May 18, 2006 – Thingamajig Thursday #24

Here’s this week’s “Thingamajig Thursday” entry. Also check out last week’s answer.

As always, put your guess in a comment below.

It’s a rack that you put in a canner to hold and pull out the jars (we never use it, since it seems like it increases the likelihood of everything crashing out because 7 quarts of goods are quite heavy).

May 17, 2006 – Strawberry Fields Forever

The strawberries have loved the rainy weather of late.

Today, it warmed up to the mid-70s and Linda was out of school, so it was the first day for a long time we could work on the farm at the same time. We finished weeding and pruning the raspberries, weeded the perennial flower garden, got a few herb, some okra and parsley planted, lawn mowed and other odds and ends.
The newly planted raspberries and blackberries are starting to come to life as well.

May 16, 2006 – Acorns to Mightly Oaks?

Here’s a look down the alley of hardwood trees we planted in the pasture. The fence is to keep the cows out. It’s hard to see much yet as this is just the 2nd year in for the trees.

This will be the centerpiece of a rotational grazing system that the animals will rotate around the oval with the trees in the middle and be moved to a different section ahead every few days. We planted walnut, sugar maple, bur oak, and black cherry with a few chestnuts thrown in. So far, the black cherries have taken off the fastest.

May 15, 2006 – Bye-Bye Tractor

The tractor ran strong and without any hint of problems until the last time. Now the crankcase has filled with gasoline and is dripping out the dipstick hole. Time for professional attention. Here it is getting loaded on the semi for a trip to the local Deere shop.

I wished I had a picture of the red Farmall Cub pulling the green out of the shed! Having this is a little like children, whatever happens, you’re stuck with them.

Today was a good day. The weather held off. Our first bulk order of broiler feed arrived – one ton loaded directly in the gravity wagon. I was able to get all layers of light-affirming goodness to the hardwoods planted last year in the pasture. Round one was with hands, pulling weeds around the trees. Then the weed whacker to a bigger distance, then the riding mower for between the rows, finally the push mower for the spots the big mower can’t get to. It was good to get something started and completed in one day. Also got about 1/3 of the raspberries weeded.

This evening a student from Grinnell College called wanting to bounce ideas about starting a co-op to provide food for the college food service. It’s a struggle to create a new food system and it was good to hear a young voice working so hard to make it happen.

May 14, 2006 – Goat Milking

Goat milking season is in full swing. It’s good for drinking, making yogurt, and a bunch is finding its way into the freezer for goat’s milk soap.

Here’s the front end of the goat during milking.

Here’s the milking end of the goat.

Quite literally, here’s the kids at play during the milking.

I’ve got a little bit of feeling in my hands tonight of the long-time Minnesota tradition of fishing opener. It’s been cold and windy and drizzly/rainy for many days now, but this evening we went out just before dark to pull weeds from the perennial flower garden. Now my hands have that deep stiffness from the wind, wetness, and cold, much like repeatedly dipping your hand in the minnow bucket on a windswept lake in the middle of May.

This morning Martin was the perfect gentleman. As soon as Mom got up, he brought her the Sunday paper in bed. Then he brought up a cup of coffee. Then a bowl of strawberries with a dollop of whipped cream. Then some sliced pears, egg scramble, and toast, finally a piece of organic dark chocolate and bussed the dishes downstairs! This afternoon he took Mom to see a stage version of Winnie-the-Pooh. He ended the day, helping in the garden.

May 13, 2006 – Farm Editors Needed!

This is a copy of a page from one of Martin’s coloring books. Can you spot the inaccuracy?

In this part of the country, we use combines to harvest. I’m not sure what they do in New York, where the coloring book was from. So there is a job just for me – a farm coloring book editor!

As a part-time technical writer/editor and part-time farmer, it would be great! According to Money magazine, a technical writer is the 13th best job in America. A college professor is 2nd on the list, so Linda beats me (but not every day, as she will attest). Sadly, farmer was not on the top 50 jobs.

May 12, 2006 – Chicks!

I hope this title doesn’t get me traffic for folks cruising for non-poultry-chicks. They will be greatly disappointed! As usual, we can predict the weather on the day the chicks come without consulting the weather forecaster. Today is in the mid 40’s with 20-30 mph wind, rain. Yesterday was the same except 30-40 mph wind and lower 50’s.

Here are the chicks, tucked in their makeshift brooder, currently comfortable.
Those of you who have chicks will recognize the following classic chick pose –

the refreshing head up after taking a drink. I fell behind at work this week, so had to work more than usual – but it was a good day to do that. Also worked on getting the last of the spring newsletters out. More off the list.

May 10, 2006 – Things that Need to be Fixed

I heard a saying this week. There are two kinds of buildings/equipment on a farm. Things that need to be fixed and things that need to be fixed now! Today was one of those days. A few days ago the pipe between the muffler and catalytic converter dropped off, today the tractor started spitting black smoke and misfiring and leaking gas, and the riding mower hydrostatic transmission seems stuck. There are better days, but this is not one of them!

May 9, 2006 – Piano

Today was a day we had been putting off for some time – replacing the family piano with a new one. The piano we have was handed down from Linda’s grandmother. It was the first piece of furniture she got after being married. It had followed her from Des Moines, to Phoenix, to Minneapolis and finally back near home, some 80 or so years later.

Every time the tuner came he warned us that the tuning pegs were not holding and that it would not stay in tune very long. He was right, but we just kept getting it tuned, hoping that perhaps after years of “untuned” a few repetitions of tuning would convince it to remember to hold a tune.

Eventually, though, the cost of tuning and perpetual out-of tune notes, led us down the road to a new digital piano.
We did not just want to “throw it away” so I disassembled it.

Here is the picture of inquisitiveness as Martin becomes fascinated by discovering the linkage between striking the key and watching the hammers move.

I was surprised to see the hammer mechanism lift out in one piece.

We have some plans for the salvaged pieces. The keys are all removed, the front piece that holds the music and the keyboard cover with the logo will all be re-purposed into something new. Stay tuned to see what becomes of its new life. Our neighborhood lover of antiquities/artist has taken the rest and will repurpose the parts into new creations as well. Losing a piece of family history is somewhat lessened by keeping part of it and giving parts to others who appreciate them. Much like the bison and American Indian.

The following pictures speak for themselves. I’m struck by the intricacies of the details of the piano – the hand-penciled numbers of the keys, the texture of the felt, and the symmetry of the strings.

One of the most stirring sounds is that of the strings and soundboard, unfettered of the dampers. The sound of the resonance of the strings being struck in sequence sounded like the end of the universe – a perfect sound of all sounds of the audible music range, with the low vibrating sounds lasting longest and vibrating imperceptibly into nothingness.

May 8, 2006 – Local Food!

More often than not, it seems we eat food that we or someone we know grows. Tonight, for instance,

asparagus from our garden, “happy pork” burgers, and our own milk. Add some spring rolls from Costco (not local) and you’ve got a meal.

Got broiler chick arrival and butchering arranged today – the first batch of 110 should arrive Thursday or Friday. Also ordered the organic nutri-balancer from Fertrells to have the local elevator mix in with the poultry ration.

May 7, 2006 – An Old Story

Here’s the latest version of the story retold many times over – the hatching of baby chicks. About a month ago we sequestered 2 White Rocks, 2 Black Australorps, 2 Barred Rocks, and 2 Auracunas with a Black Australorps rooster and put the eggs in an incubator.

Here’s the incubator about a day before the chicks are ready to hatch.

Before this, they were in egg carton like plastic holders that turned the eggs.

The first pecks out of the shell as the chicks come out. We could hear them peeping in the eggs before they hatched.

Here’s a little one just a few minutes out of the shell – still wet and looking a bit punkish.

Finally, they are moved to the brooding house. In here they are under a red light. I’m not sure we need a red light for these few chicks, but all the advice says to use a red bulb in case one starts to bleed, the others won’t see it. (In larger groups, they will pick at each other as soon as they see a spot of blood and kill each other.) These guys will get a chance to grow a bit before the meat birds come and can all go to the locker together (at least the roosters – the hens will replenish our layers). We are excited to see what kind of birds they look at from the mixes we bred.

May 6, 2006 – #$%&*# Stealth Frost

Don’t let the cheery lilac fool you – the tomatoes and peppers we put out yesterday looked, well, dead, today. It was 39 when we woke up, but obviously it was colder than that sometime during the night. The low was predicted to be 40. It’s a bummer not necessarily because of the replanting, but because we had many heirloom varieties from Seed Savers and elsewhere that aren’t available at a greenhouse or garden center. We’ll have to check to see if we have any seeds leftover and start over. The frost also killed the new, tender leaves on the year-old walnut and chestnut trees.

But there’s still lots of things to do – here are Linda and the kids working on putting in the flowers started from seed.

The eggs we were incubating also started to hatch – pictures tomorrow!