Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pictures From the Forest Garden

After the rain stopped I thought I'd take a stroll in the forest garden.  To my surprise, something has chewed all of the leaves off of every single one of the red currant bushes.  They were looking so good, too!  The black currant bushes look a little wind swept, but they are not chewed up like the red currant bushes are.  I'll have to try and find out what got to them.

Titania Black Currant
I can't believe how big the Mugwort has grown:
The artemesia absinthe (Wormwood) is silvery and gorgeous.  I cut armfuls of it to dry and sell at the farmers market.

I spotted this happy bee in the hyssop:

Bee in hyssop
The valerian finally decided it liked where I put it:

Most of the other herbs look good, but some don't.  I think I will make a hydrogen peroxide bug spray and give everything a good wetting.  Here's the recipe:

Mix together
1 cup blackstrap  molasses
1 cup hydrogen peroxide
1 gallon water

This forest garden experiment sure gives me lots to think about!

Have a good evening!

Greenhouse Raising

Amen and Hallelujah, Brother!   There's finally been a greenhouse raising here.  I am SO happy!

We had a great crew:  my sister, Mary, and her son, John; my sister, Anna, and her husband, John; Anna's daughter, Angie, and her husband, Todd; my Dad; and Tom and me.  I was terrified putting that roof on would be a nightmare, but the whole task took only minutes with all of the helping hands.  My nephew, John, took a picture of all of us and says he will send me a copy of the photo to put up here.  Angie says that now Todd wants a greenhouse LOL. Tomorrow Tom says he'll put in the door, and then we'll decide on what type of rock mulch to put down on the inside and around the perimeter.

To thank everybody I fixed a huge pot of chili, lots of cornbread, and a big apple crisp.  Todd and Angie brought their new baby, Parker, for us to see; and John and Anna brought another daughter's (Darcy) children, Hannah and Cole.  They are rather shy kids but gladly they seem to relaxing a bit more -- must be getting used to coming here.  Hannah likes my piano and Cole likes our dog, Sandy.
Parker is a little peanut and looks just like his Daddy.  What a precious baby.  Aren't they all though?  Todd said this was like an old fashioned barn raising (hmmmm, a barn, hmmmmm) and I heartily agreed.

It was a fun day.  The weather held until about 2:00 p.m. when everybody left to go back to John and Anna's farm before the rain started.  This weekend is Butternut's town festival, Pioneer Days, and the kids wanted to go and have some fun there.  Thanks to all!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Of Politics and Limericks

When I checked my email this morning and some of my favorite blogs, I found a great video on Jude Cowell's blog Stars Over Washington.  The video is from Russia Today tv and shows how Republican President Eisenhower and Democrat President Harry Truman lowered America's debt AND grew the economy at the same time.  It's a great video and I just had to pass it on. (I want to note that in the video Thom Hartmann misnames Mark Kirk and calls him Ron Kirk.  The reason I caught that was because my family went to the Drs. Kirk -- Mark's dad and then his brother -- for close to 40 years for our eye care.  Once I poked myself in the eye with a screwdriver while messing around with my bike while my parents weren't at home, and I walked over to the Kirk's house where old Dr. Kirk was out mowing his lawn.  He checked out my eye, gave me some salve and sent me home with the admonition to leave the screw driver alone. There's a nice old neighborhood doctor story for you!)  Anyway, I wish our politicians were as competent as old Dr. Kirk was at handling problems.

On another front, the fight in Wisconsin continues.  We have won the first recall election and there are two more coming up in August.  Then the big recall effort starts in January.  I made up this little ditty the other day thinking about this:

In Wisconsin was once a fast talker
Power and Fame he did stalk fer
People's rights he did diss
So the People he pissed
And that was the end of Scott Walker!

Lara thought it was pretty good.  Oh, well.  A poet I am not.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Still Taking It Slow

We ventured out to the field the other day to try and get some work done.  We hilled the potatoes again, and I started weeding the onions which are pretty weedy. Tom cut some of the grass inside the fence line, but we only stayed out  about 2 1/2 hours before Tom pulled something in his back and I got sick from the heat.  We went back to the house and crashed.  We are just going to take it slow.

While we were in the field we did have some fun.  There is a big spruce tree that was in the creek buffer zone and that came down in last year's tornado (one year ago today BTW) that we still have to cut up and move out of the way.  Well, when Tom walked the mower by that tree two fawns jumped up that were hiding behind the branches.  Amazingly, instead of being afraid of our BCS tractor (it's pretty loud) they acted like they were trying to play with Tom and the mower.  He kept walking afraid that they would spook if he stopped moving, and the fawns darted up and down, back and forth, no more than 10-15' feet from Tom, but always on the outside of the fence.  It was something to watch, I tell you.  I was surprised at how red the fawns' coats are already, and they still had their spots, too.  They must have danced around Tom and the mower a good ten minutes before prancing down the length of the field along the creek and hopping into the woods circling the big marsh to the south of the field.  (I bet that was where "Mom" was).  Sandy, our dog, was going nuts because I made her stay by me (dog chasing deer get shot real quick up here).   

In order to preserve the lightheartedness of the moment, I decided not to bother checking on the status of my beets.

This morning I was feeling better and planned to go back to the field to renew my onion weeding, but it was pouring rain outside. (Ahh, the smell of radioactive Cesium in the morning . . . .) Still,  I am thankful for the rain because we have really needed it.  I do have some Hubbard squashes and pie pumpkins coming up, and about four melon plants have survived, so the rain will do them some good.  The plants look like they are about ready to start running over the ground.  I sure hope I get some harvest from them all!

We are running low on basil, so I ran out and cut some of the larger basil plants and put them in the dehydrator.  I love using the dehydrator; the house smells so nice when things are drying. 

My friend Diane Barkstrom from the farmers market gave me a call asking how I was doing, and I assured her that I do plan on coming to the market, but that I was concentrating on late season crops like my Red Cloud potatoes, the New England pie pumpkins, and the winter squashes.  I didn't mention the melons because I doubt they will mature before we get a hard frost.  Hopefully, I will get some beets to sell, too.  I didn't plant many warm weather veggies like cucumbers and summer squash because our usual vendors always have them.  Well, it turns out that this year those vendors either didn't plant at all for the market or their gardens are late, too, so there is a dearth of veggies at both of the farmers markets.  Gee Whiz anyhow!  I think I'll have to stop guessing what everybody will sell and just plant what I want  to plant.  My family will certainly eat any extras. 

Over in my brother-in-law's garden that he said I could use this year, my Dad unfortunately thought nothing was in there and he plowed everything I had planted under.  Ouch!  There went the Jenny Lind melons and Old Dutch Half-Runner beans along with everything else. 

Back in the garden boxes, the okra is tall enough now that I have to remove the Agribon covering,  I just LOVE fresh okra so I'm not so sure I want to share, er, sell any of it, but we'll see.  My Rutgers tomatoes are huge, but there is no fruit yet, just flowers.  The Egyptian Walking onions are starting to fall over so I think I will sell some of those sets as well as a couple of the Bohemian horseradish roots.  I have some Charentais and Moon and Stars melons planted in with the horseradish, and they are doing grand!  I think the bugs are not bothering them because of their proximity to the horseradish, which nothing seems to bother.  New plantings of beets, carrots, lettuce and radishes are growing nicely and should be ready in about a month, and the green beans I planted are growing quickly.  Surprisingly, the beans are showing a lot of sun scald despite my keeping them covered with Agribon for most of the time.

The garlic and Silver Queen Artemesia are drying nicely in the garage so it shouldn't be too much longer before we have things to sell.  I also have the one apron I made to sell.  It will be interesting to see if anyone buys it. 

Nothing came of my three dill plantings, so I bought some more seed from a new company (new, that is, for me to purchase from) called Victory Seeds.  I should be able to get a harvest of at least ferns if I plant the dill now.  Victory is an interesting company as they sell old fashioned candy as well as tobacco seeds.  I bought some native Mohawk tobacco seed to plant next year, too.  That will be something different to grow. 

I did some more spinning with my Turkish spindle last night.  I am still spinning the wool Tom got me two Christmasses ago, but it is actually nice to spread the using of a gift out over time and I do so love how soothing spinning can be to my nerves. 

My neighbor, Beth, came by this morning and we shared a pot of Chai Spice tea and gabbed non-stop.  That was fun!  It was my first time making the Chai Spice tea and she said it tasted good so I guess I made it right. I lost the box with the recipe printed on it and brewed the drink from memory.  I sure liked it but I need to find a tea pot that doesn't drip.  One of these days we are going to go shopping at the Amish store together.  That should be a fun day.  It isn't often that I can get out without taking one of the kids with me.

Well, that's about it for now.  Take care!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Do What You Love

I've been trying to think of ways to earn extra income out here in the boonies and started thinking about skill sets.  That, in turn, got me to thinking about niches that need to be filled.  A lot of people in rural areas wear more than one hat; that is, they aren't just farmers or storekeepers. When you drive by farms at the end of the driveway you often can see signs that say "tool sharpening" and "excavation work" or "wells drilled" and "welding done".   Even shops in town have signs in their windows that announce skills or services available besides their primary offering like "keys made" or "zippers mended while you wait". 

While I am confident in my ability to do various kinds of needlecraft, I would like to add some of what I consider "mechanical" skills. For instance, one of the schools around here (and I can't remember which one) advertised a welding class to be held this Fall for adult learners. I plan to go to that class.  I don't have a welder, but welding is a skill I'm certain has a strong long term value and is a good skill to have.

I'm also interested in tool sharpening. I remember asking my Dad one time how he learned to sharpen tools (a lot of people used to bring him their tools to sharpen when he could see better) and he told me to just take some tools that needed sharpening and sharpen them. Well, I didn't consider that to be much help at the time, but now I understand: Learn By Doing. That was why I bought The Complete Guide To Sharpening by Leonard Lee. I'm not very good yet at sharpening, but I'm working on it.

There is one skill I'm learning that I'm pleased with how I'm progressing --

Yep. Piano tuning. For the last two years I've been wanting to get my piano tuned as a Mother's Day present to myself but never managed to get it done.  So, a couple of weeks ago I searched the Internet for how to tune your own piano and came up with this web site. I remembered that it cost me $150 to get my piano tuned nine years ago just before we moved to Wisconsin, and while the cost of Pete's teaching materials was around $190, I figured it would take less time and be cheaper now and over the long term to learn how to tune my piano myself.  The best part is that I do have a piano on which to practice the skill of piano tuning. And it really isn't that difficult to learn. I find Pete's books very easy to understand (I wonder if he's left-handed like me), and I thoroughly enjoy getting rid of my "twanging" keys. I think I could like piano tuning as a side job. I just loved opening up my piano and seeing this --

I remember buying this piano at a used piano warehouse in Forest Park, Illinois probably close to 30 years ago.  The price was $1,800 but I paid $800 for it plus $100 moving expense to our house.  The man in the warehouse went from piano to piano playing a little ragtime music while I listened.  I didn't like the sound of any of the pianos he played until he played on this one.  The tone was just right!  I made a good choice in choosing a Gulbransen piano.  And the fact that this piano was made in America testifies to quality American craftsmanship and manufacturing.  We aren't a poor nation; we just need to remember who we are and what we can do when we put our mind to it.

Do what you love.

Siesta Time

We have been hit with a heat wave here in the upper Midwest that is (to say the least) unpleasant.  Yesterday the heat index was 108°F.  I have never known temperatures to be that high here.  The air was so humid yesterday that it felt as if I was down in New Orleans touring the Gulf on the steamboat Natchez.  Every little movement made me sweat.   I was seriously concerned for our health because we don't have air conditioning so Tom went out and finally bought a 6,000 BTU air conditioner for Lara's room.  She immediately perked up after it ran for a while.  I called my Dad to check up on him because he doesn't have air conditioning either, AND he refuses to even run any of the fans we have bought him over the years.  Then later in the day, thunderstorms blew in -- loud boomers with lots of lightning -- and dropped between 2 and 4 inches of welcome rain on us.  Of course, the electricity went out.  There was flash flooding in a lot of places, but here the rain soaked right in the ground because we have been so dry.  Anyway, the heat wave is supposed to be with us for about a week.  I am calling this Siesta Time -- time to take things easy and forget about work until later.

This heat experience makes me think about people's dependence on fans and air conditioning.  Maybe my Dad has the right idea about not using air conditioning or even fans to keep cool.  If you get used to depending on the electrical grid to be comfortable, what are you going to do if the grid goes down?  Is it better to naturally acclimatize yourself to current weather conditions; or, is it better to use modern conveniences and acclimatize yourself only when you must?  Need vs. Desire.  Hmmmm.  Maybe I should pull out my Letters From A Stoic and see if Seneca has any apt input on the issue.

Before this awful heat descended, I was working steadily on breaking the 200 lb. weight plateau that I am struggling with.  This empty space --

where we plan to put a 12' x 10' shed to house all of the garden tools used to hold waist high weeds and this --

Remember last year when we had to literally saw our way down through the driveway after the tornado?  Well, this is the wood from that mess.  It took me three days to move one piece at a time.  I don't think it would have taken that long except that our hand cart has a flat wheel on it that I guess will not get replaced unless I do it so I had to roll the bigger pieces over the ground to get them out of the way.  We plan to split this wood next summer.

I also took down my maple syrup rig (look on the right side of this blog to see the picture of Tom stirring maple sap) and piled it out of the way next to my burn barrel.

Then I worked on the garden boxes.  I pulled out of one garden box the lettuce that went bitter from the heat and the overgrown radishes, and I planted more of the same that will hopefully grow fast with the heat.  In another box I planted more carrots and green beans (which I wasn't going to plant because Tom planted so many beans, but the deer have been visiting his garden so I wanted to be sure I got beans from somewhere to can for the winter).  Next, I pulled the garlic and let it dry for a few days before tieing it up in bunches and hanging it in the garage to cure for a couple of weeks.  That reminds me, have you seen the latest prices are for seed garlic?!!

In another garden box, the basil and sage are gorgeous!  The dainty chervil has gone to seed and I'm letting it reseed where it is to increase its patch.  And the rosemary I planted is finally starting to come up.  I also made a third planting of dill; I'm not having much luck with dill this year and I certainly hope some of it comes up somewhere.  The sage patch smelled so good that I harvested about half of it to put in the dehydrator.  (The house smells SO good.)  The rest of it I hope to sell at the farmers market.  The basil looks great but has to grow some before I can harvest it.

I really need to get to town and buy the lumber for more garden boxes. 

Talk to you soon.  Stay cool!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011


And that was the sound of Tom's shot gun going off to make us one chicken-eating fox down!  Finally.  It was the smaller fox that he shot, but I'm not complaining.  So it's one down and one to go! 

Our Fourth of July holiday was very busy.  We spent two days cutting Dad's grass for him with our BCS brush mower attachment because we found out that a certain "good" neighbor borrowed his brush mower and returned it broken. Dad, being the person he is, didn't make him fix it.  To Dad's way of thinking, bringing the matter to the "good" neighbor's attention would be equally as bad manners as it was bringing back the mower broken and not even telling that you had broken it.  What makes this circumstance so appalling is that the person in question can easily afford to buy his own equipment to use.  This is another strike in my book against this person; he had better not show up at my house for anything.  Rural etiquette rule:  Never borrow equipment from a neighbor and return it in a lesser condition than it was when you borrowed it.

We had visits from  nieces and nephews, too.  It's always wonderful to see them all.  My nephew, John Christian, is off to Basic Training in the Navy Reserves.  It's been a while since our family had a "swabby" so I don't know what a medical corpman job is called in the Navy, but that is what John is going to be.  We certainly wish him well.  Tom gave him a few tips for getting through BT and shared some WWII Navy stories -- Tom's Dad was in the Navy and Pacific Theatre in WWII.  Then, my niece's three "shorties" were fascinated by my remaining chickens and had to view the view the macabre pile of feathers on the West side of the house from the latest fox raid.  Aaron even retrieved a feather to keep. 

And, of course, our bar-b-que was just fine.  Dad came over as did my sister, Mary and her husband, John.  It was a nice holiday.

Then it was back to work yesterday.   I started clearing away the area where we want to put the new shed.  This involves moving the pile of wood we cut last year after the tornado blew through and cutting down the weeds.  What a job!  I also have to move my maple syrup rig, and I think I'll put it next to the chicken run (that they don't use) until I figure out where to permanently site it.  I want to eventually build a good concrete/fire brick outdoor oven/bar-b-que where I can boil down maple sap and we can cook outside on hot days.  Tom worked on the greenhouse.  We are almost ready to raise the roof onto the base. 

We finally got some rain last night.  Yeah!

Well, I have to get going here.  Talk to you later!