Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Well it has been a while since I posted and the longer I wait the more important it seems to write something of substance. Truth is I need to just write something. So here it is.

First Jess and I just got back from a trip to Phoenix last week. The idea was to lay in the sun and recharge a bit but fortune had other plans. I managed to catch a sinus infection on the way down and was sick much of the time. It also rained much of the week as well. We did get out a few days though and had a good time. I can really see the appeal of the southwest when my home in Minnesota was covered in a frozen blanket of snow and ice. The citrus fruits that were in all the yards were wonderful to see. I am definitely jealous of that. They also have so much luck growing Rosemary they plant it in the medians of the roads. Here is a picture I tried to take as we drove past.

Here I am lucky to keep one alive through the winter in the house.

Other than that things here are going along well. The insulation that we added to the house is paying off. We have had to fill our propane tank much less frequently and also we have noticed a significant reduction in the amount electricity we are using as well.

Keep warm

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Be it here resolved.

So I suppose it is time to publish this years resolutions for the homestead.

We recognize that having food in the pantry is good for both body and mind. We therefore resolve to grow, dry, can and freeze even more food in the coming year. We also resolve to cook even more of our own meals using the quality ingredients we will gather in. It is sad but true that we don't use as much as we should of our own home grown foods and we plan to change that. We plan to experiment with cold frames and possibly a small hoop house in order to extend the amount of the year that we can enjoy our dinner salads. As part of our resolution to grow even more food we plan to rent a sod cutter and a tiller to till up approximately an acre of the yard this spring and plant it.

It is also not acceptable to me that others are not fed properly and I resolve to do something about it. For that reason we plan to plant approximately 1/4 acre of this garden with the intention of giving it away to the local food shelf if they will have it. If not we will find some other way to get it into the hands of those that need it. We will also be asking for food donations at events we host throughout the year.

We also recognize that allowing things to go to the dump is neither financially nor ecologically smart. For that reason we resolve to generate less waste in the coming year. We plan to accomplish this by increasing our recycling and composting operations and also by reducing the amount of expendables we bring into our home.

And finally we resolve to find a way to produce some small part of our own power here on the farm. We believe that though the future is not clear to anyone the wise prepare today for difficulties tomorrow. We also believe that every homestead should be as resilient as possible. To this end we plan to either install a small alternative energy system or solar thermal system by years end. We plan to design the system with an eye to future expansion.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Year end post.

I have been wanting to write a year/ season ending post for some time but have been having some trouble wrapping my head around just what to talk about.

First I think was great it was to see the larger food culture continue to move twords the fresh, local and organic. From going to see movies like Fresh and Food inc. to the increasing availability of food events like Tour de farm and Gastro non grata it was great to be involved in a the trend to a more sustainable and healthy food culture. We were also able to attend events with Slow Food Minnesota and Simple, Good and Tasty as well. We even held our own fall harvest festival.

We expanded the garden to include a new satellite garden by the chickens for the growing of some of thier food and three additional beds in the main garden. We grew pole beans for the first time, though our trellis design still needs work. We grew our own cabbage and carrots this year successfully. We learned that kale can be biannual at least in our climate. We also had challenges with cucumbers and parsnips and got our squash and pumpkins in too late.

The orchard gave us our first ever apricots and also plums galore. We planted our first nut bushes and along with some red currants and high bush cranberry.

We insulated the house and had the siding upgraded to improve our home energy efficiency. It is too soon to be able to tell just how much difference this will make but so far it looks to be a significant improvement. We also have made our pole barn a more useful and productive place.

We foraged for walnuts to make nocino and managed to put a few birds and some deer meat in the freezer from hunting. We also foraged for nettles to make nettle beer and ferns for the spring table.

Well I guess that was really quite a great deal to do in one year. I am already thinking about what we will need to get done next year but I will save that for another post.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Late post

So here it is the winter solstice again.
In our part of the world it seems to come too late to mark the beginning of the winter and too early to mark it
s middle. One thing it does do is mark the end of another solar cycle and the beginning of a new one. Or at least it would if cycles had endpoints and beginnings. For me it is always a happy event to know that the sun will start to come back soon. Living this far north the days tend to get too short for my liking. I dont really tolerate the absence of my dear sun to well. During the waning of the sun I tend to get all bearish. All I want to do is eat sleep and growl at people. I put on a layer of fat and very much wish to be left alone. I am always aware of it and try to rise above it but it is a deep drive, a chemical certainty that is only really effectively countered with significant amounts of will, which is sadly in short supply. But the return of the sun always gives me hope.

Here is hoping you all had a good holiday and are warm and safe this winter.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Winter is for baking

We had the chance to bake a loaf of no knead bread today. Wish we had time to bake a loaf everyday.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sometimes I think I should move!

Seriously, Why do I continue to live here!

Jess and I spent several hours and what might have been my last nerve shoveling and clearing the 3 foot drifts. All this with high winds and temps near zero. And to top it all off the plow took out my mailbox again!! I end up repairing my mailbox a few times each year. I tried to move it further away from the road but the letter carrier started sending me nasty grams, first it was too tall then it was too far from the road. I think I am going to have to talk to the local post master or something before I reinstall the damned thing!


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Garlic planted.

I finally got the garlic planted back on November 21 st. It was an awfuly late time to be planting but the outside temp was near 50F. So first the soil was forked over to remove weed roots and loosen the dirt. Then I added a quick dusting of agricultural lime as this was one of my oldest beds. I didn't check the pH first but it may have been a bit sour as I have added aged chicken litter and compost over the years. I then worked over the clumps with the tiller attachment for my weeder until it was a fine tilth. I then leveled the bed by raking until it looked like this.

I then set out the garlic cloves to get my spacing. I used the bottom of a one gallon bucket to space my cloves out by around 8 inch centers. And pushed them in to a depth of approximately two inches.

As you see below a 4 x 9 bed can allow you to plant quite a lot of garlic.

After planting the soil was firmed up around the cloves of garlic. I didn't water them in as rain was predicted for the next afternoon. I finished it all up by bedding the new planting in with a covering of some of the straw that was left over from our fall festival.

Now all I have to do is wait till I can enjoy the delicious garlic scapes late next spring.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Minnesota winter hardy plants

We all know that Kale is hardy and ours has survived well into the freezing days of November. This is the plant from last year that I let grow again this spring and provided us with leaves in spring and seeds in the fall.

We also discovered last year that chard is also quite hardy. It is hard to believe that these plants have already been completely frozen a number of times.

Some of the new discoveries this fall have been...

Carrots, I guess that makes sense and probably applies to all root crops.

Parsley is also quite hardy which I was surprised to find out. I figured it as a warm weather crop like cilantro but man was I wrong.

For greens we really like how late in the season Mizuna lets us have spicy salads. I think it is a brassica so I guess that makes good sense.

Well that is a few of the things still growing in our garden as of today.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Make Hay While The Sun Shines

We had one heck of a lovely weekend here. Sunny and highs in the 60's. Which while a little concerning was at least helpful in getting things done. I finally got most of the leaves gathered up and put into a new leaf bin. I still have a number of leaf piles to gather up and add to the bin. I also picked up a number of sticks from the yard and added them to a growing stick pile I hope to burn soon. I also got a bunch of room made in the garage by taking things to the pole barn.
Jess was a wizard on the home front as well. She made a nice ragu of Callister chicken with home grown carrots and herbs. She also added some of our home made tomato sauce and cooked it down until the meat fell off the bone. We also made a batch of home made pasta and served it over that. All that and managed to bake a loaf of no need bread as well.