Thursday, January 28, 2010


It's clear and cold today!  The thermometer outside the kitchen window has been hovering around 0F all day, and the wind chill is not one to play around with.    Tom and Ed wanted to go to town and, lo and behold, they found that the van was frozen to the ground.  Tom had to use the truck to bump the van free from the ice.  That was a first for us!  The temperature inside the chicken coop is around 10F, so after keeping the door open for a few minutes to air the coop out while I checked feed and water and collected eggs, I shut everybody back up since I knew they wouldn't go outside anyway -- they hate the wind and they don't like the snow.  I have a nice big window in the coop that let's the sunshine in and all the chickens hunkered on the roosts, their feathers fluffed out, and basked in the sunshine.  The hens appreciated the fresh warm water, too.  I am still geting about a dozen eggs a day.

I ordered some kefir grains from the Kefirlady and received them today.  I promptly put them in a clean quart canning jar and gave them some milk.  I can't wait to taste the kefir tomorrow.  I have been wanting to find some real kefir grains for some time now and am SO glad I finally was referred to the Kefirlady.  I am hoping I can convince Tom to drink it, too, or at least eat the extra grains when they start multiplying.  Along with the grains, the Kefirlady sent a nice booklet of recipes, FAQs, and an order form for other products she sells.  (I didn't know you could make cheese from kefir!)  If you want to grow your own supply of probiotics, the Kefirlady is a good place to start.

For those of you watching the progress of AB229 in the Wisconsin legislature, the bill passed the Senate with one amendment the requires that the following sentence and information be part of the label: “This product was made in a private home not subject to state licensing or inspection.”, and a list of ingredients in descending order of prominence. If any ingredient originates from milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, or soybeans, the list of ingredients shall include the common name of the ingredient."  With this amendment, the bill must go back to the Assembly for approval before it can then go to Governor Doyle for signing.  AB229 is a bill that would allow people to can certain foods in their home without a state license.  Foods permitted would be pickled vegetables, most canned fruits, canned tomatoes and salsas.  Passage of this bill will certainly help farmers market vendors and people who sell from their farm make a little extra money.  I suspect that the State DATCP (Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection) will want people to take the approved canning course before selling any items.  Fortunately, I already have taken the course (that course I told you about last June).  It is a one day course (I think I paid $75) and you learn alot about safe canning.  The course is definitely worth your while even if you are a seasoned canner because many canning recommendations changed around 1994 and procedures you think may be safe are no longer considered so.  It will definitely be nice to sell jams and jellies at the farmers market -- I hope this bill is signed into law soon!  I think there is too much regulation of everything, but don't get me started . . . .

Well, stay warm, Everybody!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Snow Again

I'm glad I went to the feed store yesterday because even as I was coming home, it started drizzling, and so far today, the snow hasn't stopped.  It's still warm though, and because it has been warm, the snow pack is thawed through and walking outside is slow going.  With each step you don't know if your weight will be supported by the snow pack or your foot will plunge through to the ground.  The chickens were out for a while, but because they don't like the snow, I went ahead and shut the coop up.  I'll go out later and check for more eggs.  I have a bucket full now so I'll wash and pack them later.  It's one of those days that you're glad to be inside.

One of the listservs I belong to is the market-farming listserv. It is an excellent discussion group and covers just about any farming topic you can think of.  Well, today the list manager, Liz Pike, told us that the group is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and that she is working to move all the archive information to a new web site that may appeal to younger people interested in farming.  The site has just gone up and is not complete, but it sure is worth a bookmark if you want a farming resource.  Here is the link:
One of my favorite postings from a couple of years ago was a discussion -- or maybe I should say, "grilling" -- of a farmer who described how he made $100,000 on 1/4 acre.  We have talked about pricing products, good reference books, fencing, machinery, farmers markets, and you name it.   I'm happy to say that Liz is going to continue the listserv, too.  Subscribers will eventually be able to upload picture essays to illustrate their methods, print out articles, and all sorts of things.  To subscribe to the listserv, here is the link:

Well, Tom has the football game on and I'm going to watch a DVD.  Bye for now!

Friday, January 22, 2010

False Spring

I've been busy during this warm spell.  The temps have been hovering around 35F for the last few days so I took the van to town and picked up some wood shavings for the chicken coop.  Normally we drive the truck in the winter because it has the 4-wheel drive, but as the road was clear, I felt ok taking the van.  And so today I shoveled out the chicken coop and scraped down the roosts.  I won't wash everything down until Spring, but I was glad to be able to put down new bedding.  I tossed the old bedding just outside the coop.  Some of the chickens liked scratching outside on their new "mountain", though most of the hens were downright pesky while I tried to shovel.  They flew onto the roosts and watched everything I did.  A couple of the more vocal ladies voiced their opinion of what I was doing.  But the coop looks really nice now again.   After the snow melts, I'll back the truck up to the coop and shovel the old bedding right onto the truck bed.  By the time I locked the chickens up for the night my back was whimpering!  Homeopathy to the rescue (Arnica)!  And tomorrow it's off to see Bernie at Seed N Feed for more chicken feed since I discovered I'm down to only bag!  I thought I had more than that.

I came across an interesting story today in Popular Science about the effects of organic vs. inorganic feed on gene expression in chickens that I thought I would pass on:  I would be very interested in seeing more research in this area.

On the subject of poultry, I am still hankering for ducks.  If I can get my act together and build a little shelter for them down by the marsh in back of the chicken coop, I may go ahead and get some.  I would like to get some Anconas.  Bernie says Muscovies have the best meat, but the only hatchery I found that sells Muscovies is out in Oklahoma.  Muscovies are pretty big, too, and that sort of scares me off getting them.  I guess I just feel more comfortable starting with smaller animals.  Anconas are rare, but cute as can be, and a good dual purpose bird. 

This morning I made muffins for everybody for breakfast:  wheat bran with raisin, blueberry, and raspberry.  Lara likes the raspberry muffins.  I'm partial to blueberry.   I like muffins because they are one of those things you can do alot with. 

And this evening I'm finishing up the laundry in between writing this blog entry and catching up on my e-mails.  Thought I would have one from our Sarah, but I am sure she is still settling in and getting to know the school and town.  I was relieved when she e-mailed us that she made it safely to the UK. 

Well, Tony Pantellaresco's radio show, The Remedy, is going to be on The Micro Effect at 7:00 p.m. so I'll talk to you later.  Tony talks about various natural health issues and he is really entertaining; I try not to miss him.   If you are interested in natural health issues, check him out.  Here is the link to The Micro Effect: and here is a link to Tony's web site (check out his "Links" for neat articles)

See ya!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Whirlwind in the House

You don't realize just how attached you get to the computer until you can't use it.  That was my experience when our soldier girl came home a couple of days ago.  She has been staying with my sister in Chicago since she came home from Afghanistan last July where she has been looking for a job (we're ok to visit but otherwise too far from "civilization" to live with).  And what kid won't use Mom and Dad's stuff before using their own?  So, my computer wasn't mine for a couple of days.  I think even Tom missed not being able to use it.  At least this time she didn't break my DVD drive (but then I never had it fixed after she accidentally crunched my favorite CD in the drive the last time she was here.   It took me half a day to pick out the broken pieces from the case and I have to use the pointy end of a safety pin to tease the drawer open now).  In any event, she seemed happy to be here, and we were very happy to see her. 

And today already she was gone.  Tom took her to the Amtrak train depot and she went back to Chicago.  On Monday she'll be on her way to Europe again for five months of school taking a photography class.  (Don't even ask.  : \ )  I think that by the time she finds a place of her own to settle down at I will feel that I'm in a different house myself because I will have room to move around again.  I've forgotten what that feels like!  This kid accumulates stuff faster than my sister, Mary, does.  Must be a genetic thing . . . .   But I will say that I am looking forward to seeing some of the pictures she sends back here.  I do think she has a talent for photography and will be able to use it to her advantage.  Just imagine -- what an exciting time to be young -- this generation gets to build a whole new world (and tear the old one down!)! Boy, am I glad I'm not a Gen X-er; when these Pluto in Scorpio kids go to take over there will be no quarter and I won't have to listen to the whining!  Pluto personalities will appreciate that sentiment LOL, and if you don't know what I mean by that, you can check out Donna Cunningham's blog  entry for January 16th and related articles.

Needless to say I spent the day resting my nerves.

Sarah in Wales


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

As the Snow Falls

Well, today I spent most of the day lost in links on an absolutely great blog:  If you want to be a modern homesteader and are looking for inspiration and know-how, this is one of those blogs you really need to frequent.  I'm ashamed to admit it but I spent several hours today reading old posts and perusing links just from that blog. 

I did finally manage to check out the other blogs I like to visit.  And then, you know how it goes -- you click on a link that leads to another link, etc. --  and I came across this new video of the futurist Gerald Celente from Trends Research Institute:

Now I like to hear what Gerald has to say even though he sure is bleak.  I also read the newsletter, FUTUREdition,  from The Arlington Institute at  (It's free BTW.)  I became interested in future trends after reading a bestselling book called Future Shock by Alvin Toffler quite some years ago about such things.  I like to see if I agree with their prognostications.  Sometimes I do.  Sometimes I don't.  But if you're in the mood to have the hair stand straight on your head, watch this series from Jeff Smith about the health effects of genetically modified foods.  I happen to have bought this book when it was first published and I will tell you that people don't believe me when I tell them some of the things that are in that book.  It's one of those things where you have to see the words in black and white before you'll even consider the possibility of what is being said.  (You'll never eat soy again after you read it.)

On the plus side, I received the Seed Savers seed catalog today and my seed order from Horizon Herbs.  Then our Soldier Girl called.  She will be coming to visit for a few days before leaving for Europe again.  If I didn't know better I'd think that girl was either a Gemini or Virgo with as much as she travels.  She can't sit still.  I suppose I think traveling is odd because (1) I never went anywhere and (2) I never had good luck while traveling so I'd just as soon not, if you know what I mean.  Anyway, I am glad she is able to see the world and is not afraid to travel.  It's a good thing to aquaint yourself with other cultures.  If there was more cultural interaction among people I think the world would be a happier place because people would be better able to work out any differences that might arise among themselves.  Without government interference. 

Getting back to blogs, a couple of the ones I visit have new looks to them.  That's great!  It reminds me that all of us (like the seeds we plant) grow in time and that nothing stays the same.  And speaking of change, I've recently placed a flag counter on this blog.  When I did it I didn't think I would have any visitors from other countries; I just thought the widget looked cool.  But I have been ever so pleasantly surprised!  I get excited each time a new flag shows up.  What I think of when I see the flags is the idea of The Family Human.  We all eat, work, pray, and want to raise our families in peace.  We want to be friends with our neighbors.  All of us have more in common than we think, and any differences should be recognized as cultural, not comparative.  When I was about 15 I bought a coffee mug from a store that had the word "peace" printed on it in languages from all over the world.  I still have it; it's one of my favorite possessions.  When I look at it, I believe that all people of the world can -- and one day will -- live together in peace.  My husband tells me I'm naive.  Perhaps.  But I believe that if you think a thing, you can make that thing real.  So I "think Peace" every day, believe it or not.  And I believe that if all of us "think Peace", we will have it. 

Well, it's late and I'm tired so I'll leave off for now.  Take care and stay warm.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Fabulous Seeds

I received my seeds today from Heirloom Seeds.  That was fast!  The seeds came well packaged in a sturdy cardboard box and there were a couple of free packets and a nice little planting guide.  I am very pleased and will order from them again. 

Soooo, today I sat down and worked on the medicine wheel garden with my seed lists and played around with what plants will go where on the wheel.  I figure I will start most of the seeds the beginning of March for transplanting the first of June.  Some of the flower seeds I bought are:  Rocket Larkspur, Purple Conflower, Nasturtium, Single Bloom Hollyhocks, Heliotrope, Foxgloves, Cornflowers, Cosmos, and Cardinal Flowers. 

Some of the new veggies I will be trying this year are Old Dutch Half Runner Beans, Lazy Wife pole beans, Fordhook Bush Lima Beans, Windsor Fava Beans, Russian Cucumber, and Golden Detroit Beets.  Then, I bought some seeds to augment the genetics of seeds I already save:  Wong Bok Chinese Cabbage, Boston Pickling Cucumber, Australian Lemon Cucumber, Marketmore 76 Cucumber, Golden Zucchini, Black Beauty Squash, St. Valery Carrot, and Giant Musselburgh Leeks.  The Old Dutch Half Runner Beans was a customer request from a caterer in the area.  (She's a wonderful cook!)  They were a rather difficult bean to find and I am sure she will be happy when I bring them to our farmers market.  I'm looking forward to trying them, too. 

It has been a while since I ordered seeds from Nichols Garden Nursery, so I ordered quite a bit from them.  This year I will try their Painted Mountain (organic) corn.  The herbs I bought are: Wormwood, Valerian, Skullcap, Thyme, Sweet Annie, Clary Sage, Rue, True Greek Oregano, Mugwort, Marshmallow, Sweet Marjoram, Lovage, Lemon Balm, Joe Pye Weed, Hyssop, Cumin, German Chamomile, Borage, Bergamot, Arnica Montana, Anise, and French Tarragon (plants).

And all these seeds, together with the order from Horizon Herbs, is plenty of flowers and herbs.  Thank Goodness I don't have to spend the money to buy seed potatoes any more!  One last order for onion sets and that will about do it.  I will still need to get the barley, oats, and clover seed; and soil amendments like lime and bone meal, but those I'll get from Bernie at Seed N Feed. 

That medicine wheel should look fabulous in 2 or 3 years.  Can hardly wait to see it!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Garden Planning

It's been fun going through the seed catalogs.  I've placed a couple of order and have only a few more types of seed to buy.  Mostly I bought flower and herb seeds because I have, in the main, seeds for most of the vegetables I want to grow this year.  Weather forecasts for our area indicate another cool and dry summer, which tells me we can expect more hard freezes around the end of June again.  I will be buying lots of Agribon 19 row cover and plan to keep most of the garden covered.

I did buy several tomato seed varieties that I like, and a couple of short season varieties that I will be evaluating.  I like to buy tomato seeds from Tomatofest.  I bought Italian Tree, Wisconsin 55, Rutgers, Cherokee Purple, Elmer's Old German, Large Red, and Mortgage Lifter.  Seeing as we are in another Depression that is worse than that of the 1930's, I thought growing Mortgage Lifter was appropriate.  Tomatofest gave me a free packet of Orange Plum, so I will see how that grows.  The cool season varieties will grow in the field under low tunnels and the warmer weather varieties will grow in the high tunnel.

I placed a seed order with my favorite seed company, Horizon Herbs, and bought wild dandelion, aconite (aconitum napellus), yarrow, vervain, comfrey, and two poppy varieties.  I'm looking for Breadseed Poppy seeds.  (My great-grandmother used to sprinkle Breadseed Poppy seeds around the farm buildings during Easter Week to ward off vampires and evil spirits -- not that that is what I want to do; I want to grow Breadseed Poppies just because Great-Grandma did.  Make it a family tradition, you know what I mean?)

From Heirloom Seeds I ordered some replenishment seeds for varieties I already have -- I want to increase the genetic diversity of what seeds I have saved -- and some nice flowers for a fairy garden.  I did break down and buy from Jung's some Bohemian Horseradish roots and Victoria rhubarb crowns as well as some Mammoth Red Mangels seeds. (I don't like Jung's customer service and I think the quality of their products has deteriorated over the last couple of years.)  I thought I would try growing Victoria rhubarb crowns because the McDonald rhubarb I bought Johnnyseeds is just not growing well here.  Many of the people I know who have rhubarb, have the Victoria variety and complain they have too much of it!  I wish I had that problem.  And my horseradish bed is not doing very well either, but I know that is because it needs manure.  I am sure the bed will take off after I throw a couple of bags of manure on it and plant the new roots.  I had no trouble selling the roots I offered at the farmers market and am sure I will have no problem selling any horseradish I make.

As far as vegetables go, because of the weather forecast for the year, I plan to concentrate mostly on cool weather and root crops -- lots of carrots, beets, rutabegas, potatoes and onions; then spinach, collards, peas and various greens; and under cover will be the tomatoes, squashes, cucumbers, and beans.  I only plant one variety of corn at a time and plan to grow some Painted Mountain to see how it likes this locale.  That, of course, will go out in the field. 

I expect the hops to do well again this year.  I'm of two minds about expanding the hops section.  I have nine plants now, three each of Williamette, Cascade, and Nugget.  I ask myself, do I want to increase the planting and find a micro-brewery to sell the hops to, or do I want to just use the hops for home brewing and crafts as I originally intended?  From what I'm reading, micro-breweries are looking for good hops from local growers here in Wisconsin.  I know my hops are organically grown even though I'm not organically certified, and that they are good quality.  I'll have to think about it.  I had planned to put the medicinal herb garden in the now empty portion of the hops section.  Hmmmm.

I have to admit I'm looking forward to having flowers.  I never was one for flowers -- growing flowers didn't seem practical when food is more important, but after growing the calendula last year and seeing how nice it and the Mammoth Russian Sunflowers looked in the garden, I guess I've been bitten by the flower bug.  I certainly know that flowers sell very well at the farmers market, too.  We'll soon find out what kind of thumb I have for growing flowers.

I'm going to try some spring barley this year along with planting my usual oats, wheat, and peas.  I'm hoping to get a grain storage bin built where I can put the mature grain and feed it cracked to the chickens next winter.  I really don't like buying chicken feed as mash; I much prefer the grains cracked.  The chickens don't seem to have any trouble eating cracked grains and actually seem to eat less.  Anyway, I plan to grow the mangels for winter feed, too.  We'll see what I wind up harvesting.

Well, I have to go take care of Lara, so I'll talk to you later.  Please stay warm and be careful in this terrible cold weather!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Carpe Diem

Take a deep breath and breathe out what's past. Just let it go.
Don't look over your shoulder. If you do, you won't be able to see where you are going.
Have courage.
Have faith in yourself.
Stride into the New Year.
Seize the day.