Friday, March 27, 2009

Planting Plan for the White House

Click here to see the garden plan for the White House and read about the two bee hives.

My enthusiasm for this continues!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Documentary: An Act of Conscience

Bill and I watched an incredible documentary on Free Speech teevee last night. For those unfamiliar with FSTV, I highly recommend it. It has Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman every night followed by Grit TV: both excellent indepth news coverage. We get FSTV on channel 9415 from our Satellite Dish.

This documentary was called An Act of Conscience: Standing Up for your Beliefs Begins at Home. We watched this absolutely spellbound. I was almost near tears several times. It is the early 1990s and a couple in western Massachusetts does not pay their taxes because they do not want their tax dollars used for war. The IRS seizes their home. This is the story of their struggles against the IRS and the young couple that eventually buys their home at a sealed auction. It is the stand-off of two couples fighting for the same home with very different beliefs. I can not recommend it enough. You can watch online at the link above.

My home in Chicago and my farm in Wisconsin are important to me. I would stand up and fight to anyone that tried to take them from me. I don't want my tax dollars used to kill and maim people either. However, I also really sympathized with the young couple that bought the home at auction. They were simply trying to have a home in which to raise their family. I understand the struggle on both sides of this equation. It was very thought provoking.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Seed panic!

Yikes! It is already the end of March! I have lots more seeds to start namely herbs! I haven't even begun to think about them yet. Tonight is the night. I did prep some seed starter on Sunday - I'm trying a new recipe for this batch. Worm castings, perlite and a little bit of peat. This is the first time that I've worked with perlite - so far I'm on the fence. We'll see what its like tonight after its been hydrating with my castings for a few days. It seemed pretty sharp so I don't know how well that will work in my soil block maker.

The potential farm truck that we looked at in Wisc on Saturday turned out to be a dud. It was all fine and well until Bill took it for a drive. Upon return, pretty near a gallon of antifreeze came pouring out of the bottom and there was oil on the engine that was smoking. We don't expect it to work perfectly of course, but a potential cracked transmission was more than we were willing to take on. We're rethinking truck options. We want something reliable but I'd like to not take a car note. We'll keep looking.

We buried Miss B on Saturday. We like the grave digging and we each talk and laugh about memories. We've done this with each of our other two pets buried at the farm so we repeated the process. We were able to cry and then fill the soil back in the grave with our hands. Its a very spiritual experience for both of us. Bill then found a good stone and chiseled a 'B' on it. He did this for our dog and our other cat too. This was our 3rd pet euthansia in 2.5 years - it sure is hard to watch them age.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Veggies on the White House Lawn

This is not a political blog. (But I do have a picture of me with President Obama when he was Senator - so that will tell you my leanings.)

I love this! Veggies on the White House Lawn. Hooray!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

R.I.P. Miss B

We had to put our dog to sleep on Aug 25, 07 when her health failed to the point that she couldn't walk. She is buried at the farm. Today we put our 17 year old cat, Miss B to sleep. Her kidneys had shut down and she had stopped eating. Miss B was my first pet as an adult and I've had her since she was 6 weeks old.

We miss the dog terribly. I now will also miss Miss B. We will bury her at the farm next to the dog. We still have two cats still at home: Gracie who is 14 and Georgie who is 1.5 years old. I found Georgie in Wisc and she is the one that travels with us back and forth.

Rest in Peace Miss B. You were the best cat I could have asked for.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Saturday work

I have a feeling many of my posts might be titled 'Saturday work'.

Bathroom pre-Saturday.

Bathroom on Saturday afternoon.
The folks showed up to claim the free bathroom. This was quite a feelgood endeavor. They were a young couple and excited to have the appliances (which once removed turned out to be in excellent condition). They were very respectful, carried out the garbage that was created during the tearout, and then offered to help us with additional tasks. It was a nice offer, but we thanked them and let them leave with their new bathroom. It was a satisfying feeling to help out such nice folks. A friend asked me why I wasn't selling them - she said, you could probably have gotten at least $100+ for them. That wasn't the point - it was to help someone out. All in all, a good experience.

This is what was once a summer kitchen - that was used as a henhouse and a junk building by the previous owner. You can't see it in this picture, but the backside of this building is falling in. It is built into a hill and the watershed has washed away the back foundation. This is also the site that we plan to build the garage/summer kitchen/art studio. So while Bill worked in the main barn, I started taking this one down. It is clearly an old building and I did feel bad taking it down, but I was removing each board individually so that we can reuse them. Beautiful boards and oak timbers in this building! It was hard work - those old timbers are hard and it takes a lot of prying to get the nails out.

You can see that I only got a little part of two sides done. Not a bad start though!
It was wonderful to be working at the farm. The weather was beautiful. We went back to our Check Spellinglittle cottage (the old church - I'll do some posts on it soon) and we were tired but felt a good sense of accomplishment. We are definitely on our way now.
The gent selling the truck had a conflict this morning so we didn't check it out this morning as planned. We are going back next weekend - we hope to see it then.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday work

We spent the day at the farm working. I am sore and tired. We are having heirloom beans ( and local pork chops with a salad for supper. Oh yeah, I also made some oatmeal cranberry cookies yesterday - that is our dessert.

This part is for Barb: we have a new local market in Platteville. It just opened last fall. - we try to shop there and support them as much as we can. To say that I love it is an understatement!

I'll post more tomorrow. I took a lot of pictures but I forgot my camera cord at home. Stay tuned.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Work planning

We're in Wisc. We took Friday off and came up last night. Tomorrow we go for a full day of work at the farm. The folks that are taking the bathroom are coming tomorrow. Bill hopes to do additional barn prep for the massive barn renovation that will encompass our Summer 2009. I am going to do misc things: take down some reusable beadboard from the house, start demolition on a small building that is near falling down but salvage all of the materials for reuse. This will also make room for the garage/summer kitchen/art studio that we plan to build.

Tonight is planning. We have our calendars and our laptop. We are planning our summer weekends of work and what we hope to accomplish this summer.

Sunday we are going to look at a promising farm truck. A 1989 (yikes - 20 years old!) Chevy - the seller describes it as a 'runner' - a good beat around farm utility truck. It has a new engine and the price is right (if he is willing to negotiate). We'll see - we're not in any great hurry, although it would be nice to have a work truck to haul materials to/from the farm as the materials/tools are taking their toll on our Subaru.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Apple Tree Grafting

What fun! We used the Whip graft. The instructor has authored a book (not yet published) that researches heirloom apples and he has gotten permission to use 2500 water color depictions from the USDA archives. He said that often these watercolors are the only record of some of the heirlooms that we have lost. I'll keep my eye out for that for sure!

We had three scions to chose from. Gala (a good eating choice), Hornberger Pancake (cooking) and Summer Pearmain (eating and cooking). Dan said that all 3 should be self-pollinating.

My friend Mimi went with me. She doesn't have any space or desire for apple trees, so she gave me hers. So I have six trees (2 of each variety). I was instructed to keep them in the refrigerator for one month and then plant in the garden for one year to baby them. Next year we can move them to their permanent location. This works great - since Bill and I haven't quite decided where to place the orchard at the farm.

After we grafted, we took a walk around the farm.
There were four Milking Devon Cattle steers.

Garfield Farm is working to restore a 370 acre, former 1840s Illinois prairie farmstead and teamster inn as an 1840s working farm and inn museum. To say that it is cool is an understatement!
And, the best part was that I got a farm fix! Its been almost 5 weeks since we've been to our farm in Wisc! Luckily we are going this weekend.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Seed Starting - is there such a thing as too many?

I may have overdone it this time. I told Bill that I can always give extras away to friends and family.

Ground Cherry (5)
The Grow the Change blog had the brilliant recommendation to dry ground cherries - she says they are similar to raisins. Now this I have to try!

Peppers - 45 plants
Czech Black (5)
Hot Portugal (5)
Paprika Alma (5)
Serrano (5)
Jalapeno (5)
Mini Red Bell (5)
Chili de Comidia (5)
Quadrato d'Asti Giallo (5)
Romanian Hot (5)

Tomatoes - 50 plants
Sweetie (5)
Yellow Brandywine (5)
Principe Borghese (5)
Purple Russian (5)
White Beauty or Snowball (5)
Caro Rich (5)
Green Zebra (5)
Illini Star (5)
Costaluto Genovese (5)
Santiam (5)

I haven't even begun to think about herbs yet.

On Sunday I am going to a heirloom apple grafting seminar at Garfield Farm ( - I have never been to this farm museum but I am greatly looking forward to seeing it and learning how to graft. The instructor specializes in heirloom trees in Southern Wisc! I look forward to meeting him!

Friday, March 6, 2009

No instant breakfast and March

See El's recent post on breakfasts - lots of good ideas in the comments too.

This morning as I was heating up my organic traditional rolled oats in the microwave at work, a co-worker said to me, "my kids eat that instant oatmeal too." Visions of fake maple flavor in flattened oats reared up in my mind. I replied, "these are not instant. These are traditional oats." I proceeded to explain my technique: add boiling water at night, let sit in a to-go coffee cup and reheat in ceramic in the microwave at work the next morning, add local honey and dried fruit. I couldn't resist and ended my response with, "I'm too much of a foodie to eat instant." Needless to say, she probably won't comment on my foodstuff again.

I was reading from The Rural Life by Verlyn Klinkenborg on the train this morning. I was struck by this passage from the chapter titled March.

To northern gardeners, this time of year is full of anxious pleasure. Even as they daydream about the botanical pleasures of June and July, ordinary mortals find themselves nearly defeated by the gardening deadlines that pass so swiftly in March. Extraordinary mortals - whose seeds arrived two months ago, whose windows are now full of seedlings, and who are ready to sow peas and carrots the instant the soil thaws - will suffer torments of their own when the perfections they're planning somehow fail to germinate or blossom. A garden is just a way of mapping the strengths and limitations of your personality onto the soil. It would be too much to bear if nature didn't temper a gardener's ambition or laziness with her own unsolicited abundance.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Weed barriers

There is a garden in there somewhere!
The need for a weed barrier is a must in the 2009 garden. Living 4 hours from the farm and the little kitchen garden at the country church we stay in (we own it - its not a church anymore) proved to me last year that the weeds can grab and take hold.
The garden when I planted it.

How am I going to manage it this year? Good question. As much as I hate to, I think I need a barrier mulch. No plastic though. Territorial Seed has some interesting biodegradable and compostable mulching film. They begin to decompose in 50-60 days and will be 95% degraded within 90 days. For the most part, I am against this type of gardening, but in the war or weeds in the garden, and mostly because I am 200 miles away - I think I must try this for this growing season.
For the farm, I'm planning 4 or 5 4'x20' beds. I'm going to do 1 to 2 beds of the traditional Native American Three Sisters planting. So far, I'm planning:
A whole bed of peppers:
Hot Portugal (6)
Hot Romanian (6)
Jalapeno (6)
Serrano (6)
Paprika (6)
Three Sisters comprised of:
Corn: Black Aztec Sweet Corn, Stowell's Evergreen Sweet Corn,
Squash: Fairy (9), Long Island Cheese (9), Small eating pumpkin (9)
Beans: Kentucky Wonder, Rattle Snake, Purple Pod
Squash: Potimarron (5)
Melon: Collective Farm Woman (4)
Beans on trellis: Christmas Lima (10), Vigna Yard Long (5), Chinese Green Noodle Long Bean (5)
Potatoes: Purple Peruvian and Yellow Finn.
That's as far as I've gotten in my planning.