August 17, 2008 – Blackberry Skeptics!

We packed up some goods to be sold by someone else at the Des Moines Farmer’s Market yesterday. Among the items were our gorgeous blackberries.

Customers at the market were suspicious that such nice berries could be grown in Iowa and certainly, they must have been shipped in from Oregon or elsewhere.  This page is an invitation for all skeptics to type the word “blackberries” in the search box to the left to find photos dating back to May 2006, when the blackberries were first planted!

Here’s another testimonial straight from the field!

one year ago…”They Call me the Batman”

August 16, 2008 – Moldy Hay

I’ve finally looked at the local Craigslist ads and I think it will be a dangerous thing for me!

Our first purchase was about 50 bales of moldy hay for fifty cents a bale.  A storm a few weeks ago ripped a roof off a hay shed and soaked the hay – it started molding, so it was on a fire sale.  I know that moldy hay can be dangerous to the lungs, so I decided to store it outside, rather than bring it into a confined space and since it will be used for garden mulch, outside storage won’t hurt it for that use.  I might throw a tarp over it.  It spent a couple of days drying out on hay wagons before I stacked it.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #84″

August 15, 2008 – Gun Safety

Many years ago, I promised Claire, I’d teach her to shoot a gun safely.  I’ve either forgotten about it, been too busy, or it wasn’t the right time because of animals in the pasture, but she asked again recently and I said, “Let’s go.”  She was a bit surprised, so we went to the back pasture in a paddock without any animals and went over the basics.

We went over the characteristics of a rifle and a shotgun and got a chance to shoot small versions of both – a .22 rifle and .410 shotgun.

I told her about how I learned to hunt.  The first year I went, I was not allowed to carry a gun, but just to watch and observe.  The second year, I was allowed to carry a gun and “practice” shooting, but wasn’t allowed to have any shells – just the empty gun.  I still remember the first time I followed a duck on the bead of the gun right in front of another hunter’s head.  It was a sobering lesson in losing track of the situation when game appears.  The third year, I was allowed limited shooting with a single-shot gun.

So today was just the introduction – we set up a milk carton on a stick and she was able to hit it with the shotgun but not the rifle.  We’ll take more target practice in the next few months to get competent.

one year ago…”Building the Hives”

August 13, 2008 – What to do with Peaches?

Ok, we’re almost ready to say uncle with the peaches, but there still might be half the peaches left on the trees.

Here are the trays right out of the dehydrator.

The contents of each tray fit nicely into one bag in what I call the “suck and seal” machine.  It’s always a bummer to see how small the fruit gets after drying.

Canned peaches and blackberry jam on an intermediate canning day.  The most we’ve done this year is 28 quarts of peaches in one afternoon.  We’re packing them in quarts, pints, and jelly jars for single-serving jars for lunch. Emma is a gifted peach and tomato skinner.  She has great hands for removing the skins from peaches and tomatoes after blanching.

one year ago…”Restored Marshall County Courthouse”

August 11, 2008 – Presenting… Linda at the State Fair

The current president of the Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Growers was with us in Costa Rica and for 10 days pestered Linda to present in the ag building during the State Fair. It was easier to say yes in February than it was in the midst of back-to-school and peach season.

Here she is making her presentation about “Holiday Gift Baskets.” I enjoyed a previous segment on pruning Christmas trees. Gotta love the cordless mic, turning her into a fair demo person or customer service rep, wherever that takes you!

one year ago…”Party on the Farm”

August 10, 2008 – State Fair Day

Today was the family day at the Iowa State Fair.

A fair day with low humidity and temps in the low 80’s really brings the people out!

Martin was captivated by the demonstration of the kitchen slicer/shredder/peeler.  He spent a good 10 minutes taking in the demo and even squeezed his way to the front of the crowd.  You put a mechanical device together with food, and you’ve got this boy hooked!

Tuckered.  That describes this duo on the fair grounds.

one year ago…”Claire to Boston: Part 2″

August 9, 2008 – Poults Arrive

Our poults (baby turkeys) arrived this week.

Here they are in the brooding area. (Knock on wood) they’ve all survived the transport and first few days.  Martin has stepped up and has taken primary chore responsibility for the turkeys, so is the first one to feed and water them every day.  We have 16 this year.  Last year many died in transport, so this year is already better.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #83″

August 8, 2008 – Cherry Leaf Spot

We’ve got a bad case of what I think is cherry leaf spot on some of our cherry trees.

The leaves become spotted, turn yellow, and fall off the tree.

This cherry tree looks like October instead of August.

One of the recommended cultural practices is to remove the fallen leaves to decrease the amount of disease that overwinters in the soil to reinfect the trees the next season.  I’m hoping that the fact that the first six months of 2008 were the wettest on record contributed to this disease that is mainly spread through rain splash and wet leaves.  Our north star cherries in another location do not seem to be suffering from the same problem – I don’t know if the difference in susceptibility is due to a different variety, or location on a southern slope instead of northern slope that .

one year ago…”Claire to Boston: Part 1″

August 5, 2008 – More Garden Space

It’s time to consider more garden space.  We are also looking at some less labor-intensive space.

Here’s our plan.  We mowed four foot wide strips with four foot wide grassy areas. The spacing is such that we’ll till up four foot strips and have grassy steps in between so we’ll be able to do tractor work and keep the tires on the grass instead of in the garden.  So we mowed down the new garden strips and loaded it with compost, then covered it with black landscape fabric to kill the grass by next spring.  This picture shows a couple of strips covered, a couple with compost, and a couple just mowed.

one year ago…”And so it Goes”

August 4, 2008 – Oppressive Weather

The last few days have been off the charts as far as uncomfortable weather is concerned.

Here’s a screen capture from the Weather Underground showing the conditions on Sunday afternoon – the temperature is not unusual, but the 0 mph wind with a 81 degree dewpoint is off the charts.  I tried to look up the highest all-time dewpoint in Iowa as I can not remember it ever over 80 before. I didn’t find the Iowa record, but I did find the highest dewpoint in 102 years in Minnesota was 81. I’m assuming it wouldn’t be much different in Iowa because southern Minnesota is practically Iowa as far as landscape and crops.

Here’s the chart that lists human comfort and dewpoints:

Dew Point    Human Perception
>75°F              Extremely uncomfortable, oppressive
70 – 74°F        Very humid, quite uncomfortable
65 – 69°F        Somewhat uncomfortable for most people at upper edge
60 – 64°F        OK for most, but all perceive the humidity at upper edge
55 – 59°F        Comfortable
50 – 54°F        Very comfortable
<49°F             A bit dry for some

Many people wonder why the Midwest can be more humid than the coasts and tropics – how exactly does warm, moist gulf air increase in moisture after traveling 1,000 miles?  The answer is corn.  At this time of year, corn transpires enormous quantities of water through its leaves.  Even in the weather forecaster discussion, the evapotranspiration of corn is factored into the weather forecast during the height of evapotranspiration season.

I’ve been working in the basement the last few days, adding insulation to the sill plates and under the floor below an unheated basement room.

one year ago…”Gourd Tunnel”