November 30, 2010 – Christmas Trees in the Wild!

OK, this week the first Christmas trees will move from High Hopes Gardens to Wheatsfield Co-op in Ames. We’ll be there 9-3 or until they sell out on Saturday the 4th and Sunday the 11th from 11-4 or until sold out. We’ll also have our gift baskets for sale. We really don’t know what to expect in terms of transport, selling, etc., but it promises to be fun.

Here’s a look at the densely planted windbreak – in need of thinning now that the trees are growing together..

one year ago…”Mark Gets Month-Long Sabbatical”

November 29, 2010 – Linda’s Colleague Going to Sundance!

Today I was sitting in Linda’s office after a Lego League practice and one of Linda’s friends and teaching colleagues walks in Linda’s office and drops incredible news on us.  A movie based on a book she wrote was picked as one of the 16 films out of some 3,000 or so films submitted to hit the main stage at the Sundance Film Festival!  She also wrote the screenplay, so it was all jaw-dropping news.  In the oddest corners of the world, like at Marshalltown Community College, the creative writing teacher suddenly gets her life turned around (again)!

The book is autobiographical, called This Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost.   The book is out of print and I haven’t read it, but it portrays Carolyn’s life as a pregnant 17-yr old girl in a Des Moines trailer park who joins a kind of hippie fundamentalist sect and her journey out of the cultish group.

No doubt many adventures are ahead for Carolyn, not the least of which will be seeing this part of her life played by Vera Farminga (who played opposite George Clooney in Up in the Air) along with Josh Leonard of Blair Witch Project fame.

one year ago…”Putting Bees Away for Winter”

November 25, 2010 – The Feast

After yesterday’s uncomfortable outdoor experience, thought it best to lead with something warm and turkey related.

smoked turkey

Here’s a slab of turkey in the smoker.  We baked one turkey and smoked another half outside in the smoker.  I was the best-smelling guy all day, tending the smoker.  This turkey was out of this world good.

Pie master Linda at work on the lattice top for the cherry pie.

cherry pie

The completed cherry pie.

apple pie

An apple pie.

pumpkin pie slice

And of course, a so-called pumpkin pie (actually it was squash from our garden -  many folks don’t know that even store-bought pumpkin pie filling from the store is squash).

Getting the vittles ready.

Still more vittle preparation.

Making the cranberry sauce from scratch (great with port).

turkey dressing

Finally, the turkey dressing getting ready to mix.  Happy Thanksgiving to all!

one year ago…”Turkeys Ready to Go”

November 24, 2010 – On the Dreadful Side of Miserable

31 degrees. 32 degrees. 33 degrees. Rain. Sleet. Ice Pellets. Thunder. 30 mph wind. Repeat. Today was an absolutely miserable day to butcher turkeys.

Ice covered everything – from the propane tank.

To the hog barn that caught the overspray from the plucker. Working with water on such a day leads to very difficult conditions. A couple of changes of clothes down to the undies. 13 turkeys and 8 chickens later, the job was done.

one year ago…”Lemons at High Hopes”

November 21, 2010 – Three Generations of Chicken Cleaners

We’ve been waiting for the time and weather, mainly the time, to magically turn our old laying hens into chicken broth and stewing hens. With forecast for very cold weather on tap, and a foggy and mostly drizzle free day in the upper 40′s, today was the day. We’ll have to take whatever we get on Wednesday – turkey day.

Here’s three generations of chicken knowledge lined up taking care of their end of the processing line. We fairly easily put 25 in the freezers today.

one year ago…”Morning Wake-Up”

November 20, 2010 – Chicken and Dumplings

Martin loves to work in the kitchen.

This week was his second time cooking chicken and dumplings.

The first time he made it, there wasn’t enough dumplings to go around, so this time he doubled the dumpling recipe.  They were good, but next time we suggested making the individual dumplings a bit smaller!

one year ago…”Bobcats Reach State Championship”

November 17, 2010 – Winter Layer Ration Delivery

Today we got one ton of layer mix – which should hold us until spring.  I make a supplemental cocktail with ingredients from Des Moines Feed mill on Hubbell Ave.  There’s a guy there named Stan who thinks a lot about feed mixes.  Interestingly, there is not any GMO corn in the facility.

For the chickens, I have a mix of probiotics, kelp and many other goodies.  I bring that to the local mill to mix in with the usual feed.  Most of a ton fits in the corn caddy and the rest go in an old stock tank.

one year ago…”Corn Caddy”