Showing posts with label Greener Pastures. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greener Pastures. Show all posts

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Just a Peek at a Work Day

Meet Millie and Addie, our two new ewes. They are Jacobs, a primitive goat looking sheep. They can also run fast and jump really high. Fences? They bah at them.

Lily and Holly worked hard to get them home, get buckets and cars washed, and then helped get ready for shearing day. Life on the farm.

I will have more pictures up later that Lily took of shearing, but I cannot find my card reader.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

34 days

34 days until the farm is ours. That is amazing to me. I feel like that 9th month of pregnancy all over again, nesting, eating, pacing.

Add to that my worry and tears over my poor dog Hobbit and two very upset little girls who don't understand what's wrong with their pup. I wish I understood or had answers for them.

In the meantime, laundry still has to be done, meals put on the table, and clothes sorted for winter. Packing should begin soon as well. I am waiting on that, since we don't know exactly when we will actually move. Closing is mid December, but the family who lives there may rent from us for a bit, the weather could turn nasty, or the holidays could get crazy. Life happens, but we are blessed with patience and options.

I am tired today. It's sleeting. Blueberry has slept all day and Lil'Bug is ancy. I think we will head out soon to look for play sweaters and long pants for Lil'Bug. She grew again. Kids do that I suppose.

Also, Dearest stopped by at lunch time with a Starbucks Pumpkin Chai iced latte. Yum. Also, he did that instead of hanging out with the guys at our favourite local Deli. Why? Because I am so anxious and sad and he knew I needed a hug. I am very lucky to have his love and support.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Mead and Lamb Burgers

Some thoughts I am distracting myself with while Hobbit is undergoing x-rays and the vet is discussing surgery.

Last week I had the opportunity to try Mead for the first time (thank you, Cousin David!). Those of you who know me, know that I do not drink alcoholic beverages because I don't like the taste. Well, Mead is yummy! I only had a couple sips, but it was mild and sweet. Something else to consider making once we get the bees established!

We also ordered a whole lamb this year. It was a luxury item, but we had hoped it would fill the gap between running out of pork and beef and getting the new supply. As it happened, the pork came before the lamb. We also wanted to cook with it, see if lamb meat would be versatile enough to justify raising sheep.

So far I made a delicious batch of lamb burgers (though not as tasty as the former Chat Noir, in Des Moines, used to serve). They are supposed to be paired with fresh mozzarella and focaccia buns, but the bread was frozen by mistake and I was so flustered by the thought of eating LAMB BURGERS on Sara Lee white bread yuck buns that I forgot to get out the cheese. The meal was good anyway AND, though she wouldn't eat at dinner time, Lil'Bug announced she was hungry at bedtime and raided the fridge for leftovers. She ate almost all of the leftover meat from dinner. Cool.

I think next time I will try and spicy the recipe up a bit. Chat Noir's were spicy. Of the things I really miss from there, lamb burgers, mufalatos, and their caramel pumpkin pecan cheesecake really top the list.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Wish List Since We're at It.....

Old fashioned cider press. Seriously. Yellow Daisy Mama sent me a link to their family tradition and I have been drooling over cider presses online since.

An ice cream machine. I had one and gave it away. I want the ice cream bowl from Kitchen Aid but a bigger, even hand operated one would be awesome. I figured out that I can make ice cream from scratch in a few years, really from scratch- all from our farm. Honey, milk, eggs, berries.....all I will need is ice and salt! So very cool. I am thinking about making a goat milk/cream and honey recipe too. Which means I'd need a milking goat and honey bees. If you give a mouse a cookie........

An apiary box/kit. I actually need this by Spring when we move the bees in the porch column to somewhere not in the porch column. I had one for the last seven years but I gave it away last summer. I felt like the farm dream was too far off and it was wasting its useful life in my basement. I suppose that's like getting pregnant after selling all the baby stuff at a garage sale. You know, like last year.

Telescope with SLR attachment. My heart is aflutter at the thought of seeing the meteor showers in August without having to make camping plans.

Speaking of SLR. I want a macro lens and a super hard core zoom lens. I always have but now I'll have wildlife to take pictures of. :) And more bugs. And more flora. And more babies? Just kidding, (sort of....). I really enjoy my camera. Since I found the 5$ frames at Walmart (I know, not very PC) I have planned on actually framing and displaying my work. My passion for it never really went away and now it is so much fun!

A camera for Lil'Bug. She has the photo bug too. She's great with my camera, but I don't like the anxiety sharing my SLR gives me. Plus we usually want to use it at the same time.

Whiz-Bang Chicken Plucker Plans. I think the name describes it? Seriously, if we're going to raise chickens for eating this would be a handy machine to have on hand.

See what I mean? We will see what the next year brings. Hopefully we will sell the haunted mansion soon and there will be a tiny bit of profit that can go to these whimsical (yet practical) things on our list.

Oh, and while we are at it, 30 or more cats. That's right, cats. I want to guarantee that we don't have any problems with crazy neighbors like we do now. Since the way the world works is you either have crazy neighbors or you ARE the crazy neighbor, I thought I would just take care of this problem (that we seem to have where ever we go.....) and cement my place in the dynamic- 30 or more cats should do it, no? :)

*edited to add* Perhaps we should just tell people we have 30 cats, name them all, insist on telling crazy cat stories to anyone who bugs us. That's what one of our current neighbors does. It's like crazy without the commitment of cat food or litter boxes. Suddenly, I think I understand her a bit better now. LOL.

Friday, 7 November 2008

The Spinning of Possibilty

This is a picture of what Lil'Bug calls the "frog pond"; it is a mud hole that has been there before the creek was dammed up. Possibly spring fed, possibly just a low spot that water drains to. It's neat. She asked me today if it would be good for ice skating. I think it might, I don't know. It is a lot closer to the house, pretty shallow and has a nice slope to the bank, so maybe. We will see.

Our 40 acres will open up to us a slew of possibility to us and to her. What should we choose? What kind of peaches? What variety of apples? Which livestock? Ice skating, sledding, duck hunting, wild crafting.......the list just seems to get bigger every day.

But today I am thinking about the farm business itself. Our farm approach will be simple, but not easy. We will start small, provide for ourselves and family, then grow a little, do a market stand with what we produce that is excess of our own needs, and then go from there. Perhaps the next step will be to offer a share box at the market stand that will include what would be in a share that week, if one subscribed to the CSA. BUT A SHARE OF WHAT?

The full CSA model is really appealing, but the add ons could be where we will make our mark, I think. Add ons like meat, dairy, honey, fruit, herbs, and specialty vegetables. At our weekly homeschool meet up we talked about how great it would be if one CSA or co-op of farms could put everything a family would need for the week in a box with recipes. Grain would be the only thing needed then, as I am not considering growing wheat and grinding flour. (Ok, I am considering it for myself, but not for farm production....).

We currently spend 60-85$ a week on groceries, for technically a family of four (Lil'Bug and I each eat 1 serving, and Dearest eats double. We'd have to match that cost or less I think to be appealing to a wide customer base, no?

The problem is that I don't see us being able to sustain all of those things on our 25 workable acres. That's why farms specialize, right? But it is a really neat idea.

So then I started thinking about livestock........
One of the things I am constantly amazed about is the price of meat. And organic raised meat? Get out. Seriously. We cannot afford to eat the way we do buying from grocery stores. Also, it may be organic at the store, but where is it from? California? Florida? Canada? Mexico? So much is lost in transport, that it is hardly worth it to buy "organic". (Also it is silly to me to buy product that's shipped in when we raise that same stuff in Iowa and ship it out....) BUT when we buy directly from the local farmer and pick it up in bulk from the local processor, we pay less than consumers are paying per pound for regular meat. We paid last year 100$ a month for meat and we ate meat with almost every meal, including most breakfasts. We ate out less, we lost some in the power outage and we ran out early BUT this year we are buying a bit more, cutting it up differently, and eating out even less. Another bonus is that we now know more recipes in which to use the meat we get. Seriously, some of these cuts are like 8$ a pound. Yike. We paid around $1.60 per pound for everything, just about. (Tell me if I'm wrong Dearest, but that's what I had in my notes.) More for the 26 lbs of lamb meat though. This is prime stuff, grass fed, pasture raised, and local. Beef is Black Angus. We're eating like kings and paying less than people who cut coupons for grocery store meat. Why doesn't every family do this?

Ok, back to my mindful thought wandering......
Last year I wrote a post about things we considered when we started looking for a property and making the decision to move to this lifestyle: here. Now, a year later we are worrying about many of the same things, but not others. The new place is only 6 minutes from town, hospital, fire department, gas stations, etc. The roads get re-graded once a week, plowed within 24 hours usually. It is near the county seat, but far enough from the sources of employment in Iowa that housing developments are not an immediate threat. Maybe 20 years from now Des Moines will explode horizontally again, though I hope not.

So these are the things I am thinking about today while hand feeding Wonder Pup (Hobbit actually ate a whole can of food, though only out of my hand a bite at a time with coaxing and he's still peeing (still odorless) inside....he ate food, yay!). Also, the cat is completely mended and back to her antics.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Art in the Farm House

I mentioned in my last post that I plan to keep home in a different way. Here's my plan.

I plan to choose things to fill my home that are natural, pretty, functional, and handmade when possible. I hope to make some of them myself, learn to use the sewing machine I got for Christmas two years ago. I hope to craft candles from beeswax. I hope Dearest makes furniture.

I looked around my current home today, at the walls. My walls are filled with department store art. Not a single family picture, no "wall of shame", mostly mass produced prints. Lovely, but not welcoming. My own art went to storgae durring staging because they lacked proper framing.

In our new home the walls will be filled slowly with art we make, art from artists we know personally, and photographs of our family that we take, not studio posed, but capturing the spirit of each of us. Welcome home.

Identity Crisis

A strange transformation is happening at Chez Podkayne. We are listening to farm reports, reading Hobby Farmer for ideas and getting excited about them instead of bitter, we are gearing up for winter in a way that is actually different than what we'd do in the city, we are collecting winter wear of a different grade (LOL Ha! I told you, Dearest, that we'd need all those gloves and hats that I've horded over the years!), and we are preparing for the move in more than just physical ways.

This is a blessing that we've hoped, planned, studied, and worked for over the last 10 years. This is it. I'll no longer be the Mistress of Hatton House, but a farmer and a farmer's wife. We'll have land to tell people, "Get off of." Sorry, that's the joke around here. We'll raise our kids as Southern Iowans, which is appearently different than just Iowan. There will be less diversity close to home, even less than now, and that worries be a bit.

The transformation is more than just rural to urban though. I'm rethinking how I'll keep home, what role I'll play on the farm (we've discussed that I would teach full time (possibly on campus) for our off farm income once the kids are older), we've discussed having more kids, we've grown closer to our family and continue to foster relationships in healthy ways, and we've discussed finding a church community.

This move is about so much more than putting down roots, it's about growing and thriving as a family, and lifting each other up.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Slowly Realizing plus Pictures of the View

I am slowly, bit by bit realizing what our upcoming move means. For example:

We will be able to see the stars at night! We can't because of city light pollution right now. I want a telescope all over again. One that I can attach my SLR to.

No more middle of the night loud not very talented rappers outside on the street waking up the babies (myself included).

I can grow sweet potatoes! Heck, I'll be able to grow carrots, radishes, turnips, potatoes, and anything else that is a root/dirt veggie. I can't here because of lead in the soil.

When it gets really cold or the boiler/furnace goes out, we'll have a wood cook stove and a fireplace to snuggle up by.

And my day comprises of these tiny realizations just sparkling at me like magic. All day. Everyday.

i feel so blessed to have the opportunity to give my children what my Aunt gave me, a magical woods to explore, chores to be responsible for, and a healthier food culture.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Farm Roof Progress



What Dearest is doing right now is stabilizing the roof structure and preventing further water damage. We plan to re-roof in the Spring/Summer (gah, more color decisions!). If we left the leaks through the winter, not only does water continue to penetrate the house, porches, and basement, BUT it also would freeze-thaw cycle. That does the most damage, more so and more quickly than just water and water rot. Freezing actually destroys the wood fibers by exploding them on a minute level, allowing for more rot and instability; many freeze-thaw cycles later it is almost like paper fiber and about as strong as cardboard. Water is an amazing and formidable enemy to homes of any age.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

And Now For the Interesting Bits

OK, so perhaps I did not post, after all the build up, about the farm. Our offer was accepted and one of the terms of the deal was that we wait to close until December so that the family that owns it can build their new house and move. At first, I was skeptical about the timeline (who builds a house in 8 weeks?) but now I realize that it is one more thing about the Amish culture that is simply different from ours. Building a house should only take that long, weather permitting. What we are accustomed to is ridiculous. Anyway, back to the update.

Another stipulation was that since we have to wait so long, they allow us to come and make minor repairs to the house, specifically repairs that will help weatherize and water deter until Spring when we can actually work on the house. Also, we'll need to chop firewood and get the systems ready before we move in and before they move out so there isn't a gap in there where anything could freeze. Make sense? They agreed. Nice folks.

So last weekend Dearest headed out alone to patch the roof. The main body of the roof, over the house, is fine. It will last another year or two with maybe spot black jacking when needed. However, both porch roofs have serious issues. The front porch has the added delight of being inhabited by bees. We love bees.

So the above is the before and below is the after. It is just a patch, but as you can see, a little black jack would not have done the job. Really, we need to completely tear off and redo the foundation of the roof, replace some joists, and rebuild the column. I think the only reason the porch still resembles a porch is that it has a concrete deck and foundation AND it was really, REALLY, well built originally.

Here's what I mean:

:) Nice. So that's the exterior of the house everyone keeps hounding me about seeing. Do you see why I am spending all my time at the color preview website? Do you see? Gah. White trim is a definite. My color choices are narrowed down, for the main body, to sage green, butter cream yellow, or a gentle sky blue. All would be stunning. Now picture me 10 years ago trying to choose the SEVEN different colors for the haunted mansion. Right. I was unbearable to live with and got no laundry done for months. Really, it was the paint colors. Not that I was 21 and had enough clothes to last that long. Heh. Back in the day when it was just as likely that raccoons would eat our dinner as it was that we might also fall though the floor while chasing them with brooms. Yeah, the first year in the haunted mansion was really fun; laundry was the least of my concerns. Anyway.....

This is the view from my new front porch. This is what keeps me in daydream land imagining what kind of tea I will sip while enjoying my first winter sunrise. Vanilla Chai? Cinnamon? My own raspberry leaf? Ahhhhh. Likely something spicy. At the bottom you can kind of see the last remnants of where the kitchen gardens were. I'll keep that location. Next week I am getting together with a gardening friend to shop catalogues for seeds. *I am giddy!*

So another thought that I had, as inspired by several other bloggers of late, was sort of a reverse meme. Ask me questions and I will answer them! Ask me anything, what haven't I shared? :) Not just house/farm related, but anything. This could be fun!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008


I have been spending way too much time at this color site. Seriously. Does it have to be that hard to choose between green, blue, or yellow? Gah. We won't even paint until next summer. Bugger. Don't even get me started on the interior.

I have papers to grade and pumpkins to freeze and sauce to can. Must. Extract. Myself. From. Daydreaming.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

What in the World are These?

This is a picture of the thing in the field. Since the field is currently in a cash crop, we did not want to go stomping through it. So we must form a conjecture from a distance.....maybe 20 ft tall? What is it????

*edited to add....wouldn't that make a cool night sky observatory if it is just stable old stone ruin? Climb on top with the old telescope.....

New mystery plant. Only one picture. Hanging from a tree. Ideas?

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Farm Crawl 2008

Today we farm crawled, mama with two in tow, hurt wrist style. That means no pictures.

We toured 3 of the 6 farms and focused on the three that were most like what we want to do. CSA, orchard, pumpkin patch/pick your own......veggies, apples, pumpkins, honey, chickens, but no beef. I know that one of the farms we did not visit has meat herds but by 2 pm Lil'Bug was clamoring to go home and sick of being in the car with a 45 minute drive still ahead.

We met some people that will be our neighbors. They were friendly and helpful and this reinforces our decision to move there. Did I mention the crawl was through the county our farm to be is located in? Yes indeed. For those of you who were wondering...we close in December!

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

What We've Been Up To, or Why Rubber Chickens Are Funny

* WARNING, pictures may gross you out. But at least you cannot smell them. Just saying.

The lovely Abby at Sugar Creek Family Farm invited us out to help with chicken preparing. Good times that. I'd helped with this chore as a kid at Deedle's farm, but Dearest had never even seen it done. We are all about hands on learning.

So, chickens are calm when you hang them upside down by their feet.

Feathers come right off after a scalding dip. That's the part that smells. Really smells yucky.

Dinosaur looking feet snap right off. You know, I never really thought about that part before.

Wee tots hiding under native lean-to. Cute toes. They mostly avoided the carnage of the day. Despite Lil'Bugs exclamations of, "We'll eat them!"- I think some of the visuals upset her. She's learning too.

Me? I held the baby. Thank you Blueberry! Hey, I'm good with fruit. Fruit is not bloody, does not smell like wet feathers, nor does fruit come pecking at the carnage bits of its tree brothers. Shudder. Apple anyone?

Then, I was blessed with the chore of laundry. I washed the chicken blood spattered clothes three times, frustrated and grossed out that a spot on Dearest's work jeans just wouldn't come clean. Until I realized it was a paint spot. Red paint from our parlor ceiling. Gah. The same red staining paint that has plagued me in recent times into thinking I had a rash. I am never using red house paint ever again.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

CSA Thoughts

Every CSA I've looked up today has a waiting list. More demand than product. Interesting.

The model just may work for us. Reading more about it between grading papers, baking pies, and tending to nursling and tot. If any one who reads here has a CSA or has a resource to share, please post it! I have a lot to ruminate on, but I an hungry for more data.

Dearest went out and walked the property today, came home tired and excited. We played at the park for 5 hours and came home tired and excited. Right now they are all sleeping soundly and it is not yet 8 pm. Wow.

Time to reflect in the quiet I guess. Or go grade papers. You know, whatever.

I had a conversation with a student today. It really amuses me (and saddens me too) to think about the irony of my unschooling home and life in contrast with my teaching Literature and Composition to college kids. The difference in my teaching approach (revision, ability ot correct exams for full points, lots of discussion, self directed topic study) really freaks some of them out. It would be easier for me to adapt the fail/pass model, much less work, but I like how teach. I would not like the other model, easier though it may be, it would make me unhappy. I didn't mortgage my brain to mechanically grade papers day and night, I did so to learn and relish in my discipline. The bonus is that now I get paid to pass on, day after day, more of my craft and knowledge. Lucky that I get to do so in my PJ's in my kitchen. Yay Interweb.

That actually speaks to the way we live as well. Some things we have chosen are harder than the way our mainstream peers do things, but we are happier for it. Yes, it would be easier to go buy a pie from Hy-Vee but it simply cannot compare to picking our own apples, hand rolling the lard crust dough, the smell of baking pie, and finally, cutting fork into that first delicious, warm, gooey bite. Easy as pie. God, I love apples!

And one last thought.....Zone 5, peaches. How can I possibly choose which varieties from Stark Bro's? I used to be limited to just the 3 cold hardy varieties and now just about every variety is doable! My head is about to explode with possibilities. Suggestions are welcome.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008


I've been waiting to post until we have news, but we still do not have any real news to share. The only significant thing happening here is that my house is still clean and I am a ball of nerves waiting for an answer on the farm purchase.

I want it more than I realized I guess.

Today I am baking bread and pie. Anyone want an apple pie? I'll have an extra when I'm done. ;)

Monday, 22 September 2008

Acknowledging Talent

Acknowledging Talent/ Not my own, but SarahSignature's. For sake of time, I snapped these photos yesterday during the open house (which went great, BTW....7 couples walked through, 2 more called and couldn't make it and will come this week sometime....whoo hoo!)

Anyway, here are the shots I snapped. I'm making a promised batch of apple butter to try and lure the photographer back here this week. LOL :)

More than anything though, I want to acknowledge and thank my MIL, the great Nana, because her talent is really shining here. She brought pictures, rearranged spaces, and cleaned this week. I worked as hard as I could to keep up, taking notes along the way so I could keep it clean and know for future home keeping what she did (but that's a post for another day).

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Big Day, Big Week, Big Dreams, ect.

It is officially Dearest's 30th birthday. Happy Birthday my love!

We are having an open house for the selling the haunted mansion project (see posts a few back for pics) later today. I haven't gone to bed yet because I am wound up, anxious, and just plain not done cleaning yet. Not sure I can do much more now since floor stain is setting, paint is drying, and all else requires hammer and loud noise (ah, the babes are finally asleep as of 30 minutes ago)......

Also, while we vacate (flee) the house for the open house time (1-4pm) Dearest is playing his first gig at a bar with the country band he's been practicing with. A BAR! We never go to bars and Dearest previously did not care for country music. To his credit, he plays punk drums so the band is a little more rockabilly than most country bands on many songs. Anyone reading here in the DM area and likes country music? PM me and I'll send the location and time. I'll post pics when we get home this evening.

Still no final word on the house offer. Still in negotiations. Still learning my lesson in patience. Dearest says I'm like Toad (from Frog and Toad) trying to get my garden to grow. It takes time, there's nothing you can do, playing music to the carrots won't help, but I am doing it anyway. La la la la!

Also, to get as much possible into one post....I attended a Blessingway this evening for a dear friend. It was beautiful. I missed the part of the invite that said only nurslings and Lil'Bug was a bit disruptive, but I hope not to the point of ruining it for Sarah. I hate when I miss details like that. Anyway, there was a lovely ritual of cleaning negativity with rose water and then envoking the names of mothers and grandmothers. I did not expect that. Instead of listing I offered that I am the daughter of "many". I know the names back 6 generations, but saying them aloud envokes such negativity and sadness in me I did not want that to be my offering to Sarah and her baby. Nor do I really feel that the biological chain is the anchor of mothering for me. Sigh. I wish her many blessings.

Here's to selling our house, birthdays, bar debuts, farming dreams, and babies!

Wowser, has this been a freaking busy week. Do weeks begin or end on Sunday?

Saturday, 20 September 2008


I am not good at waiting. I get ancy, anxious, and become a pain to everyone around me. I am working on it. So, of course life threw at me negotiating with a family who rides around in a horse and buggy and have an abundance of patience.

I get it. I really do.

So today, after days and days and days and days of back and forth and such, we wait some more. For an answer to the question.....will we be farmers yet in 2008?

:) I can't wait!

More Clues?