Friday, November 26, 2010

More Barn photos

The frames are built and just waiting for the expeditor to finish (by that I mean start) so he can dig the large holes for the barn buttresses. Hopefully he will be out the week of 11/29.

Here I am jackhammering (I found this and a lot of other photos on Bill's camera), taken in July. Working on that barn makes me happy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Friday is Buy Nothing Day

The day after the high holy day of local food (as El calls it) is the annual protest against Black Friday. This is one holiday that I do celebrate wholeheartedly....

Stay home. Bake bread. Read a book. Whatever you do - no shopping.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

S510 (The Food Safety Modernization Act) up for vote

S.510 is moving forward and thankfully, the Tester-Hagan amendment is included (albeit somewhat compromised). The final vote on the bill is delayed until 11/29.

Big agribusiness has supported S.510 since its inception. (Illinois Senator Durbin authored S.510; sigh...) I believe that this bill will further consolidate large agribusiness and make it even more difficult (really? is that possible?) for small producers to compete in the market place. Once the Senate agreed to include the amendment to the bill - large agribusiness came out swinging. During these few days between the agreement on the amendment and the final vote, you can bet that the agribusiness lobbyists are working hard to pull or further dilute the amendment.

Best case scenario, in my opinion, would be no passage of this bill; but obviously that is not going to happen because agri-money talks. As a future small producer and proponent for small farms, the best we can hope for is that the amendment is included - not pulled from the bill. has a good debate on the bill here.

Barn Progress Photos

Lally column holding up the floor

3 columns. By jacking up the floor, Bill was able to install a new header over the window

New header

When cleaning off some stone, Bill found initials in a stone

D.D. 1909

Lally Column in the middle of the feedlot door - half of this door is going to be covered by the new buttress

Interior, along the back wall. This will be framed and concrete poured between the framing and the old stone.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Barn Progress

Bill spent 3 days earlier this week working at the farm. I will post pictures when I get them off of his camera. He was able to finish building the concrete forms and was able to lift part of the barn floor (with lally columns) and insert a new header over a couple of the windows and a door. In doing so he also found another place where the stone wall has split, so by putting the new header in it will alleviate some of the pressure on the split wall. He repaired some of the stone and did some tuckpointing as well. We are now just waiting for the excavator to show up. Until he clears the feedlot area for the buttresses, we can't pour the concrete new footings and buttresses. The weather window gets smaller and smaller.... I still hope we can get it done this year, but I am beginning to fear that we have to wait until spring.

In other news we finished construction on and rented our vacant apartment (in Chicago)! What a relief both work-wise and financially. Our new tenant moves in at the end of November which is exactly one year after the previous tenants moved out. This was a huge time and money-suck this year but it increased the value of the building and will cut down on the number of 'fix-it calls' that Bill was fielding from that apartment. We ended up doing an almost-gut rehab so everything is new. It looks beautiful and I rented it to the 2nd person I showed it to.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wisc weekend

I'm off to Wisc tomorrow as it is Veteran's Day so I have the day off (gotta love those bank holidays). I am taking my work laptop and am going to try my first day of working remotely from the local coffee shop in Platteville, WI. I hope this is successful! I have tried it before, albeit on a Saturday, and was able to connect and had access to my work related content so I am hopeful that it will be seamless. Bill will join me on Friday night and while I leave on Sunday to come back to work, he is going to stay and work several days at the farm while the excavator begins.

And we have another pet to bury at the farm. Our cat Gracie was put to rest last week. This is our 4th pet euthansia in four years. For the record, it does NOT get easier. However, it was time and we wanted her to go while she still had some of her dignity. She was always Bill's cat as they had a special bond, and was named after the Gracie family of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fame. He adopted her 2 weeks after we met. She was the end of an era. The last of our original pets.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sunchoke Bisque

Sunchokes are one our favorites - also known as Jerusalem artichokes, but they are not in the artichoke family and they are not from Jerusalem. They are related to the sunflower and indeed their growing habit is very like a sunflower - they have thick stalks and small sunflower-like flowers. They are beautiful, easy to grow (especially from 3.5 hours away!) and a native. Their taste is nutty and the texture is similar to a jicama. Although considered mildly invasive as once they are planted, it is difficult to eradicate them. I don't understand why one would want to - they are delicious!

I have a large patch of them at the Church-yard. Every fall I dig them up and we feast on sunchokes for weeks. Typically we eat them raw but last week I tried a soup; compliments of one of my heros, Deborah Madison.

Sunchoke Bisque
From Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors

1# sunchokes
1 small onion
3 small red potatoes (I substituted 1 large sweet potato)
1 celery rib (I omitted)
2 T sunflower seed oil (highly recommend Smude Oil for those in the midwest - thanks to Brett for mentioned them in his posts)
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 C vegetable stock, chicken stock or water
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 bay leaves
Milk or cream for thinning
½ C croutons, crisped in the oven
Roasted hazelnut or pumpkin seed oil (I omitted this and topped with a dollop of plain yogurt)

1. Wash all the veggies, then chop into ½ inch chunks. Don’t bother to peel the sunchokes.
2. Heat the oil in a soup pot, add the veggies and sauté over high heating, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 10 mins. Add the garlic during the last few minutes. Pour in the stock. Add 1 ½ t salt and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, until the potatoes are tender, about 25 mins.
3. Cool briefly, then puree until perfectly smooth (love those stick blenders!). Return the soup to the stove and add enough milk or cream to think it to the desired consistency. Taste for salt and season with pepper. Serve with a few croutons in each bowl and the oil drizzled in a thin stream over the top.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Iowa disappoints...

I was sorry to hear that Francis Thicke was not successful in his attempt to unseat the Iowa incumbent Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.

Francis is an organic dairy farmer, holds a Ph.D. in agronomy with a soil science specialty, and is an educator. He ran a positive campaign and believes in local foods, land stewardship, CAFO reform, revitalization of rural economies and alternative energy.

Bill Northey is backed by Monsanto's money.