Crops – Vegetables

January 8, 2014 – View from Above

I thought it was time to see what our place looked like in Google Maps, and thought I’d show it on the blog. It simultaneously doesn’t look as open or tree-filled as it does from the ground.

Now, for a view with some annotations of some features visible from the air.

1) Fruit Trees (3 groups)
2) Annual Gardens (2 groups)
3) Burn Piles (5 groups)
4) House Windbreak
5) Field Windbreak/Christmas Trees
6) Native Hardwoods
7) White Pine Windbreak
8) Native Marsh planting, with willows to the south of the box
9) Tractor ruts from a bad experience!
10) Raspberries and Blackberries
11) Giant Rainwater tanks (2)
12) Animal Composter
13) Chicken Tractor (can see the daily “tracks”)
14) Old Granary
15) Barn
16) Hog Barn
17) Corn Crib
18) Machine Shed
19) Chicken Coop
20) Old Machine Shed
21) House
22) Garage
23) Wind Turbine
24) Cranberry Hedge

September 17, 2013 – When will it ever End?

The food preservation extravaganza continues! This weekend was no exception.

The tomatoes are just beginning. These four baskets are enough to make 14 quarts of canned tomatoes.

Here’s our Sunday afternoon haul. After church, Martin and I started in earnest – 14 quarts of tomatoes, 10 pints of pears, and two batches of blackberry applesauce. We had the tomatoes skinned the day before and the apples were peeled and frozen in the freezer, so we didn’t have all the prep work.

December 4, 2012 – December Lettuce!

Although it is not the most beautiful lettuce, it is December after all and we’ve limped this patch of lettuce through this far.

December garden lettuce is a big bonus!  We’re now marking the longest number of days without a snowfall of any kind, 277 and counting.  If winter ever does come again, I won’t recognize it.

October 14, 2012 – Lettuce Cage

For the first time, we’ve had a problem with rabbits eating OUR vittles this fall.  So, this small patch of lettuce and spinach gives a chance to repurpose a farm item for a new use.

This was originally a turkey tractor, but I thought it might do a good job of keeping the rabbits out as well, and it has without the hassle of building a separate rabbit fence.


October 12, 2012 – Drenching the Trench

It’s time to get the garlic in the ground.  It’s so much easier to dig a trench with the tractor than by hand!

Here, the trench is dug and the garlic is going in the ground.  It did take a bit longer to plant this year because it is so dry.  I didn’t want to put the garlic in a dry soil, so after I pushed the cloves in, I dumped buckets of water from the rainwater collection tank, covered the trench with the soil from one side of the trench, then soaked that again before covering it up.  Hopefully the moistened soil will help it sprout and be better insulated when the ground freezes.

October 8, 2012 – Fall Cleanup

OK, the growing season, except for chard, beets, lettuce, and kale is over.

It’s time to pull all the dead plants from the garden and dispose of them.  It’s both a relief and disappointment when the last garden vegetable dies for the season – a relief because the work of eating, harvesting, and preserving is over for the year and a disappointment that there are no more fresh goodies from the garden.

August 11, 2012 – ‘Maters Ready to Can

Today was the first flush of tomatoes in bulk.

I’ve kept them watered and they have rewarded us.  This is only the beginning. Let the tomato processing begin!

boil tomatoes

First step is to drop them in boiling water.  I use this propane turkey burner.  They are cheap after Thanksgiving and make it possible to keep the mess and heat out of the kitchen.  Leave them in there until the skins begin to crack.

tomatoes in ice water

Then put them in cold water until you can cut out the core and slip off the peels.  Usually we’ll put them in cans and process them, but we didn’t have enough time today, so we just threw them in bags and froze them until we have time to can them.

Here’s the yield from the baskets in the first photo – 10 gallon bags.

June 17, 2012 – Early Garlic Crop

Like many things this year, the garlic has matured weeks early. There has been a bit of buzz on some of the local farm listserves about a very poor garlic crop this year, with some reporting “wrinkly, soft garlic” or more culls than in 22 years of growing. That made us a bit concerned and motivated us to go check ours,

For the most part the crop at high hopes looks fine. About the only difference seemed to be the stalks seem a bit more thick than usual.

50 foot row garlic

Here’s the yield from a 50 foot row, briefly drying before getting ushered off. Looks like about 130 plants per double row.

garlic harvest

Here’s about half of this year’s crop, ready for transport in the cart.

May 9, 2012 – Big Gardening Day on the Farm

It was a great “getting things done on the farm day.” It was the first day that Linda and Claire were home all day, so the garden and other things were transformed.

First, Claire volunteered to clean out winter from the hen house. About five overflowing loader buckets (liberally soaked with water to aid the composting process) and the hen house was ready for fresh bedding, and next year’s compost is on the way.

Many plants and seeds and mulch found their way into the garden as well. We got the recycled lumber tarps out of the barn, Linda planted a bunch of peppers and tomatoes. I went to the neighbors via the bumpy dirt trail between the crop fields and retrieved two loads of loose straw from the loft of their barn and put the tomato cages on, pounded the stakes in, spread the mulch and wet it all down.

This photo shows some hearty garlic on the right, a cattle panel trellis that we put up this weekend.  It has pole beans on the outside and lettuce and spinach underneath, hopefully to last a bit longer into the summer with the shade of the beans.  To the left of the trellis is some space reserved for viney plants before a row of tomatoes.  It’s nice to have that mulched portion of the garden already weeded for the whole season!

At the end of the day, I took some time to pull thistles from the pasture.  It appears that last year’s pulling them out by had greatly reduced the population in the paddock we tested last year.  We’ll continue that on the other paddocks this year.


February 20, 2012 – Ground’s Unfrozen, It’s Warm, Let’s Plant!

With the non-winter we’ve had, it’s hard to ignore the calendar.  Nevertheless, the ground is unfrozen, it’s warm with no subzero cold blasts in the forecast, so it’s time to gamble with a few cents worth of seeds for the reward of some early season produce.

boy with hoe

We found some space with a southern slope and the barn to the north to block any strong north winds, worked up the soil a bit and put some stiff wires in the ground.  I put some wires on the ends straight across and put the rest at an angle.  Then we planted and watered.

easy cold frame

Put the plastic across, stick another round of stiff wire crossing the first wires now inside the plastic, secure the edges, and wait.  I’ll have to come out and open up a side on warm, sunny days so the plants don’t wither in the heat.

November 30, 2011 – December Lettuce!

How’s this for wonderful – we’ll be eating fresh lettuce out of the garden into December!

We’ve picked a bunch for the fridge, to guarantee December lettuce.  Any day we could get that first day it’s in the low teens at night and not above freezing during the day to finally kill it off.

October 17, 2011 – Tomatoes Won’t Stop

OK, this is it. The final tomato harvest of the year – frost is forecast in the next few days.

The plants loved the dry late summer and fall. It was an epic tomato canning year – our final tally ended up to be 97 quarts and 37 pints canned – even for us, a lot! So, we are ready in case there is a crop failure next year – we’re good for a couple of years for chili, minestrone soup, red hot dish and whatever else we can use our summer canned in a jar.

one year ago…”In the News”

October 10, 2011 – Seeds

One benefit of not getting around to pick beans before the pods get too big is that later in the season, you’ve got some seeds for next year’s gardens.  These are Rattlesnake Master pole beans, a non-hybrid, so the seeds grow true.

It’s still amazing all the information stored in each of these – instructions about when to sprout, what to do, what parts to make, how to respond to weather, and how to make more beans!

one year ago…”Lovin the 48 inch Tiller”

August 27, 2011 – Putting Tomaotes Up

Today was a long-anticipated day. Last year, we only had enough tomatoes to can seven quarts (it was a good thing we had canned 89 the previous year and had enough left over to get us through). This looks like a great tomato year. It was wet to get them going, hotter than blazes in July, now bone dry in August (avoids bacterial wilt and fungus).

Martin with the first sweep through the garden of the year looking for ‘maters.

A bushel of Romas waiting to be skinned and peeled.

To enable safe boiling water canning of tomatoes, we add 2 tbsp of lemon juice and a tsp of salt for taste.

We throw the tomatoes in boiling water until their skins crack and then put them in cold water to cool.

Then cut out the stem and slip the skins off.

Take about 1/6 of the tomatoes and crush them and bring them to boil, then slowly add the rest (no need to crush).  After all the tomatoes are added, bring to a boil and boil for five minutes.

Put in cans and boil for 50 minutes.  Today’s haul was 28 quarts of tomatoes.  Seems like a lot, but it’s only about two jars a month.  These are a staple in our cuisine.  Love them as the base of a minestrone soup and an essential part of red hot dish!

one year ago…”Ag Incubator Ribbon Cutting!”

May 17, 2011 – First Tomatoes in the Ground

It’s rather a long job, but one that only needs to be done once a season. The first couple of rows of tomatoes are in. It requires laying the weed barrier down, hauling the stakes and cages from storage, cutting out the milk cartons, spreading the straw, planting, and putting the stakes and cages up.

But it leads to practically no weeding this bed the rest of the summer and offering the tomatoes a more constant supply of moisture. These are the best-looking beds on the farm at the moment – the rest still need some work, but this photo shows tomatoes, garlic, potatoes, fall raspberries, and blackberries in the distance.

one year ago…”Garage as Test Case”

April 22, 2010 – Spring in Suspended Animation

Despite a couple of 85 degree plus Sundays in April, the rest of the month is just short of miserable. We should be in the mid-60’s by now, but it seems many days it struggles to reach 50.

Most everything seems to be in suspended animation. This asparagus is purple because of the cold and hasn’t  shown appreciable growth in a week since it poked out.

Fruit tree buds, like these plums, are likewise, just holding steady and not advancing like they usually do. Last year the plum trees were in full bloom on April 14 – looks like this year could be two weeks or more behind last year’s blooming time.

Despite being the 8th warmest March on record on a global scale, we did not contribute to that warmth. There’s blue dots over us. April will likely be even much colder from average than March.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #205″

October 22, 2010 – Getting Garlic in the Ground

Well, it’s that time of year again – time to get garlic in the ground. The last time I used the tractor, it was running really rough, almost to the point of conking out. The first check was the inline fuel filter, so today I went to get a replacement, put it in and it ran better, but still not very well – at any rate, I hustled to take of the tiller and put on the potato digger to make trenches for the garlic.

Then it was time to enlist help of the children to plant.  First, they are “de-cloving” the garlic.

Then, drop it in the ground.  We usually put a couple of rows in one trench.  Today we got about  500 feet of row in the ground.  Wet weather was bearing down upon us, thus the urgency to get them in the ground.  Now, I need to become more familiar with the fuel system of the tractor before snow flies!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #181″

October 11, 2010 – Lovin’ the Garden Chickens!

In addition to the mechanically-managed garden spaces, an even better method is the chickens! These chickens are in the garden that contained early season crops and was planted to buckwheat that was allowed to go to seed. Now, the chickens forage over the buckwheat and leave their trail of fertilization.

The left side of the photo shows ground the chickens have already passed over and the chicken tractor will now be moved downhill towards the camera.  I like this because it cleans up the buckwheat and some other seeds but yet leaves some plant material that decomposes easily on the gardens over winter to protect the soil.

“one year ago…”Front Page News: Part 2”

October 5, 2010 – Time to Pick Squash

It’s time to bring in the winter’s worth of baked, cubed and roasted, cooked and mashed for pancakes, and many more winter-time recipes that use squash.

It was time to gather them all up – despite the wet weather and chance for wilt and fungus, the vines held up beautifully and the squash came through as a good producer this year.

one year ago…”More Front Page News”

September 6, 2010 – Garlic Cleaning

One of the early fall tasks is to clean garlic – by now it has cured up in the hayloft, now it is time to get it ready for sale. Most of this is destined for seed stock and Wheatsfield Grocery in Ames.


Cleaning garlic is greatly enjoyed by some members of the family. It involves cutting off the stem and roots and peeling back a few of the papers to make it look clean and white.

one year ago…”Heirloom Tomato Tasting at Grinnell Heritage Farm”

July 23, 2010 – Carrot Experiment Harvest

The carrots in 55 gallon drum experiment is over for this year.

Although the carrots weren’t as plentiful and large as I expected, I take the blame for that since I had poor germination and didn’t replant, and probably pulled them too early as some were strangely flowering (carrots are biannual).  They were frozen for chicken soup.  I followed them with some kohlrabi.  We’ll try again next year!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #171″

July 6, 2010 – Hauling Garlic

Today’s news flash is that all the garlic is curing up in the barn. I didn’t get photos of the entire process, just the getting it up in the hayloft portion.  With a rare break in the weather, it was time to get it out before the next rains waterlogged the soil even more.


Looks good!

Here’s a bit less than 1/3 of the crop freshly pulled out of the ground.

One of the loads was picked right in the tractor loader and the bucket lifted up to the 2nd story loft door of the barn.

Unloading the loader bucket and ready to haul to the drying screens.

Martin, the ever-cheerful worker!

Here he is again, about to lay down a big load on the drying racks.  It’s a good feeling and even better smell to get all the garlic up in the loft, harvested, and ready to cure.

one year ago…”First Pear”

June 4, 2010 – First Celery

We had some electrical problems in the barn (like the lights don’t work and the box keeps blowing fuses). At any rate, it was out of my league, so I called an electrician who hadn’t worked here for a couple of years – actually since the wind turbine was installed. But he’s got a great memory and I was slow on the pick-up when he started talking gardening and asked how the celery was growing? I told him we never grew it since it took such a long time.

Well, lo and behold, he drags out a bunch of celery starts for us to try! They look great and Linda already has them tucked away in the soil.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #165″

May 29, 2010 – Garlic Off To Great Start

The garlic is exceptionally early this year. We’ve already had to pull off the first few scapes – can’t ever remember dong that in May.

Here’s some of the garlic fairly close up.

We were able to institute the new four foot alternating beds in some gardens where garlic wasn’t planted. These two new strips of clover and perennial rye are starting to come along.

one year ago…”Workin’ on the Barn”

May 25, 2010 – Getting Tomatoes In

Finally getting around to some gardening.  Getting the tomatoes and peppers in the ground.

Slightly new system this year.  We’re out of end rolls from the cardboard factory, so I picked up some giant tarps from the lumber yard to use instead.  Cut them to four foot widths, then cut holes in to plant, poked some holes in the tarp with a potato fork to allow water to seep through, put in the stakes, slid the tomato cages recycled from old woven wire fences over the posts, covered with some straw.  The sections between are the new alleys of clover and perennial rye.

one year ago…”Hops”

May 10, 2010 – Frosty Mother’s Day

Although a few mothers may have received frosty vibes from their children, at high hopes, the only frost was outside on the ground.

frosty lettuce

As the sun came up, it quickly melted the frost away.  I don’t think we’ll have any ill effects as we only had cold-hardy plants in the ground, and most of the fruit trees are finished blooming, and the frost was light enough, I don’t think it will bother the developing fruit.

one year ago…”College of the Atlantic”

April 28, 2010 – Urban Gardening Technique – Bin/Tire Potatoes

Another old gardening technique that has yet to come to high hopes is growing potatoes in straw.  Many people grow them in tires and keep piling tires up and adding straw as the potatoes grow up.

Instead of using tires, I used some old pallets wired together instead of tires.

Martin went in and laid down some newspapers and a bit of compost to give the taters a head up on the grass.

Martin is like “Jim” from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom – he goes in and does the hard work while I stand and watch!  These potatoes were left-0ver from last year and had already started growing.

Straw on top, and the pallets afford the straw to keep piling up as the potatoes grow.

one year ago…”Claire with More Opportunities”

April 23, 2010 – Urban Gardening Technique – Wading Pool Gardens

I ran across a novel idea for urban gardens (not that I won’t try it on the farm as well).  This may also work great for school gardens as well.  One of the banes of suburban existence is the leaky kiddie wading pool.  Well, esteemed soil scientice Joel Gruver at Western Illinois, documented a great way to turn them into gardens.  I’m sure of all the research and outreach Joel has done in soil science, he’d like nothing more that to be immortalized on the high hopes blog as the person who brought kiddie pool gardens to the readers of this blog!  Check out the many pictures of Joel’s pools with actual before and after photos at his flickr page.

The first step is to gather the ingredients.  I went to our nearest municipal composting facility to get a utility trailer load of compost (it’s free there!)  I mixed some for this project and spread the rest elsewhere.  Here, I filled a couple of 5 gallon buckets about 2/3 full of compost.

I bought some bagged sand ($1.50 a bag) to make a 2:1 mix of compost and sand.  I filled the buckets that were 2/3 filled with compost with sand to the top.  If you were doing a larger area, a trip to the local gravel pit and pickup may be more thrifty.

I didn’t have any old leaky kiddie pools, so I just cut a 55 gallon plastic barrel in half, drilled some extra drain holes in the bottom and mixed the sand and compost in here.  Just for reference, filling these two halves of a barrel used 12 five gallon buckets (about 3 bags of sand and the rest compost).

One advantage of this technique is that the crops are relatively weed free – so are excellent for hard to weed crops like carrots – which are destined for these barrels.  I placed them close to the rain collection tank for easy watering.  I’ll report back later in summer on the results.  As a bonus, if it works, and after the soil media tires out, I have many low spots that could use fill, so I’ll refill them and start over again!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #162″

April 18, 2010 – Spring Landscapes

This time of year the contrast between the dead corn and bean fields and life of everything is else readily apparent.

This is probably as good as the south berry garden will look this season, before the weeds overcome us.

This row of plum and cherry trees smells like a roomful of grandmothers who prefer floral perfumes and have lsot judgment as to the proper amount to apply!

This is the newest strawberry patch – the other one petered out, so this is the new spot – for my future reference – top right Evie day neutral, bottom right Cabot, top left Earliglow, bottom left Cavendish.

one year ago…”Old Red Cedar Shingles”

April 10, 2010 – Getting Garden Started

It’s finally dry enough to start getting some of the early season crops in the ground.  Today onions, peas, and lettuce hit the ground.  Enough early season crop beds are ready to go, so we swapped the tiller for the potato digger to trench in potatoes in the next few days.

Here are a couple of the new four foot beds we’re trying out this year.

one year ago…no entry

December 1, 2009 – December Lettuce

OK it’s December 1.  It sounds like winter, but there are still crops in the garden, unprotected.

There was a big lettuce harvest as the weather is supposed to turn colder at the end of this week.  But what a treat to get lettuce from the garden in December – that means that this year, we have gathered something from the garden/farm to eat fresh ten months of this year (if you count maple syrup in March).

We’ll take this weather, if you check the year ago entry, you’ll see the kids were making snowmen this day a year ago!

one year ago…”Snowman”

October 21, 2009 – Garlic Planting

When the girls got home from school, I decided it was time to make a rush to get some garlic in the ground.  Garlic is a great crop as it doesn’t need to be put in the ground in the spring.

The garlic cloves, recently separated from their bulbs.

The girls planting a furrow of garlic.  We ended up getting four rows in before the rain started (and is supposed remain for a couple days).  So, if they didn’t get in today, it would probably be at least another week before they got planted.

one year ago…”Mortgage Meltdown and More”

October 20, 2009 – October Stir-Fry

It’s nice that on October 20, the garden still supplies an all-farm stir-fry.

This dish contains carrots, cabbage, broccoli, fresh from the garden and onions and garlic from recent harvests.  The days of eating straight from the garden are quickly coming to an end – about all remaining are lettuce, spinach, kale, beets, and brussels sprouts.

one year ago…”Garlic Planting”

October 6, 2009 – Squash

This is the week for squash harvest.  We’ve had a pesky problem with squash vine borers over the years, so squash has always been hard to get to maturity.  For some reason, this year, the vine borers seemed absent – not sure if it was the weather, some other cycle, or having more chickens roaming eating pests, but whatever the case, we’ve got enough to get us through the winter.  This was only to first load to be picked and washed before tucking in the basement.

Look for nice squash soups on the winter menu at high hopes.

one year ago…”Peppers at Peak”

September 11, 2009 – Carrot Harvest

It’s time, er, maybe too late, in some cases, to harvest carrots.

The short, stubby carrots are an example of planting a variety suitable to soil conditions.  One of the gardens has very hard, clayey soil and that results in planting a variety that is short and fat to ease getting them out of the ground. To try to change this we tried planting tillage radishes in part of it to break it down some, added lots of compost this fall – so we’ll see if it is better next year.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #132″

September 5, 2009 – Tomatoes Finally Arrive in Bulk!

It’s been a lousy year for tomatoes so far.  We had the bad combination of getting them in late and a cool summer that delayed their growth a couple of weeks.

tomato bushel

The Roma tomatoes aren’t ready yet, but these are ready to eat and hit the canner.

Martin works on cutting up the tomatoes before processing.  He like to style in his Bob the Builder apron!

one year ago…”Market Berries”

August 16, 2009 – Bean Trellis

Here’s another use for 16 foot cattle panels.

This is the top of a bean trellis – it’s just a cattle panel looped over kept in place with half a steel fence post on each side.  It always seems like a pain to get in during the spring rush, but this time of year, I always wish I had trellised more crops.  The picking and disease problems, especially during a wet year like this, are greatly less than the ground beans.

one year ago…”Moldy Hay”

August 7, 2009 – Tillage Radishes

We’re trying a new cover crop this year – tillage radishes.

We planted some just a few days ago, covered them with a layer of fine compost since the ground was too hard and dry to work up and it only took a few days for them to germinate. The idea behind tillage radishes is that they pull up nutrients from the deep and decompose in place over late fall/winter/early spring and offer a chance to break up hard, clayey soil before planting. We have one garden that has difficult soil and we are testing the tillage radishes in a small area. For more information see the tillage radish web site.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #127″

July 27, 2009 – Curing the Garlic

After the garlic is harvested, it needs to dry and cure in a warm, dry place.  The hayloft of the barn is the best place on the farm to do just that.

Part of the fun is getting the garlic up to the hayloft.  First, we open one of the trapdoors on the loft and send a kid to scurry up a ladder for on loft support.

We fill buckets with garlic and hand up a rope.  Young boy pulls up the garlic.

Once the garlic is up in the loft, the bucket is emptied and repeated until all the garlic is up in the loft..

Old refrigerator racks make great drying platforms for the garlic.  After the garlic dries down, it will be cleaned and sorted for market.

one year ago…”Apple Pickin'”

April 11, 2009 – Serious Garden Progress

Today was a serious garden day.  I bit the bullet and got the tiller attached to the lawn tractor.  Since it seemed to be running so well, I surprised myself and let Claire drive it.

I don’t suppose there are too many 16-year old girls who are dying to till a garden, so I did not waste the opportunity to relinquish the seat.  Much of our garden is mulched and not tilled, but part of it is tilled.

Even Martin and Nana got into helping by cutting the seed potatoes to dry before planting.

Again, knives and 7-year old boys have their place in cutting potatoes with Nana, but not many other places!

Today we got in some early spring crops -potatoes, onions, lettuce, radish, spinach, and more that escape my mind at the moment.

one year ago…”Photo Friday – Fragile

November 2, 2008 – Dead Rhubarb

The first sprouts of rhubarb are usually noted on this blog (this year on March 28).

So, in fairness, here are the last remaining organic bits of this year’s crop. gj froze many bags of rhubarb for crisps during the winter month. Rhubarb is one the inevitable harbingers of the changing season – coming up before the last fleeting snows in the spring, and bringing the snows with it when it dies back in the fall.

one year ago…”The Next Project”.

October 22, 2008 – Growing Season Over

The last of the garden gleaning is almost done (well almost, there’s still swiss chard and some brussell sprouts and lettuce out there). But the main summer crops are all frozen out.

This bell pepper had some more to give, but it’s over now. We’ve never canned and frozen as much as we have this year – in a few days I’ll snap a picture of the pantry to see the big picture.

one year ago…”Adolescent Cooper’s Hawk?”.

October 20, 2008 – Garlic Planting

Today was a “must plant” garlic day.  The weather is forecast for a turn to the very wet and cold and I’m not sure it would dry out before November.  The last few weekend’s “free time” has been spent scraping and painting the house.

This year we are working with another farmer who sells garlic to Wheatsfield Co-op in Ames and he anticipates a much larger demand for garlic after the co-op moves into a much larger building next year.  We bought some of the garlic that he markets and we will grow it and he will market it.  It’s a tiny conenction in a local food network as a number of other farmers are participating in this informal arrangement.

The first job is to remove all the cloves from the garlic.

The second job is to recruit some help to plant the garlic.

The tractor is priceless in making the trenches to plant the garlic – digging the trenches used to be backbreaking work before. Here the kids get down to planting.  I’ll mulch the rows sometime in the next few weeks.

one year ago…”Final Thoughts on Mexican Immersion”.

October 19, 2008 – Post Tomato Harvest Work

Now comes the unglamorous part of the gardening season (OK, some of you may argue that weeding isn’t particularly glamorous, but at least the garden is optimistic or colorful during the weeding season).

Here, we’re in the middle of the clean-up.  Most of the tomato cages and some of the posts and left-over vines remain.  I think it is important to get the tomato vines up and piled up to burn later in a different location to reduce overwintering of tomato disease in the soil.  This spring we didn’t have time to get mulch down so we cheated and just used weed barrier fabric and hog panels to weigh them down because they were handy.

one year ago…”Visit to the Village of Nocutzepo”.

October 6, 2008 – Peppers at Peak

Even though it is the first week of October, the peppers are really coming on.  It seems like a long frost-free season so far.

These are some purple peppers.  Some years we don’t get them to turn purple.  Sweet bell peppers like these are a snap to preserve – just cut them up in strips or chopped and throw them in the freezer – no canning, not even any blanching.  They are great on pizza and wherever you use fresh peppers.

OK, no we are moving up a notch to the Jalapeno peppers.  This is about as hot as many people go (and many don’t go this far).  It’s been a great fall for fresh salsa.  It’s about a meal after some long days in the garden – a batch of fresh salsa, some thick chips and a seat in the Adirondack chair while listening to “A Prairie Home Companion” is about as decadent as it gets around here!

Up a notch in heat are the cayenne peppers.

Another bump up in heat are these Thai hot peppers.

By far the hottest peppers we’ve ever grown are these Habanero peppers, native to the Yucatan. These babies are about 50 times hotter than Jalapenos!  I’ve copied the Scoville scale of pepper hotness from Wikipedia below so you can see where your peppers fall on the heat scale.

Scoville scale
Scoville rating Type of pepper
15,000,000-16,000,000 Pure capsaicin
8,600,000-9,100,000 Various capsaicinoids
2,000,000-5,300,000 Standard U.S. Grade pepper spray irritant ammunition
855,000-1,050,000 Naga Jolokia, Dorset Naga
350,000-580,000 Red Savina Habanero
100,000-350,000 Habanero chili, Scotch Bonnet Pepper, Datil pepper, Rocoto, Jamaican Hot Pepper, African Birdseye
50,000-100,000 Thai Pepper, Malagueta Pepper, Chiltepin Pepper, Pequin Pepper
30,000-50,000 Cayenne Pepper, Ají pepper, Tabasco pepper, some Chipotle peppers
10,000-23,000 Serrano Pepper, some Chipotle peppers
2,500-8,000 Jalapeño Pepper, Guajillo pepper, New Mexican varieties of Anaheim pepper, Paprika (hungarian wax pepper)
500-2,500 Anaheim pepper, Poblano Pepper, Rocotillo Pepper
100-500 Pimento, Pepperoncini
0 No heat, Bell pepper

one year ago…”Getting Ready for the New Roof”.

October 4, 2008 – Hops Harvest

I’m guessing its time for the hops harvest.  I’m a newbie at this, so if anybody out there knows the best time to harvest hops in this part of the country, give me a shout out.

They’ve grown very well on a 16 foot cattle panel propped up against the shed. I wasn’t sure how they’d do with the heat from the western sun bouncing off the wall, but they do fine.

These are Cascade Hops which I’m told are good finishing hops.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #90″.

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 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”.

August 27, 2008 – Onion Harvest

We’re in the harvest season.  Harvest brings great images, like the peaches last week, this week it’s the onion’s turn.

The onions were pulled a couple of weeks ago, sat in the sun to dry for about a week, then had their tops clipped and sat in the barn to cure for another week or so, before shuttling down to the basement.  This year I actually have a large mesh bag to store some of them in – we’ll eat the purple ones first since they don’t keep very well.

one year ago…”Passport Ready?”

August 22, 2008 – Late August Garden

The harvest, preserving, and selling season is in full swing and it is time for weeding to fall by the wayside.

This is our best looking garden – one weeding professional Linda has managed to keep in check. It’s hard to make the switch from tending to harvest, as it is hard to let go and there is only time to do so much, and it’s time to put food up

one year ago…”Dog Agility”

July 28, 2008 – Digging Potatoes and Garlic

It was a day to dig up some of the potatoes and garlic.

Unfortunately, the kids were so efficient at cleaning and putting away the garlic in the hayloft, that I was’t even able to get a picture of this year’s garlic crop!  Linda is sporting a new potato fork – the old wooden fork broke last fall and was replaced with a new fiberglass model.

 One year ago…”A Night on the River”

July 25, 2008 – Chinese Cabbage

It has been a most excellent year for Chinese Cabbage.

It’s a great vegetable for stir-fry or boiling and has much less insect pressure than regular cabbage.

Today Claire left for Flagstaff, AZ as her Envirothon Team from Marshalltown High School heads to the National Finals. There was a plane delay in Cedar Rapids and they ended up missing the connecting flight to Phoenix in Minneapolis.  We had my brother in Eagan ready to provide lodging in Mpls to prevent them from sleeping (or not) in the airport terminal, but the airline put them up in a hotel, but they ended up missing about a day of their early arrival to explore Arizona.

one year ago…”Turkeys Arrive”

May 7, 2008 – Shiitakes!

Today we found that the mushroom logs we had “planted” with shiitake mushroom spawn decided this wet spring was a good time to pop.  Earlier we showed the process to innoculate the logs by drilling plug spawns into logs.

Here’s a couple growing on a log.

Finally, here are a few in the kitchen on the cutting board.  We are looking so forward to trying some. Waiting a year after planting these is kind of like waiting 9 months to have a baby – you can’t believe it when they really arrive!

one year ago…”Trailer Guy”

May 4, 2008 – Finally Something in Garden

Finally, the potatoes that sometimes get planted in March, most times get planted in April, this year didn’t hit the ground until May.  The wet, cold spring is delaying all planting.

Potato planting is greatly simplified with the trencher attachment on the tractor.  Linda also got small amount of the usual early season crops such as radish, lettuce, spinach and the like.  I spent most of the day battling tillers, bit finally got rolling.

one year ago…”House Under Cardinal Attack”

February 22, 2008 – Organic Farm Tour/Wal-Mart Brokers

Our first tour was to an organic farm.  The farm was located up in the mountains outside of San Jose, the capital city.

The man in the white hat is the farm operator and the woman is the daughter of one of the professors at the University of Costa Rica who came along as the interpreter.  Here Alvaro discusses his composting/soil fertility system.

There is a commercial potato farm across the road from Alvaro’s farm that struggles with pest and disease problems, requiring many applications of fungicides and insecticides.  Alvaro’s potatoes do not suffer the same problems and his explanation is the soil characteristics and the potato variety.

Here is an intercropping of carrots and radishes in one of his diversified beds.

Farming on a slope in a place that receives 120 inches of rain a year requires some ingenuity.  He digs these holes throughout his farm along natural drainages.  They receive water during rains and if the erosion starts moving soil, the holes catch the soil so it doesn’t leave his farm

Alvaro had many scarecrows to try to frighten off birds.  Here’s one that give the illusion of movement.

Here’s one wearing a cap from Iowa State! That should be good enough to scare any pest away!

Alvaro also uses vermiculture to help break down organic materials and improve his soil.  He piles up weeds and wast organic matter in the field and seeds them with the vermicomposting worms to break down the piles faster.  Here we are admiring a sample of the worms and the powerful castings.

Alvaro is very much an innovator. Here is a drainage that comes from his pig pen to an inlet pipe.  The interpreter used a kind word to describe the animal manure.  She said “the dump from the animal.”  Alvaro has recently been convinced that his system would not work nearly an well without animals as part of his system.

The dump goes to what he calls his artificial intestine, a makeshift methane digester.  He made this system for less than $100.  The slurry goes into the digester, there’s a relief valve for the methane and a water lock for the liquids leaving the bladder.  He pipes the methane to a stove that he uses to dry things in a nearby shed.  He hopes to someday build his house here and use the methane for the cookstove in his house.  Again, a really neat low-tech solution to making nearly free energy from a waste product in most modern non-integrated production systems.

Finally, he didn’t let us go without providing the 22 of us with lunch!

The second half of the day we visited a fruit broker that was recently purchased by Wal-Mart.  We visited the warehouse where the farmers dropped off the products and they were routed to trucks.  We were not allowed to take photos, had to take off all our jewelry, including rings, earrings, and the like.  The warehouse was essentially a building with loading docks on both sides full of crates of products in the middle.  They were happy to take many pictures of us (although we were forbidden to do likewise).

The owners were very proud that Wal-Mart purchased them, but their formula for offering farmers credit to expand, offering growing assistance, and cornering their market sounded a lot like business from colonial days on forward – get farmers in debt, become the primary source of information, and control access to markets.  The farmers in this system even have to buy and package the products.  So, if you are a potato farmer, you have to bring all the potatoes already weighed, cleaned, and bagged in the retail containers/bags and purchase all the packing materials and handling equipment.  The morning and afternoon could not have demonstrated a bigger contrast in growing and distribution systems.  Interestingly, the organic farm was the most popular visit for most of the trip participants.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #62

February 5, 2008 – Ordering Seeds

We’re a little behind schedule on the 2008 garden already!  We usually have our seeds ordered by now, but that’s one of the things that fell by the wayside due to the trip over Christmas/New Years.

So once again, it is the hopeful time of year when the garden is full of luscious vegetables, the weeds are magically in check and the temperatures are warm!  We are moving “up” this year.  We ordered more vining/climbing varieties and plan on growing more on trellisis (or is that trelli?) – at our advanced ages, it only makes sense to be able to pick without bending over quite so much!

We’re excited about getting some 12-16 inch long pole beans (they should be great for dilly beans) climbing cucumbers, and some climbing pumpkin to go wild in the corn – the variety is even called “corn pumpkin.”
one year ago…

November 28, 2007 – I Never Wait Until the Last Minute ;)

Today was the last “warm” day for a while – in the upper 30’s with 25 mph NW winds – but the next week or so is supposed to be much colder, so one overdue task remains – pulling up all the tomato vines, cages, and stakes – if I wait much longer the ground will be frozen.

Here’s the pile of old vines ready to burn.  You’ll also notice what served as the “turkey tractor” up until last week behind the vines.  All the tomato cages and steel posts are loaded onto the wagon and ready to be pulled to the other garden in the spring.  This beats stacking them on the ground and picking them back up and moving them again in the spring.  It only took me 10 years to figure this one out!  Our tomato cages are substantial – sections of old woven wire fencing bent in a circle, held in place with half a steel fencepost. Â We consider the store tomato cages to be worthless for tomatoes – we use them for bell peppers, but sometimes even the peppers get too big and blow down in a wind.

In addition to moving the tomatoes to different locations each year, we burn the vines to help cut down on disease overwintering.

one year ago…

November 17, 2007 – Doesn’t Get More Old Fashioned Than This

After yesterday’s entry about sustainable enterprises and earning it – I can safely say that moving small amounts of manure from a barn to a garden are sustainable enterprises (however negligibly rewarding they may be).

It is strangely satisfying, though to move the fertilizer with only the labor of your own hands along with with a pitchfork and cart.

It’s a time of year we can directly put it on the garden now that the growing season is over.  This will be a tilled garden in the spring and although there is no financial reward, we will avoid having to purchase outside petroleum-based fertilizers, so I guess there is a reward of sorts.

one year ago…

October 27, 2007 – Planting Garlic

Today was a catch-up day.  We missed the window of opportunity to plant garlic and fall bulbs early in the month, and it has just been way too soggy up to now to get in the garden.  So today we got the garlic in and some purple allium, and three kinds of peonies (Duchesse de Nemours -white, Sarah Bernhardt -pink, and Red Magic – red).  We also collected a bunch of seeds from flowers and beans, among other things.

A few days ago, I wouldn’t have bet that I’d be able to dig this trench with the tractor.  Our neighbor filled our two wagons with corn and I went out after I got home from work after dark to haul them back home.  On the way home, the tractor seemed like it was running a very rough and might not make it home.  In my paranoia, it seemed like the exhaust had a white tinge to it, but it was night, and I hadn’t yet run the tractor at night, so I wasn’t sure what it looked like normally at night.  My fear was coolant in the combustion chambers.  Or, I thought maybe the heavy load was straining it because one of the wagon wheels was nearly locked?  But when I got home and stopped the tractor, it still was acting up.  I turned it off and a few minutes later it wouldn’t start.  So I went and got the 2nd wagon with the truck (I felt some urgency as rain was possible in the forecast) and felt lucky not to get stuck in the soft waterway with a two wheel drive truck and gravity wagon full of corn and a dead tractor unable to pull myself out.

Over the night, ruminating about how much a cracked head or other major repair would cost, I remember an old mechanic telling me that if I ever put gas that had a mixture of ethanol in an engine that had not run it before, it would dissolve and break loose all kinds of gunk that might be in the gas tank/fuel system.  I may have grabbed a gas container that had ethanol in my rush to get out in the field.  So in the morning I thought I’d drain the carburetor and check out the gas, and if necessary drain the gas tank and start over.  But after draining all the gas out of the carburetor, it started up and ran just fine – so I am attributing the problem to a fuel line problem that has worked it self out.

Having the tractor to dig trenches to plant garlic, gladiolias, and potatoes is a huge back and time saver.


one year ago…

September 12, 2007 – Buckwheat Cover Crop

We have found that using buckwheat as a mid to late summer cover crop works well for us.  It grows well in hot weather, provides late season forage for the bees, and if the flowers go to seed, we fence in the chickens to eat the seeds, fertilizing the garden for the next growing season.

You may notice the chard is still hanging in there quite well. Once it makes it through the heat of summer it revitalizes and is the last thing to die back in the garden.

one year ago…

July 4 , 2007 – Three Minutes at a Time

Part of today was designated as “food day.”  There were some spring crops in need of harvest, so we got the kettle out and froze away.  Most of these veggies require cleaning and cutting, then dipping in boiling water for three minutes and plunging into cold water before putting in freezer bags.

Today we harvested some cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, and apples.

The kids and GJ took the apples outside to peel and core them.

The handy-dandy apple/potato peeler at work!

These will be thrown in bags directly in the freezer and combined with other apples later in the season for applesauce.  We’ve found that freezing them makes it easier to make sauce out of them later.

one year ago…

July 2, 2007 – The Unheralded Beet

Beets are a lot like the sanitary sewer system – they live underground, people don’t think much about them,  But the analogy only remains true so long.  When the sanitary sewer stops working, people take notice – there probably wouldn’t be much of an uproar if the beets disappeared from the grocery shelves.  But the beet is sweet and tangy all at once.  A good portion of granulated sugar comes from beets – 30% of worldwide granulated sugar comes from beets.

Today we put a few beets up. Martin helped harvest with his tractor and wagon. It was a good outdoor kitchen project.

I saved the tops and blanched and chopped them for borscht – one of my grandfather’s staples – the great thing about borscht is that it is just as good cold as warm. We thought my grandfather ate the same pot of borscht all week. The original pot would last for a few days, then as the days wore on, he’d throw some pork in, maybe some potatoes or turnips, maybe some chicken broth to make it last another day. I don’t know whether it is because of this, or that my people have eaten beets for a long time, but as I was cooking and freezing the beets and tops, I couldn’t resist constantly snacking.

And beets have a place in fiction, as I imagine a few people have had beets anonomously left on their front doorstep (ala Jitterbug Perfume).

As I was skinning the beets of their rough skin and revealing the smooth, blood red flesh below, Figaro (the cat) played with the trimmings, perhaps confused with the apperent dripping blood and dangling long mouse-like tail of the taproot.

one year ago…

May 18, 2007 – Garden in Full Swing

School is finally out for Linda. It was a day at home for me. Kids were in school. A recipe for day-long attention to getting more of the garden in.

Here’s a portion of the tomatoes – all tucked in under the mulch and staked with cages made from old woven wire and old fenceposts cut in half. Those flimsy so-called tomato cages you buy in the store are basically useless. So we made these for nothing but some time many years ago cutting up the woven wire and fenceposts.

We’re now eating something instead of rhubard and aspargus from the garden.

The first lettuce, radishes, and spinach are in season.

one year ago…

October 20, 2006 – 2nd Stage Garden Cleanup

Today was the 2nd stage garden cleanup – mowing to shreds all the remaining plants and weeds to help them break down over winter. I did find one total surprise – some of the radicchio and chinese cabbage plants have regrown. They are early spring crops and just kind of hibernated through summer and now they are back!

I found out our power cooperative has an off-peak billing option – you pay half price for 22 hours of the day and pay three times the rate from 5-7 pm. It sounds pretty good – put a timer on the deep freezes and water heater to go off for a couple of hours and avoid laundry or clothes washing at that time – I figured it could save us up to $80/month. I’ll keep you posted how it actually works out.

one year ago…

September 9, 2006 – Market Goods

Here’s a sample of what we bring to market. This may be one of the last weeks as the garden winds down.

As Martin’s Kindergarten class was discussing colors this week, nobody believed that peppers were purple. (Doesn’t anybody teach “Peter Piper picked a peck of purple peppers anymore?) So, for share day, he brought in some Purple Beauty peppers to show.

Some of the fall bouquets are striking with the dark reds and browns.

Our fall raspberries are just going nuts this year – lots and lots of big berries.

August 26, 2006 – Putting Food By and By

As today was the Memorial for Mildred Grimes, we weren’t able to go to market. I’m glad we went to the service – it was very beautiful. We were, however left with many tomatoes, beans, and raspberries to “use or lose.” Linda and Emma canned 21 quarts of tomatoes.

We’ve got our old kitchen countertop on wheels and old gas stove on a propane tank, so we can keep the mess out of the house.

Claire and I dug more potatoes. I had a crabby and happy picture of Claire, and chose the happy picture this time.

August 19, 2006 – Unnatural Fruit of the Garden

You’ve all seen the unnaturally shaped garden vegetables – misshapen potatoes and squash seem particularly amenable to be Rorschach Test subjects. Some are even purposely grown in uncommon shapes in special vegetable molds.

We have a tomato entry (unmodified) in the non-standard tomato shape contest.

I will let the readers jump to their own conclusions regarding the particular resemblance of this tomato to other natural forms. Suffice to say that many drug companies will no doubt want the genes from this tomato!

August 16, 2006 – Favorites Around the World

GJ is hosting a high school exchange student in Ames and brought her out to the farm. She is from Nigeria and wanted to eat a couple of things from our garden that we seldom, if ever eat – okra and amaranth. She wasn’t as excited about the rest of the crops in the garden as these two items.

This is the first year for okra in our garden. We have very little, but it seems to go at market. We cooked some up last week with egg and cornmeal to so-so reviews.

The amaranth variety is used as an ornamental variety here, but we’ve known that it is an important crop across the world.

July 31, 2006 – Peppers

The peppers are starting to come on strong. Here’s an assortment from the garden.

The dark purple peppers (Purple Beauty) are the size of normal grocery store bell peppers and the big green one is called “Napolean Sweet Pepper” – just for fun here’s a description of it from the 1923 L.L. Olds Seed Company Catalog: “Plants about 2 feet tall. Possibly the most productive of all the large peppers, bears consistently until frost. Mild as an apple. Fruit about 8″ long and 4 ½” in circumference, standing upright until they get so heavy they sometimes droop. Remarkably early for a large fruited pepper. Might be classed as an extra early.” Good flavor when green, sweeter when red.

July 24, 2006 – News from the Farm

Among other things, today was onion and potato harvest day.

We pulled all the onions. It wasn’t the best year for onions, as they weren’t all very big – the white variety did best this year.

We pulled about 1/4 of the potatoes and Martin was excited to haul a load from the garden to the drying spot with his tractor wagon. The red potatoes dried down first. Like the garlic, we seeded buckwheat where the onions used to be.

I also spent some part of the day hauling scaffolding – three sections from Morning Sun Farm and two sections rented from a scaffolding company in Des Moines.

I’m always scheming what to build next – the latest idea is an outdoor brick or adobe oven to cook breads and dry fruits and veggies and cook an occasional pizza. I’m about to start the research process and my number on question is can the clay-based horno type ovens last in this alternating humid/cold climate? Keep ya posted.

July 21, 2006 – Garlic Drying

Here’s an update on the garlic – it was pulled a few days ago, and here is drying on old refrigerator racks in the hayloft of the barn – as warm and dry place as we can find these days.

Garlic is a great crop for us – it’s planted in the fall gets pulled in mid-July, and stores well and people like it.

July 17, 2006 – Harvest Day

It’s amazing what grows in a week or so. Today was a big harvest day despite the sweltering heat. How hot was it you ask? When I got out of the car, my glasses fogged up at the blast of warm humid air.

But there were things to do – pulling some more of the garlic was high on the list.

We did this first thing in the morning, but it was still hot.

Martin with the day’s digging. The girls were sent out in the afternoon to pick beans. They came back with a 5 gallon bucket and a grocery bag full!

I think the looks on their faces portray the joy of picking beans! We also had a bunch of raspberries to pick, and a big secondary blush of broccoli.

In the evening, since it was so hot and the supers were near full, Joanne extracted honey.

A frame dripping with honey.

Turning the extractor and draining the honey.

Finally, the raw honey in a 5 gallon bucket. All in all, a good day at the farm!

July 2, 2006 – The Three Sisters

Even though Linda and I don’t have three sisters between us, we planted them this spring. The three sisters are corn, squash, and pole beans. We planted the corn first, waited a few weeks, and followed it up with the beans and squash.

Here are the anthers from the “Mandan Bride” variety of corn we planted.

Here’s another expression of the Mandan Bride corn.

Finally, here they are all together. The beans are starting to climb and the squash are just getting started. The idea is the squash smother the weeds, and the beans fix nitrogen for the corn and the corn offers the beans a place to climb.

May 26, 2006 – Garden and Building

Today was one of those rare days that more “farming” got done than planned. Spent the morning loading up a load for the dump and getting supplies in town and in the afternoon started getting ready to reroof the back side of the old machine shed. First task was to nail 2x4s across the roof into the rafters. The roof has a great hump (where two buildings were joined). So, I tore all the asphalt and cedar shingles to get down to the sheeting on the hump to help smooth out the hump. Got all the boards pounded in.

Even got three sheets of roofing up – about nine feet. I was hoping to get it done this long weekend, but about 3/4 done today – should be a snap!
Linda got some serious weeding done today.

Here’s a view down the onions and potatoes.
GJ got lots of patio blocks set around the new raised beds. It was hot and calm – a day that felt and smelled like summer. So it was the first time to Ev’s in town for ice cream after dinner.
Any guesses what this crop is?

These are Chinese cabbage and raddicchio – looks like they like the wet weather of late.

May 1, 2006 – Asparagus

Today was the second cutting of aspargus. It’s one of the first edibles out of the ground. By the end of the season, we’ll have our fill of grilled, souped, and steamed asparagus. It’s a nice, easy crop at a good time of year. Around here the old-timers treat the wild ditch aspargus like morel mushrooms – they have memorized the location of all the wild patches that grow in the ditches and drive around and harvest.

Today I cleaned out the boat. I got it from my Dad and have not had it on the water yet! It was in an old shed and had years of raccoon doo-doo in it. So I washed it out and put it back on the trailer upside down to prevent a re-run.

Since it was so soggy, also got a little hand weeding done around the fruit trees and raspberries. Tonight we discovered a rat had been getting into the pet food outside, so without delay I went to town and got a rat trap. (It’s just one creature I don’t want to share my immediate surroundings with.) I didn’t get one of the giant snap kind – that seemed a bit scary – especially if the pets got near it (which they would). Instead I got a small live trap that is too small for the dogs and cats to get in, but big enough for a rat.

April 9, 2006 – More Kids!

We thought Paullina was due in a couple of weeks, but when we came home from church there were two babes in the barn. That’s the second year in a row that Paullina has given birth while we were at church. Emma was the one that found them, she had a friend come over who arrived shortly after we returned home and she and Betsy found them and ran back excitedly to the house.

Here is kid #1 a darling black and white kid (no name yet).

Here is kid #2 looks like her mother. They are both females!
We also started to plant the garden – a little bit of lettuce, beets, larkspur, and spinach.
Here are the kids are cutting up the potatoes to dry up before planting.

Here’s part of a trench to plant the spuds – just look at that rich dark soil!

April 5, 2006 – A Great Day to be Born!

Today started out well enough. In the morning Martin and I took care of some small things – we pulled out some fenceposts to move to make way for the new trees. Martin could pull them out, drag them, and lean them along another fence once I used the fence puller to get them nearly all the way out.
Then we mowed the strip where the new trees are to go.

We uncovered the garlic from the winter straw.

We unwrapped the winter wrap from the peach trees.

We got out the ladder and cut some of the middle-sized pines to a single leader on top. We added some chicken wire to the bottom of some cattle panels so the chickens couldn’t get to the new trees.

Right before lunch, we went to check on Blaze, and this is what we saw!

Blaze had given birth to triplets sometime between 10ish and 11:30. She was a dutiful mother and was licking the kids with conviction. One is very small and was not able to get up for a few hours. Although it is windy, it got up to 70 degrees today, so it was a good day to be born.

Then the UPS truck comes with the trees I was expecting Friday. So, after getting everything ready for planting, I went to State Center to get taxes signed off and pick up the girls from school so they could see the kids sooner and help with planting.

The sound of the girl’s shouts of glee when they looked in the barn and saw the kids was worth a lot of mid-winter chores and then some!
After playing with the kids for a while – Emma tenderly and confidently picking up the runt and easing the kid’s mouth into its mother’s teat was very nurturing. Blaze had all boys. Last year we had 2 boys. If you count Martin, that’s 6 straight males conceived on the farm!

Linda got home a bit early and it was great to see all five of us working to get the trees planted before dark/evening thunderstorms. Claire liked to dig holes, Emma liked to plant, Martin liked looking for worms and the rest was just hauling water and digging more holes. Eventually, Claire went in and cooked dinner for us as we finished. We finished by planting four more peach trees that came with the firs. We still have the mulching left, but all the trees are in the ground. The skies opened up minutes after getting back to the shed. More good karma.

Linda and I had a good 45 seconds of bliss as we were alone on a corner of the farm, looking down a couple rows of orchard, beyond that two full rows of conifer on the north edge stretching to the end of the property. To the right were the windbreak trees we planted when we moved in reaching 10-15 feet, and a distant view of shiny white new roof on the corn crib. After the new life, delightful experience of all of us pulling together to get more trees planted, we were able to remove ourselves from the never-ending “to-dos” and could simply enjoy what we’ve done since we arrived on the farm. 45 seconds of bliss, plus the sounds of the girls seeing the kids is enough to keep us going another year. It’s the kind of day that deserves a Morning Sun home brew from brewmaster Mike. Today is a good enough day to open one!

October 22, 2005 – Garlic In

Today we got the garlic in (but not mulched). It does so much better planted late fall than spring. We planted five different varieties: California Early White, California Late White, Music, Chesnok Red, and Siberian. We planted a bit more than last year – last year we had about 200 ft of garlic, this year we have about 360 feet.
We also rearranged some chickens.
We moved two groups to garden clean-up patrol – the Black Astralops were assigned to the former tomato patch to clean up the rotten fruit on the ground.
The mixed standard layers pullets were assigned to the gladiolas and pole beans (the part of the garden most weedy by the end of the year).

I’m really loving these chickens in the garden after harvest to clean up the waste/seeds/weeds. They really seem to enjoy it and leave some fertilizer in place. It’s like getting free weeding and fertilizing!

September 30, 2005 – Gourds

Here is this year’s gourds drying down own the vine.

We’ve found that the best way to dry the gourds is to leave them outside over the winter. We’ve tried bringing them in the barn or house, but they just seem to rot. So outside they will hang.
See the August 26th entry for the gourds in full spendor.
We’re working on making the gourds into useful items – the obvious one is bowls (maybe we’ll get beyond that this year!).

Here’s a seasonal display using the miniature corn and gourd bowl.

August 28, 2005 – Around the Farm

Thought I’d share some of the nice sights around the farm these days. Here’s Claire next to the broom corn – it’s tall!

I continue to be struck by the combination of the blooming buckwheat and amaranth.
amaranth buckwheat
This amaranth is very striking in its deep maroon color – even from a distance, it is the first thing that catches your eye and is much more striking against the green backdrop than this photo portrays.

July 27, 2005 – Cart-o-Veggies

Today was root crop day at High Hopes. We dug all the potatoes, and the remaining onions and garlic. Just as importantly, pulled all the weeds and planted buckwheat where everything was pulled. The weather is still pleasant and it was a good day to work.

We moved the turkeys out of the cramped chicken tractor and got our first electric netting fence up and they had a good time stretching their wings. They were quite hilarious flying up and discovering what the fence does.

July 25, 2005 – Garlic Bread!

Today was the last hot day for a while – so it was a good day for a dentist visit and to clean the house to get ready for an appraisal for a refinance. It’s nice to have a clean house. In the evening we cut some of the black-bearded wheat we planted for ornamental value. Martin, however, is convinced we are going to make wheat flour with the wheat, so here’s a picture of “garlic bread” for Martin.

July 2, 2005 – Trophy Dandelion!

Today was a day of long-overdue work around the place. Spent most of the morning weeding the gardens. Check out this trophy dandelion root. It was about five feet long. I kept pulling and it just kept coming and coming, and coming.

Also spent a couple of hours on thistle patrol – mowing patches in the pasture, cutting them out of fencerows, and pulling them out from around the new trees. Everybody hates thistles, so I am doing my part for neighborhood harmony. We also picked the last peas and took out the trellis and poles and moved it over to the just planted pole beans.
Had a nearly all-farm meal tonight – our chicken, beets and green beans. Froze the peas, some beans, and some raspberries as well. Planted the last of the Gladiolus (I think we put in about 450 this year). Also planted some buckwheat where the peas and a weedpatch were as buckwheat does great as a summer cover crop. Did a little work on the trailer while Emma and Linda took the dogs for a walk at dusk.

Martin has been dwelling on his birthday and what it means. He was asking where he came from and where he was before he was born. We told him that half of him came from mommy and daddy. That was good enough explanation and he seemed pleased with that answer. Then he said something to the effect of “But I have my own spirit, right?” I thought that was rather amazing that he would consider the non-physical part of himself after finding out his body came from Mom and Dad.

June 13, 2005 – Emma’s Experiments

I let Emma loose with the camera and she took many pictures from interesting perspectives. Here’s one of some garden flowers from the ground up.
emma experiment
She also took a photo of some amaranth after weeding.emma experiment
We have been growing amaranth seed increases for the WORLD’S amaranth expert, David Brenner. The seeds we grew out last year are now at Reiman Gardens. Dave holds the Guinness Book of World Records for world’s tallest amaranth. Dave is the curator for amaranth, clover, and many other species at the Plant Introduction Station that maintains seed lines of plants, much like a seed-saving operation for future crop improvements.

May 2, 2005 – Another Frigid May Day

Today was just as ugly as yesterday. At least when I washed the van this am, the water didn’t freeze on the vehicle as it was 33 degrees.
grow light
The seeds we started really want to go outside, but that would be cold-blooded murder on days like today. This weekend we put some of the broccoli and cauliflower out to get hardened off (used to real sunlight) but the wind really made them look bad, but not as bad as they did after they were put into the mud room for shelter and a dog/cat/child stepped/dropped something on them.

Let’s think happy thoughts, shall we? We are trying to incubate our first eggs. These are Guinea Hen eggs and are expensive through the hatcheries (about $5.00 each) and guineas are notorious for wanderlust and never coming back. We have two we think are a pair of the right combination, (although we haven’t seen them being amorous). guinea eggs

Guineas love insects, so we hope to employ some natural insect control in the garden.

April 9, 2005 – SpringBurst

Spring is bursting all over. Here’s the rhubarb: (compare to March 30).


The aspargus popped its head up yesterday:


Today we ate the first garden produce. We had fresh chives in our twice-baked potatoes. The radishes and lettuce are up. Today was the last “Growing Your Small Market Farm Class” for me for until next fall. The last class is next weekend and it is tree-planting weekend, so I won’t make it.

It was extemely windy today. Too windy to plant, to windy to spread mulch, the kinds of day that uplifts swirling dust clouds from the road. So, it was a good day to fetch the last 100 fenceposts from town and pound a few more into the ground. I got what is affectionately and oh-so-creatively called the mudhole fenced off. We bought a marsh seed mixture from Ion Exchange and need to get them in soon. The turf around the mudhole is slowly being broken apart by the cows, so the fence and planting should help it recover.

When the wind died down a bit near sunset, the kids got the home-made kite out and played with that. We were watching the three of them, the two dogs, and the kite out in the back pasture and I commented to Linda “there’s the reason we moved here.” We never have to worry about who’s in the park. Here’s a picture Emma took of her kite (a 4-H project) and the best kite we’ve ever had.


Martin was holding it for a while, until he let go and although there is a substantial piece of board to wrap the string up, it lifted all the string and the board over two fences and about 20 acres away. I came back to see them and saw Emma far-far away with kite in hand and Martin clinging to the fence.

April 2, 2005 – Planting Time

I went to class this morning and noticed some folks must have had enough accounting as the attendance was thinner than usual! Brought the truck so got another load of free mulch. The tiller worked like a champ today – did all gardens without a bolt breaking, tines gettting wrapped in garbage, or belt breaking. Then potatoes, onions, and the first round of chard and carrots found their way it the ground. Here’s team potato at work:


Emma enjoyed getting the bike out today as well. Oh yeah, I forgot Claire is i Washington D.C. for a class trip. No fair – When I was her age, I got to go to St. Paul for an afternoon!

March 30, 2005 – Rhubarb!

Looks like the rhubarb is ready to take off:


It’s a low energy day. I’m fighting a cold and don’t have the usual get up and go. So we vacuumed under all the couches, pruned some of the windbreak trees to a single leader. Here’s a before photo:

Here’s an after photo showing a single leader. This will prevent a crotch low on the tree and a future weak spot and place for rot and wind to snap it off.

Also had a kind gift of a goat stanchion today – fetched it between thunderstorms and it was ready to go except for building a feeding tray on it. So when Paullina births, we’ll be ready to go!

This evening was a Wholesome Harvest board meeting. It’s always an exciting and challenging time to be part of a start-up company.

March 20, 2005 – Seed Starting

Today was the first day of spring and it was warm enough to do all the seed starting outside. It was much better than doing it in the house – all the mess stayed outside. Linda supervised the soil mixing, which was earnestly performed by Martin and Emma.

seed starting

The chickens are laying like nuts – we were down to 6 eggs a day in January, but yesterday we got 40, including a goose egg. I don’t think we have many more chickens than that.

This morning we folded and sealed the last of the surveys.


After church, the 4H dog agility team came over and built the jumps etc. for future training. Then good friends Steve and Sally brought over a traditional Irish meal of Irish Soda Bread, corned beef, cabbage, potates, carrots, and bread pudding.