March 16, 2005 – Fire and Snow Fence

Today was almost as pleasant as it gets – calm, about 50 degrees after a winter of cold, and no bugs! Ran errands in town for a couple of hours with Martin, then we burned the pile of raspberry canes and tomato vines from last year’s garden.

It took some time as I burned the grass around it for some space before lighting the pile, so I wouldn’t have a grass fire on my hands. Burning is one of those necessary dangerous tasks. There’s a sense of skill and care in controlling a fire, especially this time of year when a fire can run for several miles. The vines didn’t dry down enough after we got them out of the garden before wetness and winter set in. Burning helps reduce the chance of disease to spread. So we did!

Then we cleaned the garage and mud room and took down about 150 feet of snow fence. I enjoy putting up and taking down the snow fence. The satisfaction comes, in part, due to the visual nature of the work. So much we do is “invisible work” that putting up and taking down snow fence is highly visible sign of progress.


March 15, 2005 – Iowa Network for Community Agriculture

Today I updated the Iowa Network for Community Agriculture (INCA) web site. I’ve been part of this group for many years and am truly impressed what a real grassroots organization (with no money) can do to connect people together. There have been a number of people (Gary Guthrie at Growing Harmony Farm, Jan Libbey at One Step at a Time Gardens, and Penny Brown woman of many hats) who have been a few of the many people who make the group tick.

I was fortunate enough to be selected by Wells Fargo (my employer) for a 4 month volunteer leave for INCA. Since it is time for a shot of summer, here’s a photo from the Des Moines Farmer’s Market that screams summertime.


March 14, 2005 – Googled Out

The most time-consuming part of the “Growing Your Small Market Farm” class has been writing the surveys and finding survey recipients. Today, I sent out a web survey to 83 people who have on-farm stores or stands. It took a lot of searching and dead-ends, as many farms did not have e-mail addresses on their web sites, just phone numbers. We’ll see how many respond. I was steadfast and did not follow any web tangents and only sent e-mails to others three times for things I found along the way! Next task is to compile addresses for 200 or so local residents. I went to the Post Office to buy 400 stamps today (gulp!)

Here’s a picture of the rest of the people going through the class with us! No doubt each of their enterprises will improve along with ours.


Random unrelated thought
Men’s NCAA Tournament teams from basketball happy Indiana: 0
Men’s NCAA Tournament teams from Iowa: 3

March 13, 2005 – Sunday, Sunday

The day dawned cold and clear, but it was a pleasant cold and clear after all the wind. Of course, by the time we got around to some outside work, the clouds and wind returned. We started pruning the last three apple trees. Here’s Linda hard at work. Martin has proved himself an able tree-climber, so in a decade or so, I’ll have a monkey to climb the trees on my behalf!

Linda Pruning

March 12, 2005 – New Family on the Block

Congrats to Nancy, Jeff and Levi – It’s not often you get a chance to marry your first love 25 years later! This from the Wedding Program “Good things take time. Great things take longer.”

Nancy and Jeff

Nancy has been a long-time friend in the neighborhood (about a mile as the crow flies to the west). After we met, we were each amazed we were so close (in proximity and in way of thinking about the world) and didn’t know it for a year. Nancy is Chicago born and bred who has returned to the state of her grandparents and is an incredible bundle of energy, creativity, and passion. In her spare time, she is spearheading renovation and programming at the Orpheum Theater in Marshalltown.

We look forward to getting to know Jeff as well as we know Nancy.

March 11, 2005 – Cute Ladybugs – Not!

Tonight, I am extremely attractive to those darn Asian Lady Beetles. They swarm the house in late fall during and after soybean and corn harvest and as spring approaches, the remaining survivors make an appearance. As I research small farm stands and roadside stands, they keep crawling over me, the small light next to me, the keyboard, the reams of paper coming out of the printer.

Tomorrow is shaping up as a busy day – class in Ames from 9-12, wedding tomorrow at 2:30. But more on that tomorrow.

As I fill up the last 5 gallon buckets of corn for the corn stove, the gravity wagon portends spring as well. I no longer have to use the small bucket exclusively to catch the corn flowing out of the bottom chute. The weight of the wagon has lessened so the chute is higher as the wagon lifts up (I guess that equal and opposite forces is at work in the shed as we speak). So now I can put the big buckets directly underneath and don’t need to transfer. If I was smart, I would have taken the time to put the wagon up on some blocks, but moving all the stuff, starting the tractor up always seems like more work than the status quo.

By the end of winter, the corn stove – or at least the hauling the corn into the house becomes more of a chore than a pleasure, although it is always a pleasure to sit near the warm flame of the stove.

March 10, 2005 – Martin Finds a Friend

Another town day. I awoke to freezing drizzle and slick roads this morning. About half-way to work the freezing rain stopped. At least the rain and snow was a good setting for the seeds sown yesterday.

Tonight was Emma’s school concert. There was a pony-tailed three-year old redhead sitting in front of us in the bleachers in the gym. Marty sat next to her and they started a conversation. I didn’t catch all of it, but they started talking about what “schools” they went to and it quickly went to a three-year old facial distortion contest. Martin must have thought he found a kindred spirit when the little girl tugged on the skin by her eyes to reveal the part of the eye, not usually seen except by eye surgeons. Then they pulled lips (their own) and stuck out tongues. A good time was had by all and the fun ended all too soon as the concert wrapped up.

March 9, 2005 – Pasture Improvement

This morning Martin and I tried a low-cost experiment. We broadcast (by hand) some seeds into two acres or so of ho-hum pasture. We spread some Birdsfoot Trefoil, clovers, and some pasture mix grasses. It was a cool, but sunny day and not too windy day to do this. Now we just wait for the freeze/thaw to gently place the seeds where they need to be for spring rains. We also cleaned up part of the barn.

Late in the afternoon the UPS man came with some marsh seeds from Ion Exchange for the small mudhole we are trying to renovate – a mix of sedges, grasses, and flowers. Yesterday the UPS man brought beehive boxes for Joanne’s supers.

There’s been a story off the radar – Iowa’s biggest grass/brush fire, consuming between 12-25 square miles, including burning down some homes and farms. It happened this windy weekend.

I checked the Secretary of State web site, and found a new company! High hopes gardens L.L.C. is now a registered entity. So, also applied for IRS EIN number for tax reporting. Also worked some on adding farm store survey to web survey tool

March 8, 2005 – Rythym of Nature Misses a Beat

Town jobs are what people who live on a farm, but have to work in town to help feed their habit. Today was town job day, for me equals 14 hours away. My electic work habits make computers melt. My hard drive crashed on my work laptop, just a month or so after the motherboard was replaced, just a couple of months after the hard drive on my home PC came up DOA.

Last week Linda was down and out part of the week and this is what she wrote reflecting on that:

“I’ve been feeling disconnected from nature, it’s been busy and it’s a rather bleak time of year. This week, however, I was brought to my knees (or rather laid flat on my back” “to live in harmony with the rhythyms of nature.” I came down with a virus that, for most of the week has left me feverish, achy, coughy and nauseous.

Nature, in the form of a virus, had found me. While there’s much debate as whether or not we should consided viruses alive, I at least chose to think the affirmative this week. I was playing host to this virus accomodating every viral whim, replication of viral DNA, construction of new viral particles, and the ever important distribution.

I am not separate from nature nor invulnerable to it. We are tightly connected to all that is beautiful, and some that is not. In the end, my appreciation for my own good healt, the feel of the warm sun on my face yesterday, and the songs of the red-winged blackbird newly returned home for spring, reassured me of my place among living things and renewed my gratitude for this place.”

March 7, 2005 – Capricious March

As nice as yesterday was, today is nasty. The lightning and thunder made it here about 11:00 pm, but not much rain. There was nickel-sized hail in the neighborhood, but none at high hopes. Strong north winds make it too raw to do much of anything outside. It’s the kind of windy day that sets up some kind of resonance in the gutters on the house that just hums and the same in the metal machine shed, vibrating the metal panels. I have a hard time making peace with days like today.

Worked on getting the surveys for the farm entrepreneur class ready. It reminds of jobs long, long, ago stuffing envelopes. No thank you!

Today’s poem from Claire
Tree Whispers
Trees are refuge
Refuge from the world
No worries
Just calm
No heed
to the trucks
speeding by
with rolling
clouds of dust
climb up
clear your head
of all worries
brain is calm
relax, listen to the sound
of autumn
the last crickets chirping
the combine
chugging away
the deep soft whisper
of a tree
getting ready
for winter.

Claire Barnes Runquist
Fall 2004

March 6, 2005 – Lightning in Early March

Tonight Linda and I grabbed the dogs and went for a walk just after dark. The south wind was starting to cool after a 70 degree day. We saw the first lightning of the season in the distance. After we got home, we checked the radar, and the storm is still north of Fort Dodge. The gravel has softened and the cusp of a new season is here.

We proceeded to grind up more corn cobs this afternoon. It remains depressing to see how many are left to do in the stall. The stall seems to be in an expanding universe of its own. The more we get out, the bigger the stall seems to get. I guess I’ll look at the bright side and know we have lots of free bedding. The grinder goes back with Ringo the goat who we’ve been goat-sitting for a week tomorrow. We were wondering who and why all the cobs were there in the first place?

We’ve had requests for the budding writer to share a sample of writing, so without further ado, we’ll post some of Claire’s poems the next few days.

The Journey of Water
The rolling hills
of golden plants
clumps of trees,
miniature streams
to land in a
new bigger place.
With big waves
rolling into the shore with
sparkling sand
with pink shells.
With fluffy
clouds under
a bright
yellow sun.

Claire Barnes Runquist
March 5, 2005

March 5, 2005 – Claire’s Day to Shine

It was a good day for Claire Bear. The morning was the state spelling bee she advanced to after winning her school and regional bee. So while Mom packed up Martin and Emma, I went to class in the morning. Claire went out early, which was fortunate, since she also had her team’s Destination Imagination competition in the afternoon, where their team advanced as well. As if that wasn’t enough, a letter came today announcing she won acceptance and scholarship to a two week middle school Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa. Each school nominates one student, and the program picks 17 students statewide. Congrats to Claire!

Dinner was courtesy of Emma, who won free pizza for reading the most minutes for Dr. Seuss Day at school.

After we got home, we were able to get the 35 youngest fruit trees pruned – just the three big old trees remain. Pruning is one of the most enjoyable tasks. It’s usually one of the first outdoor tasks in the late winter and it is as much an art as a science – a symbiotic relationship between a tree and trying to bring out the best possible fruiting and health.

March 4, 2005 – Catch-up Day

Today was a day to play catch-up. Got the LLC Articles of Incorporation completed, ordered pine,hardwood trees, and native marsh mix for back pasture, and did some updates to the high hopes brochures. Figured out the fencing, but did not order yet.

One of the Sustainable Ag classes from the school came out today and looked at fruit trees for a pruning lesson. Also got some goat hoof trimming done on the side. That’s about all for now.