Saturday, December 27, 2008

Weather Report

Well we finally got temps above freezing yesterday. It melted most of the snow which is both a blessing and a curse. I like the snow for it's ability to insulate plants and septic systems but am less fond of it for it's ability to blow into driveways and roads. I think we may get some more snow later today. Just an inch but that might be just the thing to insulate the ground and plants but not so much you can't drive over it. Provided the winds remain reasonable.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy solstice all.

Well it has been cold and snowy here for the past two days and we just stayed in for the most part. They say we might have a colder and snowier winter this year. I believe them. I did a bit of futile shoveling yesterday the wind blew it all back last night. I did get a chance to add some insulation to the coop as well. It has been a bit of a slow work in progress out in the coop but it is progress.
I gave the chickens the last of the test plot of wheat I grew this summer yesterday. I understand that is a tradition in some Slavic cultures. We also bought a box of clementines at the grocery store on Friday. I decided to simmer a handful of the peels with some cloves and cardamom pods and a cinnamon stick. Man the house smells great.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Well I bottled up 3 gallons of dandelion wine from 2007 summer last night along with a 5 gal batch of honey nut brown beer that had been siting on the table for the last year or so. I am really excited about the taste of the beer. I have dubbed it the forever beer. I also bottled up the last of the gift bottles of the nocino. All this may not help much with the economy these days but having over 8 gallons of alcohol in the cellar is still very reassuring.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Looks like we may be looking at a furnace upgrade soon. I would like to get a boiler and retrofit the house for radiant heat but if we do that we will have to wait till spring. More likely we will be just upgrading to a higher efficiency furnace this spring if we can hold off till then. That gets me thinking about efficiency but I think that will be the subject of a future rant.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Another neat blog

I have read this blog before but I for some reason forgot to add it to the list of recommended blogs
So here I present Holy Scrap Hot Springs. An great resource for those interested in living a more eco-friendly self sufficient life with a southwestern maker twist.

Hope you enjoy.

Me....I just shoveled snow again.

Monday, December 1, 2008

DIY sunflower biodeisel

No I am not yet even crazy enough to attempt this yet but since updated his blog on that subject this seemed like the perfect time to give his blog a tip of the proverbial hat. is a great resource whether you are into wilderness living, making maple syrup or home power generation this blog has something for you.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Good organizations.

I have been on the mailing list for Slow Food Minnesota for a while now. I keep meaning to get to more of their events but have only been to one so far. Jess and I really love their message of a slower and deeper food culture. I definitely feel that the sharing of food is one of the most basic building blocks of our society. I believe that is why we instinctively gather over food during important times in our lives. I hope you all had a wonderful gathering this week. I know we did.
In reading their newsletter I found out about the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota who are having their annual conference just over at St. Olaf. I highly recommend following the link to see who the keynote speaker will be. I will probably write more about this once we have secured our tickets.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Make Blog appears to be catching the green bug.

I have been a regular reader of the Make Blog for some time and as of late they have had a number of posts pertaining to all things hobby farmish.
Like backyard beekeeping
Backyard Poultry
Edible Estates
So I figured I would point you towards them.


Sunday, November 16, 2008


Michael Pollan does it again.

Michael Pollan is quickly becoming the spokesman for the whole of the local, small, slow anti-industrial food movement. I just finished reading his latest article from the NY times. It is a long article written as an open letter to the next president. Mr Pollan lays out the case for making less industrial food a centerpiece of solving the climate, energy and health issues facing the nation today. Among his suggestions are selecting the next white house chef with an eye to promoting small food. I think this might be an excelent position for Alice Waters to preach the gospel from though Mr Pollan stops short of directly advocating her.
In related news I have recently encountered a petition to have the new president turn all or some of the white house lawn back into productive land. I think this is a good idea but it needs to be explained to the public properly so it isn't seen as posturing like Carter wearing a sweater. Again that wasn't a bad idea just too easily mocked.

Friday, November 14, 2008

All quiet on the southern front.


Still not a great deal going on here at the farm. I picked up some supplies from the depot on the way home from work and plan to spend the weekend working on the house. Right now my focus is on energy improvements around the house. I have knocked off alot of the low hanging fruit. We have a programmable thermostat with fairly aggressive settings. I have tightened the duct work up a bit with foil tape and insulated the exposed ductwork. I am planning on adding some mastic to the ducts as well. We also have a water heater blanket and last year added a bunch of attic insulation. So now we have to look at more structural and expensive work like removing the siding and adding sheathing and house wrap or upgrading the furnace. I think the winter will be focused on improving our energy effeciency.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New update

Well it has been an abysmal long time since I posted anything here. We have now entered the long quiet season and it is getting more difficult to find interesting things to post about. We have had a few blasts of winter and things have definitely gotten colder.
I went deer hunting last weekend and got a smallish doe. We spent Monday processing deer at a friends house and now there is lots of meat in the freezer.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Well Happy Halloween. Nothing really to add just figured I should say happy Halloween.


Sunday, October 26, 2008


We have our first snow of the year. We still have chard and kale but otherwise we are now almost completely finished with the garden. We did manage to put up quite a bit of squash soup yesterday. I also dug up a rosemary and will attempt to keep it alive inside this winter.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fall is for cooking.

Jess and I made a great dinner tonight. The first course was the squash soup pictured above. The recipe is from the latest Jamie Oliver book. It is flavored with sage and rosemary from the garden. It also has a little spice from our last jalapeno. It was served with some crusty bread and Parmesan cheese. Jess also made a pot roast from the Alton Brown recipe which we had as our main course. An excellent dinner.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Earthen Ovens

Not a lot to report in way of the farm, winter is closing in. We had our first frost two nights ago and most of the leaves have fallen. Like any good mammal my thoughts have turned to food and sleep.
In the food direction I have been thinking about building and earthen oven. I am told they are great for baking breads and pizzas. We have dabbling a bit in pizza as of late summer so this might be a nice addition to the farm stead. Appropedia has 2 examples, here and here. I also love the picture and metal hat on this one. This part of the state has lots of clay so I will really have to look into this some more next spring.

Drinking New Belgium's Mothership Wit with dinner, nice belgian funk with good spice flavor.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ferndale Market

Jess and I stopped by the grand opening of the Ferndale Market in Cannon Falls this evening on the way home from of work. The have a nice selection of local and organic foods including many that are produced locally. We picked up a few items including a Lorentz potato sausage we had with dinner along with some roast home grown potatoes and pan fried volunteer tomato. Not a bad dinner.


Sunday, October 12, 2008


Last year was the first year that I planted garlic. I had good success with it. I planted a few different varieties that I purchased from SSE. I originally planted them all in separate rows. However I decided that keeping them all separate during drying and then planting them seprately again was more work thatn it was worth. So instead I mearly planted those that did the best and I figure that over time my garlic will trend twords the species that does best here. So far it looks like mostly purple varieties. All in all I planted 90 cloves so I am hoping to have plenty of garlic next year. Will have to get a garlic roaster I guess.


Friday, October 10, 2008

I have been watching the happenings of the financial world lately with the detached fascination usually reserved for horrible bus crashes. Unfortunately I am currently seated on the bus, Seated too far from the drivers to truly prevent the disaster if I was even capable of such a thing. Instead I find I have no choice but to watch it all unfold and hope chance and preparation will save me. I feel like I should be telling everyone I know what little I know about growing tomatoes and beans. I know that is fairly ridiculous. I know it is a combination of fear and a certain desire I have to test my own limits that makes me think about disaster as much as I do. I hope.

Good luck

PS lost 20 % of my retirement money in the last 2 weeks, how about you guys??

Monday, October 6, 2008

Personal food sovereignty. That is the term I have recently encountered that best describes what we are about here on our little plot. With the shape of the world economy today and the impending contraction of energy world wide it just seems prudent to be able to feed oneself regardless of happenings in far off places. I have recently been looking for what exactly my motivations are with regards to efforts here at the farm. Cost is a hard issue to argue, I could probably earn enough money at a second job to pay for the food we eat rather than attempting to grow it. Also I could probably specialize in one crop and sell the surplus to earn enough to feed us. But either of these approaches require that I rely on conditions that are not sufficiently under my control. Growing food also has conditions that I can not control, Frost, hail, insects, disease, ect. But I can control for those conditions and if I am smart I can mitigate there effect on us. Howeve conditions off the farm I can not control or mitigate so I choose to control what I can and grow my own food.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Current happenings

So lots going on here at the farm. Not as much as during the height of the summer but the days are getting shorter. So I guess there is still the same density of work after all. I have been getting things ready for fall mostly. I am thinking we should have some form of harvest party soon.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

We've got cows.

Yesterday and today I spent the day making repairs around the house patching the holes where the foundation should be in places. That is one of the frustrations of buying an old and distressed property is that you know you will find any number of farmer fixes. Every time I dig in this place I encounter some artifact or other. Usually broken glass and old nails. In the last 2 days I removed an entire wheel barrow full of junk from the vicinity of the foundation. I removed almost more junk than dirt. But the job is finished and I am feeling pretty good about the job.
Jess offered to take me into town for dinner as a reward. On the way into town we encountered a bull standing next to the road. I made Jess turn around and we went up to the house to let them know that they had a bull loose by the road. Nobody was home so Jess and I attempted to herd the bull back into the field using the Vibe. I am pretty sure that is the first time that anyone in these parts has herded cattle from a compact hatchback.The bull decided he wanted nothing to do with the car and jumped back through the electric fence. Just then the home owner came back and we stopped up to tell them what we were doing.
Then we went to dinner, but the bull stayed at home.


Saturday, September 20, 2008


Yesterday Jess and I made a batch of Chow-Chow/ Piccalilli relish. We had a ton of green tomatoes growing on the volunteer tomato plant that came up from the compost I spread earlier in the year. I was inspired by a post on making Chow-Chow over at Musings from a Stonehead. We made it according to a recipe in the Ball Blue Book. I can't recommend that book enough, especial if you don't have a kindly mentor to show you how to can.
We ended up modifying two recipes that were close. We combined the spices found in both chow-chow and piccalilli relish. The recipie was also supposed to make 7 pints but I think we added too many green tomatos because we ended up with 12 pints.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Chicken salad

Here is one little tip I have found. When I go out to the garden I bring an extra bucket. I fill the bucket with produce for the chickens. Any produce that is damaged and must be eaten soon I put in the bucket. Any dandelions I pull also go in the bucket. I then round out the bucket with a few fresh stalks of Swiss Chard and the occasional Zucchini. I also will add slugs and grasshoppers when I catch them. I bring the bucket up to the chicken yard after I finish in the garden. I find that the chickens really enjoy the treats and I know that no food is being wasted. For my trouble I get great chicken litter for use in compost and eggs as well.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rainy weekend.

It has been a rainy cool weekend. We made some spaghetti sauce from our tomatoes and had my mom down for dinner. Jess made the sauce from my grandmothers recipe . We had to make a few adjustments for roasted fresh tomatoes and fresh herbs but it turned out great. We also made another batch of plumb and raspberry sorbet. I increased the sugar a bit and the result was excellent. I added a sprig of mint to the serving and the smell was a nice addition.
I also burned some brush this weekend and brought last years spoiled straw to the garden as mulch.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Plum Sorbet

Tonight I did a bit of gardening and picked some raspberries and plums from the orchard. I found a plum sorbet recipe online. I made a small batch and man is it good. I used triple sec instead of Grand Marnier. I also added a handful of raspberries and reduced the lemon juice.
The pulp that was left over from the process went into a sauce pan with some more sugar and water. I added some pectin and made a small amount of freezer jam as well. No waste and 2 great products. I am already looking forward to making more plum jam.


Thursday, September 4, 2008


Been working on a number of things lately. Jess and I have replaced a large portion of the siding on the second floor of our house. Also since we had the siding off we decided to do something crazy like adding sheathing and insulation.
In other note the tomato tribbles have begun to colonize the kitchen. Other wise we are eating up our potatoes and garlic with steaks. We didn't grow the steaks...yet.


Thursday, August 28, 2008


Last night we sweetened and filtered this years Nocino. Nocino is a sweet walnut liquor. The walnuts are picked green and sliced. I used black walnuts that I was able to get from a buddy at work instead of common walnuts. The Italians usually make this with grappa but I used good quality vodka. The liquor is spiced with cinnimon, vanila and cloves with just a bit of lemon zest.
I gave this just a bit of a taste as I sweetened it and I am really looking forward to this after it has melowed for a few months.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Potato update

I harvested the remainder of the potatoes yesterday night. The other barrels produced better than the first one but still not as much as I had hoped. I was quite impressed with the Rose Finn fingerling potatoes. I will have to post pics of some of the crazy caltrop shapes some of them grew into. Tonight we will roast a few with home grown garlic and pork chops in rosemary olive oil with citrus and crab apples. It is kind of a run on sentence but a great dish.

More to post soon

Monday, August 25, 2008

Quick update

I haven't forgotten about the blog or anything. Jess and I have been working on getting the garage finished. The garden is really getting into it's stride and the baby chicks are coming of age. Now that major painting operations have finished I hope to spend more time in the garden and orchard and updating the blog with pictures.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Current happenings.

I am still trying to catch up with the garden from being away. The weeds are definitely getting the better of me right now. There are lots of weed grasses going to seed in the garden as I type this. I plan to cover the garden in mulch and hope to start winning that battle back this week.
We harvested our first few tomatoes as well. The Beefsteak tomatoes that we grew this year have really impressed me. The romas are still coming along however. Also the baby chicks are quickly approaching adulthood. So summer is proceeding, Winter is looming. So much to do.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A smashing evening.

So apparently we should have stayed on vacation for a few more days. Jess and I managed to sneak away from the homestead for a whole 4 days. Time was spent sunning and fishing and chatting with friends. I was very relaxed until we started to head for home.
We had just traded drivers and Jess was taking over as we got close to rush hour traffic in the cities, so as not to burn my zen away prematurely. We were south Monticello when I noticed something on the road under the semi trailer in front of us. I must have been quite relaxed as I recall thinking "Hey, that's a piece of plywood." Then it took to the air and headed straight for us and I thought "Nope It's OSB" Then, "Gee I hope it misses us". It didn't.
It is a credit to Jess that she closed her eyes in time before the glass sprayed her and then had the presence of mind to get us safely to the shoulder. I think we were also lucky that while the window smashed a bunch the piece of wood was too large to go through the window. Apart from a scratch we are unharmed and the car is in the shop, but man I think I should have stayed at the lake.

Drive Safe,

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Harvest update

We harvested 2/3 of the shallots yesterday. The bulbs had been pushing out of the soil and I had put a bit more soil on those bulbs. It seems like they didn't like the attention as the ones that I added the soil to were the first ones to start wilting. We had a few really nice looking bulbs but I plan to save those for next years planting. If I can successfully store and plant those next spring I will have closed that circle. I think that is one of the main principles I need to demonstrate here on the farm. The ability to start with a crop or livestock and be able to bring up multiple cycles from the same initial starting material. To that end I am also planning on harvesting seed from some of the plants this fall.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I'm no potato farmer

I have been watching the potatoes wilt a bit as of late so I decided it must be time to dig them. I turned them out unto a tarp. I was less than impressed with the amount of potatoes. I think I wasn't providing them with enough extra water. The soil near the bottom of the bin was quite dry and there were no potatoes in the area of additional soil that I added. I am not sure about that, but I think perhaps if I was going to do this again I might put fewer seed potatoes per bin and keep them watered better. I watered all the other bins well and will hope for better results with those.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Weekend update

Things are really picking up now. We are definitely into squash season. We have been harvesting Zucchini like crazy and Jess has already made 2 zucchini breads and a batch of zucchini cookies. We are also seeing a few delicata squash starting to form. The delicatas are a sprawling squash. The kubocha is also coming along nicely. We have also harvested a few beets this last week. Jess roasted them and we had them in salads and zuchini stirfry. This morning we had a fritata made from our eggs and green beans flavored with our herbs.
I also have been going out nights and picking slugs off the rhubarb. I probably harvested a few hundred the last few days. I add them to a bucket along with some chard that had gotten long in the tooth and give the whole thing to the chickens as a midnight snack. I also placed a few beer traps out in the garden to drown the slugs. The rhubarb already seems to be doing better. This afternoon I did some digging in the garden and gave the dog a bath.

Always something to do

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Vampire Defenses Ready

I picked the garlic yesterday evening. I was afraid it was too soon but I think everything is about right. So now I am drying it on racks and getting ready to store most of it for later use. I will also have to save a few of the best garlic bulbs to replant. I am really looking forward to roasting some of this garlic this fall. I had hoped for 52 heads so as to have a bulb of garlic a week for the next year. I think taking the cloves I will need to start next years bed into account, I fell a little short of my goal but I am still happy with this years harvest.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Food Saturday

Today was a food day. Jess and I took a spin down around lake Pepin to dine at a few restaurants we had heard of recently. First we went to the Rabbit Bakery in Lake City. I had a frittata with summer vegetables and Jess had their Roast Beast sandwich. We also got a loaf of bread to take home. Then we continued to Wabasha and toured the town a bit, to include picking up some gourmet chocolate before continuing on to Nelson. We stopped into the Nelson Cheese Factory as is the law. Every year it is more and more crowded but also has such great foods it is worth the hassle. But the real treat of the trip was the Stone Barn. It is an old barn foundation that has been turned into a gourmet pizza restaurant. I really liked their pizzas it was a shame there were not more of us as we had to settle for tasting just two kinds. I also loved their massive raised herb garden. We came home with fully bellies and lots of good food and drink.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Dodged a bullet

Last Thursday we had a heck of a storm role through the area. Jess and I were at work where we lost power and had all kinds of mechanical issues. Jess told me it had looked bad in our neck of the woods. For some reason I felt unconcerned I was sure we were doing fine. But as we got closer to home I began to see corn field striped down to ribbons on a string the way hail does. Then as we got closer we began to see bean fields beaten down to mush and the occasional down tree limb. Then we got closer and we saw whole trees down and sheds and a roof with a tarp. Then as we got close to Cannon there was less damage in the valley but I was still a bit concerned. As we got closer and closer the conditions improved. I still figured we were going to lose a tree but that happens about every other year so I figured we were due. To make a long story longer, we got home and had only a few branches on the ground and some severely leaning sunflowers. I had heard that a tornado had passed close by in Vasa and Welch. So I went to Red Wing on Saturday and was shocked to see whole barns blown down not 5 miles from my house. As I continued in to Red Wing I saw grain bins that looked like they had been punched by giants and trees snapped off as if hit by low flying aircraft. Now 5 miles may seem like a long way off but remember that around here that is perhaps only as many neighbors as a city block or two. So I feel close to these people, but close like you feel to a neighbor a couple blocks over. Close enough to be concerned but not close enough to know the families or feel right in stopping. So I just drove on. Besides there were so many damaged homes and farms. I guess like my hail storm a few years ago, all you can do is mend what you can mend and hope for better weather tomarrow.

Stay safe,

Sunday, June 29, 2008

More notes on meat

In the news this morning there was a story about South Koreans rioting due to the governments decision to allow the import of American beef. Should it not worry us that the populace of a country would take to the streets and riot at the prospect of eating the food we eat everyday? What is it about our beef that leads to violence in the streets? Is it possible we should also be concerned? Am I phrasing all of this as questions to avoid being sued by the cattle industry?
Perhaps we should be looking at eating more pastured, grass fed meats. The good news is that it isn't hard to do. With the internet, today you can find a local farmer and purchase directly sometimes online and have it shipped directly to your home. And best of all is that if you have the ability to store a large quantity in a freezer you can even save money over the grocery store meat you are used to.

That is my opinion anyway.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

New chick's home

I modified the old chicken tractor and Jess helped to set up the fencing and we set up a broody coop for the new chicks. My hope is that by having them inside chickengrad and getting them exposed to the other chickens slowly they will become part of the flock gradually.
I also planted up a half dozen Aurora peppers and a few herbs in a planter on the deck. I also planted three hills of kobucha squash in the garden.


Chicks !

I had one of my hens go broody on me a few weeks back so I decided to see if she was able to actually hatch them. Well she could and she did. I went out today and found this.

Friday, June 20, 2008

a weeks work done

I spent this week working around the property. I managed to make some repairs to the house that I hope will result in a more efficient home. I repaired some damaged siding on a small section of the house. I had to tear off the old siding. The first thing I found was no sheathing under the cracked siding on that part of the house. I removed the cellulose and old foam insulation. I then upgraded the framing in that area. I then had to caulk the joints and seal off the air leaks with expanding foam. I then installed new fiberglass insulation and plywood sheathing. I finished it all off with extensively modified cedar siding and plenty of paint. I also repaired a basement window and installed some storm windows a friend helped me make up last fall.
On the garden front I got a bit more digging done. I have been impressed by the potatoes growth. I am unsure if they are growing tubers but the plants have really been growing well. Also the scarlet runner beans are starting to flower and are quite attractive.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Good Friday

This was an off Friday for Jess and I. Which was fortunate as I received through a friend of a friend an opportunity to go shoot sporting clays in a charity tournament. The tournament was a benefit for the Starkey Foundation. I had the privilege of filling out a spot on a team sponsored by Popp Communications. I had heard of the Starkey Foundation before but I wasn't aware that Starkey was also a company based in Minnesota. The event was held out at the Minnesota Horse and Hunt Club. They even had dignitaries from the NRA there, but I was most impressed when Lou Farrigno walked into the room. I was a big fan of the Hulk TV show in the 70's. I had a great time shooting and the swag was amazing. All in all a lot better than a day at work.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More plants

Jess and I stopped to pick up a few new plants on the way home from work today. We picked up 3 kinds of basils, another dill weed and a pair of rosemary plants as well. I plan to keep them in the garage until this weekend as we are due for another round of rain storms.

Stay dry,

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Recent plantings

We have gotten a lot of new crops started this week. We planted a row of sunflowers and they are already coming up. We also planted some amaranth as well. I hope to use that as chicken feed. I finished that bed off with a row of beans too. I also planted some envy edemame this afternoon. I spent an few hours removing more soil to produce more garden beds and also to start getting the wildness that is the garden under control.


Sunday, June 1, 2008

Hail of a night

Some times I wonder who exactly I cheesed off.
I mentioned earlier in the weekend that last year we had a hail storm that seriously mangled the garden. Well it happened again last night. It wasn't as bad as last year as there wasn't as much wind pushing the hail but it still did some damage. I think that we may have lost the basil seedlings and also one of the tomato plants looks a little sickly today. The rest look damaged but I think they will survive.
Today I spent a few hours in the garden. I broke some more sod. I am hopeful that once I have removed most of the grass and weeds from the garden I will spend less time weeding and more time planting and harvesting.
I also started a new bed in the corner of the garden near the potatoes using the sheet composting method. I weed whiped the weeds down tho the dirt. Then I put down a thick layer of newspapers . I then put a 3 inch layer of composted chicken litter. I plan to finish it up with a few bags of dirt. I plan to put squash in that bed. Possible the delicata squash or zucchinis.

Better days,

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Interesting wind turbine idea

I came a crossed this video last night.

The basic idea is that you use an array of inexpensive turbines that are linked by gearing to drive a single generator. It looks like something that is in the testing and refinement stage now, but I am really impressed with the idea. I would guess that the efficiency is not that high but since you could always just install more turbine units to increase your total area that is less of an issue. That is of course if you have the area. It also looks like they are a bit noisy. I think that is probably an alignment issue. I suggest to them they look at a dual opposing herringbone gear arrangement.It should take care of some of the rattling and much of the axial thrust. It is the the same gearing arrangement used in naval steam turbine ship reduction gears. Which is where I learned of it. If you are from MotorWind and want to use this design, please do so. If it works out I would love to help test the new design. Also you may want to consider removing the music from your homepage.