October 16, 2005 – On the Beach

Today Emma is the guest writer of the high hopes blog.

This was our second day at the beach. We rented a six person bike for two hours and got hot and went swimming. Our cousin Jill didn’t want to swim but she did anyway.

I can’t tell you in words how much fun it is to visit a place like CA. The first day we went to the beach I got under a wave six times! The next time, I was better.

On the first day we walked about a mile and a half to get lunch. The next day we walked less to get breakfast with one of Aunt Kathy’s friends. Every meal we had there was very filling and yummy!

Well here all three of us are going down to the ocean for a dip.


If you have ever been body surfing you know the thrill when the wave comes and decides what happens next.


Here I am again, getting used to the water. Brrr!

This is a very nice picture of some shells and Claire.

October 15, 2005 – Travel and the Cousin’s Residence

I, Claire, am blogging today.

We left for California from the Des Moines airport at 12:45, after sleeping in and enjoying it because we knew everyone else was at school learning stuff we had no clue how to do, but were going to do it anyway. What a thrill.

Our first flight went from Des Moines to the gigantic complex Denver airport. Along with the complimentary beverages, we got a small snack mix called ‘Fiesta Mix’ It was an interesting combination of sesame sticks, soy nuts, and stale pretzels mixed with barbeque flavored sauce. We had a little time to kill at the airport, so we walked around and then sat at our gate. The next flight took us to Orange County, California at the John Wayne Airport. Almost right away we saw Aunt Kathy and Jill waiting for us at the gate.

We got our luggage and went to their house in Coto De Caza. It was a large, airy house. The three of us slept (well, we didn’t sleep most of the time) in Jill’s room. That evening we enjoyed ourselves playing computer, watching TV, learning how to play Texas Hold Em’, and enjoying a delicious meal cooked by Aunt Kathy and Grandma Jo. The next morning, we enjoyed another delicious meal before heading out to our hotel and spa.
The hotel was the fanciest place I have ever been. There were at least five different buildings and large courtyards filled with palm trees, fountains, pools, and three differnt temperatures of jacuzzis.

October 14, 2005 – California Bound

The girls are bound for California this morning to visit Linda’s sister, who has invited them out to commemorate their daughter’s 13th birthday. They’ll return late Monday night with the camera and stories.

October 13, 2005 – Sparrows and Moles

I’ve started to become a bit repulsed by all the piles of poo-poo from the growing population of house sparrows in the corn crib and barn. I started looking for info on trapping them and found that both the Bluebird and Purple Martin birding societies view them as mortal enemies of the Bluebird and Martin and other native birds since the sparrows will kill the young birds and even adult Bluebirds and Martins. So I ordered my trap to try to give the native birds a chance and help clean up the buildings. A few are fine, but when they start to make piles…

We also have a big influx of moles in the yard this fall – again, a few I can handle, but they seem to be everywhere in the yard – in the gardens, lawn, near the outbuildings bringing up dirt in front of doors. I tried an old style cheap trap – digging a hole under and active burrow and burying a canning jar, and replacing the dirt around it and covering it with a board – the theory being they will fall in and not be able to get out. It’s been in a day and no luck yet.

Of course this brings me to a bigger question – can I design a farm that sparrows and moles do not become pests? Are there layouts of plants and animals to help minimize them? Plant native grasses in the yard so I have some places for moles to live? Are there predators for the sparrows I could encourage – or since they are introduced species, am I the predator? Stay tuned…

October 12, 2005 – Aftermath

Today was poultry to meat day. Here is the aftermath of the trip to the locker. The day starts early – I rolled out of bed about 3:30 am and headed to the locker – the birds were loaded the night before. It was a restless night. Like the first night the chicks arrive, the last night is stressful. I was tossing and turning, wondering if the new system would work. I decided to put all the chickens in the new trailer instead of in the pickup. That way there is one “dirty” vehicle and one “clean” vehicle to take them home in. I had reservations at the first restless toss – I stacked the cages three high, with solid trailer sides on two sides and more cages on the others. What if there wasn’t enough air and they all suffocated? What if the few loose turkeys got crushed by a shifting load of cages? Thankfully, there was no loss and all made it ok.
Here’s the biggest turkey:

This is what a 35 lb bronze-breasted turkey looks like! Linda cut this up into many, many meals. It was also Emma’s turn to try her hand at learning how to cut up a chicken.

Emma was a quick learner and cut up her first one nearly flawlessly! After the turkey, this chicken looked like a cornish game hen.

October 11, 2005 – Good Trade

We were recipients of a good trade recently. We watched a neighbor’s (in these parts neighbor is about 12 miles away) dairy goat while they were out of town. Not only did we get the milk, but a 6-pack of home brewed beer!

Thanks to Mike and Martha!

October 10, 2005 – Grant Wood Exhibit

Yesterday we visited the Grant Wood exhibit at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

The girls waiting between activities in the museum lobby.
Any cultural understanding of Iowa and the Midwest would include the work and life of Grant Wood, most famous for “American Gothic” the most-parodied painting in the American canon.
I do not particularly count that as one of my favorites. Quite independently and most interestingly each member of our family (except Martin) chose the same piece as our favorite – the appraisal.
This photo is from an art site and does not show the detail – come visit and you can see a reproduction on our wall!
This painting shows a farm woman and a city woman about to sell/buy a chicken. We love the detail of the safety pin holding the farm woman’s coat shut, the fancy purse of the city woman, and their appraisal of each other in negotiating a price. Perhaps as chicken growers ourselves, we can relate!
Grant Wood was nurtured and worked most of his life in Cedar Rapids. A director of a funeral home offered him studio space above his carriage house.

This is the carriage house today – only about 3 blocks from the museum. It is a good show – as the 100th anniversary of the Museum, many of the pieces are on loan from the Chicago Art Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art and so on. The exhibit runs until December 4th and any fans of Art or Iowa History would enjoy the chance to see all the pieces together.

October 9, 2005 – Point Redemption

Each year, the kids earn “points.” They earn points randomly for doing an extra job cheerfully or helping out without being asked. The points can be applied for smaller or larger “prizes.” They’ve elected to go for the big prizes (usually a night at a hotel with a pool). This year we combined the point rewards with a number of other events.
Claire was honored at a ceremony at the University of Iowa honoring the top 1% of Iowa students, and Mom, Emma, and Martin visited the Science Station in Cedar Rapids.

Emma cranking up the skyward wave machine.

It’s hard not to like a dinosaur when you are four. Tomorrow look for the pictures from the Grant Wood exhibit.

October 8, 2005 – Front Page News

Saturday readers of the Des Moines register woke up to this picture above the fold on the front page. wende

Wende is the founder of Wholesome Harvest Organic Meats (of which I serve on the Board of Directors). The article focused on the booming organic market and the loss of even this niche market to oversees organic producers. American taxpayers have chosen to subsidize conventional growers while other countries have chosen to subsidize organic farmers. I’ve always thought it was backward that organic farmers have to certified by a third-party NOT to apply toxic and cancerous chemicals to growing food plants. You’d think we’d want to tightly control those using those chemicals, not those not using them.

October 7, 2005 – Jammin’ Me

If there was a South by Southwest music festival for pre-schoolers, is there any doubt that this dude would be on the main stage? He plays a mean harmonica and and has a sense of style like no other. Marty and Mom even started their little combo, with Mom tickling the ivories and Marty on the mouth harp.

October 6, 2005 – Change in the Weather

Our Tuesday temps in the upper 80’s gave way to highs in the upper 40’s today. That can only mean one thing – firing up the corn-burning stove. We bought the stove about 4 years ago and it has been a wonderful addition to the house. Besides the ambiance of a fire, it is a great money saver as one bushel of corn produces the equivalent heat of 5 gallons of corn (and now corn is about $1.50 a bushel – just try to buy 5 gallons of propane for that price!)
corn stove

October 5, 2005 – Jinxed Myself

On Monday I wrote about the trees. Today, I was at work and Linda called to report that part of the fence was down and some of the neighbor’s calves and bull were in the alley munching on the new trees. She tried to shoo them out, got the calves out, but the bull was not interested in moving. Then she remembered all the stories of the farmers being killed by their bulls and thought better of her approach. So she went to the apple tree and picked some apples and coaxed the bull out with apples (thank you Emma, for starting to feed the cows apples many years ago!) For the most part, it looks like it was just a light browsing on mostly the oaks, I don’t think there is much damage to the trees as a whole.

October 4, 2005 – Dare to Dream?

What if there was a food distribution network for artisan/organic food producers? What if the power of socially-minded programmers could be harnessed to offer an alternative to the dominant food distribution system like Linux and other open source efforts offered to Microsoft? What if the producers of the food shared in the profits, were even owners of this network while maintaining their independence? These are some of the questions I’m mulling over. Here’s a couple of quick links for related efforts:

An example of a system for part of the network – retail food outlets – I saw this in my high school alumni newsletter developed by a classmate I don’t know (yet) CoCoNuts
A new way of thinking about food and sustainability – PlaNet
More coming!