Thursday, 30 April 2009

It Just Wasn't Meant to Bee

The bees are gone. As I had worried earlier in the Spring, they were dead and mostly moved out. the recent activity was that of scavenger or robber bees. It must not have bee-n meant to bee. Sorry, couldn't help myself. :)

We had a wonderful time cleaning out the hive though. Jill and Sean of Blue Gate CSA brought equipment and experience, yet we got two trash bags full of bees wax that will be processed into candles and wax blocks. Cool. Jill also gave Lil'Bug a story that she has really held on to this week, about the moon and the sun fighting. Trust me that she needed it. 

We are grateful to Jill and Sean for more than this afternoon, so much more. We met them years ago at a Farm Crawl, Sean gave us a tour of his bees. Then last year, as we were moving down here to their neck of the woods, they invited us for apple cider (and for us to ask all sorts of questions about all sorts of farm things). When I have a question about local things from when to plant, soap, propane, ect.....I shoot Jill an email and always get an answer. Lil'Bug and Blueberry adore them and they make us love living here even more. So a HUGE thank you to them. 

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Sprouted new.....

Lettuce, spinach, chard.....
Eggplant that I mistakenly direct sow'd. 
Green beans
Yellow onion

Maybe the beets. My tags are there but the names washed off. 

I will be weeding today because the weeds also loved the rains.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Yuck and Other Things

I am so done with having chickens and ducks inside the house. They are still incredibly cute, fuzzy, and chirp-y BUT they are also poopers and stinkers and the warm weather has really amplified these abilities. ESPECIALLY THE DUCKS.

This week has been interesting. Lil'Bug and I installed chicken wire around the corn crib and the first 10 chicks went outside. Oh for the day when all the little future pot pies move out there with them. (We watched Chicken Run with new perspective this week.....)

We also planted more: onions and broccoli. Cabbage goes out today I hope. 

We welcomed home our new used tractor. It is beautiful. I named it MacBook Pro, Mac for short. I know that the tractor will earn its keep well before a new computer would, but still. It is my way of keeping my humor about. Sometimes I still want to name our farm Wits' End, you know? 

The porch is jacked and ready for operation bee relocation. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. 

I finally ordered soap from the local ladies, Prairieland Herbs,  (still incredibly sad about Foil Hat though, her Tupelo Honey bar was like bathing in sunshine.....) and it is really good soap. Actually I bought the Bug Off shampoo and body bar in my panic freak out about the ticks that turned on ME. I mean, I love Hobbit, but once the jumped off him and went for me, it meant WAR. It's not like anyone makes Frontline for people. Well, actually, the Bug Off soap is pretty darn close. Not a single tick since using it on me or Lil'Bug, which is something. 

I'll post pictures later, but that's the short of it so far today!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Easter, Belated Photos

Easter at our house involves sword play.

Blueberry girl got a copy of Blueberry Girl. An amazing story. She was feeling a little clingy so she stayed strapped on almost until dinner. Pawpaw and Nana played with her for a bit and she napped, mostly she watched her sister go nuts over the eggs and cry about her puppy. It was a really hard weekend. 

Lil'Bug loves eggs. LOVES eggs. She still has and plays with all 40 of the plastic eggs she got last year, plus about 8 wooden ones. Easter is her day.

Dinner was lovely.  Blueberry thinks feeding Hobbit is hilarious. The more frustrated I get, the funnier she thinks it is. Luckily, nothing she eats (yet) will actually hurt him.

How can I be mad. She has carrot and beans in her hair!

Easter ended with my homemade apple pie. Lard (in the crust) from local pig, apples handpicked and stored in freezer. 

All and all Easter was just family. A lovely low key day.

Chick-a-Boom Boom

The first batch of ordered day old chicks (brown egg layers) arrived on Saturday, a full two days before we expected. We drove to Des Moines to pick them up from the "big" post office. The are the size of eggs. So incredibly cute and little and fuzzy. 

We set them up in a stock tank on the back porch. So far so good. Our first 10 blue egg layers are outside in the palace already, but still in a stock tank too, though not heated. 

The next batch will arrive in a few weeks, a mix of meat and egg layers. When its all said and done we'll have 70 chickens and 4 ducks PLUS 30 Guinea fowl arriving in August. Those last birds eat ticks. Yay for eating ticks! 

Anyway, that's the farm update!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The Snake

So Lil'Bug and I decided to tromp down to the frog pond. We squeak around in the mud for a while, poke sticks in the water and generally explore the shore. I spot a pretty snail shell and ask Lil'Bug to reach down the hole and get it for me, then I spot this little critter.

Um. We back away and go get Daddy. I could not believe I had just asked my four year old to stick her hand down there. Then her face. What was I thinking?! Our county has something like 4 of the 5 poisonous snakes in Iowa and our property has all of the habitats. 

We hike back to the house quickly. 

Of course Dearest gets excited. I panicked a bit and might have blurted out that it could be a hibernaculum. Fine. I use big words when I get freaked out. I grab the camera, because this was an event I was going to blog, Dearest sticking his hand into a pit of snakes. Even just the one was scary enough.

And then......well, the peels of laughter rang far and wide. My snake.....

.....has legs. Meet the big, scary snake. A leopard frrrrrroooooogggggg. I am never going to live this down. 

Nope. Never.

Of course she had to kiss him to make sure he wasn't a prince.

He wasn't. But he has a cute belly.

Then she found a leech. Yuck. She had to hold that too. Fascinating creature. Lil'Bug that is.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Make Way for Ducklings

Monday, 20 April 2009

The Bees

The bees are still alive! They didn't move this week because of wet weather. Perhaps the weather will be better soon. Anyway, these are just portraits of the girls hard at work. 

The First Trees of the Orchard

This is our dream, an apple orchard. We planted the first trees. Turned the first bit of wonderful soil and planted hopes firmly in the ground. It was quite the family affair. 

In the ground now are two apple, two peach, and two hazelnut. Next up for fall planting are two more apple, two pear, and two cherry. My thought is to plant 6 every Spring, 6 every fall- every year. That way if there is a weather event that wipes the saplings out, we only lose (knock on wood) 6 and not 100. We build the orchard slowly and will replace slowly as needed. We will grow slowly and as big as we should. Hopefully. It makes sense on paper, we will see if it does in practice. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Things and Stuff

I wrecked the brakes on our truck, something about leaving the emergency brake on and crystallizing the la la=$600. Crap. So I am vehicle-less this week while it is repaired and I somehow figure out what bills to delay so we can pay the bill. I thank God that all it will take is a little creative accounting and a mere week in delay for some utilities. 

I am also thanking God for wonderful friends. Today SugarCreek Mama Abby is coming to my rescue and taking me to Lacona to pay a bill that cannot be put off (propane). It's quite a road trip for her. Also, in our grief over sweet Mallory, we have also counted our blessings in friendships, family, and life. 

Today we planted carrots, radishes, spinach, eggplant, zucchini, chard, lettuce, three kinds of beets, and cilantro. Awesome. The peas have sprouted. 

Tomorrow I am skipping park day and will start raking out horse manure in the pumpkin field. Then we will plant pumpkins. I know it seems early, but we are a zone warmer than most of Iowa and the manure creates heat too. Mostly it is an experiment.

Over the weekend we planted two apple trees, two peaches, and two hazelnuts. Yesterday a catalogue arrived from Stark Bro's that listed a whole bunch of trees on my wish list at 1/2 price. I think we may be ordering another round. 

This week the bees will come out too. I am a little worried about them though, no activity and quite a few dead bees falling out of the base. I am praying for their health and well being. 

Baby ducks will arrive tonight. 4 sweet fuzzy baby ducks. 

Pictures to come later in the day when I find my connector cord for the camera.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Good Dog

Our new puppy Mallory was killed this afternoon on the road in front of our home. Just after our first apple trees went in the ground and just before dinner. 

Our hearts are broken.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Lamb Chops

Lamb chops, asperagus, feta cheese, warm sour dough rolls, and new potatoes in salt and butter.
Lamp chops are ity bity, but easy to cook. Basically season, brown in a skillet, finish in the oven at 350 degrees. I overcooked these but they were still pretty good. 

Easy enough for week night fare. 

Alaskan Pollock with Carrots and Leek

I am not a foodie. A mere ten years ago I gave my Dearest food poisoning that required an ER trip and caught the kitchen on fire IN THE SAME WEEK. 

I am much better now. I discovered that if I keep things simple and use quality, fresh ingredients it is hard to mess up. 

I cook mostly with cast iron skillets and dutch ovens. I don't own a gratin dish or any specialty dishes beyond my standard glass casserole 9 x 13 and a couple of bread and pie pans. I'll fancy up the fare for weekends and company, but typically a dish has to be simple and take less than 15 minutes of prepration. I have a 4 year old and a baby. I don't have time to play around in the kitchen. 

Tonight's dinner cost less than 4$ for 4 servings. Alaskan Pollock was on sale, 10 fillets for $4.25 and I split the package for two meals. Carrots and leeks were also pretty cheap.

Basically the most expensive part was the aluminum foil. Ha. 

So here it is:
4 frozen fillets of white fish
3 large carrots cut long and thin (like grass, but 1/4- 1/2 inch thick)
2 leeks cut long and thin (like grass)
4 pats of butter
lemon juice
salt and pepper (and granulated garlic if you like)
foil, 8 12 x 12 sheets. 

Lay out 4 foil sheets, top each with leeks and carrots, then lay a filet on top and squirt with lemon, finish with seasonings and butter. Lay foil on top and pinch the two sheets together around all 4 sides. 

Bake for 45 minutes at 425. 


Monday, 6 April 2009

Cluster Flies, Apple Pies, and Podcasts....the bits of my thoughts.....

The last confirmation that it is a cluster fly infestation.... they are gone, done with the plague. Thank you!

They only infest from October to April. Now that April is here it looks like I can take a break from sweeping thousands of flies up every day. I mean geeze, it was really frustrating. 


Apple pies. I have now made a wonderful milestone in pie making. Now that I have made the perfect apple pie more than three times (perfect to my standard at least), I am going to try some of the stranger recipes in my apple pie book. One is an apple and cheddar cheese pie another is a cream cheese pastry. I am nervous about it. 


For my Science Fiction Literature class I am exploring new mediums and medias for the genre. Right now I am dabbling in podcasts and loving it. I even asked a friend for a recommendation and was delighted with the result. The two I have been streaming today are Escape Pod and StarShipSofa. I have been listening to find prime examples and appropriate stories to share with my students. 

I have always been unimpressed with Science Fiction from 1970-present. That's a long chunk of history to not find any literature in a genre I enjoy, but there is plenty pre-1970 to have kept me occupied. The problem with that is that I have never really been pushed to find anything from that era and the problem with that is that I need to teach that era fairly and cannot simply skip it or dismiss it. 

Happily I have found a treasure trove in the world of podcasts. 


The other odd bits, I am really needing to change something in my appearance. Maybe a haircut, maybe a color. I just need to simplify yet again and I am rushed for time every morning. I ran out of Foil Hat soap and Amy has closed shop. I am checking out Prairieland Herbs.  


The chicks can fly.  Awesome.

Puppy Love

My lovely Lil'Bug. Aunt Bee came to visit our farm with her fiance and we had a blast tromping through the woods..... even with the event filled start.....

You see, we heard gunshots. Then ducks flew up off our pond.  It's not duck season. I don't think it's any season actually. Also, private property? No trespassing signs? 

So Dearest tromped ahead and met the guys who were actually just shooting at turtles in our pond. The conversation went something like this:
"Sorry, our boat took on water so we borrowed yours. Hope you don't mind."

Dearest, "Well, actually I very much mind. You guys have guns?"

"We were just shooting at turtles."

Just. Shooting. At. Turtles. Using our boat. Trespassing. They drove onto the wet lawn too, leaving deep tire tracks. Dearest handled the rest beautifully.

They were apologetic and the left. We continued our marshy tromp.

Oh, and we have a new family member! This is Moon Puppy 2. 

Seriously? New puppy? What was I thinking? I have never experienced the overwhelmed mom thing that most people complain about with a new baby and other kids (because I just slack off on housework and other stuff and snuggle the babes)....until the puppy. 

Of course I had just settled in to a good housekeeping routine (cough cough, Nana and Paw Paw came and cleaned house) and planting season is starting up when we decide that the opportunity of a new friend having just the breed we want and our farm need were to awesome to ignore. 

She's had a rough start here, but everything will work out just fine. 

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Our First Livestock: Chickens!

We really are beginning farmers. This is a milestone for us. We ordered chickens and the ones we ordered will arrive next week sometime, but what came yesterday was a rash, happy decision. GreenRanchingMom emailed me on facebook to call her right away and.... she soon after brought me ten Ameraucana chicks. Blue egg layers! 

My aunt raised Ameraucanas when I was growing up and they were mean chickens, but beautiful and elegant. Oh, how I loved those chickens. 

I love these chickens. I love that we are beginning farming. 

Baby chickens in my kitchen:

Chicken pot pie!

Funny story. As I was downloading these pictures the sequence with the chicks flashed by and was followed by pictures of the pot pies. Coincidence, but still. 

These pot pies were actually not that hard. I can do pie crust. The food processor takes all of the hard work out of it. I can stir ingredients in a pot. Basically the trick to the crust is using lard instead of shortening. 

That's right. Lard. As in pig fat. 

You know what bugs me sometimes? People who are hesitant to use so much butter so they use vegetable shortening, the kind of food product that has an indefinite shelf life and is actually rancid BEFORE you buy it but is so processed you'd never know it. They use THAT instead of butter, which is just beaten cream, plain old dairy cream. And those people freak out about using lard. Again, just natural animal fat. The recipe I was using said they tested lard, butter, and shortening and while the lard tasted and performed better they opted to recommend shortening and butter mixed because of lard's artery clogging reputation. I think that is stupid, so I used lard in this crust and I use it in any recipe that calls for shortening. I won't even buy shortening. Blech. 

Anyway, the inside of the pie was pretty easy too. Just fresh vegetables sauteed, chicken stock mixed with milk and flour, and cut up chicken. Pour that mix while its still bubbling into the pie crust and bake until golden. 

I'll look up the exact recipe in a bit.

Saturday, 4 April 2009


Oh my do I love pumpkins. They were the first vegetable I eve planted that grew, the first that I ever processed for storage, and the first I ever used for fresh (not boxed) baking projects.  So, this year I have a HUGE space just for pumpkins and melons and I am going a little but nuts. I know I will have excess produce (given there is not an insect or disease plague) and I plan on having a great big pumpkin party in the fall. I think this may be what I end up selling at market this year too. 

I can't wait!

That said, if you have a packet of strange squash and want to throw down some seed...... just talk to me!