March 31, 2007 – March In AND Out Like a Lion!

This year March came in and went out like a lion. March came in with the double-whammy of the ice storm and snow storm and left with powerful winds in the neighborhood.

We barely missed watching this garage, whose remains are pictured above, explode.  It was a big errand day (I drove 165 miles today, with no one trip more than 15 miles).  One of the errands was picking up Claire from school after a quiz bowl and driving to State Center for an appointment with a tax accountant. 

As we were leaving Marshalltown, the front moved through, with blinding rain and some wind.  About three miles before this scene, the rain stopped and we saw this building wrecked and its contents spewed across Highway 30 and Hart Avenue, about 4 miles north of Melbourne.  Claire snapped this picture from the car as we drove by (slowly).  It just happened a few minutes earlier as the storm was a very narrow band.  I submitted it to KCCI TV and friends alerted us that they saw Claire’s photo of storm damage on the 10:00 news.

one year ago…

March 30, 2007 – Mushroom “Planting”

Today was the second time we “planted” shitaake mushrooms in logs. The logs we did last year have not yet fruited, but the time-frame is usually 12-18 months, so we are still waiting.

This a log before the process starts. The ideal log is about 3-8 inches thick and about 40 inches long. Oak is the best, but most non-conifers work fine. Harvest logs while dormant. We had a good supply that broke off in ice storm.

The first step is to drill holes in lines about 6 inches apart and in rows 2 inches apart.

We ordered spawn on wooden dowels that are pounded into the drilled holes.

The final step is to seal each plug and the ends of the logs with wax, to preserve moisture.

Here’s a completed log. The last step for a while is to stack the logs in a shady, moist spot until they start fruiting in 12-18 months.

one year ago…

March 28, 2007 – The Goose Gets a Gander

Today, our two geese have a chance for a more complete and fulfilling life with the entrance of a gander! He’s in the middle, we’re thinking of calling him Mr.Toulouse Goose, or Mr. T. for short, but our shortest human rejects Mr. T. Martin prefers the  longer version.

You can read about the utility of the geese in solving our chicken predator problem in the October 26, 2006 blog entry.

one year ago…

March 26, 2007 – Moving Fencing Material into Place

Another nice June-like day in the upper 70’s. Started working on some more fencing (it will never end). Went to town to pick up wholesale buying club order, got some cardboard sheets and more cattle panels and T-posts. Martin is a great 5 year-old worker. Sometimes he asks what work we can do outside.

Here he wraps up the rope that held the panels down on top of the truck. It’s a pain to load/unload them from on top of the truck, but I don’t have a trailer that approaches 16 ft and the truck does, so up they go. The truck has now graduated into the heavy-duty farm use where scratches and dents only add to the value.

Martin was able to drag the panels into position (as long as the location was downhill).

He also was good at distributing the fenceposts – he moved about 75% of the posts to the correct places along the fenceline. All I had to do was get the panels off the truck, drag the uphill panels, and take the binders off the posts that banded them in groups of five and Martin did the rest. The fence is in position, we just need to pound the posts and put up the panels. This is the fence along the SE property boundary.

one year ago…

March 25, 2007 – Ice Storm Cleanup

Another task that had been weighing heavy was the messy yard from the ice storm. We had done some of the cleanup, but today, took three hay wagon loads and a couple of truckloads of branches to the burn pile.  It reached 80 degrees today, but with a strong wind!

All five of us worked and it was much faster than a solo effort. Claire’s comment about the afternoon was “even though I didn’t want to, it feels good to work.”

There is a problem with the old Farmall Cub – it started to smoke around the fan belts, so we turned it off and pushed it into the shed.  We’ll investigate the problem some other day. 

one year ago…

March 24, 2007 – Getting Piled up Chores Done

The weatherman promised rain most of the day, but it really didn’t seem to come as heavily/often as we were led to believe. That gave us a chance to get some much-awaited spring chores done. First was overseeding the back pasture.

Martin’s job was to reseed the cow trail. He did a good job and seeded all the way to the property boundary. We spread about 25 lb of seed over the 2-3 acres.

I’m also behind on fruit tree pruning. Between the cold until early March, ice storm/snow, and week away, it is a little later than I’d like.

I was able to get 90% of it completed. Linda started all the seeds that need a jump – flowers, tomoatoes, peppers, etc.

Martin was a good helper, filling the peat pots for Linda. I also got new fittings on a water tank, so it comes out a one inch hose instead of a garden hose. So the things that had to get done, got done today.

one year ago…

March 23, 2007 – Guest Lecture

Today was a day of errands and more errands. At noon I was a guest lecturer to a business class at MCC talking about the benefits/process of forming a LLC. The errands continued until 9:00 as I needed to drive Claire to Ames for a meeting at church regarding their trip to Boston this summmer.

one year ago…

March 21, 2007 – Committee Work

Today, I attended two meetings in Ames. One with Practical Farmers of Iowa to talk to them about the system design of their new food cooperative. It is one of the missing links in a local food system. The press release about the project follows:

Practical Farmers of Iowa to launch Iowa Food Cooperative

AMES, Iowa—Iowa consumers soon will find it easier to have their pick of a wide variety of Iowa products, under a project starting through Practical Farmers of Iowa. Practical Farmers of Iowa has received a grant from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture to launch an Iowa Food Cooperative.
The Cooperative, when launched early next year, will be similar to ones now operating in Oklahoma and Nebraska. The effort will sell only food and non-food products that are produced by members of the cooperative directly to consumers.
The benefits of a direct-to-consumer distribution system like this are many. Consumers know more about the products they’re buying and they are supporting our Iowa economy, while farmers are getting the best price they can. Customers will know exactly who produced the food, where it was grown or raised, and what production practices the farmer or rancher used. “You don’t just order five pounds of generic hamburger, you order it from a specific producer. Our food has a story, and customers of locally raised foods are part of that story,” according to Eric Franzenburg, president of Practical Farmers of Iowa.
The Iowa Food Co-op will be modeled on the successful Oklahoma and Nebraska Food Cooperatives. The older of these two, the Oklahoma Food Co-op, has nearly 1500 different items available each month. As of February 2007, the coop has 1000 members, 101 of them are producers. Total sales average $25,000 – $35,000 each month. The advantage for consumers? “We are discovering the unique and authentic regional tastes of this area and rediscovering the importance of local food production to healthy, local communities,” said Eric. The project also recognizes that Iowa is unique with various local and regional farmer-led food distribution efforts. The project will work with these efforts to help deepen and broaden the base of consumers who buy products directly from farmers.
PFI is a non-profit sustainable agriculture group dedicated to farming that is profitable, environmentally sound, and healthy for consumers and communities. Founded in 1985, PFI has over 700 farmer and non-farmer members throughout Iowa.

The second meeting was at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. There was a meeting to discuss mechanisms for small niche agricultural producers to have access to capital. It was a brainstorming session for another Leopold project.
one year ago…

March 20, 2007 – Life and Death on the Farm

Sometime last night, Paullina gave birth to two kids. The boy has the waddles, like his daddy, Sugar. These kids are a Nubian/Alpine mix.

Here’s Emma holding the boy with under the watchful eye of Paullina. Sadly, we lost the girl kid. We have some pens made up of cattle panels in the barn and one of the panels wasn’t entirely secured and some time during the day it fell down and the kid happened to be underneath it when it fell and it died. It’s one of those things that just wrenches your gut to see that dead nearly newborn kid.

Then you go through all the what-ifs? What if the panel hadn’t fell? What if the kid hadn’t been underneath it, what if it happened on one of the 5 days a week someone was home all day instead of one of the 2 days everyone is gone? And so it goes. Not a happy on the farm day.

In the evening, as neither of us has not yet seen an opera and a touring company was presenting the Marriage of Figaro at Stephens Auditorium in Ames, we were able to go both see our first opera. We both enjoyed it – like most things it was much better live than recorded.

one year ago…

March 19, 2007 – When I Grow Up…

We need to keep asking ourselves what we want to be when we grow up.  I don’t think the options are necessarily limited to one choice, or that a choice is anchored like a corner post of a long fence.

I recently learned that Iowa State has started an MFA program in Creative Writing and the Environment. Here’s how the program designers envision the students:

Students in this MFA program will:

  • write with skill and knowledge about place as a personal, political, and natural manifestation;
  • gain a cultural-historical understanding of environmental complexity;
  • become familiar with literary works that expand environmental and place-based consciousness;
  • produce publishable creative works in the area of the environment;
  • utilize critical insight to evaluate their own writing and the writing of others.
  • I think it would be a rewarding curriculum.  So now that I’ve envisioned it, I need to start thiinking about finding out more about the program and trying to decide if I should apply.  I’ve spoken briefly with one of the leaders, Mary Swander, but she is out temporarily, so when she returns we’ll get together and talk about the program some more and if I’d fit. 

    one year ago…

    March 18, 2007 – Back to the Farm

    Now that vacation is over, it’s back to work!  One of the first orders of business is to clean up the mess from the ice storm.  The snow is almost all gone and the branches are released from the grip of the snow and ice.

    Maple sap tastes sweet right out of the tree!  Here Emma finds a weeping maple and tries to catch the tasty drops.  We all started picking up near the back pasture gate.

    This big limb was the first order of business as it blocks access to the pasture and the burn piles.  All of us pitched in to drag the branches and limbs away and cut up the limb so we could start cleaning up the rest of the yard another day, but be able to use the wagons and tractor to transport the limbs. But today was devoted to clearing this area.

    one year ago…