Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturday Farm Report

Another lovely Saturday. Really, although its predicted to be only in the high 60s today (a record is expected; lowest high ever!) and mostly cloudy, it means that we've had some good rain this week, and we'll have a break from the heat. In general, our weather has been good this summer. Warm enough to grow things, cool enough to be comfortable, wet enough so things are really, really green, dry enough to enjoy the outdoors. Yes, we have mosquitoes, and flies, but we have Cutters, so alls good!

We've been eating green beans, basil and tomatoes from the garden. Potatoes are almost ready to be dug, at least some small, new ones. Flowers look nice, horse is grazing well, and poultry is growing plump and sassy. Speaking of sassy, a Jersey heifer of that name should be gracing our pasture soon! I am a little reluctant to mention it until its a done deal, because I want it to happen, but it looks pretty likely that, within two weeks or so, we will once again own a cow. A cow, no less, who will calf in the next year. -squee!-

Today I will be painting. We're moving bedrooms around, and that involves changing of colors and fabrics. It's a girl thing; you might not understand! This time around, because of our age and family situation, it seems like it may be "permanent." I'm choosing colors wisely, because I think I'll have to live with them until we can sell this place.

But I'd best get at it. I leave you with a view from my kitchen window.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It's Time For Pickles!!

Yes! It's been AGES!! When someone makes your blog a writing assignment, you avoid it. That's what I learned.

Anyway, a couple of friends were looking for some certain recipes, and this is the easiest way I know to share them. So, without further ado...

I make gobs of these. I use a Red Wing 2 gallon crock that I have, or some 1/2 gallon Mason jars. I usually have a jar of these steeping in my frig. One recipe brines one gallon of cukes.

Boil 8c water. Stir in 1/4c pickling salt and 1c white vinegar. (I use Heinz. It's more expensive, but it tastes better. Remember, I've been making these for at least 20 years and have used LOTS of white vinegar. Heinz tastes better.)
Let the brine cool to room temperature; you're trying to make refrigerator pickles, and you don't want them to "cook."

Wash the cukes and put them in your container. I have cut them up or just left them whole; either way makes scrumptious pickles. In my 2-gallon crock, I put 2 fresh dill heads, 3 whole but cleaned cloves of garlic, 2T mixed pickling spices and 2 bay leaves. Depending on the size of your container(s), divide up the seasonings accordingly. Pour the brine over. I put them in the frig with a plate pushing the pickles into the brine, and plastic wrap over the top of the crock. In 2-3 days, they become half sours. As they sit longer, the flavor intensifies. Pickles put in the brine in September and eaten on Christmas Day are awesome!
(Caveat: I have been told by the professional pickle gurus at the Extension Office that I will die if I eat those September pickles in December. I have not, nor have any of the many people to whom I have served them. Your mileage may vary, and I just wanted you to know.)

Again, I usually have a jar of these in my frig.
Heat 6c vinegar (again with the Heinz!) to simmer. Dissolve sugar and salt in vinegar. Let cool slightly. Add 2T celery seed and 2T turmeric.
Layer 1/2 gallon thinly sliced cukes with thinly sliced onion in jar. Cover with brine and refrigerate. These are best after sitting at least 2 weeks, but don't last as long as the Refrigerator Dills, hence the smaller quantity.

And, because everyone should eat these, and so everyone needs a recipe, I share mine. It came from my Lithuanian grandmother. You KNOW those ladies know their beets!

Makes about a quart jar.

1 bunch of beets; cooked until crisp-tender, peeled and sliced.
1 large onion, sliced
1c white vinegar (You already know!)
2c water
1/3c sugar
2 whole allspice
1 bay leaf
Heat vinegar and water to simmer. Add sugar, stirring to dissolve. Let cool slightly; add allspice and bay leaf. Layer beets and onion in jar. Pour brine over and place in frig. Eat the next day, and every day thereafter!

There ya go! Pickle Nirvana! Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


You know that spring has sprung when the rains begin. You know the old rhyme; "April showers bring May flowers." But, these past two years or so, our spring rains have been sparse. Thunderstorms rolled in this morning, and now we're getting a good soaking. We had some rains over the weekend, too. We are cautiously optimistic that this drought we've been having is breaking.

Too late for my little shrubs, though. I bought three last summer that purported to bloom throughout the season. I bought them late, when they were on sale, planted them, and then the rains stopped. I mean STOPPED. We got no measurable moisture until some snow in January. I didn't expect them to survive, especially since, after the school year started, I was a horrible gardener and didn't water regularly. I will pay for it this spring, when I buy more of these shrubs at full price. (Which, at our local garden store, was higher than that price quoted on the link page!)

I also plan to plant some new trees this spring. Our tree-cutting work of a few weeks ago left us with the realization that we've cut far more than we've planted. I'm looking at blue spruce, white pine and sugar maples. And maybe a plum or two. I have seriously considered replacing ALL our apple trees with peach trees. Our little orchard is sadly neglected, with those apples getting very little pruning, and almost no spraying. It always seems that, when I have time to spray, it's predicted to rain the next day or so, so I hold off. Of course, with the drought I mentioned, I should probably spray; that would ensure rain! But I don't. And our apple harvest shows it. Granted, peach trees only make it 3-5 years here, but, if I replace an apple a year with a peach, we'll have a steady supply and less pruning/spraying. (No, I don't spray peaches, either. But the fruit harvested in much better than unsprayed apples) This is the peach variety I buy. It grows well in our yard, and the fruits are the large, running-down-your-arm-with-juice type that make the taste buds celebrate.

So I started talking about rain and ended up with juicy peaches. See the connection?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Spring, Actually

I've been seeing these fly over lately. I actually saw some on the ground about a month ago.

I love cranes. I was having a particularly rough late winter day about 20 years ago, and I prayed one of those desperate "Dear God, HELP!" prayers. I actually said, "Show me some sign that something good is coming." I walked out of the house a short while later and heard the beautiful call of a flock of sandhill cranes flying right over my house. I didn't know what they were, but I found out, and I learned that, although they themselves are not endangered, they can be used as foster parents for the chicks of whooping cranes, which are. They seem to fly over our area early in spring, serving as one of my harbingers of gardening season.

Speaking of whooping cranes, I was driving past some large farm fields last week, and saw what I thought were swans sitting in one. They were white birds with long necks, so I slowed down to get a better look. One stood up, and I realized they were cranes. I was still driving past, so I didn't get a terrifically clear view, but I am reasonably certain they were whoopers.

It was a small thrill for me to see them. One of their migration routes is right over our area, and we are about 2 hours south of the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, WI. I read an article about a news outlet that ran video of what they thought was a whooping crane, and they did say they were wrong, that there is a sandhill crane that is lighter than normal. But it has a red head, like the sandhill, and these birds had black on their heads. So they were whooping cranes. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Yeah. A crane geek. -sheesh- (Not to mention champeen-run-on-sentence-writer!!)

Last picture for you. I have been looking out my window for weeks now, and, suddenly, yesterday, I saw this.

Of course, that's not quite the view from my window. I grabbed a camera, ran out, and got down on the ground for this shot. I'm kinda proud of that shot. It may appear at the fair this summer.

But for now, I'm going to enjoy spring. I think I'll finally be able to get in the garden this weekend. If so, asparagus will be planted!! And lettuces. And whatever "cold weather veggies" the local garden shop meant when they put that sign up out front. I'll stop by on my way home, see what I'll have to plant tomorrow, and let you know then!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Eggs

Laid for me today by my hens. Thank you, ladies.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Spring Break

This week is Spring Break. We've been relaxing on a warm Southern beach, enjoying some time off.

No. Strike that.

We've been working busily on and off our farm. Off the farm, we bought a "new" garden tractor and a "new" car. Both were desperately needed, and are welcome expenditures.

On the farm, we've been cutting 3 years' worth of dead and downed wood. Scheduling, illness, and just plain denial have kept us from this. But finally, finally, it is getting done. I'll share some photos with a smack upside my head. I should have taken a Before picture so you could see how wonderful our pasture looks right now in an After shot. The tree line is clear of dead things, low-hanging branches, which endanger critters and humans alike, are gone, and it almost looks like we care about this place.

But I didn't. So please just enjoy these shots of hard work being done. (The young man in the photos is a Boyfriend. Scary times.)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Saturday Farm Report, And So it Begins Edition

I covered the garden with a tarp today. And the compost pile. Just 30 more days, and I will be able to move compost to the garden and plant asparagus and lettuces.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


So, three days after I tell you we need some good precipitation, we get it. Last night we started getting rain. It was a little scary. There was a roaring sound, and rain was hitting the window. Now, that had happened here about 10 years ago. At the time, I went to the window to see what was happening. I saw sheets of water. The next morning, we found that the trees on our north boundary line had been twisted off at the tops! A tornado or some twirling wind phenomenon had gone along the tops of the trees and broken them off. I was concerned that that was happening again, but no twisted trees this morning!

The rain has been pretty steady all day. Midway through my history class this afternoon, I stopped my lecture to look our the window. Rain, rain, rain. It is a mess, but a happy mess. The ground is thawing and there is more and more mud by the minute. It was almost 50 degrees today. True to form, it will be down to 35 or so tomorrow. Snow is expected. Such is life in northern Illinois.

I got a sad letter yesterday. The local bovine veterinarian is paring down his practice, letting go a second vet and a secretary who had been with him for years and years. He'll still be practicing, God willing, for many years. He's the only bovine vet around! (And, yes, I know we have no cows here, but his practice includes sheep, goats and pigs. The other large animal vets around here limit their practice to horses.) So I think I'll have to get a calf this spring, to raise for beef, and to keep him in business~!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturday Farm Report

We had snow this week. Not enough to cover the grass, but, snow. We really need a big ole storm. I know it wouldn't be popular, but it's looking like last year's drought is continuing. We really need some moisture.

Jay and the girls are here this weekend. Justice is off camping with the Royal Rangers. We'll be doing some shopping and some other "girl things" later today.

The farm looks awful this winter. Recent windstorms have added some fallen trees to the already raggedy look we've adopted. It's been too cold to deal with those, even if John was home to do so. We're really looking forward to spring break, when he'll take time off, too, and we'll work on the yard a bit.

The chickens still haven't recovered from the raccoon carnage. The 5 of them are laying about 5 eggs a week. It hasn't helped that our area has been in the icebox for the past 10 days, or that their feed seems to look a bit different than usual. All these factors are forcing us to -gasp- buy store eggs. We really don't like to do that.

But we've been seeing waterfowl flying north. That's a good sign.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Dealing With Stress

We were living in our first house for only about 6 months. I was worried about money, as young parents will, especially because I had yet to be convinced that we could afford the thing. Yes, all the tax advantages had been explained to me, and I surely knew the wisdom of putting equity into our own home rather than someone else's. But things were still tight.

And I was lonely. We had moved half an hour away from family, and, with an infant and a tight budget, didn't have the energy or the money to drive back to the old home area as often as I would have liked. We made it there for church on Sunday, and the occasional mid-week shopping trip. I hadn't made many friends in town; women my age were mostly working, or lived in the newer neighborhood of town, and we had no contact. Lesson learned; join the church in your community. We did, and we've had friends ever since.

But we didn't then, and I was lonely, and a new mom with a new mortgage. John had just returned from a 3-week business trip to Israel, Germany and Holland. This was the guy who, on our wedding night, as we dreamed and planned, said, "No, there's so much to see in the U.S., I really don't think world travel is something I want to do." (My thoughts on that statement were so un-bride-like, I won't share them.) But he was the first to get a passport, and came home with stories about the fun he'd had, the beauties he'd seen, and, yes, a sweet apology for that wedding night statement. But he was at work this day, and I was thinking about the photos he'd taken that we'd just picked up; remember, this was back in the day when you took your film somewhere to have prints made!

The mail came. In it was a letter from the attorney who represented the widow from whom we had bought our house. The letter said, in effect, "We're sorry to hear of the death of your husband. But there is a tax bill that needs to be paid. Please get us the money ASAP."

I, too, was sorry to hear of the death of my husband. I called him to make sure that things were OK. He verified that, yes, indeed, he was still sucking breath.

And then all the pressure of all my worries pushed in on me so hard that I pushed back...and exploded.

I called the attorney and let him have it. I was upset that HE hadn't filed the proper paperwork to divide our property form a lot she still held next door, which necessitated us paying HER taxes. I was angry that this snoopy lady, who was still fishing in my mailbox to see whether she had any mail still coming there, was also happily making up stories about my life that involved my "missing" husband. I was aggravated--and, yes, I admit how silly this is--that my husband had had the fun of traveling to places I was still only dreaming of; he had even met my high school pen pal, who lived in Amsterdam, and whom I had never met! And, yes, of course, while I was giving this poor man a piece of my mind, the baby woke up from his nap, crying with a stinky diaper.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

In the end, the attorney apologized. The tax bill was paid and the property properly subdivided. I have since traveled to Lithuania, Sweden, Austria (twice!) Italy, Germany and England.

Oh, and the "baby" no longer wears diapers. His baby is due in about 8 weeks.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


I'm just blogging on Sunday to remind you that I don't blog on Sundays. Got that?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Saturday Farm Report

It is mid-January, and, at this time of year, a girl's heart turns to thoughts of...

Yep. Gardening.

Last year was one of the worst gardens we're ever had, in terms of what got used in proportion to what got planted. Part of that was due to the drought that came through last summer, and part of that was due to that job-thing I found for myself.

I usually peruse the catalogs in January, buy some seed that looks promising and exciting, and also some that I've used before and enjoyed. This year I can't really start seeds inside, as my usual spot, our breezeway, has become a cathouse. Now, before you call the police on me, we have no red lights in our breezeway. We do, however, have 5 cats who spend the night in there, toasty warm. And they eat plants. So my starts would be doomed.

This year I'll be hitting the garden centers and even WalMart for my starts. It will limit the varieties I can use, that's true. But, on the other hand, some of my favorite veggies have come from starts I bought on a whim. For example, Paladin peppers. I found those in Farm and Fleet 2 summers ago, and they produced the biggest, blockiest, yummiest green peppers I've ever grown. Juliet tomatoes; not quite cherry tomatoes, not quite grape tomatoes, but delicious! Stay tuned to see what I find this year!

This weekend we have a houseful. Jay, Kris and the kids will be here for a post-Christmas party. We didn't get to see them for Christmas, so this will be fun. Ethan and Brandy are here for the weekend, although Ethan is spending the day at a CAP class. Ryan is here for the day, and Rundi is off with his family. (He has an aunt and uncle about an hour away from us.) We're still hunting for a host family for him. Matthew and Keri return from California tomorrow.

The weather is decidedly spring-like, which is just wrong. We have geese flying overhead, and I think I even heard sandhill cranes this morning, which usually means spring to me. I hope we're not in for more bad weather this year. that does not make for happy hobby farming!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The more things change, the more they stay the same

I got teased yesterday for running a boarding house. Kinda like Ma Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life.

Yes, Minah went home Dec. 29. She's back in Korea now, and our life is richer for having hosted her. Here she is, saying, "Goodbye!" at O'Hare.
This was just before she said, "Don't worry. I don't think I'll puke!" Yes, she ended her otherwise healthy stay with a horrible flu. I was so worried that her parents would think I'd been a horrible host mom, letting her get sick! We got to the point where we thought we might have to go to the doctor, and then the hospital, it was that bad. But she rallied on Thursday, and flew home on Saturday with no ill (pardon the pun) effects. We will miss her, but can still talk on Facebook.

We had a couple of days with just John, Mary and I in our house. Then I got an e-mail. One of my jobs at work is to find housing for Chinese foreign students who come to our high school. These students come here, many of them, planning to spend 4 years getting an American high school education. We've been expecting Rundi since mid-December, and were told he'd be here for the start of school. Last Friday, a difficulty with housing for another student necessitated that I move him to the host family I had prepared for Rundi. But that was OK; Rundi wasn't due until the 14th or so.

Sunday evening, another e-mail arrived. Rundi was in the US, staying with family, and would be at school the next morning. This image isn't on my refrigerator for nothing.

So now Rundi is staying with us, until we can find a host family for him.
He loves the dogs, is very friendly, and isn't too keen yet on American food. But he's doing well, settling in happily, and his host family (whoever they are) will be lucky to have him!

Update: I have had two families considering this opportunity since Sunday. They both called today to decline. They had good reasons, but I'm back to the drawing board.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Demon Seed

Something like this

got into our chicken coop last night. I found out about it when Jaeger, Matthew and Keri's dog, went out for his morning constitutional, and came running across the yard carrying one of our chickens in his mouth. He was so proud and happy! I let him have it! All of the dogs got a good tongue-lashing, and avoided me for a good 15 minutes or so. Happily, the bird he carried lived through her ordeal, and is recuperating in the breezeway right now.

When we went to survey the damage, which we thought was dog-induced, we realized the raccoons ripped a screen off of a window to get in. They killed 4 of our 9 birds, meaning that our supply of eggs is going to be drastically reduced for the foreseeable future. The chicken that lived is a lightweight bird. We think she was able to fly up and avoid the masked marauders, but was too slow for the dogs this morning. She was probably pecking unsuspecting on the ground when they came around the corner of the garden/chicken yard.

So, as sweet and cute as those little racconies look, keep this fact in mind; They are of the Devil.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Saturday Farm Report

Kinda strange to be doing one of's been a while!

We're having a mild winter so far. I really wish we'd get some freezing temps and a good snow. We need the water, and I'd like the fleas, worms, ticks and germs to freeze to death! But we get what we get.

Today we're getting some snow. Big, fluffy flakes that aren't going to last long.

We've turned the corner, and the days are getting longer. I love this time of year, when things are dark and slow, but I love that there's more and more light daily. I've even begun thinking of planting things. The first seed catalogs arrived the day after Christmas, but I was too busy to tuck into them. Soon enough.

For now, though, soft, fluffy snow. Twilighty days. A rest before spring.

Friday, January 4, 2013


Do you make resolutions? I always do, and always forget about them by the end of January. I don't intend to, but Life gets in the way. Like when I decide to work out regularly, and I get sick around January 10th, that sort of thing.

By the way, that's typical. The average person gives up their resolutions by January 9th. This year, however, I want to be above average. Not an A student, just a B. Above average. So I'm shooting for January 15th.

And so I made my resolution simple. It comes from a Facebook meme I saw; "If the Mayans taught us anything, it's that, if you don't finish something, it's not the end of the world." This year, I'm going to do my best to not focus so much on the end result, but on the process of getting there. I'm going to try and take rabbit trails, if necessary,in order to really live my life.

And, yes, because I'm one of those personality types, I am working on a healthier diet, too, and prayer. Lots of prayer.