Monday, June 28, 2010

Plow and chain harrow

We were in Western IL on Saturday to attend my grandmother's 95th (!!) birthday party. I was driving down Route 92 in rural Bureau County and Bill yells out, "Ang - there is a 2 bottom plow!" It was next to a bunch of other implements - two tractors, a flatbed trailer, etc - clearly stuff for sale although there was no For Sale sign. I pulled off, turned around and we went back to check it out. Yep, a Ford 2 bottom with great plows (i.e. not too worn). We went up to the house and the older gentleman confirmed that it was for sale and it was $300. We told him we were going up the road to Walnut to the nursing home for Grandma's party and that we'd stop back afterwards. (Of course, there was a whole conversation about who my grandma is - oh, yeah, he knew my grandfather's brother and used to cut hay on his farm, etc., etc.). $300 is a great price for this plow. It is very difficult to find 2 bottom plows, especially locally. We found one in Galesburg, IL but it was closer to $600.

We stopped back, bought the plow and a chain harrow that he also had. Of course, we didn't have our truck that day so we are going back on Friday on our way to Wisc (taking the loooong scenic route) and we'll pick them up at that time.

Next implements to look for are a grain drill, flail chopper and a disc.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Will Allen of Growing Power in Chicago

One of the Urban Worm Girls and I went to see Will Allen speak in Chicago last night. He was in Chicago at the 4th Presbyterian Church (the beautiful historic church that is across from the Hancock for those that are familiar with Chicago). 4th Pres is Growing Power's partner in the Chicago Lights Urban Farm which was the first farm to develop a farm and produce food on top of asphalt.

Woot! He is doing some amazing things! Water harvesting/conservation; urban chickens; urban bees (he was instrumental in getting an urban bee ordinance allowing bees passed in Milwaukee); vermicomposting (he loves his worms which makes us happy!); composting (he diverted 11,000 lbs of food waste from the waste stream last year and hopes to double that number this year; urban farms; working with underserved communities including youth; senior communities; and bringing real food to food deserts. He is raising 10,000 tilipia in his Growing Power Milwaukee urban location. He has many locations in the planning stage; including Iron Street Farm in Chicago and Vertical Farm in Milwaukee. Iron Street Farm is in Bridgeport and is a dilipidated, old warehouse to be turned into an urban farm.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chicago Heart Birds

Bill and I, along with our friend Julie (deLeon Design), won 3rd place in a City of Chicago sponsored design/build bird house competition. There were eight categories of bird houses to choose from - we built two: a American Kestrel house and a Purple Martin house. The idea was to get people thinking about Chicago as a birding locale since it is located on several migratory paths and the location of the lakefront makes it very bird friendly.

Our American Kestrel house was an homage to Chicago's new sustainable architectural revolution and it's visionary. We constructed the American Kestrel house, named Aqua Prairie, from local (western IL) black locust - sustainably timbered and treated with soy based finishes. The banding around the house is meant to mimic the flow of the Aqua Tower building - the material is the metal banding used to secure bricks and stones on large pallets. We salvaged it from the trash behind a home improvement store.

The Purple Martin house named 'Chicago Politics...It's for the Birds' was constructed entirely out of found objects. After the February political primary, I went on a scavaging raid and collected lots of the political signs from our local park. I was actually after the metal wire brackets that push into the ground and hold the signs (good for floating row covers for season extension) but I took the signs as well thinking that we would eventually find a use for them (I have a friend that made a worm bin from them in his garage). Purple Martin houses are the 'condos' of birdhouses - Purple Martins like to live together, so the house is large with lots of holes leading to individual cavities. Our Purple Martin house design had over 10 political signs - each cut to exact specifications with exactoknives in a tabbed manner - so that they slide together in a puzzle-like fashion which enables the house to be constructed without any glue. It also comes apart easily for cleaning and removal of any non-Purple Martins that might set up home.

Chicago Politics...It's for the Birds won 3rd prize. We were able to meet Da Mayor of Chicago at the awards ceremony and see lots of incredible designs for birdhouses. Our house, along with all of the houses entered (over 150!) now goes on a road show throughout Chicagoland. It was a fun experience.

Also at the awards ceremony were wildlife rehabilitation specialists with a Barred Owl and an American Kestrel.

Yes - these are real birds!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Thistle Control

I took a solo trip to Wisc this past weekend.

Saturday morning was spent on our intern's farm. I learned a lot and also met some nice people from Madison, Platteville and Mineral Point that are CSA shareholders. I worked with the farm employee in setting up irrigation lines so I now have a bit of a better understanding of how the supply line runs, flushing the connections, laying out the driptape and most importantly, placement.

I also did some weeding. It was interesting to see the field saturation from all of the rain and talk with our mentor about his transplanting plans and how the rains are affecting his planting schedule.

He also shared me with me that his goal every year is to have salad greens in the CSA box every week of the season. Last year was the first year he was able to meet that goal and we talked about varieties, planting schedules, etc. I am completely impressed - that is a hard thing to manage. For those that buy salads from the store, or worse buy bagged salads - horror!, this might not be a thought that enters your mind, but having over 300 heads of lettuce every week for over 20 weeks is a major accomplishment.

I spent Sat afternoon at our farm cutting thistle. We have a major thistle problem that I am working to get under control by hand cutting.



Friday, June 11, 2010

DATCP raids Sauk Co Wisc Farm

The Wisconsin crack down on buying clubs and raw milk continues. The Farm to Consumer Defense Fund protects family farms.

Organic Valley has also been engulfed in the Wisconsin raw milk controversy. Their board of directors recently voted to discontinue picking up milk from any of their processors that also sold milk from their own farm to neighbors or private buying clubs.

Monday, June 7, 2010


We have been to Wisc only four times this year. 3 of those were with guests (i.e. non-working weekends) and one was when we went to the MOSES conference.

To say the least, we are getting very little accomplished at the farm. The problem is that it seems as if we are spinning our wheels at home too.

So the move date has been revisited. Late 2011 or more likely, 2012.

Bummer but, a bit relieving. Gotta have some fun too!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Book Review

I was browsing the cookbook section of the Chicago Public Library last week and I saw Pioneer Woman's new cookbook. Now I have been known to read her blog once or twice - her photos are gorgeous; plus it seems as if everyone in the blogosphere world reads her blog. So I checked out the cookbook.

Overall impression? meh. Some nice photos and it reads like fiction and a cookbook. The recipes though...? Some seem OK. Most are just uninspiring to me. I wanted more garden fresh recipes. Fresh ingredients were sorely lacking.

I'm glad the public library owns it and not me.

I've gotten tons of inspiration from Heidi Swanson and her 101 cookbooks site recently. Thanks to my friend H.C. at CFC for turning me on to this site.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Local Meal

Oh, Sunday nights are so different when one doesn't have to work on Monday! We enjoyed Sunday by working in the yard all day and then making a local supper. I forgot to take a photo.

Salad: a mixture of Forellenschluss lettuce, lemon balm and radishes and from the backyard topped with Hook's bluecheese (Mineral Point, Wisc). Dressing of olive oil and local apple cider vinegar.

Fish was a Lake Michigan perch from Dill Pickle Food Coop. Corn fritters were made with corn and eggs from Grass is Greener Gardens; Great River Milling whole wheat flour and seasoned with chive, a green garlic and other herbs from the backyard.