April 30, 2005 – When will Spring Come Back?

Another freeze last night – record low on this date was 33 until last night’s 31. Most of the day was in the 40’s and windy again. Got two tanks full of water distributed so all the pine trees got watered. We use water off the roof of the barn that goes into a big tank.
water tank
Here’s Emma helping water the trees out in the field.
emma watering

We got just a few more things planted in the garden before the wind sucked the energy out of us.

Girls went to a a dog show in the morning and earned money for their 4-H club by scooping doggy-do from the show rings. This evening some friends from the farm class came over and vaccinated and turned the boys into no chance of being daddies.

April 29, 2005 – Getting Ready for Raspberries

The wind finally stopped blowing today, so this afternoon, I had a chance to prepare the ground for next year’s new berries. Rather than fight with digging up sod, or spraying it, we first put heavy paper over the grass.
Next, we put some old hay we scavenged from a nearby farm.
By next spring, the ground will be ready to plant. These two rows will probably contain fall raspberries and blackberries. How much many more rows to do???

April 28, 2005 – Goose Egg

Our “guard geese” have been laying lately. Opening the egg is like trying to crack a bowling ball. Although it is hard to see via this photo, here’s one egg filling up a frying pan with a knife for scale.

We got the geese after we started losing a chicken or so every other night. After the geese arrived, we have not lost a chicken to night predation.

Had a humorous e-mail at work. It was from an EVP to the sales force. Here’s a sample line: “You might think I’m a numb nuts” In addition there were references to “moving this puppy” (not talking about young dogs). And “This will P.O. (HR wouldn’t let me write this out) a lot of people” I wondered how “pissed off” wasn’t ok but “Numb nuts” was? So we thought we perhaps needed to change the tone of the writing we do to match. Here’s what we came up with for a standard “How To” in a new, less formal style.

OK numb nuts, I know you want to check the latest mortgage rates, so just shut up and listen. This puppy is a picky beast and one wrong click and you’re liable to refinance the loans of over 2 million Wells Fargo customers instead of just the Joe Blow in your office. When this mother of a screen opens, ignore most of the b.s. and just type in their name and social security number. When you click “Refinance Now,” this bad boy may take a while to chug, just chill and start reading all the legal mumbo-jumbo while the mother updates.

April 27, 2005 – The “Upstairs Basement”

Shortly after Martin learned to talk, he referred to the attic as the “upstairs basement.” I thought that was a great way to describe what an attic is if you don’t know that word. It contains virtually the same stuff as the basement. I wonder if any grad students out there have done any studies on the likelihood of certain items being stored in the basement or attic.

At any rate, today was another lousy cold, windy day (but it would be a great day to have a windmill). Martin and I took a load of scrap metal to the landfill for recycling (old bent fence posts, old woven wire, pots, lamps, fence bracing). It’s always nice to get rid of that stuff and think you’re not on the slippery slope to junky farm.

As it looks like we may be re-roofing and adding a dormer to the attic, that means it is time to clean out the attic. It’s one of those tasks that you can work for three hours and an untrained eye would see virtually no difference. For all the attic voyuers, here’s a peak into ours.

attic 1

Martin was occupied playing with old toys and looking through old photo albums. There is one nice part about the existing attic – the old handrail around the stairway. It is nicely finished but the attic is not. Did they give up?
attic 1

I brought down all the framed photos we took off the walls in the main room before we remodeled last summer (It may be time to put them back up).

April 26, 2005 – Brother Kraig

I would be remiss if after featuring sister Julie, I did not follow-up with brother Kraig. A huge Wilco and Brother Trucker fan, he’s hooked on trout fishing in Iowa (that is a sport, not a band), and his job with CHEP managing reusable pallets.

Kraig also has a passion for fine wine. A worldwide search for the finest viticulture found him in the Burgundy region of France, Rhine Valley in Germany, the back corners of Austria and Hungary, a scan of the Australian landscape, a look at the emerging vineyards of Chile – before finally discovering his all-time favorite reserve variety at a Rochester, MN Hy-Vee store.


April 25, 2005 – Cool Things

We’ve been talking off and on about “getting off the grid.” The corn stove gets off most of the heating grid, but electricity is a long way away. My interest in a small wind turbine is rekindled with our leader’s attitude that it’s better to beg people (foreigners) to keep gouging us for energy, rather than becoming self-suffient. I found a cool site that estimates the wind energy potential for each part of the state (there’s even one for the now non-existent town of Van Cleve, a mile away from our house). It shows average wind speeds per month, which is vital in calculating costs/savings/feasability.

April 24, 2005 – BRRR!

Last night was cool – I was up at 6:30 am and was curious what it was like outside, so I got up and went outside. The weather said it was 28 in Marshalltown and 32 in Newton – so it was probably in between at high hopes. There wasn’t a lot of frost, but there was 1/16 or so of ice on the dog dish. As long as I was up and everybody else was still asleep, I went to the dump pile at the pallet company and got another load of wood shavings. I guess we’ll see in a few weeks, how the cold affected the fruit trees.

April 23, 2005 – An Entire Saturday!

This was the first time in a long time we didn’t have Saturday morning class. So instead of our day starting at about 1:30, we were able to spend the morning cleaning house (I know, you are all real envious of that kind of fun). It was a very windy and cold day, so that precluded planting any more garden.

Then this afternoon the lawn got mowed, some more seasonal fences put up and improved, and the biggest task was cleaning out the biggest side of the chicken coop, which we have never used. We’ve been working on it a bit of a time, cleaning it out, and today was the last bit. Next step is to put cement patch along some parts of the foundation to make it more critter-proof and make a new small chicken door in the back, then it will be ready. I also got a good load of wood shavings scrounged from the pallet company at sundown when the wind let up a bit.

Here’s Marty’s idea of an amusement park – rolling along in a section of a bulk bin – we’re moving it back to where it belongs after it was on a hay wagon to haul wood chips.

April 22, 2005 – Unscheduled Trip to Dr. Paschen

If you don’t see his name, it sounds (Dr. Passion) like a sidekick to “Ladies Man” – but he is our favorite pediatrician and we still drive to Ames to see him. Marty was learning how to clean out bee hives and sliced his palm open. It was a bad cut, but seemed maybe not bad enough for stitches, but to err on the side of caution, we went over to Ames to check it out. The good Dr. himself saw it as a borderline whether or not it needed stitches (or kitty whiskers, as Martin calls them). He decided just to keep it closed without stitches.

On the way home we drove into a dramatic storm, looking black as night from the contrast with the sun as we drew near. There was rain and hail and many folks were pulled over on the side of the road- but we just kept going, hoping for really big hail and a new van! But we were out of luck – no big hail; nor any big hail at home (the roof needs replacing and it would be nice to get some help paying for it!)

Tonight, I squeezed out about 3 hours worth of corn for the corn stove as it is very windy and supposed to get into the 30’s.

April 21, 2005 – Sister Julie

Sister Julie informs me that her radio station finally has a web site up with a page for her. She works for a Country station in Rochester, MN.

I could share a lot about Julie, but let’s just say she’s not to be confused with Julia Child. One of my favorite Julie cooking stories was the time she burned hard-boiled eggs. Yep. Cooked ’em so long all the water evaporated out of the pot and burned the suckers. Here she is with a bite to eat before her wildly successful L.A. Weight Loss diet.


April 20, 2005 – First Morels of Season

Went out looking for the first fungi of the season and had only moderate success – about 20 or so. Martin enjoyed it, but being close to the ground did not help him find any.

This morning was errand time – but some of note – got High Hopes Gardens LLC checking and credit cards set up, went to the county engineer’s office to pay for dust control on the road, got chicken food, dropped off Emma’s library books…

In the afternoon got the rest of the fence pulled up and back in the ground. Now I just have to haul up the unused materials and put the insulators on the north fence and re-run the electric wire. May have to do the same for the island fence. Had some time to finish mowing the yard. The to-do list is now creeping up as so much time was spent on planting.

Missed the rain again today.

April 19, 2005 – Bonus hours

Today Linda had a dinner meeting, so I came home early from work. Claire made dinner on her own for the family and Martin and I went into the back pasture and finished the fence around the “island” planting. We just have about 100 feet of fence by the pine planting to move out 16 feet and the fencing will be done – still no rain, even though there has been a threat.

In the on-going series of spring blossoms – today it’s the nectarine. This is the last year for this tree. It blew over in a storm a few years ago and grew back from the rootstock. We let them ripen last year, but they really weren’t any good, but we thought we’d let it bloom this spring before cutting it down to enjoy the profusion of blossoms. It will be replaced.

April 18, 2005 – Finishing Up Mulching (sort of)

Today, I finished distributing the last of the mulch. Everybody’s tucked in, but I could probably add another truckload to make some thin spots a little thicker. Here’s a look at the pines completed

pine planted
Sharp eyed readers may notice that some of the trees are protected by a fence and others are not. No, this is not the Sven and Ole planting, the nursery sent us about 20 extra trees, so I started an unplanned row and have to move part of the fence over. I’ve also got about 1/4 of the fence around the hardwoods to complete – then I will be done with this project except for watering.

The trees are in full bloom – here’s a peach blossom on a tree in the ground at high hopes for its third spring.
peach blossom

April 17, 2005 – Prairie Burn

I had a welcome diversion from tree planting this late afternoon to help at a prairie burn. Yesterday we were wet because of rain today because of sweat – it was in the 80’s. I was ready to stop looking at trees and mulch for a while! Although I’m glad to report all trees are in the ground and only eight more need mulch. I’m going to hope for a lot of rain this week!

We went to Two Friends Farm and our burnmeister and host Steven explains the game plan. They had already made some small burns around the woodland, house, and road and were ready for the big burn today.

We all pause for a while to admire the flamethrower before lighting the fire.
We gather up the backpack water tanks and flappers to control the burn at the edges and against the wind.

water tank

Steven ignites the maiden potion of the fire, a backburn, one that moves slowly AGAINST the wind.
Once it gets going, here is the small, controlled backburn in process.

Now the fun starts when the burnmeister lights the headfire – the fire that will take off with the wind and meet up with the backfire and harmlessly extinguish.

Here’s more pictures of the headfire gaining steam.
Remember, this is a job for professionals – do not try this at home!