Friday, December 31, 2010

Letter to the Old Year

Dear 2010,

I'll make this short:

You totally sucked and I'm glad to see the back of you!  You were the third lousy year in a row for me, and all I can say is I will forget you as soon as possible.  My Solar Return astrology chart for this year says that the majority of my planets have now moved back into "balance" so I am hopeful of the future, even though the shadow of my second Saturn return waits in the wings of October 2013 and I am not looking forward to that time rhyme because my first Saturn return just about killed me.

While I did recognize the numerous difficult spiritual opportunities you hosted for me this year, there's nothing that says I had to like them.  I don't.  Nevertheless, I feel that I have successfully assimilated the lessons' essences (I re-read Gregg Braden's book, Secrets of the Lost Mode of Prayer) and can honestly say that I harbor you no ill feelings.  

So, good-bye 2010 as you settle into your place on your appointed square in the World of Time.  I will not miss you.  In fact, my thoughts have already moved on to more pleasant fare --

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Christmas Prayer

On this Christmas Day whatever your beliefs,  I send you:

LOVE like food to fill you,

PEACE like a blanket to warm you,

GNOSIS like a strong house that keeps you safe,

JOY in the labors of your soul which glorify Almighty God.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Cold Continues

It was -20F this clear and sunny morning without the windchill, and with little wind, it was actually not bad being outside.  The chickens were clucking and cooing inside the coop when I brought them their fresh water, and I swear they were telling me to hurry up and give them their oats and corn.  Too bad all the eggs I collected were already frozen.  I'm surprised some of the hens are still laying. 

I spent the day comparing seed prices.  It feels good to plan this year's garden.  I even sent off an order to Woodstock Nursery for three Haralson apple trees and one Chestnut crabapple tree.  I hesitated to try this nursery because I favor standard rootstocks over semi-dwarf and dwarf rootstocks for this area, but it is a Wisconsin nursery so there is a good chance the trees will grow here even if they are on semi-dwarf rootstock.  We'll see.  If I like how the trees grow, I'll buy from Woodstock again.  I'm also working on a tree order for my favorite tree nursery, St. Lawrence Nursery, for more trees from them, as well.  I'm thinking about getting their pear tree package, two Golden Russet apple trees, two Westfield-Seek-No-Further apple trees, and one grafted plum tree each of Toka, Waneta, and Pipestone.  The idea is to dig up the trees currently in the orchard section (what's left of them), put them in pots to grow in a sheltered spot close to the house so they hopefully can recover from the deer damage they have sustained, and later be replanted.  The new trees will take their place, and this time I have the fencing to surround each tree so the deer can't get at them.    I would like to make a single order, but it's easier for me financially to buy a little at a time, i.e., an order per month; ordering this way doesn't stress the budget as much.  I figure that I should have everything I want ordered by planting time.  I'll be watching for a grafting class to be offered that I can attend so if the trees I dig up from the orchard section are not salvageable, maybe I can use the rootstock to graft on new scion wood. 

I've been thinking about what I want to plant for the market garden.  It's my hunch that this year will be another cool year.  I know, I know -- we were lucky that this past growing season went into October without a hard freeze, but that is not the usual weather for this locale.  I'm betting on another year with off-season frosts so I'm going to plant heavily with root crops, peas, and greens.  I'm also going to try planting grains to use for animal feed because the cost of feed is skyrocketing.  I'll plant barley, oats, mangels, dent corn, and maybe some wheat.  Dad is going to show Mary and I how to use the tractor, so I'll practice by turning over some more of the old pasture behind the farm house that we want to reclaim from the woods for that planting.  I have already tried growing grains and they have grown well for me, but I have not harvested the grains -- just turned them under as cover crops for soil enrichment.  I will need to find some way to store the grains, but it will be great to grow my own animal feed. 

Even when it's cold, there is always lots to do to keep busy. 

Till next time, be safe and well!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cold and Colder

Well, we really got snow!  Only about eight inches, but the wind is brutal and is still blowing and making snow drifts.   Highway 2 was closed up in Ashland and most people are being smart and staying off the roads.  I bundled up and took Dad a plate of lasagna; I was ready to ask him to show me how to use the tractor to plow out his drive because he has a doctor appointment tomorrow morning, but one of our neighbors had already come and cleared out a path for him.  Even with the snow still blowing and drifting I think he will be able to get out with his truck tomorrow morning. I told him to call me if he thinks he'd rather not drive because our truck has 4-wheel drive and his doesn't. "No, no, no," -- he never wants anyone to help him. But I think he'll be ok. 

The wind chill was around -35F last night and I was half afraid to look inside the chicken coop this morning when I trudged through the snow drifts to open up the coop, but all the chickens looked dandy.  The thermometer I have on the wall registered the temperature at 18F -- not too bad!  I forked over the bedding, set up the fresh waterer, checked the feeder, and tossed some oats and corn into the bedding for them to scratch out.  There was only one egg in the nest boxes, but it was still warm and I carefully tucked it in my coat pocket.  Then I banked more snow around the outside of the coop.  It is supposed to be even colder the next three nights.  When the cold is sustained for several days at a stretch, that's when you have to pay closer attention to your animals.  Chickens normally (especially if you buy breeds that are known to be cold hardy) can take cold weather pretty well, but if you get below -10F you have to check on them more often.  I like giving them  fresh warm water twice a day and extra carbs in the feed -- like oats.  A more experienced chicken farmer told me that when the cold lasts more than two days he goes out at 2:00 a.m. with a lantern and wakes them all up to get them moving around for a couple of minutes.  He doesn't heat his coop in the winter and slightly overstocks his chickens in the coop area believing that the body heat from the increased numbers of chickens is enough to keep them from freezing.  I like being able to ask more experienced farmers questions, and I listen to what they say.  There's always something to learn even if you may not agree on procedure.

I got the spinning wheel from Dad today.  He told me what parts are missing so I'll go online and see what I can find.  He told me that he thinks someone made this wheel more for a decoration than for actual spinning, but I ought to be able to get it to operate with a little work.  That's good enough for me, so for the time being I'll put it in the basement corner.  The wood is stained a lovely dark walnut color.  I really like it.

The Christmas cookies are going fast.  Certain people have even cleared off the top of the freezer so they can make cookie raids quick and silent.  Well, it is Christmas time, and cookies make some of the best Christmas memories! 

 Be safe and warm!

Friday, December 10, 2010


Tom got a deer today bow hunting!  It was a good sized buck; not a big rack, but he was pretty big.  I know because I had to help Tom drag the critter out of the woods.  Why do hunters always bag their prey just before dark? Oh, well.  We finally have some venison for the freezer.

Went to the feed store yesterday and loaded up on chicken supplies since we are supposed to get a foot of snow this weekend.  The increase in the price of layer mash was enough to give me heart palpitations. I sure don't like what I'm seeing at the grocery and feed stores.  I bought a bag of oats to add to the daily feed.  Oats will give the chickens some extra carbs to help them keep warm. I banked the bags of wood chips I use for bedding against the walls to act as insulation, and the bags of feed stacked in the small storage section should act as insulation, too, so this weekend when the temps get down to -0F and below, the coop should be cozy. 

I baked Christmas cookies all day today for us, Dad, and to send to Sarah.  The house sure smelled good.  I made chocolate chip, chocolate chip raisin, fudge and peanut butter chip cookies, gingerbread men, and dark and light almond bark.  Lara wants me to make some Hersey Kiss cookies and brownies, and I want to try making Pfefferneuse -- that's something I haven't tried baking before. 

Oh, I almost forgot -- my sister found me a spinning wheel at the thrift store (her second home) for $25!  My Dad is looking it over and I'lll pick it up tomorrow when I take him some good chicken soup and Christmas cookies.  A spinning wheel AND a loom.  Wow!  And to think that both items came to me out of the blue.  Must be meant to learn how to use them.  I think that's very interesting.  I'll post a picture as soon as I can.

Well, I'm pooped from dragging that deer out of the woods so I'll leave off for now.  Be safe and well!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

December Already

I can't believe how fast the time flies.  The days are just plain too short!

Tonight I went with my sister to her daughter's Madrigal Dinner Concert.  It is such a pleasure to watch our young people growing up.  Here is a Christmas treat video for you that I took at the concert.  It isn't very long -- only two carols are sung.  My niece, Melissa, starts out the second carol, O Holy Night.  With times being what they are, it's wonderful to hear music that lifts one's spirit.

Lara's check up for her broken leg went very well.  I wish I could show you the x-rays.  Her leg is mending beautifully, and the doctor says she does not need to wear the splint any more.  She will go for another x-ray the end of this month, and hopefully that will be it.  The doctor seemed very pleased, and he thinks that Lara will be able to bend her leg at the knee as before.  So, another couple of weeks and I'll breathe easier.  We even got the ok to go back to bowling with Special Olympics.  All of the young people were glad to see Lara again. I like to see her socialize with other young people.

I am finishing up the canning.  I took the fruit out of the freezer and canned blueberries and blackberries and cherries for baking.  I also made some blueberry and blackberry juice; some blackberry jam; and I found one bag of apricots that I made a batch of jam with, too.  That leaves the rhubarb, some strawberries, and one bag of raspberries that I plan to made pie filling with.  I haven't tried canning pie filling before so that will be interesting.  I may take some of the blackberry juice and try making some blackberry cordial; that sounds like a good drink for a cold night.

It has been around 15F here for the last few days, and it has been snowing lightly.  The chickens don't like going outside of the coop.  Every morning when I bring them fresh water, I open the door and they are there waiting for me and talking to me with their soft voices.  They look very nice with their new feathers.  I turn over their bedding and check their food.  They watch everything I do.  They like the warm water I bring them.  I still get between 1 and 3 eggs a day.  It's barely enough for us to eat so right now I have no spare eggs to sell.  This is usually the poorest time of year for chickens to lay.  I don't push my birds to lay because I'd rather they spent their winter energy on growing their new feathers and keeping warm.  They will start laying better soon enough.  Everyone needs a vacation, right?  I love my chickipoos.

I took Eddy to see the new Harry Potter movie at the theater in Park Falls.  There were quite a few people there.  It was an ok movie; I hope the second part is better.  I am looking forward to seeing the new Tron movie and the remake of True Grit.  Those look really good. 

With the weather being what it is, it's nice to stay inside and fix a crock pot of soup and have a cup of tea.

Especially when I'm working on next year's garden plan and browsing all the seed catalogues that are coming in the mail. 

Here are the empty seed packets from last year:

As soon as I get the garden layout worked out, I'll post it for  you.  Until then --

Stay safe and warm!