January 31, 2009 – I’m Melting

After a long, cold stretch, it got over freezing today for the first time in a while.  I use the ashes from the corn stove on the driveway and the sun on the black ashes does a good job of melting through the ice and snow.

Although it isn’t all clear yet, parts of the driveway are reappearing.  I’d like to have it all cleared of ice, so the tractor tires have good grip to move the next round of snow that comes our way.  Through the end of January, we’re already a foot of snow above normal for the year.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #105″

January 30, 2009 – Repurposed Solar Landscpae Lights

Last fall I bought some of those cheesy solar landscape lights on super end-of-season closeout (you know the ones you see in some yards that never quite stay up straight – if you have some, I’m not talking about yours!)

I just mounted the small solar panel and the lights over the doors, instead of in the ground as designed.  Now, the girls will have at least a little light to guide them to the coop at night.

one year ago…”Garage Keeper”

January 28, 2009 – A Peek Behind the Curtain

I’ve been behind this week because my new PC arrived on Monday.  The old one was 9 years old, had a big upgrade about 3-4 years ago and was giving some signs of failure – so rather than waiting for a failure, I snapped up one of the post-holiday deals.  It’s a pain in the brain to load and reload all the software, get all the updates, transfer the old files over and do a bit of deleting and reorganizing along the way.

So here’s the ground central of the high hopes blog.  The PC ends up being powered by wind energy about 1/3 of the time!

one year ago…”A Crime in Some Neighborhoods”

January 26, 2009 – Apple Pie

Everyone seems to have one thing they are exceptional at cooking, at our house, it is Linda’s pies.  When we first moved here over a decade ago, Linda entered some pies in a local pie contest and won in the fruit pie and cream pie.  It was hilarious as we could see and hear all the local white-haired ladies asking “who’s Linda?’

So we are the beneficiaries of her talent.  This is an apple pie with the apple pie filling we canned last fall.  The filling gets two thumbs up!

one year ago…”Playing in the Snow”

January 25, 2009 – Snowbanks are Back

I was hoping that the odds were low of having two similar winters in a row and that the towering mounds of snow along our road would not reappear this year.

Well, I’m wrong.  This week the plows finally got here and widened to road to mostly the whole width, but some places are about a lane and a half wide.  Beats the single lane we had.  One plow spent 45 minutes just on the 1/3 mile between our place and the blacktop.

one year ago…”Big Fluffy Flakes”

January 24, 2009 – Mercury in High Fructose Corn Syrup

From the “Never Eat Anything Your Grandmother Would Not Recognize as Food” department comes a revelation that depending on the manufacturing process used, high fructose corn syrup contains mercury. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is one of the most common ingredients in processed foods. Young children, especially, are urged not to ingest mercury. It’s kind of freaky that parents may be unwittingly be adding to their child’s mercury intake by feeding them Quaker Oatmeal to Go or Hershey’s chocolate syrup.

In a nutshell, the production of hfcs involves using caustic lye which can be produced by a manufacturing process that uses mercury cells. Many countries have outlawed this process, but the United States has not.

Here’s a list of the top 15 offending foods from the report:

Just because a food isn’t on the list doesn’t mean it is safe – the study just took samples of 55 supermarket foods.  The group that released the study urges an immediate ban on this practice that leads to unwitting mercury ingestion. You can read the press release for further information and more details and suggestions.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #104″

January 23, 2009 – Laying Hen Update

The layers we ordered in early December were finally given free reign of the coop this week.

They are growing up nicely and all of them survived the brooding in temperatures down to -25.

Getting in and out of the coop has been a challenge, with the continual drifting, water dripping off the roof and filling waterers.  So, it was time to get the axe and shovel out and free the doors of snow and ice.

one year ago…”It’s Cold, That Leaves Only Accounting”

January 21, 2009 – Emma at State Honor Band

Emma was selected to participate in an honor band day at Simpson College yesterday.

The group practiced all day and played a concert in the evening.  The first time the band played together, Emma thought, “Wow, this sounds really good.”  And she was right – take the top players from around the state and throw them together and it indeed does sound good and it gives the kids a chance to meet and hear great middle school players from around the state.

As long as we are on kids for the day, Martin won the character of the month honor from his class of the “Caring” pillar.  Good job Martin!

one year ago…”Snowbanks”

January 20, 2009 – Local Foods Move to Mainstream

For many years, many small farmers have championed the benefits of local food production based on claims of supporting the local economy, freshness, and quality. Recent books by Michael Pollan and others have given the concept a wider audience. Now, I believe the biggest producers have noticed and will soon be marketing their products as such. Following are excerpts from a speech that Bryan Silbermann, President of the Produce Marketing Association gave at his “State of the Industry” address.

After years of becoming more corporate-like and delivering fresh produce to consumers cheaply and abundantly, the produce industry is heading in the opposite direction – meeting its customers face to face. People are moving back to basics, away from industrial agriculture and back to smaller stores and local foods and trying to find the face behind their fresh produce.

“Cheap and plentiful eventually has a price,” he said, noting that consumers are more fearful of their food – and producers haven’t benefited all that much either. Producers now get about 17 cents of the consumer dollar, down from 41 cents in 1940.

At the same time, consumers are realizing they want the freshness and taste of local foods, the open space farms provide and the other benefits local foods contribute to the community – including a greater sense of security. “It’s become a social movement as people are pushing back against industrial agriculture and the over-reliance on excessively processed foods. The next big thing is not more microwavable pizza.” Silbermann said that a “perfect storm” has engulfed the produce industry, combining elements from rising input prices, a shortage of labor, concerns about food safety and a growing interest in local, sustainable food systems.

I think that Mr. Silbermann is a very astute man, and his talk reveals just the extent and possibilities of a new type of food system based on local production – coming from the leader of an industrial food organization, it is particularly informing and encouraging to those in the trenches.

one year ago…”When It’s Wintertime”