Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Farm Challenge

  So I'd like to give you a peek of the farm. It snowed again and it was much easier to get to the house. It isn't so much a driveway, as it is a path carved out of the woods.

   The fresh blanket of snow revealed a lot of critter activity. Seems we have deer, rabbits, raccoons, coyote and.... I'm thinking, but really hoping otherwise... skunks.

 A ton of tracks.. all around the house. We are talking critter central. I have found 4 well used burrows one of which is right in front of the house.

 I will be positive. Thinking good thoughts...  plenty of game not far from the kitchen.

 This is the well ventilated barn.

 A highlight with such blessed air circulation is it doesn't have that pesky "old barn" smell. It might need a little TLC.. ahem.

 Partially old design, partially newer additions.. you can still see how it was put together with wooden pegs, and where the "new" stuff used nails.

 The beams are all hand hewn. The barn is as old as the house, so over 150 years. Amazing as much of it is standing, but not exactly safe.

  Another bonus is it contains a lot of ancient carbon for me to compost.

 This is the south field that is getting a little smaller. Lots of firewood to harvest! 

More to come!


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Reclaiming the Farm from Black Walnuts?

 We wandered to the big farm yesterday. An ice storm had swept through just the other day leaving the tops of the trees looking like they are encase in glass. The driveway is a soupy mess that a car can't clear, so we parked just past the gate and hiked the icy drive. 

 To say the place is overgrown would be a gross understatement. 

 Now while black walnuts are lovely when you like to make furniture, or are into harvesting the nuts (or sap for making syrup), they have drawbacks. At around 10 years of age the black walnut starts producing nuts. At about 30 they are in their prime for nut production, but crops seem to alternate heavy one year and lighter the next. They are an investment of time.

 We have a lot of black walnuts. A LOT.. they are invading... actually it is past invading and has moved into "they have taken over". Great right? Not so much.

 What we have is Juglans nigra (black walnut). Notice the name... this tree produces juglone. Juglone is the chemical this plant produces in it's warfare to control an area to grow. While a few plants have adapted and defied this attack (in particular wild black raspberries.. aka thimbleberries/ blackcaps/ etc. latin name of our wild species is Rubus occidentalis).. juglone will kill off many other desirable plants. Like apple trees, pear trees, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, potatoes, and birch trees do not handle juglone.

 Just take the trees out, right? The hurdle in reorganizing the walnut coup is our darling black walnuts produce juglone in their leaves, roots, husks, stems, etc. So even if you pull out a tree the remaining roots will slowly dispense juglone over the years while they decompose. As well.. the leaves flitting about as they are dispersed by the wind also are doing the same thing.

 If you are looking to add black walnuts to your property, the best way is to grab up some of these stain-your-hands-forever husk covered nut bombs and just plant them. 

 Keep in mind if you have livestock... black walnut shavings will cause laminitis (founder) in horses. As little as 20% of shredded black walnut (or butternut) in the bedding can result in a horse foundering in 24 hours. Founder.... sucks... royally.

 Well.. I am heading out in just a few minutes back to the farm. Armed with a camera that this time contains batteries I will hopefully show you some of the good, bad, ugly of what we are hoping to tackle.




Friday, February 18, 2011

Quick Chaos Break

 Right after my last post I managed to creatively use heavy bakeware to break a toe. I'm chalking that one up to stupid moments I hope to never have happen again... it is running a solid 2nd place. (First place was the asymmetrical hairstyle... courtesy of a very convincing, wicked little sister.)

 So our ever perky older neighbor lady was oddly not near the side door to make small talk every time we take the dog out. She was missing for quite a few days. It turns out she had a stroke... but they caught it relatively quickly. It effected her leg, but she is bouncing back at blazing speeds. I mean this woman is not letting anything slow her down! 

 So while I was chatting to my sister in NY about her amazing recovery... my sister tells me she just lost 2 very close friends to heart attacks. Both of her friends were in their mid thirties and one in particular very recently was showing her pictures of his 4th child, who is only a few months old.

 Then call waiting beeps...

 My sister in Wisconsin is in the ER. Short version is thankfully a neighbor found her as she was unconscious for quite a few hours. Her pancreas was destroying itself, although that is a secondary symptom from what they have deduced so far. By "they" I mean my sister and her husband.

 So far... the medical staff out here can't find their butt with 2 hands and a map.

 I swear... "idiopathic" is their favorite "diagnosis". It is a single word that translated means... get another doctor. A favorite cop out for those who are too mentally flaccid to do their job well... if at all. If everyone had the same lax approach to their jobs... imagine how the world would be. 

 "Well, we ran some tests on your car and have concluded it is idiopathic." (Followed by the mechanic thrusting their hand out for exorbitant payment... )

 It dawned on me that the attraction to the show House... is that there could possibly be a doctor out there that was driven to figure out what was wrong. Not saying it would be an enjoyable experience... but to have someone just as driven to find out and fix what is wrong... is a lovely pipe dream.

 I just love when they assume you don't know what it means and then hop on their pedestal to declare the definition. 

 My sister.. who has been unable to eat or drink ANYTHING and is in extreme pain.. lost her composure. That is a rarity. She always is polite... she could be missing appendages and she'd still be even keeled.

 Let's just say I was proud. 

 A biopsy was taken and in 7 days the results should be back. For now we are just hoping to get her to be able to keep water down, but until she can, she is on an IV. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chef Daniel Klein and The Perennial Plate Series

 I just find his videos informative, uplifting and inspiring as he brings to light so many dedicated people making amazing things. I think I have watched every one of them at least twice.

he Perennial Plate Episode 15: Farm to Market from Daniel Klein on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Gabloop.... woosh Baking and OMGWHATISTHAT?

  That has to be the best sound ever when you are dealing with sewer line issues. After 5 buckets of roots, it is a sound we finally heard.

 So slated on our "to do list" for this year is removing the massive evergreen shrubs and possibly the tree in the front yard of the small house. After I know what the sun exposure is like, and have the lines marked in the yard, I will be able to figure out how to replant it.

 Another interesting encounter is several run-ins with house centipedes. 
 Although the urge to run away screaming squish them is the first reaction, these bugs are insectivores. They'll eat anything their own size and smaller. The mandibles are modified front legs that actually contain their bug slaying arsenal of venom. I have been reassured that it is extremely rare that they can actually puncture human skin, and even if by some freakish chance they did, the result would be similar to a bee sting.  The ones in the small house... they are huge. Huge and fast... really fast. The size and speed has caused each and every one of us to let out some sort of humiliating yell. I really wish I could have recorded it.

 I have been on a baking frenzy. (It is so very nice to not have to alter things to accommodate high altitude conditions.) Right before the last big blast of snow I had made a huge stock pot full of stew and a plethora of rolls. Herb rolls, garlicky rolls... and cinnamon rolls. (The cinnamon rolls I had cut and placed in muffin tins, and then froze them. That way I can take out however many I want the night before. Overnight the rolls will thaw and go through their final rise, so in the morning all I have to do is turn on the oven.)

 I packed up several portions worth for my Mom of the beef stew, the various rolls, a huge salad, and a small pasta bake. Although she isn't far away, the storm encased the small farm in 5 foot snow drifts (thank you neighbor for digging her out!) 

 The small house was surrounded by 3 foot snowdrifts, which we spent the better part of the day relocating. Everyone who could get out was out and helping dig out each other. We dug out our neighbor who is an older gentleman bachelor. I brought him over some stew, salad and rolls.

 My Mom asked if I'd make more. I told her it was no problem, I just will need to get more flour shortly. Next thing I know, our neighbor stopped by with 2  25lbs bags of flour and a large container of cinnamon.

 I keep a starter culture going all the time and this is what I use for my yeast breads.

 From this I make our pizza doughs, cinnamon rolls, herb breads, etc. While my daughter has helped in the past, she never tried to make anything on her own until just the other day. She asked a few questions but otherwise insisted she do it on her own.

 I managed to snap a shot before my daughter and husband devoured it entirely. 

 She is having a blast baking now. She liked baking before, but this is her first go at yeast risen doughs. She did an amazing job for not having a recipe to follow and just feeling her way around the process. (I am so proud!)  Now if only she would clean up afterward just as well...

 We don't generally eat this much wheat. After a visit to my sister's house, my daughter discovered she loves rye breads. That may be slated in on our menu soon... especially as rueben sandwiches are my husband's favorite.

 I am almost ready for that spring thaw...