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.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Overdue Update

Well not a lot has gone on here as of late. We had one of the coldest and wettest Octobers on record and that has slowed down happenings in the yard and garden, not to mention sapping much of my usual fall enthusiasm. I usually go into "bear mode" some time in mid November but this year I have had to fight it off much sooner.
I did get the chance to clean up the spent tomatoe vines and the bean trellises last weekend. I also recently acquired 3 waste packing crates from work. So far they are destined to be a duck house next spring, a possible fish house this winter and a garden shed next summer. I really hate to see decent materials go into the waste stream and I was glad of the opportunity to divert these to re-use. Currently they are in a state of partial reassembly in the pole barn. I hope to have them finished soon.
It has been too wet to deal with the leaves yet. I am hoping to gather them for use as bedding in the chicken coop this winter. The chickens shred the leaves for me and along with their waste it makes a great addition to the compost pile. You can also make such great soil amendments and mulches out of leaves and so many bags of them have been residing by the curb up near work that it is a good thing we don't have a truck yet or I think I would have brought home half a ton already.
Also I got a wonderful care package from Jo over at 14 Acres. We had talked about trading seeds so Jo sent me a bunch of seeds. I can't wait for the opportunity to sit down and go through my seeds and send her a bunch as well. Well lots to do and preciouse little energy to do it. I guess I should get to it .

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fall Festival

Well last weekend we had a little celebration of the fall season here at the farm. It was so great to see so many wonderful people and gather around the fire with them. We roasted a pig and had tons of great side dishes as well. There was a canned goods swap and a pumpkin pie contest. I think a great time was had by all. My lovely wife wrote all about it over at Lefse and Kimchee so I won't go on too much about it. But it was a lot of work and bit of an extravagance financially but we will still be doing it again next year.


Saturday, October 10, 2009


In a place like Minnesota snow is inevitable. But it still always fills me with a bit of sadness to see it happen. This year it has been made worse by the fact that it happened so soon. Usually at this time of year we can get by with covering the tomatoes against a light frost. But this year it seems we will be losing most of the non freeze hardy perennials today. Hopefully it will warm up a bit soon as now I will have plenty of space to put in my garlic.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ted talk on food and how it shapes the world

This is a great talk about food systems and also a vision of how they shape the world we live in. I love and recommend the TED talks to anyone who wants to know more about the world. I particularly like her vision for Sitopia.

In other news it is raining here and has been for the last six days or so. I am beginning to think if it goes on much longer I may have need of an ark.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Well it has been a while since I have written. The combination of so much to finish and the diminishing daylight both conspire to keep me from the blog. We have been involved in a few new adventures around here. First Jess has started a blog about food, life and song over at Lefse and Kimchee: A life in Meals and Song. My wife is a much better writer than I will ever be, so I urge you to give her blog a read if you have the time.
Also it is now hunting season here in Minnesota and I have spent a few days in the fields looking for some high quality protein. There is an ancient native american word for the type of hunter I am and it is "Vegetarian." Truth be told I have had to press upon my friends to teach me to hunt and they have graciously obliged. But I can't always prevail upon them to take me hunting and so I have had to learn much of it on my own. I think it will be a craft that I will continue to improve upon for years to come. I have had some successes over the years, there were a few white tailed deer, a coot and a goose or two. This week I have been to a game farm and came home with 10 pheasants for the freezer but duck opener success alluded me this year. I also spent an afternoon last week walking the woods and looking for squirrels, they must have had other plans that day.
In addition to all this we have had a near frost and had to spend an afternoon/evening trying to gather it all in. We gathered quite a bit of raspberries and beans as well as the last of the tomatoes.
Now just to finish getting ready for our harvest festival in the barn.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Well we are busy gathering the seeds for next years garden. We have so far saved dill, coriander, scarlet runner beans, some white pole bean, dragon tongue beans, 4 kinds of tomato and seeds from our Red Russian kale.

More posts this weekend.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Late summer insect plague

I get these insects every year. I think they are some sort of cucumber beetle but not sure which one.

This year they seem to be more prolific and more voracious. I am sure if I could let my chickens free range a bit more they would be less of a problem. I am also thinking about growing no curcubits for a year but that would be pretty extreme and besides they seem to be willing to eat anything.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Siding and my crystal ball.

Well we are just about complete with all our siding upgrades. We have significantly upgraded the weather tightness of our house by adding sheathing under all our siding. We also upgraded some of the insulation on the south side of the house as well. This combined with the work done for us by TCSP earlier this summer really has us excited about our energy bills this winter. I am kind of amazed that I am saying that.
Around here we believe in a coming energy crunch. I am sure that at some point soon oil will be less available at anything near the prices we have gotten used to. The truth is that on a pure energy per dollar basis it looks like we will be unlikely to see anything else come along that is even remotely close to oil.
So what to do? First and foremost we as individuals need to cut our demand while we still have the resources to invest in the changes necessary. If we are still overly dependent on oil when it begins to get scarce most of us will be too busy looking for extra shifts to make energy upgrades around the home front. If we wait untill it is painfull to continue we will have missed our opportunity to make a significant change in our fortunes. Like in personal finance the time to start saving is before you need it. Once you are up against the wall it is too late to look for places to cut back. Also like in personal finnance reducing your investments made during a time of plenty will pay you back many times when things get tight. So my advice to my readers is simple, find ways to cut back on your energy usage now before you have to.


Friday, September 4, 2009

A glut of plums.

We decided today that it was time to gather in our harvest of plums. We had quite a few of them. There were a few that were damaged by insects so we gave those to the chickens.

My wife did most of the heavy lifting in making this sauce. I was more of an adviser. First she cut the plums in half and put them in a saucepan with just a pit of sugar.

After a bit of stewing and breaking them up with a wooden spoon it looked like the following.

That was looking pretty good but once you have made tomato sauce using a food mill you start to look for other things to put into it as well.

The finnal sauce ended up glossy and smooth. We left it mostly unsweetened for use in sauces and possibly sorbet. I am thinking of making a batch of barbecue sauce with some of it.

After all that we still had all these plums left over for fresh eating and cooking with.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A food weekend in pictures.

We made and processed a bunch of food this weekend.

Friday evening we started by mixing up a couple of batches of no knead bread. One was destined for for pizza dough and the other was to be baked for bread.

Saturday was a bit busier.
First my lovely bride made a batch of scones.

We then processed a batch of tomatoes into tomato sauce.

We also worked on canning some cucumber relish.

We also made a gallon of quick vegetable stock. I didn't get a picture of the stock vegetables simmering but here is the extra stock ready for the freezer.

We decided to make a recipe for corn soup that I can't find the source for now. It is basically a fresh corn minestrone.

First we cut some corn from the cobs

Then we then put the cobs into the vegetable stock to simmer.

After the vegetables were added to the stock it really started to look good.

We had the soup with a bit of the no knead bread.

We also made pizzas with our fresh vegetables and our home made tomato sauce. I didn't get
a good picture of those either but they turned out fairly well.

Jess started another batch of heirloom tomato sauce Sunday afternoon.

Soon we will have to make sauce from our abundance of plums.

All this and we cleaned house and the garage and the pole barn a bit. Can you tell that the internet was out for us almost all weekend?


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Great video

I found this video over on Permaculture TV that touches on many important topics like sustainable farming, peak oil and permaculture. It is worth your time to watch all 5 parts.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Well we are finally starting to get our tomatoes. It seems like they are starting a bit late this year. We had a cool first half to summer this year. No days in the 90"s since May up till this month. For Minnesota that is quite cool. But now that we have moved into August the temps and humidity have come up to our usual summer standards. We also started the the growing season this year as quite dry and now we have had rain almost every other day. This has resulted in a few split toms and a bit of mildew on the squash. Nothing fatal yet but I am ready for it to dry out a bit.
I am hoping to make a lot of tomato sauce this year. I hope to make a bit of heirloom tomato sauces a la Hank at Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.

In other news the insulation and siding on the house is nearly finished and should really help cut down our energy bills this year.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dragon Tongues

This year we are trying a few new types of beans. One of the new beans is the Dragon tongue beans. The have a great color and are so easy to harvest. The purple really helps you to spot the beans in the plants. They are an heirloom bush bean. The have a taste reminiscent of wax beans but better.

We decided to can some according to the dilly bean recipie in the Bells Blue book. You really need that book if you plan to start canning. We also added one of our small dried Thai peppers to each jar so I hope they end up extra dragony


Tuesday, August 4, 2009


One of the challenges of moving to an old farmstead is the inevitable old farm house. Ours had som issues that had been concerning us for a number of years. Among them was the ancient siding and the lack of sheathing behind it. Well after years of paying massively every winter to keep the place above freezing we finally have the opportunity to do something about it. So a while back Jess and I set out to find a siding contractor to remove the old siding and then insulate before putting up sheathing and siding. We had heard good things about Twin Cities Siding Professionals. Well today was day one and I am impressed so far. The team showed up on time and set to the days work. They stayed in contact with us if they had any questions the asked us what we wanted to do and listened to our wishes. They removed the siding and the cellulose and deteriorated foam insulation underneath. There were also some repairs made to areas of the house that had some rotted wood as well.We had made agreements to have the house insulated with spray foam insulation and that was also finished today. We should definitely have a much warmer and more efficient house this winter.
If it all goes this well from here on out we will be quite happy.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Scarlet Runners

So a while back I was talking with my mom about the garden and the subject of scarlet runner beans came up. My mom had never heard of them. It occurred to me that possibly other people have not heard of them as well. Well the plant below near my lovely wife is a half dozen or so scarlet runner vines twisting up an obelisk.

As you see below the beans can be quite prolific. We have been picking them young for fresh green beans. But now that the dragon tongue and borlitti beans are coming along we have been letting them get a bit bigger.

We discovered that the beans can be shucked out of the pods and boiled quickly. It takes a bit of work and the skins toughen when boiled so you still need to slip them from their skins but they make a nice addition to three bean salads.

And since they look so nice before they are boiled here is another picture of the beans before they are boiled.

And after all that they can be dried and used in soups and cassoulettes as well.
So there you have it. Scarlet Runner Beans.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


You ever have the feeling that you are starting to know all the steps and then suddenly find out you are not even dancing to the same song as everyone else? Me either, I don't dance but I imagine it would feel about like I felt on Friday when we discovered Burley Coffee.
Jess and I had gone into town to run a few errands. We decided to stop in at the Ferndale market and see what was new. We picked up a few things and as we were checking out Jess noticed a small menu card for what looked like a sandwich place. The name said Burley but otherwise it wasn't too descriptive. We had to explore a bit to find the address until we came to some buildings near the old malting plant. We found a small nondescript green building with few windows and a sign that read Burley Coffee. Inside we found a bustling coffee shop and deli sandwich place. We asked the girl at the counter how long they had been open and she told us since December. Honestly Cannon Falls isn't that big and I had not noticed a sandwich place and coffee roaster located right on the main drag! I am so slipping. I guess they are trying to avoid publicity for some reason but it is just the sort of place we would like to see in business so I am telling all of you.

As for the garden things are really coming along. Jess and I have been cooking a meal almost everyday directly from the garden. We had some hail last week and that set things back a bit but it wasn't too bad. Some of the toms got beat up and so did the big leaves but otherwise things are looking good. Even my experimental pumpkin seedlings are coming up.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Nocino part deux.

First you have to start with some walnuts that are still green. These are the nuts we gathered down at the Callister farm on Wednesday.You then quarter the nuts and trim off any bruised or damaged areas.

The next three pictures are of us making vin de noix. This is the first time we have tried it but we had so many nuts this year as a result of the Callister's generosity it seemed like a shame not to try.

By the way that is the wine that I racked to secondary back in March.

We made a carboy and a large container of nocino on Friday after work. We ran out of containers and had to go get more bottles at Ikea at the Mall of America Saterday afternoon. I won't do that again.

Below you can see the difference between the batch we made on Friday and the one we made this afternoon. You can see how quickly it darkens.

And here is the final picture of all the batches we got started this weekend.

I think people may get some nocino for christmas this year.