occurs -- I speed up while everything else s-l-o-w-s down.  Schwaller de Lubicz in The Temple of Man says that "time is a function of matter".  Sometimes I wonder if our solar system's movement through the galactic ecliptic is doing something to the forces that comprise matter and that affectation is somehow changing time, our perception of it, and maybe even us.  Who knows?  I mean, have you ever had the feeling that you "jump" timelines?  Now, that is weird and while I do admit to having some strange timeline experiences,  my rational mind strongly objects to my emotional heart's insistence that such experiences are possible.  And while I don't believe in time travel, I do believe (again based on some weird personal experiences) that time can be manipulated.   Sheesh!  Strange thoughts for stranger times.  Woo, woo, and hullabaloo -- Halloween's come early!  So much for the surreal today.

In the real world I have been busy doing the last of the canning.  The three bushels of carrots were more work than I cared for because many of them were small and the project took me two days, but I love carrots and that made the work a labor of love. LOL.  I wound up with 30 1/2 quarts. 

And yesterday I canned the sauerkraut.  I got 30 quarts from my two 5-gallon crocks.  Hopefully that will be enough to see us through till next year.  I think I tend to discard too much from the top of the crocks, but when it comes to fermenting food in crocks, it's better to err on the side of safety than your love for kraut!

Tom got a nice little buck when he went hunting with his bow, and I helped him bring it back to the house.  Now he's going out grouse hunting (I call them prarie chickens); I hope he can bag a couple of them.  They are all over the place but seem to especially like the balsams down by the creek.  Yesterday he came home with a surprise:

A big chaga mushroom.  What a find!  I chopped most of it up today and put it in the dehydrator.  I made a pot of chaga tea, had a cup, and put the rest in the frig to drink over the next few days.  I left a chunk uncut and told Tom to ask our friends, Bill and Linda Betz, if they want some.  I bet Linda will know about chaga!

Tonight when I went to close up the chicken coop the wind whistled through the tree branches and what leaves they still held rustled dryly in response.  The twilight sky was filled with cold grey clouds that raced with the wind, and under my feet the leaf covered ground crunched sharply with each step.  Already I felt frost in the air on my cheeks.  It was a true October evening. 

I cannot leave you tonight without mentioning that today would have been my mother's 73rd birthday.  She died back in 1998 from complications of diabetes.  Happy birthday, Mama.  May you fare well wherever you are!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Meanwhile, In the Lake Superior Snow Belt

Guess what blew in last night . . .

yep, Old Man Winter left his calling card in the season's first snowfall.  The snow on the grass on the north side of the house never did melt, and the cold north wind sharply whistled an ever louder tune as the day went on.  The trees shiverred off most of their leaves which whirled like dervishes in a mad dance of color.  Tonight it's supposed to get down to 17F with 1-2" of snow possible.  

The chickens were funny.  They didn't know what to make of the snow and wouldn't venture out of the coop till most of it had melted.  The hens fluffed up their feathers and preferred to contentedly roost inside the coop.  They squawked at me loudly when I went to gather eggs and turn over the bedding under the roosts.  I was reminded of a young suitor being grilled by all the old aunts!  The roosters were a little braver and roamed in between and around the tarp covered firewood stacks.  I took pity on them and gave them some left over corn bread.

Roz never showed up with the tomatoes and one thing led to another so about all I got done today was the laundry and vacuuming.  The good news is that my Kettle River Garlic finally came so tomorrow after lunch I'll be outside planting the garden boxes.  Now that most of the leaves are fallen, my winter mulch will be easy to gather. 

Tom lit a fire in the wood stove tonight to take the chill out of the air.  Our small house was quickly warm and cozy.  The conversation turned to winter clothing inventory, hunting, and homemade cinnamon rolls.    Now that's a nice thought to end on!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Plugging Along

Just read the latest ATTRA newsletter and they have a nice link to a new article about small scale egg processing:  Terrific!

BTW, have you noticed the recent flurry of news segments about how eggs are high on the list of foods that can make you sick?  I find the timing of this story very curious since eggs are one of the few natural food sources of vitamin D -- which most people are seriously deficient in and which is now, according to recent research (check out at and also do a search there on vitamin D), is known to combat many diseases, including multiple sclerosis, several types of cancer, and influenza

On a lighter note, the sun is shining today!   Tom worked in his garden bringing in the last of his collard greens, and he turned everything over with the BCS and then planted his garlic.  (I'm still waiting for my Kettle River garlic to come.)  I raked up the big compost pile and made it neat again -- the chickens love scratching in it -- and added some new leaves to it.  Then it was back to the kitchen where I started working on another batch of tomatoes.  I am steaming them and canning the juice.  The soft pulp is run through the Foley food mill, and the strained sauce goes into another stock pot.  After supper I will reheat the sauce and can it.  (The chickens love the tomato residue.)  My friend, Roz, is going to give me two bushels of paste tomatoes, so I'll can the paste in half pint jars this weekend.

Here are a couple of new Fall pics for you:

Well, the timer is calling so I'll let you go.  Later!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Inside Work

Tom bought a deep fryer and today we are going to make LOTS of french fries for the freezer.  We set up our farm kitchen table like an assembly line and go to it.  We do the same when we make pierogis.  Kind of nice working together like that.   It's another Ray Bradbury Something Wicked This Way Comes day to work inside, but the outside colors are SO striking I just want to go out and wallow in nature. 

There is a loaf of french bread making in the bread machine as we're going to have Italian sausage sandwiches for supper, and the house is soon to smell oh, so good!

Sunday, October 04, 2009


Wow!  I've been spending this Sunday afternoon visiting the blogs I like to follow and then checking out the blogs all of you visit, and I am simply wowed by you totally AWESOME bloggers.  I wish I was as technically proficient as many of you are; maybe this winter I can spend time learning about the different ways I can jazz up my blog -- writing, photos, layout, etc.  I love the way many of you set up your sites, and I really like your differing writing styles -- and the great tips so many of you share.  As the saying goes, "Variety is the spice of life."   One thing I know I need to do is learn about feeds -- right now, they are just totally beyond my ken.  And I think I'll take a closer look at Wordpress -- there seems to be more layout flexibility there than here at Blogger.   Lots to think about.  Thank you, All, for sharing part of your lives in your blogs.

Swamp Creek Farm: Farmers Market Bag Pattern

Swamp Creek Farm: Farmers Market Bag Pattern

I'm already working on my "winter do" list so I thought I'd make a link to my crochet farmers market bag pattern in case any of you are doing the same.  The pattern is really pretty simple.  Don't get hung up by the end gatherings; just gradually close up the bag and secure.  The idea is to make a simple, strong, and easily portable market bag.  Some of you might think the bag is "backwards".  Well, it probably is -- I'm left-handed and am often told I do things backwards.  Whatever floats your boat! :)

Friday, October 02, 2009

Favorite Days

Well, here we are again at my absolute favorite time of the year.  As you may know, I was raised Roman Catholic and the old religious teachings from pre-Vatican II are well-rooted in my psyche (though I must confess I'm not considered a "good" Catholic because of my differences in opinion with several Church teachings along with the fact that my personal idea of religion has grown waaaay past the dogma of traditional Catholicism.)  Still, I don't believe in throwing out the baby with the bath water, and there are some of the old practices I like.  I refer now to what is called The Calendar of the Saints, which is where every day of the year has a patron, or saintly person who has gone on to heavenly reward, dedicated to it and who is specially to be asked for help on a particular day -- their appointed feast day; kind of like asking your big brother or sister who happens to be hanging around the house on a given day to give you a hand if you need help with something.  (The idea being that God helps them who help themselves, so why bother God when you can hit up somebody else in the family.)  This week beginning on September 29th starts my favorite week of feast days.  September 29 is the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel; September 30 is the Feast of Mary the Mother of Jesus under her title Queen of Angels; October 1 is the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux; October 2 is the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels; and October 4 is the Feast of St. Francis of Asissi.  For me, this is always a very spiritual time as I spend a lot of it looking inward evaluating where I am and where I'd like to be on The Road Less Traveled.  Sort of like rodding out the sewer line . . . .

That makes me think of garbage (time to clean out the basement!), which puts me in mind of compost, and

Heirloom Tomatoes.

Bear with me here; sometimes my writing is as circuitous as my thoughts.  Day before yesterday, I went through the tomato bags and collected two big bowls of tomatoes that were ripe enough to process, so I pulled out the Mehu Lisa steamer pot and made juices and sauce.  (The skins and seeds went into the compost bin.)

Yesterday, we had a gorgeous day, the last good outside day predicted for a while, so I tried to finish cutting the hay in the small meadow and orchard out in the field, but the best I could do before leaving for Special Olympics was to finish cutting the big garden section where I had planted the corn and squashes that never produced and just went to weeds, and only started cutting the orchard. 

Today I awoke to a Ray Bradbury dreary October day so I went into the garage and made wreaths out of the hops bines.  I used upended bushel baskets as wreath forms and that worked very nicely.  The wreaths will stay put till they are good and dry.  I may decide to further decorate them or try to sell them as is.  They smell really nice.  After that, I decided to freeze the last of the cabbages.  That took a couple of hours, but by noon I was well into making Tom's new batch of apple dumplings.  (We had them for supper.)  I brought in the half bushel of dried beans to shell out after I finish this blog entry, but I may wait on doing that.  Tomorrow is laundry day, and hopefully I'll get to Tom's three bushels of corn.  His corn didn't fill out very well, but it's mostly good enough for us to eat, so I'll try canning it in pints since my last attempt at freezing corn didn't work too well -- the corn was very mushy when I tried cooking it. 

I added another layer of wood shavings to the chicken coop floor when I went out to check on water and feed.  Some of the hens were smart enough to stay dry in the coop, but most of the chickens looked bedraggled from being out in the rain.  They reminded me of that scene in the movie Gone With The Wind where the black house servant was trying to catch that scrawny rooster to cook for dinner.

All told, it was a productive day.  I always feel better when I think I've accomplished something.   A nice end to the day was my nephew, Johnny, calling from Cornell University.  It was great to hear from him!

See ya later!

Monday, September 28, 2009

And the North Wind Blows

It's cold here! The wind has been whipping around making the electricity go maddingly on and off. It blew away the wind chimes Lara's friend, Carrie, gave me. (I think they must be in the woods near the house; I can't believe the wind would blow something that big very far away.) It made the chickens prefer the chicken coop to being outside. And it sure showed me that Gorilla tape will not work to patch the end panels on the high tunnel. I even had to re-position the tarps on the firewood stacks by adding additional top weights so they wouldn't blow away.

Out in the field I pulled up all the Bulls Blood Beets. I am keeping them in the garage for tonight, and tomorrow I'll sort through them and make up the bundles for the customer in town who was looking for beets. Funny how people won't eat the beet greens and only want the beet roots. I'm the other way -- I'll take the greens over the roots (though I LOVE pickled beets). While in the field I covered the carrots and collards with Agribon 19 as it is supposed to get down in the 20's tonight. Then I dug up the Italian Flat Leaf Parsley that finally started to grow and planted it in a container that I brought to the house. I decided not to cut the Sweet Annie and to leave it where it is in the hope that it will self-seed. I love the way that Sweet Annie smells! I said good-bye to it, the Borage and the Calendula, as I am sure they will perish in the hard frost tonight. Yes, I talk to my plants!

In the high tunnel, I spent some time trying to patch the end walls but finally acknowledged utter defeat. If there are tax returns come next Spring, I'll try to buy new ones. I transplanted an unknown pepper plant (the name on the marker faded away) into a bucket and took that back to the house with the Italian Parsley. You should see my piano; it looks like a plant nursery! I picked more huckleberries and covered those plants with Agribon 19. Then, I raked up some straw and covered the herbs along the North side of the tunnel. I think they will be ok for the winter. That was about all I got done.

Back at the house after supper I went through all the brown paper bags I have the green tomatoes in, and I pulled out all the ones that have ripened. I would have made tomato sauce after supper in the Mehu Lisa steamer pot as that makes short work of the task, but I'm out of lemon juice. Normally I wouldn't worry about the tomato acidity, but quite a few of the tomatoes are not red so I can't be sure they are acid enough to go into a water bath canner. I put lemon juice on the shopping list and will have to wait to do the tomatoes till I get some. I'll make a batch of pickle relish with the last of the cucumbers tomorrow instead and do the beets. I checked the sauerkraut crocks, but even the kraut is taking it's own sweet time to ferment this year.

I brought back the dried radish stalks from the field to take the seed from, and the amaranth is still drying in the garage, too. Plus there is a good half bushel of dried beans to shell and put away. I bagged the dried hops -- they sure smell good -- and put them away for now; I want to get a beer making kit for my birthday. (Double purpose -- I also want to use the equipment to make alcohol that will run all our machinery. I bought David Blume's book and DVD, Alcohol Can Be A Gas, and I'm a believer!) I replaced the hops in the dehydrator with fennel fronds. Those smell good, too, and we all chewed on fresh fennel stalks for a treat while I packaged and froze the few small bulbs we had.

Tom wants to know when I'm going to butcher the rest of the chickens. . . .

He also wants more apple dumplings.

Language and the Oceans in Time

If you read The Shape of Things to Come reports from the good folks at Half Past Human, you'll know the reports mention the state of the oceans and the collapse of global fisheries. Well, today I came across a new documentary on the Natural Resource Defense Council's web site about ocean acidification, and guess what one of the consequences of doing nothing about the effects of CO2 on the oceans is -- that's right collapse of the ocean's great fisheries. Check it out. It isn't the best documentary I've ever seen, but it makes you stop and think, which is what a good documentary does. Right on, Time Monks!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Out in the Field

Today after lunch I went out to the field. I collected the hops bines and put them in the back of the truck. Then I harvested nearly a whole ice cream bucket (gallon size) of calendula seed. There are still quite a few plants blooming and I think I'll pick the blossoms and make some calendula oil to keep as a medicine. I was also able to harvest a good quantity of chive seed from out of the high tunnel. I think I'll start a bunch of new chive clumps to sell next Spring at the farmers market. I have a 50' row of mammoth dill, but I don't think I'll get any seed from it, which means I have to buy more seed for next year. Rats!

I tried patching the ends on the high tunnel again, this time with more feed sacks and Gorilla Tape. I'll see how everything holds up tomorrow. Inside the high tunnel I pulled down all the pole bean and tomato trellises, and I started piling up all the garden debris. Now, an interesting thing I noticed this past winter when I waded through the snow to check on the high tunnel was how many earthworms congregated in the ground under high tunnel. I figure it must have something to do with the fact that the ground temperature under the tunnel isn't as cold as the ground under the snow outside the tunnel. Anyway, I like using earthworms to fertilize the soil, so today I decided to dig a trench down the middle of the high tunnel and fill it with the garden debris. When I am finished turning the ground over and burying all the debris, I'll wet it all down so it starts composting, and let the worms feast and break it all down over the winter. (I wouldn't do this if any of my plants were diseased.) Around about the end of February I'll take the dog with me out to the tunnel and let her root out the voles while I check the earthworm population and maybe plant some seeds.

Some things in the high tunnel are still going strong. I am leaving the calendula that is still blooming and garden huckleberries grow as long as they can. I've already harvested a good half gallon of huckleberries. The catnip looks very happy, and I think I'll dig up the stray plants and put them all together in a corner. The rest of the herbs along the edge of the tunnel look fine, and I'll rake up some grass and cover them for the winter.

I had no sweet potatoes when I forked over a couple of plants, so I pulled all those up, and I yanked out all the eggplants. Of those, only the Turkish Orange bore any fruit even though it didn't mature. I did lift the Lemon hot pepper and Thai/Laos hot pepper plants and put them in pots. I'm going to try to overwinter them in the house. It feels pretty good getting the high tunnel organized. If the weather is ok tomorrow, I'll start cleaning up the hops section. It would be nice if I could finish cutting the grass in the small meadow and the north end of the field. I really need to get to the orchard and check on my poor, deer devastated fruit trees, too.

Here's a pic of my arena of action for today:

Those fall colors are fading fast! Shortly after I took this picture the sky got dark and it started to rain a cold Autumn rain. I packed up the truck and just got back to the house when it started to hail, not bad, but enough to say, "That's enough for today." Geez, before you know it, we'll be stoking the wood stove! (Good thing I got the wood stacks covered with tarps so the wood stays dry.) :)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

It's Autumn All Right

Autumn is moving right along here in the Northwoods where the leaves are falling like rain and at night you can hear the wind rustling the tree tops. When the sun goes down, it gets cold, and the fog builds in the marshes even before dark falls with ever increasing earliness. I've been busy. Sometimes I wish I had a clone to help me keep up with all the work.

Today I went to see Bernie at Seed and Feed and loaded up on chicken supplies -- feed, grit, oyster shell, wood shavings, and cracked corn. I shoveled out the coop and put down fresh bedding. I don't know which of the chickens is worse -- the nosy and underfoot hens or the ever crowing (soon to be in the freezer) roosters! Anyway, I felt better having the coop ready for the cold weather. I have a feeling that one day soon we're going to wake up and instead of Fall, it will be winter -- just like we never had a summer this year.

I turned over two of the garden boxes and added the poultry bedding to them. They will be ready for planting in a week or so -- I'm waiting for the Kettle River garlic I ordered from Ronniger's to come. The lettuce in Box 2 is still setting seed, so I'll turn over that box when I harvest the seed. That box already has the perennial garden sorrel and Egyptian Walking Onions, so I will add shallots and potato onions to fill it up. I will plant spinach, carrots, bunching onions (did I say I like onions?) and maybe some lettuce to try overwintering. When all the leaves are off the trees, I'll layer on a heavy mulch and come next spring we'll see what we get. We had so much snow last year that keeping the snow off the covered boxes became too much work, and I was afraid of falling, so I will just mulch the boxes and let the snow cover them.

I spent some time in the field yesterday harvesting the Cascade hops and picking huckleberries in the high tunnel. It took me longer than I thought it would, but I have a nice harvest of Cascade hops, and I must have at least a half gallon of huckleberries with the bushes still nearly full. I collected the last of the cucumbers and discovered that I had no sweet potatoes. I think I will leave the sunflowers in the field for the critters. I cut the amaranth tops and have the heads drying in the garage in brown paper bags -- I hope that's the correct way to harvest the seed; I was afraid that if I left the seed heads in the field that I would lose the tiny seeds. And I plan to make wreaths out of the hops bines; I'd like to do that tomorrow if the weather co-operates. There's so much to do!

I went with Tom and Ed and dug up the rest of his potatoes. We got three more bushels. I harvested the last of the cabbage, too, and Tom went through his corn patch and filled a bushel basket with the best formed ears. I think I will try to overwinter a couple of the best cabbage heads and re-plant them for seed next spring. I don't have much luck freezing corn, so I think I'll try canning some and see what happens. Dad was there and he looked good. As usual, he didn't want any help with his wood pile, and he didn't want any more food. At least I know he's eating well.

Well, it's getting late and I'm beat so I'll catch you later. Be well!