September 15, 2008 – Carrot Harvest

Today was a carrot harvest day.

We pulled most of the remaining carrots from the ground – leaving enough in for more meals of fresh carrots until frost. Since our chest freezers (both of them) are filled up with the summer’s bounty, we have to store the rest of the crops in ways other than freezing.

I remember having one old ceramic crock laying around and most carrot storage advice (if you weren’t leaving them in the garden) was to pack them in moist sand and keep them as close to 32 degrees as you can. So I layered sand and carrots in the crock and hope to make a small insulated enclosed in the basement for the carrots. One day we’d like a real root cellar where the old fuel oil tanks are, but that is an undertaking I’m not ready for yet!

one year ago…”Mid-September Frost”.

September 14, 2008 – School Farm Tours

This week we hosted tours from the 7th grade at West Marshall Middle School. It was ag day and they split into four groups and toured four local farms in rotation. We were glad to be included in the day. The tours lasted from 20 to 45 minutes depending how on schedule the groups were in arriving and departing.

This was the 2nd group standing near a garden near the wind turbine. We emphasized diversity, how we use science to try to mimic natural systems, and depending on the available time tasted berries, smelled compost, smelled herbs, and talked a bit about our farm businesses.

one year ago…”I Never Said ‘Over My Dead Body'”.

September 13, 2008 – Jim Sinning Memorial

We’ve been here 12 years and last week was the first funeral we’ve attended from in the neighborhood. Jim Sinning passed away while vacationing with his wife in Nova Scotia. We immediately liked Jim and Kay when we met them. They are cut from a different cloth than many others.

Jim grew up as a the town (Melbourne) doctor’s son and decided he wanted to be a farmer. So his dad said he better find out if he really liked farming, so he created an “internship” for him. He was sent off to live with a farm family of which his Dad had delivered all the children to see if he really wanted to be a farmer. He did and he died a farmer.

Jim gave up his big pickup truck about 3 years ago (once again, he was ahead of the trends) and bought a Scion xB. As an old farmer, he just removed the front seat attached it on new rails to give himself more leg room. To top it off, he put a giant turnkey – like the kind you used to get to open kipper snacks or other metal fish containers – on a giant magnet that he put on top of the Scion!

Jim loved to cook and was known far and wide for his springtime roadside asparagus route. He had a route where he knew wild asparagus grew in the county road ditches and also delivered to old friends who couldn’t get out.

We’ll miss Jim and think of him, especially next spring when I wait at the bus stop next April and hop out of the car to harvest the first tender shoots of asparagus from the patch he revealed to me somewhere along Jessup Avenue one day this past spring…

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #87″.

September 12, 2008 – Alltel Prepaid Wireless Review

OK, I know many of you don’t come here for wireless reviews, but I’m sure some will find this as a result of a google search. Emma is now old enough to practice managing her own money. She made an annual budget for clothes, school lunches, entertainment, etc. and we set her up with a credit card/checking account and bi-weekly deposits.

She had a big paycheck from babysitting saved up and wanted to get a prepaid cell phone. She researched and found Alltell wireless would be the best package for her. Her first transaction was to purchase the phone and initial service. She was very excited when the phone arrived, activated it and found she could not receive calls. Try customer service – closed. She calls the next day, they try some things and say it should work the next day. The next day it still doesn’t work and she calls back again and reached 2nd level tech support. They can’t get it to work and say take it into the local office. She reports this to me and my response is you paid for a new working phone, not a phone DOA, call back and ask for a return.

She calls back the next day and they say return it to the store even though the instructions with the phone say to return it via mail after receiving the “RMA Code.” She emails the appointed email address to get the “RMA Code” and two days later it finally arrives (keep in mind the 15 days you have to return a defective phone are ticking away with every delay). I’m thinking they’re sending a prepaid label and number in the mail for the return. Wrong – she finally gets an e-mail with the RMA number (why it takes upwards of 2 days is beyond me – every other transaction I do online responds within minutes).

She calls for clarification on shipping – it’s on her dime to ship it back with verificaton of delivery, but she shouldn’t worry since she is supposed to return it to the store anyways. And they way they won’t refund the “activation fee.” So I go to the Alltel web site store locator and find a map of the nearest store location. Actually, this is nothing other than another delay because the store is on the other side of town than depicted on the map on the Alltel web site and driving directions are to a random house on 12th street in Marshalltown – this is following the directions on the Alltel web.

You know what’s next, I get to the store and they refuse to take the phone. I argue for a bit, the CSR fumbles with the keyboard and says there’s nothing they can do. I kindly say, that I’ll spread the word and walk out the door. So I am. I enclosed a nice letter explaining the poor phone, poor service, miscommunication, and wild goose chase I encountered and kindly asked for the entire amount back. I’ll keep you posted what their response is.

Alltel Response:

Emma was grateful to receive her entire purchase price back from Alltel, including activation fee, so was only out on priority mail return shipping, verification of delivery, and run-around time.

one year ago…”Buckwheat Cover Crop”.

September 9, 2008 – Never-ending Raspberries

Aaah, raspberries.  Fruits of the Gods, as one of our customers is fond of saying.

Again, the fall-bearing varieties are not disappointing.  I love these guys because the bear so long and at the end of the season, they are just mowed down – no pruning out the dead canes.

This picture about tells it all – a few are already picked, some are ready to be picked, and yet others are still on their way.

one year ago…”File Under: It Works”.

September 8, 2008 – Purple Beans

The garden keeps putting out and we are struggling to keep up. Now we’re onto a batch of beans – we’ve canned a batch, made a batch of dilly beans and frozen and vacuum packed many packages.

The purple beans are a bit novel – they are easier to spot in the garden for kids when they are sent to pick beans.  Magically, when they are cooked or canned, the purple fades to green and they look like normal green beans.

one year ago…”Raspberries and Apples”.

September 7, 2008 – Plums!

This is the year for the plum tree in the front yard next to the driveway – the tree is now about 20 feet tall and up until this year, had not produced fruit – I was ready to give up on it and replace it with something else.

But this year it has come through with flying purple colors – baskets upon baskets of plums – plum sauce is put up for yogurt and ice cream, whole plums, plum preserves, and plum and vodka soaking in the basement.

one year ago…”Photo Friday – Purple”.

September 3, 2008 – A Boy, A Bike, A Wrench

We’ve been a bit slow getting Martin proficient on a bike – it’s hard to learn on gravel, but it’s time to get him started.

Here he’s swapping the training wheels off one bike and putting them on another.  He’s handy enough with the wrenches that he is able to take off, install, and lower and raise the training wheels on his own.  There’s a couple of bike options for him – the one he’s pictured with is pink and says “Dream Girl” on the chain guard, and he wasn’t a fan of that, so is moving the training wheels to another bike after Dad said “get over it or change the training wheels yourself.”  It’s good to build self-reliance!

one year ago…”Praying Mantis”.