November 29, 2009 – Putting Bees Away for Winter

It’s time to tuck the bees in for the winter.  By the end of this week, the highs are supposed to be in the 20s.

Martin and Linda add the insulated cover to the hive.

Here, they pose after finishing the job – the black cardboard has been slipped over the hive and we wait until spring to do anything else with the bees.

one year ago…”Gift Box Assembly”

November 28, 2009 – Emma on the Hardwoods

Emma switched school districts this year to attend a larger school with more opportunities.  She’s getting into the swing of things with a new basketball team.  She plays on the 9th grade team and also has been getting a minutes on JV.

Here, Emma listens to the coach during a TO.

#50 is starting to be a presence in the post.  The 9th grade team has already equaled last year’s season win total in the first two games of this year!  In this JV game, Emma tied for high scoring honors on the team and also contributed three assists.  She’s just a model of health and happiness after the games and practices – she glows a little bit like Rudolph!

one year ago…”Thanksgiving”

November 25, 2009 – Turkeys Ready to Go

Today’s the day.  The day we butcher turkeys on the farm for the first time.

Here are some toms showing off their handsome looks.

It was a cold day – in fact snowing by the time we finished.  We set up under the newly constructed porch in the hog barn – it blocked the wind and kept the drizzle and snow off us.  We did eleven turkeys.  The verdict on the process was a fairly good thumbs up.  We used a 5 gallon bucket as a killing cone which worked well enough.  The 32 quart turkey cooker we use as a scalding vessel worked ok for turkeys up to 20 lbs or so.  The biggest ones needed to be dunked first headfirst and then tail first.

one year ago…”Waiting for Turkeys”

November 23, 2009 – High Hopes in Sunday Paper

The headline of this article in the Marshalltown Times-Republican is “Area Family Works to Rely on Renewable Resources.” Here’s a link to the story, and in case that ever goes stale, the story is reproduced below.

Mike Donahey

That is the lifestyle Dr. Linda Barnes and her husband, Mark Runquist, have aggressively been working toward the last 13 years since they bought a seven acre farm east of Melbourne.

Their children, Claire, Emma and Martin are part of their efforts as well.

“Everybody works on the farm,” Barnes said.

The family raises organic fruits and vegetables. Behind the house, shiitake mushrooms are being grown. Additionally, they raise broiler chickens, lamb and turkey. All are used to provide the family’s food needs.

“We buy our other meat, beef and pork locally,” Barnes said. “The only meat we don’t buy locally is pepperoni.”

“We eat well,” she said. “We have fabulous meals.”

Barnes, a Twin-Cities native, said she cans the fruit and vegetables.

They took another significant step towards self-reliance and addressing environmental concerns when they installed a 70-foot tower hosting a wind turbine. It required a significant investment of the family’s time and money.

The turbine supplies some of the farm’s electricity. What isn’t used is sold back to Consumers Energy, a Rural Electric Cooperative located west of Marshalltown.

They aren’t stopping there.

According to a press release, it was in early November the Iowa Farm Energy Working Group announced they had awarded the family a $5,000 grant to demonstrate how energy needs can be met through renewable resources. Wind is the renewable resource here.

Specifically, Linda and Mark will purchase a vertical axis wind turbine and conduct research to compare it to their existing traditional 3-blade wind turbine.

Their efforts to become self-reliant included dramatically remodeling the farmhouse and repairing the barns and other buildings.

“We put roofs on the out-buildings, planted trees and gardens,” Runquist said. “So, after 13 years, finally, we almost have all of the buildings were we want them to be.”

Runquist, a Duluth, Minn. native, said they did all the work. “Incredible” is the word Runquist used in describing the changes to the property.

With the award of the grant, the family will be increasing their commitment to generating electricity from the wind.

The decision to become more self-reliant by creating their own power was not done quickly.

“We waited a long time,” Runquist said. “So, it was about five to six years ago that we wanted to put up a wind turbine.”

However, the wind-generation equipment then was expensive – about $60,000 according to Runquist – and and only carried a one-year warranty.

“It seemed like a lot of money to sink into something that risky.”

The family re-opened the wind-generation idea about two to three years ago when the equipment became less expensive and provided a five-year warranty.

Much time was spent on the Internet researching companies and equipment. Eventually they decided to purchase the equipment from a Flagstaff, Ariz. based company and it was installed by a company-certified contractor, Todd Hammen of Barnes City.

Runquist said this was one project they didn’t do themselves, due to the complexity of installing a 70-foot tower and the equipment warranty would be voided, he said.

However, before the project started they worked to reduce their household need of electricity. This involved purchasing different energy-saving appliances.

Once the project was complete, Runquist said a party was held to celebrate.

Joining them was Consumer Energy’s Chairman of the Board.

The family and CE have a strong relationship.

“I applaud Linda and Mark for their considerable efforts to become energy efficient and to secure it from renewable resources,” CE CEO Brian Heitoff said.

“We have had a great working relationship for a number of years. Our cooperative is membership owned and it is our duty to work with our customers if they wish to explore these options. Mark and Linda are very knowledgeable customers – they had an idea and we worked with them.”

Heitoff said other CE customers have installed wind-generation equipment and that the company is “right up there” nationally for wind-generated electricity.

Additionally, the company has installed several huge wind-generating devices near their office.

Runquist said the family will explore installing solar energy equipment in the next few years when the price for equipment goes down.

He said solar power will compliment their wind power.

“The peak months for solar power are when wind generation is down,” he said. “Three days of strong winds in April equal what we receive in the month of August.”

The family earned some notoriety recently. when Oprah Winfrey’s Web site ( publicized their efforts. It was entitled “Unexpected Ways to go Green.”

“They must have picked it up from our farm’s Web site Runquist said.

Barnes and Runquist were graduate students at Iowa State University when they decided to purchase their farm property.

“It was not our plan to remain in Iowa,” she said. But in looking back, she is impressed with how far the family has come.

When not working on the farm, Barnes is an Associate Professor of Biology at Iowa Valley Community College’s Marshalltown campus. “I love to teach,” she said of her work.

Runquist is also busy with a non-farm job. He works for Wells-Fargo in Des Moines several days a week and also from the home.

When asked why the family has elected to become self-reliant, Barnes replied quickly.

“It is fundamental to our values,” she said. “It is important to us, it is who we are.”

one year ago…”The Fine Line Between Fall and Winter”

November 22, 2009 – Beer and Soap Day

This afternoon we went over to Morning Sun Farm to make soap and beer. It was set up as a nice learning experience for me, as I saw two important steps in beer brewing – the initial ingredient mixing and cooking, and the bottling of a batch previously prepared up to the bottling stage.

The final product – waiting in the bottles.

Some of the supplies all ready to go..

One of the last steps – siphoning into clean bottles. I did not attempt to get a step-by-step accounting of the process, but just walk through it.

At the same time as the beer brewing was happening, a couple of batches of home-made soap were mixed and poured – here’s the results of one batch cut and curing. These bars will sit for at least a couple of months before use.

one year ago…”Stringtown Grocery Visit”

November 21, 2009 – Morning Wake-Up

The last few mornings have been foggy. Haven’t had many days when we’ve had to chop ice off the turkey water yet and Thanksgiving is almost here! The weather chat on the Weather Underground is that following the coldest October on record, November has been warmer than October – and that has never happened.  It might not keep up the last week of the month, but so far it’s been nice – pasture still green, lettuce still in the garden.

One of the rooster announces the start of the day.

one year ago…”Sweet Sound of Success”

November 20, 2009 – Bobcats Reach State Championship

After having never made the state football playoffs – ever – and coming off a 3-6 season, this year’s 13-0 record and berth in the state championship game was a big treat for Marshalltown.

Twenty minutes before game time, this is what the Marshalltown side of the UNI-Dome looked like.

This is what the Iowa City side of the dome looked like.  The fairy-tale season ended with a loss, but was a great run for this team with undersized numbers and size, but oversized heart.  The front page of the Des Moines Register led with this story – the first few lines reproduced below.

Marshalltown, Ia. – This city loves to surprise you.

Think Marshalltown is all about factories and smokestacks, pork processing and furnace manufacturing? Think again. The city has a sparkling, $20 million YMCA, an international virtual-reality company, a surprising arts scene and a Main Street district filled with businesses.

Think the city of 26,000 is as white-bread as most of the rest of Iowa? Think again. The school district is nearly 40 percent Hispanic, and the city boasts sizable Bosnian, Ukrainian and Sudanese populations as well.

And think Marshalltown is a place where the high school football team never plays in November?

Think again about the 13-0 Bobcats, who have played the role of underdogs all season – much like their city. The UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls will be a sea of blue and red tonight, filled with about a third of the city’s population watching the school’s first state championship game when the Bobcats face No. 1 Iowa City High at 7:05 p.m.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #142″

November 18, 2009 – Eggo Shortage – Oh the Horror!

A story on the newswire today details the implications of an “Eggo” shortage. Evidently, two Eggo factories are off-line and there is a nationwide shortage. People are taking it hard and exacerbating the shortage by stocking up.

Here’s part of the story of the Eggo shortage from USA Today:

Stay-at-home mom Joey Resciniti says she bought one of the last two boxes of Eggos at a Walmart in Cranberry Township, Pa., on Monday. The frozen waffles are a favorite of her 4-year-old daughter, Julia.

“We have eight of them, and if we ration those — maybe have half an Eggo in one sitting — then it’ll last longer,” said Resciniti.

What then after the Eggos are all gone?  Oh the horrors of having to ration Eggos for a four-year-old.  Perhaps the situation will become so desperate that this stay at home mom will have to make a batch of waffles at home and freeze them herself!

one year ago…”Handy Blogging Archive Software”

November 17, 2009 – Corn Caddy

Here’s the latest piece of fun farm equipment – a corn caddy – essentially a small silo on wheels.

We can use this unit to get chicken food from the co-op and move it where ever it needs to be – whether it needs to be by the layers over the winter or broilers over the summer.  I imagine with a serious pasture raised chicken operation, it would be great to bring out to the pasture to store and keep grain dry and near the chickens.  It was on super close-out at the farm store – original price $1800 marked down to $750. No more trudging through the snowbanks to the shed to get feed in the winter!

one year ago…”Can Anything Else Break Today?”