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!