Sunday, July 26, 2009

Northwest Wisconsin Sustainable Living Fair

I'm back home, safe and sound, from my trip to the Northwest Wisconsin Sustainable Living Fair. I'm grateful the weather was gorgeous and that I made the trip without mishap. The fair was very nice. There were a number of vendors exhibiting all sorts of things from solar, wind, and geothermal systems, to all things homesteading bookwise, eco-botanical personal products, honey and maple syrup, and handcrafted Native American bows and arrows. There was a guy there making pizzas in an earth oven he had in the back of his pick-up truck that I thought was cool. He said it weighed about 1,000 pounds! I bought some beets from a woman and a couple of baby aloe plants, and from another vendor I finally got some composting worms for my worm bin that I've had waiting for worms in the basement for about a year now. We'll see how I do at raising worms! I hope I don't kill them.

I was surprised at the number of people that came to my seed saving presentation; I guess there may have been about 50 people. The crowd seemed interested in what I had to say -- I hope I didn't say too many "uhs" and "ums". For the most part I stayed on topic (I know I get sidetracked easily) though I forgot to keep the slide show up with what I was talking about. Still, I had some good questions from people that I was happy I was able to answer, and the number of people who wanted to talk to me after the show was surprising, too. We had to leave the building to talk outside so the next speaker could give his talk. Mr. Sanderson seemed happy with the talk, and the people seemed to like the handouts I gave them -- I didn't see any tossed in the garbage. One woman said she knew the talk was going to be good because of the handouts I had made. I must have talked with people for a good half hour answering questions. One guy said I was a "wealth of information" and several people thanked me for giving them sources for heirloom and open pollinated seeds: I recommended Horizon Herbs, Fedco, Baker Creek, TomatoFest, Seeds of Change, High Mowing Seeds, and Johnnysseeds -- all companies I have satisfactorily bought seeds from. It was great to have been given the opportunity to meet so many people interested in seed saving; it gives me hope that many heirloom and open pollinated seed varieties will continue to exist.

Bravo to Messrs. Sanderson and Olive and Ms. Aleisha Crowe for their efforts in putting on the fair. It may be a fledgling effort, but I think the endeavor is both noble and worthwhile!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Of Cackle Fruit and Seeds

Sorry it's been a while since I posted, but things have been hectic around here what with preparing for my seed saving presentation tomorrow at the Northwest Wisconsin Sustainable Living Fair over in Ladysmith at the Rusk County Fairgrounds (I speak at 2:00 p.m. in Building 2), trying to keep up with hoeing weeds between rain (I'm grateful for it!), butchering chickens, meeting with other parents of special needs children to get our new Park Falls Wisconsin Special Olympics Chapter off the ground (I'm going to be in charge of medical records), housecleaning, . . . I'm sure you get the idea. I haven't been feeling very well either -- don't feel really sick, but just don't feel like myself. Getting old, I guess -- either that or the latest ALTA report from the time monks over at Half Past Human freaked me out more than I think it did.

Anyway, we have cackle fruit! The hens started laying about a week ago. I'm so excited! I already have over a dozen eggs. They are small, but are generally similar sized and light brown in color. I expect them to get bigger as time goes on. The hens laying is probably the best thing that's happened around the farm this year; at least I will have eggs to sell. After the seed saving presentation tomorrow, I will be able to concentrate on working in the garden and getting the chickens butchered. I've butchered six, but we ate one to check out the flavor. (Yuuummmmmm.) I hope to have something to contribute to the Local Foods Farm to Chef event planned for August 8 at the Phillips Farmers Market. With the way the weather's been, who knows! But I must say that the recent rain we've been getting can only help. Come on veggies!

I am very proud of myself -- I figured out how to reformat my little 2GB thumb drive (I incorrectly removed it from the computer when I first used it and it wouldn't work) and was able to save my seed saving presentation to it so I will have both the thumb drive and a CD back up to take with me. This high tech stuff is confusing to use, but it sure is fun to mess around with. I'm sure my Sarah would think nothing of reformatting a drive; these kids today live and breathe electronics -- and that's wonderful! Sometimes I feel like a Stone Age relic because I can remember life before microwaves and ball point pens.

In between the rain today I planted Wong Bok Chinese Cabbage, Provider bush beans, and Detroit Red Beets in the former garlic box. I planted in the boxes last year about this time was able to get enough to sell at the farmers market, so if I can keep the chickens out of the boxes, I may yet do all right. I am waiting for my spinach, Cos, and sorrel to finish producing seed, so I don't think I'll be able to plant anything in their places for a Fall garden, but I will plant seed for next Spring using Eliot Coleman's Winter Harvest Manual as a guide. The sorrel is a perennial so that will stay put. I love the sorrel; I really hope to have a nice bed of it for next year as it sold so well with the lettuces last year.

Well, that's it for now. I'll let you know how the talk goes tomorrow!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Best Friends Forever

Lara is turning 26 on her birthday and she had a GREAT surprise this weekend when her best friend, Carrie MacFarlane, came to visit along with her parents, Pat and Mel. Lara was SO surprised! At first, she didn't believe that Carrie was really there.

Yesterday, we all went for a long walk out to the field and back. We wanted to go down the snowmobile trail to the bridge, but there is a she bear out here with two cubs, and we didn't want to chance running into Mama Bear.

Lara and Carrie went to see Lorie at the beauty shop (Lori's Nook) in Butternut for a treat. Carrie got her hair cut and looks like a movie star, and Lara got a manicure with pretty pink nail polish. We all had a really great time!

Then we went back to the farm and had a bar-b-que. Everybody was stuffed! There was bratwurst, hot dogs, cole slaw and potato salad, strawberry pie instead of birthday cake, and diabetic New York Style Cheesecake for those who have to watch their sugar. It was a lovely day.

Carrie likes the chickens. She is a great helper with them. She is not afraid of them and let them out of the coop while she visited here. She likes to feed them corn:

I think we will make Carrie an honorary Swamp Creek Farmer! We will miss her and Pat and Mel when they go back home today. We hope they have a safe trip home and will come again!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Fine Summer Day

Today was a gorgeous day -- not too hot, a cool breeze, and clouds in the sky to break the hot sun on your neck every now and again. I figured out how to start the gas trimmer, but went and got the old electric workhorse trimmer because that gas trimmer cuts for !@#%. I trimmed around the garden boxes, rhubarb, and blackberries, and what a difference a little grass trimming can make in appearance! My rhubarb is in sore need of fertilizer, so tomorrow I will haul some compost out to it and thickly spread it around the plants.

My lovely niece and her family came for a visit today. It was so good to see them! The kids are all growing so fast. She has three now: ages 5, 2, and 6 months, and they all have such different characters, too; it is a joy to watch them. They liked the chickens. I caught a little hen for them the pet. Then we went for a quick tour of the field and checked out the garden boxes before heading into the house for some lemonade. They are taking a break before heading off to work again next week. Boy, am I glad those days are over for me! You forget just how much energy you need to have when the kids are little.

Yesterday I worked in the high tunnel. I weeded everything again, then I raked up some of the grass Tom cut last week and spread it around the plants as mulch. And finally I gave everything a good drink. Most of the plants are so small! Like last year, they act as though they are not getting enough sunlight. The cold nights we had this spring didn't help much. I've only seen one bee so far this year. Here are some pics from the high tunnel:

While I was out there I took some pics of the hops section. You can see how small the plants are. I need to thin the beds and water everything. It sure would be nice to have a good rain! Still, just about everything is growing. I planted Golden Amaranth this year, and it is coming up strong. I hope there is enough time in the season for it to mature. It looks so beautiful in the pictures I've seen of it. Most of the herbs didn't make it, and the collards and cabbages failed, as well. I think I will plant either fall peas or maybe some bush beans where they were. The Senposai went immediately to seed, and the Wong Bok was devoured by flea beetles almost as soon as it sprouted. I like that Wong Bok though and will plant some more of it in the garden boxes by the house this Fall.

The real bad news, however, is that deer got into the orchard and completely chewed off every leaf on every fruit tree. I am just heart sick! I don't know if the trees will recover. I've never had this happen to me before. This was the first year I took down the individual tree cages because the tree branches needed more room. I thought that most of the trees were big enough not to be bothered by the deer. As soon as I can, I will put up larger cages around the trees, and if they don't make it, I'll still make the cages, but I'll dig out the trees and prepare the holes for replacements. If I have to replace the trees, I'll buy bigger trees that are closer to bearing age. Boy, I wish the apples I grafted this Spring had taken -- that would have made this loss more bearable. It frustrates me that the deer are still coming through the fence. There are just not enough hours in the day to get everything done!

Lara's birthday is the 13th and she is going to have a big surprise! I'll tell you about that another day. . . . Take care, Everybody!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Something New

I've been hoeing weeds and hilling potatoes for the last couple of days, and I'm beat. I was also distressed to notice that my husband's potatotes, which were planted after I planted mine, are twice the size of my potatoes. It bothered me because I planted my potatoes this year in a section that I have had in continuous green manure crops for the last two years and spread with composted poultry bedding last Fall, and I expected growth to be much better than it is (despite this cold weather). My husband does not garden organically (that's also why his gardens are well away from mine). He uses commercial fertilizer and pesticides. I am wondering why my organic plantings are smaller than his. I certainly put more labor into my garden. I can only think the reason lies in the soil. Soooooo, I started surfing the Internet and came across a fascinating subject: mycelium.

I think that by continuing to increase my earthworm population and add to the mycelium already in the soil that my plant growth and health will exceed that of my husband's garden -- and in short order, too. I have to admit I have never thought about mycelium and fungi, let alone considered their importance in the world. I was totally blown away by Mr. Stamet's persuasive argument for the use of fungi and mycelium to repair our global ecosystems and pioneer new technologies.

This is real food for thought, People.

More Precious Than Gold

This is the best seed saving video I've come across. If you don't already practice seed saving, please learn: it is a most useful skill and will quite possibly save you more than just money. Tomato and bean seeds are very good beginner seeds to save if you are just starting to try your hand at seed saving. This video illustrates what is called the "wet method" of seed saving and is the way you would save seeds that are encased in the flesh of its fruit or vegetable. (Beans use the "dry method", which is simply drying the seed on the bush or vine for as long as possible before harvesting.) Notice how Mr. Middleton involves the family in this seed saving project, and listen for why he saves these particular seeds -- it is an excellent reason and certainly one that any seed saver should consider when deciding on the seeds of which plants to save.

American Way Farm: Official Recall Notice

This is a great post!

American Way Farm: Official Recall Notice