July 31, 2006 – Peppers

The peppers are starting to come on strong. Here’s an assortment from the garden.

The dark purple peppers (Purple Beauty) are the size of normal grocery store bell peppers and the big green one is called “Napolean Sweet Pepper” – just for fun here’s a description of it from the 1923 L.L. Olds Seed Company Catalog: “Plants about 2 feet tall. Possibly the most productive of all the large peppers, bears consistently until frost. Mild as an apple. Fruit about 8″ long and 4 ½” in circumference, standing upright until they get so heavy they sometimes droop. Remarkably early for a large fruited pepper. Might be classed as an extra early.” Good flavor when green, sweeter when red.

July 30, 2006 – Taste Highlight of the Summer

Our new peach trees are just giving their first few fruits this year. There are very few things that taste better than a warm, even hot, ripe peach picked right off the tree and devoured! Truly a taste highlight of the garden this year.

Yea, it’s still hot.

It’s also very dry – last week some storms rolled through, we got 1/3 inch which we felt grateful for, but just 12 miles south, they got 3.2 inches. In June, 0.1″ of rain fell, in July we had 1.5″ when we were gone and .33 last week, so in the growing season that we normally receive about 8 inches of rain, we’re at less than 2 inches.

July 28, 2006 – Odds and Ends

I probably don’t need to comment on the weather – other than you know it is muggy when you get out of the car and your glasses fog up. Or when you walk into the barn and see the bricks on the floor are wet. Or when you stand in the shade staining windows and the sweat drops off your nose, ears, and arms.

The hay rack is a great place to finish/paint stuff. Here is the big window for the attic dis-assembled.

To try to match the original aged woodwork (pine and fir) in that carmelly old color, I had a custom stain mixed, apply a couple of coats of orange shellac and finish it with a couple of coats of poly. It’s a lot of work, still not exactly right, but much closer than I can get out of a commercial finish.

July 26, 2006 – A Time for Dreaming

Last week Linda went to Athens, Ohio to tour ACEnet, one of the nation’s most successful incubator kitchens. An incubator kitchen is a place where a person or aspiring company can process food for retail sale, or ramp up a recipe in a batch food environment before building or taking it to a food manufacturer. So, you may be a sweet corn farmer who sells frozen cobettes (corn on the cob broken in half) to a rib restaurant – you could rent the kitchen for a week to legally process all your corn. You may have a great family dressing or salsa recipe you’d like to try to sell – this is the place to produce test batches and do some test marketing.

This is a picture of Bill, the food scientist/chef at ACEnet. He helps people with ideas batch up their recipes, among other things.

An incubator kitchen is one part of the dream for the entrepreneurial farm Linda is planning at the community college. They hope to use the 140 acres adjacent to the farm to rent out small plots – 1/2 to many acres for someone wanting to start an agricultural enterprise. Along with the classes, incubator kitchen, and farm – it could be a great way to recapture lost food dollars, begin a local food economy and provide meaningful employment. Linda has spent her “work” summer researching other entrepreneurial farms in planning the use of the land at MCC.

It is frustrating that this type of community-based agricultural venture does not gain traction. Especially in light of the farm subsidies paid to commodity farmers to produce crops that result in overproduction. The Environmental Working Group has published all the taxpayer money that goes to commodity subsidies. In Marshall County Iowa alone, the data is from 1995-2004 and the largest farmer received $1,302,739 in taxpayer money (or national debt as the case may be). It’s not an isolated case. There were 44 farmers who recieved over $750,000 and 164 farmers who received $250,000 or more. Just the payments from one of those farmers would go a long way to helping many more entrepreneurial farmers create community wealth.

July 25, 2006 – Not Three Blind Mice but One Blind Lamb

One of the bottle lambs we were given was blind from birth. He seems to be doing very well so far

He’s nice and fat. For a while, one of the other sheep acted as his “seeing eye” sheep, but now every once in awhile this one will start bawling when the others are out of his hearing range, but he comes running to the sound of our voice, so he’s easy to get back with the herd when that happens. He gets along quite well for the most part.

Any day this week the turkeys should arrive. Here are the luxurious accommodations, at least for the first week or two.

At high hopes we like to have multiple uses for whatever we can. This is a used stock tank we picked up at an auction for dirt cheap. It still holds water, so I put it on a small trailer and haul water with it from the tank that collects water from the barn to the raspberries or new trees. Now it is brooder to keep the turkeys separate from the chicken chicks. We also use it below the barge wagon so when we open the rear gate, any grain that spills falls into it instead of on the ground.

July 24, 2006 – News from the Farm

Among other things, today was onion and potato harvest day.

We pulled all the onions. It wasn’t the best year for onions, as they weren’t all very big – the white variety did best this year.

We pulled about 1/4 of the potatoes and Martin was excited to haul a load from the garden to the drying spot with his tractor wagon. The red potatoes dried down first. Like the garlic, we seeded buckwheat where the onions used to be.

I also spent some part of the day hauling scaffolding – three sections from Morning Sun Farm and two sections rented from a scaffolding company in Des Moines.

I’m always scheming what to build next – the latest idea is an outdoor brick or adobe oven to cook breads and dry fruits and veggies and cook an occasional pizza. I’m about to start the research process and my number on question is can the clay-based horno type ovens last in this alternating humid/cold climate? Keep ya posted.

July 23, 2006 – Linda’s Pies Strike Again!

Today, we got a few more rows of crops planted. Earlier in the week I got the first buckwheat planted following some garlic. The lack of rain has hit again, I started watering the new brambles again. We had about 1/10 of one inch in June – we had over an inch the week we were on vacation, and none since then and the grass is browning up again.

We dropped Emma off at 4H camp near Boone, where she has a week of water camp. She looked a little sad to see us go, but will have a great time.

We attended a fundraiser for Denise O’Brien, candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture.

I’m usually very careful (hesitant) to put up yard signs for political candidates, but since we know Denise, will make an exception, since we know her. She has worked tirelessly for agriculture for 30 years and we’re thrilled that an organinc farmer is in the running for secretary of Agriculture in Iowa!

There was a local food “contest” as part of the gathering and Linda’s Apple Pie (with apples picked from our tree this morning) was voted “best of show” and she won the grand prize – a food basket containing wine, dried tomatoes, bar-b-q sauce, and vegetables! It reminded me of the time – I think our first year here, she entered some pies in the Melbourne summer celebration pie contest – she brought a cream and fruit pie and won both categories. We’re sitting at the table and all the white-haired ladies are buzzing “who’s Linda Barnes? who’s Linda Barnes?” I’m not sure who she displaced as pie champ, but it was a good introduction to the community.

July 22, 2006 – Here We Go Again

Today a package arrived in the morning. Any ideas what could come in a package like this?

There’s holes in the boxes, the post office calls us to pick it up at 7:00 am, even though it is regular post, not express.

It’s round 2 of baby chicks! It’s sure easier to brood chicks in July than in March. Cousin Jill from California was amazed the chicks come through the mail.

July 21, 2006 – Garlic Drying

Here’s an update on the garlic – it was pulled a few days ago, and here is drying on old refrigerator racks in the hayloft of the barn – as warm and dry place as we can find these days.

Garlic is a great crop for us – it’s planted in the fall gets pulled in mid-July, and stores well and people like it.

July 19, 2006 – Bubbles!

Today Claire substituted dish soap for dishwasher soap in the dishwasher.

She was surprised at the results and that there was that much difference between the types of soaps. They tried many methods of cleanup, and scooping up the bubbles and into the sink was the best strategy.

July 18, 2006 – Big Beautiful Bug

When I went out to get laundry off the line, I found this beauty on a towel!

I haven’t tried to identify him yet, and couldn’t wait until Thingamajig Thursday to share him. Any ideas who he/she is? It looks cicada-like, but I haven’t heard any buzzing yet. He had a wonderful army camoflauge on the top and delicate veined wings and a nasty face.