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!