January 31, 2006 – Firestarter

I just purchased a new package of firestarters to help get the corn stove lit. Here’s the front of the package.

When I turned the package over, there was the following warning on the package of firestarter:

Evidently there is some chance that the firestarters may actually combust as intended and start a fire!

I’m signed up to do online surveys for cash with an online survey company. Tonight I was selected for an instant survey to the State of the Union Address. So after the speech, before the commentary and Democratic response, my answers were combined with 700 or so others in the nationwide poll gauging the immediate reaction to the speech. I even got 10 bucks for watching it and responding.

January 30, 2005 – Stored Summer Heat

As a testament to the warm winter, later this week we will use the last of the corn from the first of two wagons we use to store corn for the corn stove. Usually, we are well into the second wagon by now. January was 14 degrees above normal – warmest January since the dust bowl.

You can almost see the summer’s sun stored in these corn kernels! These little kernels heat our house in the winter.

Emptying this wagon opened up one of the wagons for its next rotation. Many farmers think hard about crop rotations – well, I’m working on a wagon rotation. The old barge wagon that the corn was in is now collecting mulch for spring mulching of trees. It’s a little bit of a pain to get it in without a loader, but it is good “off-season” work.

After our first few years on the farm when we were positively overwhelmed with spring/summer tasks, we’ve figured out which ones can be done in the winter – and gathering mulch is a winter task. When spring comes, it is mobile and ready to go where needed. After the mulch is gone, the wagon can be used to store bulk broiler feed – so there is a triple annual rotation for the wagon!

I got the new ethernet and fiber optic cables in the mail today (thank goodness for E-bay), so now the PCs are networked and the home stereo is streaming audio from the PC. Because my internet connection comes into the house via a USB instead on ethernet connection, I cannot use a wireless setup, since all the hubs/routers I found require ethernet and there is not a USB-ethernet converter I can find, even in specialty cables and networking web stores.

Also were able to get a couple of the 20 foot rafter extenders up to the attic today, so we can keep that project moving along.

January 29, 2006 -Basketball Season

We have tickets to 5 Men’s and Women’s BB game this year. Today, we had a couple of extra seats, so we could all go. Grandma Jo and Emma got the choice seats today.

Unfortunately, even though we did root, root, root, for the home team, it did not matter!

We got home just before dark and I was able to get a pickup load of nice wood shavings from the pallet company in Melbourne, very irregularly throughout the year, they have the stuff in their waste pile and it makes great chicken litter or tree mulch.

January 28, 2006 – The Season Begins

Last night it got about as quiet as it gets around here. Sent the kids to bed, went for a short walk in the thick fog (a cloudy, foggy night is very dark in these parts) and then came back and started to order seeds for the coming season.
seed order
We’re excited to try some new varieties, especially since the Grinnell Market seemed to gravitate towards the heirloom type tomatoes. So we got out all the catalogs, a bottle of wine and began. This past year we readied 150 feet for new raspberries, so we ordered 75 feet worth of blackberries, 50 feet of early fall raspberries, and 25 feet of golden fall raspberries.
This is, of course, the best part of the gardening season as weeds, bugs, and hot/cold are absent from the seed catalog photos. This year’s most mouth-watering pictures goes to the Seeds of Change organic seed catalog. As it is near Santa Fe, we checked out if they were open for tours in March when we will visit, but alas, tours are only in the late summer. Some of out other favorite catalogs are St. Lawrence Nursery for northern-hards organic fruit trees, Pinetree Garden Seeds, especially for their small seed packs that lets us try more different varieties without paying more, and Seed Savers Exchange.

January 27, 2006 – Can the Groundhog See Shadow Retroactively?

This is a philosophical question. What if spring comes before the groundhog has a chance to come out of his hole? It felt like April (the month, not the dog) again today – yesterday it made 60 and today mid-fifties – not too bad for January!

Grandma Jo is now home from Fiji. Did mundane things today like change oil, clean mud room and garage lightly. Found out that the old stereo I have in the garage picks up Sirius Radio as long as the car is less than about 40 feet away from the receiver. Good tunes in the workshop now.

January 25, 2006 – More Success and Home Spelunking

The good news today is that Linda got another $15,000 grant today for the SEA program! That makes $40,000 this week! You go Girl!

On the home front – I temporarily got the two computers networked together, sharing an internet connection, and connected one to the home stereo so I could stream Sirius, shoutcast stations, or songs stored on the PC to the home stereo. But in running the cables permanently through the house, problems began.

Claire first crawled in a crawl space to help connect the two computers via ethernet. Here she is at the back of the crawl space looking for the ethernet cable to drag out.
claire spelunk

This is not a fun space to be in – after I put the insulation under the floor years ago, I swore I wouldn’t go back in there. Now that I have three kids of various sizes, it thought it would be good to use them! I thought Martin would be a good size to squeeze in, but Claire volunteered for the “home spelunking.”

claire spelunk

Here she is after completing the mission. Notice the cobwebs, headlamp, flushed cheeks (and yellow cable dangling from crawl space)!

After all this, things started to fall apart – we found that the cable was damaged in pulling through and ripped open and some of the wires severed, and the cable to connect the the computer to the stereo was still not long enough! So we went from a functioning network and music server to nothing.

On top of it all, my new digital camera stopped working. Evidently, all the reviews that highly recommended it, neglected to mention the E18 error that is evidently so prevalent that a couple of law firms are considering class-action suits against Canon. I just can’t win. My Nikon digital camera (both of them) and now my Canon, both had the problem where the lens retract/extend breaks. I sent it back as it is still under warranty. I’ll have to rely on the kindness of Claire and use hers until the camera is returned/I get a new one.

January 24, 2006 – Internet Radio

OK, the world is changing faster than I can keep up. I have a sister who is a “terrestial dj” and I just activated my Sirius Radio subscription (you’ll find me most often on channels 09 the Pulse, 18 Spectrum, 22, First Wave, 30 Coffeehouse, 65 Outlaw Country, with lesser times on 16 the Vault, 08 Eighties hits, and 10 Springsteen all the time).

Now I’ve been turned onto Shoutcast.com where there are hundreds of stations streaming over the internet commercial free. I ask myself, how can local stations survive (other than those which really do provide local news, obituaries, weather, etc). I believe the big conglomerates (Clear Channel, Cumulus) will not be able to survive against satellite radio and will not be able to gain economies of scale out of groups of locally-based stations.

But then, how does satellite radio compete against the 100’s if not thousands of free internet radio stations. It will be interesting to see what shakes out.

January 23, 2006 – Success!

Today Linda was informed that two small grants totaling about $25,000 for the Sustainable and Entrepreneurial Ag program were funded by the Leopold Center! One to plan for the college farm, the other to research an incubator kitchen on campus. It means Linda will have some time to devote to the planning and research of the farm operations/layout. It sounds like fun!

January 22, 2006 – Which Window?

As we are in the midst of attic building, we are soon to decide on windows for the new dormer. To help us think, I made some crude drawings of some possible arrangements of the windows.
Mind, you, I haven’t had these estimated by the window company yet, but I’m leaning towards #2 or #7.

The first floor has the big windows with the prairie style grid as shown in the top of #5. The 2nd story are all plain double hung like #7. So now, I’m leaning towards the group that has elements of both #2 or the plain #7. The story goes on, I’m sure.

January 21, 2006 – Little Things

This morning I went to Emma’s basketball games in Collins. They dropped two games, but played very strong defense. Not like Iowa State. Had a 4 point lead and the ball with 2 minutes to go and a freshman forward who has not attempted a three point shot all year decides that is the best time to launch one. Well, he misses, the other team hits a couple of threes to close out the game and wins the game in OT.

Emma and Martin have been playing with trains for hours the past few days.

The girls got a very nice “hand me down” PC from one of Linda’s co-workers – flat screen monitor, CD burner/DVD player 1.3 processor. That was very nice!

I got the rest of stage one of attic tear-out completed today. Was a lot of laying on the floor under the eaves and tearing boards out.

January 20, 2006 – Farm Bell

One of the nicest “extras” we bought for the farm is a real farm bell. We ordered it from Lehmans – an Amish catalog and store full of basic homestead and farm tools, including lots of non-electric devices.

farm bell
We have pretty strict rules about the bell. It is really loud and is not supposed to ring just for fun. If we are out somewhere on the farm and the kids need us for something, they can ring it. Likewise, if the kids are out playing and we need them to come in for dinner or some other reason, we ring the bell. If you hear the bell, it means, drop what you are doing and come home. It even works on the loud, windy days.

You may notice the bright and sunny 50 degree days are now gone and snow is back.

January 18, 2006 – Making Room for the Good Stuff

Today we went to the locker to pick up a hog and half a deer. I’m eager to try the hog as it is the first Berkshire we have tried – an old breed bred for flavor. One of Linda’s former students raises a few hogs and loves to deer hunt, so we are beneficiaries of more local food!

As putting the meat away involved some freezer consolidation, (we have two big chest freezers for all our treasures) I just went ahead and defrosted one using the rapid defrost method with hot water to get the ice pieces to slide off the walls. Here’s Martin holding a prize piece of ice from the defrosting!
The other night we had our first beef from our friends at Sugar Creek Farm. We had a roast and it was very good and topped it with homemade horseradish from the good people at Morning Sun Farm – send your thoughts and prayers to Morning Sun today and the next few days as one of its residents undergoes surgery and three weeks following of low activity.