Saturday, April 25, 2009

The New Season is Off and Running

Wow! I can't believe how fast the days are flying! I am trying to complete at least one task a day. Today, Ed helped me plant up the garden boxes. In Bed Three we planted Bloomsdale Spinach, Nichols Mesclun Mix, French Breakfast Radishes, Alaska Peas (a free packet from Baker Creek) and Navet Des Vertus Marteau Turnips, a very old French heirloom. In Bed Two we planted Stuttgaart onion sets for scallions, Golden Beets, Paris Island Cos, and St. Valery Carrots. The sorrel and Egyptian Walking onions I planted in the box last Fall are starting to come up, too. In Bed One I lightly stirred the top of the bed and was excited to see all the garlics starting to grow. The shallots and potato onions are in that bed, as well. After we planted the boxes, we covered Beds Two and Three with Agribon 19 row cover. I think that will be enough protection. With how crazy the weather is I am expecting us to go straight from Winter to Summer, and the NOAA forecast for our area is drought again. This will be our sixth straight droughty season. Planting early with crop protection may be the best bet to capitalize on ground moisture. My soil is sandy enough that I don't worry about it being too cold for the seeds.

After we finished with the garden beds, Ed and I took a ride out to the field and removed the cages and trunk guards from the fruit trees. A couple of the trees had been blown over, but I think they will straighten out all right. Those two "iffy" Wealthy trees that I expected to replace with the Westfield-Seek-No-Further trees I planted last Fall did finally bite the dust. I sure hope the grafts take on the apple scions George sent me because if they do, I'll put two of them where those Wealthy were. I have the grafted trees currently in pots in the front yard where I can keep an eye on them. The rest of the trees look great, including the grafted plums I planted last Fall. I noticed that the zipper on one of the high tunnel ends pulled apart the wrong way so I will have to take a ladder out to the field and fix that. Guess I better call the utility company and have them come out and mark where the electric line runs so I can get the fence fixed before I bring the roosters out to the pasture. I put the wood screws for their skid in the high tunnel for now.

Two days this week I spent potting up seedlings in the basement. Boy, is that a job! My back was killing me. I still have a few flats to do. When I am finished I'll take them out to the high tunnel to harden off. This was the first year I had trouble with damping off disease, but fortunately there is enough time to replant the seedlings that perished. I never cease to be amazed at how hardy those hot peppers are. The rare African hot peppers and the ones from Peru and Bolivia that George sent me, and the Thai and Laos peppers from Bill and Linda are all growing well. I LOVE hot peppers! The different eggplants are doing well, too. Those Turkish Orange grow to about tennis ball size and are supposed to be good for stuffing.

The beginning of May I will bring out the seed potatoes and chit them. I want to grow LOTS of potatoes, carrots, onions, corn, and winter squash this year. I have 100 pounds of oats and when I go to pick up the next load of chicken feed from Bernie I'll see if he can get me 100 pounds of hard red spring wheat. If I can save the grain I harvest that will help cut down on my feed costs this winter for the hens. And, if I can grow enough corn, maybe next year I can finally get those two pigs I've been wanting. . . .

My picture was in the paper (The Phillips Bee) for the Farm to Fork Event. My sister, Mary, brought me a copy of the article. At least I didn't look too fat! Speaking of which, my latest annual check-up was a bust. I gained back all the weight I had lost over the winter and have to start over again. What a bummer! The doctor says farm work alone won't help me lose the weight. She wants me to do some kind of concentrated exercise for at least 20 minutes a day. I'll have to find the time somewhere because I want to lose the weight.

We are getting closer to forming a Special Olympics Chapter in Park Falls. The local Lions Club has agreed to be a sponsor for us and the local H & R Block will help take care of legal details. How wonderful! We will find out more next month.

I have not forgotten about the Local Food Atlas; I just can't work on it right now. Miriam Grunes didn't get back to me so I will have to reconnect with her.

Our farmers market group is meeting again on Monday night to hash out whether or not to move the market to the location across from Copp's grocery store. The voting was a tie!

And I think I will accept the invitation to speak about seed saving at the Sustainable Ag Fair in Rusk County the end of July. I'm certainly no expert, but I think people have a moral responsibility to share their knowledge with others. especially when asked.

Tom painted the living room a dark gold and boy does the room look nice. It feels SO much warmer, and the gold really highlights all the wood in the room. I hung my Lil' Achoo picture on the opposite side of the room over the piano, and that is a much better location for it. When you enter the living room now the picture immediately draws your eye across the room. That is the artistic bagua area, too, a perfect place for Lil' Achoo!

On May 7th NCAT will offer a free Webinar called "Hoop Houses for Extending Your Growing Season". The Webinar is from 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM MOUNTAIN time. Go to NCAT's Web site to register

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Farm to Fork Event

The Farm to Fork event at the Phillips Ag Extension Office Monday night was really a lot of fun. There were several organizations there, and we all were able to network and meet with potential purchasers of our products. I wore my farmers market outfit (blue denim jumper and old fashioned muslin apron) and manned the table representing our Farmers Market. I brought my 2009 Farm Book, some brochures, and magnets that I made for our farm to place together with the farmers market information. I made a little stand from poster board and taped some pictures of our market that I had taken over the last couple of years so people could see some of the vendors and how each vendor displayed their products. The pictures were well received. That little printer of our Soldier Girl Sarah's that she gave me really prints nice pictures. I put a good table cloth on the table and I anchored the picture display with a pair of resin chickens that I bought from the discount store. I thought the table looked really nice. I was pleasantly surprised that all but one of my brochures was taken. A grocery store couple told me that everything I grow they need. Another gentleman asked me if I would consider giving a presentation on seed saving (I stress seed saving to my customers because I specialize in growing heirloom varieties) and I told him I would consider it. Then, there were at least 4 new interested parties that wanted to come and sell their items at our farmers market. Great! And finally, there was a guy from DATCP there so I was able to finally get my questions answered about selling eggs and chickens from my farm. Whew! Now the only thing I have left to do is get my product liability insurance and I will do that after the new moon.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Weekend

I've been working very hard and decided to rest today because when I got out of bed this morning I could hardly move because my joints ached so much. Even so, I was still very busy. I prepared some of tomorrow's Easter dinner -- Blue Ribbon Peach Cobbler for dessert, candied sweet potatoes, and deviled eggs. My other half always cooks the ham and cheese potatoes. I used to do all the baking, but since Tom got his bread machine, he likes baking all the bread, so he made the biscuits. We like cooking everything but the meat the day before a holiday because we think the extra day improves the food's flavor.

While I was busy in the house, Tom boiled maple sap down outside. I have another pot of sap finishing on the stove. We have five pints so far. Our syrup is dark amber and has a wood smoke taste to it that we love. We don't care for the taste of the Grade A light gold colored syrup. A lot of people we know like their syrup darker, too. Here's a picture of Tom and my latest "sugaring rig".

Good Friday was the chicks entrance into their "Brave New World". I finally finished stapling up the chicken fence and let them out of the coop. Not all of them want to come out, but even today more of them were outside than were inside. They are funny to watch. I will be glad to get the skid built so I can move the roosters out to the field and let the ladies have the coop to themselves. Once I do that I will get the dedicated brooder built and order my next batch of chicks.

Eddy was a big help to me putting up the fence:

The door you see laying on the ground in the picture showing part of the fence is a door I got several years ago for free at a garage sale. When I built the chicken coop I put the small window from that door in the storage area of the chicken coop. Now I will use the door itself as the "Man Door" when I build the chicken skid. I'll either fill in the window area with wood or a piece of hardware cloth. Never throw anything away -- you never know when it might come in handy!

Here is a picture of our Yellow Lab, Sandy, the Chicken Guardian:

My seedlings in the basement are ready to be potted up. I hope to get to that task this week.

There's always something to do! May everybody have a blessed Easter Day, and for all who who do not celebrate Easter, may your day be blessed, too!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Run Run Run

The weather was a bit warmer today, and it was sunny and clear. We still had some wind, but it certainly was not as biting as it was yesterday. I forgot to tell you I moved the chicks out to the coop day before yesterday to sort of "harden them off" to the colder temps, and they freaked out. Yesterday morning I found 6 dead, all piled up in a corner. I am down to 115 birds total, and some of those are hens which I am keeping for eggs, so for right now I have only about 60 birds to sell in my meat bird project. A far cry from my initial 125! I seem to be on a roll though, and while I'm running into glitches, I seem to be able to resolve the issues relatively easily. The chicks looked much better this morning and more used to the coop. Some of the larger ones are even trying to get up on the roosts. I sing "Amazing Grace" when I go out to check on them so they know that "Big Chicken" is coming. The singing seems to calm them, too. I already have a few that come running to me to pick them up and pet them. At least they've stopped screeching and piling in the corners.

I called John from our farmers market this morning and asked if it was too late to bring my scale to him to take to E. & B. Scale in Merrill for calibrating, and fortunately he said that he was planning to go tomorrow, so I reached him just in time! I took care of Lara and then ran to Phillips to give him my scale. I forgot to call Diane Barkstrom though about giving John her farm brochures to give me so I can exhibit them at the Farmers Market table at the upcoming Farm to Fork event. I will give her a call tomorrow morning and will pick up her brochures some time before next Monday. It was a relief to get the scale taken care of; John will get it back to me by the first farmers market date.

After meeting with John, I stopped at the hardware store and got a good metal drill bit so I can finish drilling holes in the angle iron Dad gave me for fence posts last year, and a good metal shut-off valve for my garden hose watering head -- I took the hose out of the garage to hook it up and the plastic valve I had on it immediately broke. Figures. I hate using plastic for most anything because it just doesn't last. While I was there I bought another big roll of chicken wire, so when I get the wood for the chicken skid from my neighbor, Larry, I will only need to get the galvanized wood screws and other hardware.

As I was on my way home from Phillips, the radio reminded me that today was local election day. After all the phone calls and face-to-face meetings with politicians wanting to be re-elected, I couldn't believe I had forgotten to vote! So I went home, took care of Lara again, and brought her with me to Mercer to vote. I was surprised that I had to wait for a voting booth. After I voted, Lara and I stopped at the bake sale the ladies had going on there and got some cupcakes to take home. She enjoyed getting out of the house.

Once I got Lara settled in her room, I went back out and worked on the chicken fence a while. I'm about 3/4 of the way finished with stapling the wire to the fence posts. Once that is done, I'll go back around, tighten up the wire, and make sure the bottom is well buried.

Had a phone call from Jane Hansen confirming that I would be at the Farm to Fork event hosting the farmers market table next Monday. This event is a "Get Acquainted" event for buyers and sellers of local food. It provides a chance for producers to meet face-to-face with business owners and restauranteurs who are looking to purchase local food. It is a way to build a local food economy. The event is at the Ag Extension Office in Phillips at 104 S. Eyder Avenue (3 blocks west of Highway 13 -- turn on Chestnut Street). The event runs in the evening from 5:00 p.m. till 7:00 p.m. on April 13th. If you are a business you can RSVP at 715-339-2555 and ask for Jane Hansen. I plan to wear my farmers market vendor outfit and bring my 2009 farm notebook. I made up some new flyers and some magnets to hand out, too. They look pretty good if I do say so myself!

Boiling down the maple sap is coming along ok. It's been so windy that I've been doing it inside the house on the stove -- thankfully I have a good vent fan. This is going to be a good batch of syrup! We are going to send some to our friends, Bill and Linda up in Albany, NY, and I should have enough to give some to Sarah and to Dad. One day I would like to visit a real sugar shack.

Tom is all day at the doctor again tomorrow so I will work inside the house. I'll continue cleaning up the basement -- it's already half finished. And at 1:00 p.m. there is a Webinar entitled "Tips and Tricks for Successful Farmers' Markets" hosted by Dr. Jennifer Dennis, Purdue University Specialty Crop Marketing Extension Specialist. Attendance at the Webinar is free and is not just for educators. Pre-registration is not required. To attend, about 10 minutes before the start time, go to Adobe Connect Pro meeting room at You will see a login screen that has an "Enter as Guest" option. Enter your first name, last name and state, the click "Enter Room" to join the conference. To hear the audio and participate in the Q&A section of the workshop, after you log into the conference, you will be presented with the option to enter your call-back number. After entering your telephone number you will be automatically called and joined into the audio portion of the Web conference on your phone. Unfortunately, I do not know if this works with cell phones.

By the way, did you know there is a Women's Ag Network blog at I know it now and am adding the link to the list of blogs I frequently peruse. Blogging is really a lot of fun. I think it has a psychological aspect to it that is beneficial to the blogger. I know I certainly feel better when I blog. It makes me feel more socially connected.

Well, I'm getting long winded again so I'll leave off. Have a good evening!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Swamp Creek Farm: 2009 Swamp Creek Farm Poultry Order Form

Swamp Creek Farm: 2009 Swamp Creek Farm Poultry Order Form

2009 Swamp Creek Farm Poultry Order Form

The wind today was straight from the North and it was bitter! I tried to staple some more chicken wire around the coop fence posts but my hands just got too cold. Sooo, I came in and worked on trying to finalize my 2009 Poultry Order Form. I tell you, once you get away from a job where you utilized multiple programs on the computer regularly, you lose the "touch". I tried to publish the document directly to this blog, but I can't find it. Anyway, I have published the Order Form on Google Documents and hopefully I have correctly linked the title to this post to the document where you can download and print a copy. We'll see if it works. If not, I'll keep trying! I am hosting a table at our "Farm to Fork" event at the Ag Extension Office in Phillips on April 13th which links producers with restaurants and businesses interested in buying locally grown food, and I would really like to be able to hand out some of our farm brochures that include a properly executing link to this order form!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Damp and Chilly

Hi, Everybody! I'm still working on getting the chicken fence up. :( But I did get most of the posts in -- maybe 4 or 5 more to go, and there are two old posts I want to replace. Tom says it is supposed to be warmer and sunny tomorrow so hopefully I'll get the rest of the posts in and can put up the wire.

The new feeder looks good. It is heavier than I thought it would be so I'm glad I made it a bit smaller than the plans. I bought two 5 gallon waterers and I'll put one in the coop. I built a little stand for it to keep it up out of the litter. I want to make another little stand to put the grit and oyster shell pans on. Still need to make the two nest boxes, but I won't need them till the hens start laying.

Tom and Ed went to Minocqua today. He is looking to get one of those 42" HDTVs now -- especially since the Chicago Bears got Jay Cutler!

I'm hoping to take some pictures tomorrow. I'll work on the chicken fence and Tom will boil down maple sap. I want to show you my latest "sugaring rig" and the "updated" chicken coop. The sugaring rig is still a temporary one because eventually I want to have a regular shed to keep out the weather and a good stove and large evaporator pans so the sugaring doesn't take so long. I haven't decided where I want to put a permanent sugar house.

Well, my arthritis is bothering me so I think I'll fix a cup of tea and read the paper!