August 31, 2005 – Hints of Fall

The first hints of fall are appearing as September nears. Some of the soybean fields are showing a splash of yellow as the drying down begins.

hint fall
We lost our first turkey overnight – one of the biggest toms – just dropped dead, no sign of predation (they are behind an electric netting fence.)

We also closed on a home refinance that was and is rife with errors and bad communication. I’ll be happy when it is completed.

August 30, 2005 – Distracted Day

I’m feeling fortunate to only feeling distracted. I’m afraid I wasn’t entirely productive at work today. I was so struck by the Katrina coverage and unfolding devastation that I found it hard to concentrate. I wonder where the 1.5 million people in New Orleans went? How long can they live without jobs and expenses living away from home?
I’m particularly struck by the force it must take to lift concrete sections of highways up and off. What it must have been like to witness these large chunks of highway lift off, splash and disappear?
How awful must it be in a city without electricity, water, and power. I catch myself wondering what I would do in that situation. Would I go back and live there? If not, where would I go?
It truly is a disaster of mammoth proportions. My heart goes out to all who are suffering.

August 29, 2005 – “Rhythm Replaces Strength”

NOTE: I have turned on a verification before comments can be posted. This blog has been assaulted with blog spam – comments that are really ads and spam. Today I had to delete eight such comments. Feel free to drop comments, just know you’ll have to scroll down the comment entry form a little further to enter a visible code that will prevent the automated spam attaching to blogs. Is nothing sacred?

“Rhythm Replaces Strength” is a phrase I heard at church service this weekend that caught my ear. I may rephrase it as “Rhythm Replaces Force.” Rhythm in this context means the rhythm of the day – waking, eating, working, resting – whatever is part of the day – and the rhythm of the weeks, seasons, even lives. This rhythm isn’t monotonous as it may first appear for there are multiple levels of rhythms superimposed on each other. Knowing this rhythm – the right time to act, the time to wait, (sounds kind of like the beatitudes here) makes life richer.
Life on the farm certainly has its rhythms, particularly seasonal rhythm and rhythms of birth and death. Understanding this rhythm prevents you from doing the wrong thing or the right thing at the wrong time. It’s so much more work to force your way against the rhythm – it’s very possible, just takes so much more work and risk. I can think of many examples we’ve learned by mistake to follow the rhythms – like brooding chicks in May instead of early March. Like writing a business plan before opening an on-farm store.
I’m struck with this concept and the multiple rhythms that have been ignored and collided to nearly destroy New Orleans. The city built below sea level, the concentration of chemical and petroleum industries – had the Category 5 winds hit the coast, the scenario existed for most of New Orleans to be under 20 feet of water, and the gasoline floating on top of the water igniting to put the tops of the flooded buildings on fire.
It’s a useful thought to ponder, one that I’m not near to be able to hear all the time, but worth putting up goals and visions up against to see how they can be measured or achieved in rhythm rather than with force.

August 28, 2005 – Around the Farm

Thought I’d share some of the nice sights around the farm these days. Here’s Claire next to the broom corn – it’s tall!

I continue to be struck by the combination of the blooming buckwheat and amaranth.
amaranth buckwheat
This amaranth is very striking in its deep maroon color – even from a distance, it is the first thing that catches your eye and is much more striking against the green backdrop than this photo portrays.

August 27, 2005 – New Market and Tomato-RAMA

This spring we reserved a space at the farmer’s market section of the local energy cooperative’s annual meeting and fair. We were regretting it after the good market in Grinnell. The market was indeed rather lousy – it was twice as long and we sold a third as much.
The event was very nice though. I won a door prize of a $25.00 credit on my next electric bill. Martin got to ride up 55 feet to as high as the co-ops “lofty” could reach! Dad forgot his camera, so here’s a copy of a Polaroid they took before he went up. He’s got “hard hat” in hand and safety harness on.

We had lots of produce left over, so we went nuts canning – we canned over 30 quarts of tomatoes.
I also completed selling some things on e-bay – mainly things that were broken or in auction boxes I didn’t want – got nearly 100 dollars, led by a DeWalt drill, charger and battery that didn’t work for 34 dollars!

August 26, 2005 – Squash Tunnel

One of this year’s experiments was to bend a 16 foot cattle panel over as a half circle and plant gourds on it. Part of the reason was to span the pile of fenceposts destined to be grape fencing.

It turned out well, next year it may be worthwhile to make it double-wide and trying cucumbers to get them off the ground and maybe help prevent wilt.
Here’s a view of the fruit from the inside – I love the filtered minty green color inside the tunnel.

August 25, 2005 – Shiny Bus

Today is the first day of school for Claire (8th)and Emma (5th).

first day school

It’s always an exciting day for them to start the year. Emma was one of those sad kids without proper shoes. Her shoes disassembled during the school day – so there she is, first day of school (when your shoes should be new) without shoes that work. We had purchased new ones for Claire the night before.

A brand new shiny school bus brought them to school.

new bus

Martin said he wanted to go to school with the girls, but Mom told him he’d have to learn his ABCs before he could go, so he then rattled them off for Mom.

August 24, 2005 – Over the Stove

Today was a very cool August day – a nice change – it didn’t get to 70 until mid-afternoon. So we took advantage of the cool weather and went nuts canning.

Today’s totals = 9 jars of raspberry jam, 5 jars of whole raspberries, 7 jars of tomatoes, 12 jars of applesauce (five of raspberry-apple and the rest cinnamon-apple). The tomatoes and applesauce are two of the most time-consuming things we can, and since it is the last day before school starts, I took advantage of the extra hands.
We vowed to do more of our own food this year before selling it and we’re doing very well with that. The freezers are filling up with veggies and fruits and we’re getting a little canned to save room in the freezers.

August 23, 2005 – Subliminal Obese America?

Take a look at this ad from Vonage and tell me you don’t see a woman with abnormally large shoulders or an abnormally small head!
This is not an original thought from me – I’ve stolen it from a web site called “This is Broken” a web site primarily for technical writers who expound on confusing instructions, bad designs and so forth. Here’s the best comment posted concerning this ad:

“Look, let’s not get all up in arms about this, okay? I think Vonage should be applauded for going out on a limb like this. Clearly they are trying to elbow out the competition, but in doing so they’ve shouldered a lot of advertising expenses. It’s no wonder, then, that they’ve resorted to such strong-arm tactics in their ads.
Posted by: Michael McWatters at Aug 21, 2005 4:55:15 PM”

August 22, 2005 – Non-Gas Powered Brush Cutters

Are goats part of the solution to the rising oil prices? I promised ya’all before and after pictures of an area pre- and post-goat. Due to a technical malfunction (I erased the “before” pictures – you’ve all got to remember I’m still operating with a Dell and Nikon camera, not the Televac 62000).

There is an area under some big trees that is prone to overgrowth by mulberry and other brush. It has been a pain to keep it clean via mowing or cutting with pruners or a heavy-duty weed whip with metal blades, so I turned the goats loose surrounded by our electric netting fence powered with a solar fence charger. It worked great as you can see by the following picture.


You’ll have to imagine a brushy area under the trees, with lots of 3-6 foot mulberry shrubs.

August 21, 2005 – Televac 62000

As today is the last day of the state fair I’ve been waiting to show you all my favorite vendor exhibit from the fair – the Televac 620000 Personality Analyzer.
As an information technology professional, one who works flawlessly from creating content for black screen mainframes to a web browsers, the Televac 62000 caught my eye.

The Televac only costs $2.00 for a complete personality profile. A bargain considering a guinea grinder is $5.50 at the fair. The Televac is obviously a powerful computer. You can tell it is powerful because of all the flashing yellow AND red lights. You can tell it is powerful because it is very large. You can tell it is powerful because of the name: Televac 620000, “Tele” meaning it communicates via telephone lines, and “vac” telling you it runs on powerful vacuum tubes instead of silicon chips, and 62000, which is a very high number. You can tell it is powerful because it has a huge floppy drive on the bottom. All these factors tell you how powerful it is.

August 20, 2005 – Every Which Way

This morning we went three different directions. Linda went to the Iowa Farmer’s Union annual meeting and got to hear John Edwards, 4 gubernatorial candidates and three Secretary of Ag candidates, in addition to spreading the word about the Sustainable and Entrepreneurial program at MCC.

Grandma and the girls went to the Grinnell market where they had a good morning – the girls each netted $20.00 on their baked goods after paying their parents for expenses.

Martin and Dad stayed home to say goodbye to our guest and do stuff around the farm. We moved the portable electric fence around the pine trees that had grown up with mulberries and weeds. The goats did a great job of clearing it up – better than a brush cutter. I’ll put before and after pictures up in a few days.

We’ve discovered that the windfall apples are loved by the cows. Here are the kids feeding the cows the apples.
feed cows
feed cows

August 19, 2005 – ‘Nother Hot Day

Today was another 90 degree plus day with plenty of humidity. The girls spent most of the morning in the kitchen making cookies for market tomorrow and the afternoon on the slip and slide.
The hot weather is good for our buckwheat crop. After we harvest summer crops in the garden we sow buckwheat since it grows well in hot weather. Here’s part of the patch where the potatoes used to be.

This picture is a few days old – today it started to show flowers – an added bonus is more forage for the bees.

August 18, 2005 – Got Goat?

Pictures don’t get more goaty than this! Here’s Paullina standing up against the lower half of the barn door.

Number One and Number Two are growing up nicely. They suffered the fate many of us face of being born male.

I promised more milking pictures. Here they are.

Hand milking is a long lost art. Here another human gets passed down this basic farmsteading skill.