Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Of Christmas & Chickens

I finally had a chance to hold a chicken on Friday! To most people this would be a "so what" or "ewww, gross" moment. To me, it's a goofy, life-long dream, Martha Stewart moment. The good people of Sugar Creek Farm were kind enough to endure two hours worth of questions on basic animal husbandry, farm building & equipment needs, and the pros & cons of sustainable ag. By the way, the chicken was a beautiful white silkie ... gotta get some of those! DH's favorite was Jimmy the polish (?) with a big feather "cap." Very amusing how Matt was able to rock it to sleep - - now dh is intent on being able to do it himself!

On the way home from Osage, we stopped in Parkersburg at a couple of wonderful shops (Bluestem Winery & Art Gallery and Stewarts Antiques). The lady at Stewarts was so sweet - - she gave Grace two little dolls and gave me two books. I found a beautiful vintage ivory damask tablecloth ($7) and a galvanized 10-nest laying box! She asked what I was going to do with the nesting box and I told her, "put chickens in it, of course!" She says, "I'm not sure about you people." ;)

Christmas Eve was spent with Ken & Kay and 36 of our nearest and dearest in Beaman. Candlelight service in Conrad at 7:00 pm, and then my mom came to stay overnight with us. Grace was up by 7:30 on Christmas morning. She was SO excited about her skiis (dh made her a beautiful pair of oak cross country skiis that are just her size). He also made her a dressing table/desk for her room. My brother (Uncle Cole) went crazy with Grace's gifts this year: Barbie pet doctor, tea set, more Barbies, pom poms with dance music built in, etc! She had a ball! Gramma Geneen came over for brunch (omelets with farm fresh eggs & ham and homemade blueberry oatmeal muffins). To Marshalltown in the afternoon for Gramma Rempp's 90th b'day dinner party (along with 38 of our nearest & dearest).

To W'loo yesterday to find all those "after Christmas bargains" - - not a good idea! I came home with two Rubbermaid containers and a new welcome mat! I'm SO NOT a shopper!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ah, old farmhouses!

I thought I was so far ahead this morning, I went down to the kitchen to have a cup of coffee with my dh (darling husband) and dd (darling daughter). Halfway through the cup, I felt a trickle of water on my shoulder. We looked up and saw that the light fixture above us was full of water. The toilet in the bathroom (directly above the kitchen) had overflowed! We all ran upstairs to assess the damage - - apparently, the handle just needed a little "jiggle" to stop running. My dh dutifully (but crabbily) cleaned up the mess while I got ready for work. His parting comment to me was "I just wanna live here forever!" He was being facetious at best . . . cruel at worst.

I'm going to lament about my lack of a digital camera now * * sigh * * Not that my dh would have allowed me to take photos of this morning's goings-on, but so many other moments that I wish I had that handy gadget. Hmmm...after-Christmas gift to myself?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

It's a Small World After All

Anyone thinking of engaging in sustainable agriculture understands the "fits and starts" to getting a new business off the ground. When you come across someone who is knee-deep in the process and is successfully moving across the learning curve, it is certainly encouraging!

I feel like such a "voyeur" when I read the blogs from High Hopes Gardens and Sugar Creek Farm. They are all so brave and courageous to share their daily lives with the world. Their stories and experiences, successes and "teaching moments" tell me a great deal about their character. I truly believe they represent all that I love about Iowa.

My new friend at Sugar Creek Farm encouraged me to "write more." So here it is, Kelli. You and Linda at High Hopes are true "farmgirls" in my book!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Let It Snow!

Lots of snow this weekend, scary travels, and peaceful moments. Started snowing Thursday (4 inches). Snowed again Friday night and all day Saturday. No wind, so it piled in the driveway. Very cold temps (-17 this morning).

Kay and I had planned to go to Waterloo Saturday, but only made it to Grundy Center (and got all of our shopping done there). By the time we got back to Beaman (1 pm), the roads were nasty. We headed back to the farm and stayed put. I strapped on the cross-country skiis and traveled up and down the landing strip - - blazing a new trail not as fun as a well-established one. Tucker ran circles around me the whole way. Brett and Grace were busy baking raisin bread and sweet chex mix.

Sunday morning was sunny and the snow sparkled like diamonds in the front yard. I had Lay Speaker class in Hudson in the afternoon and Mom made a wonderful meal of homemade beef & vegetable soup (with klutches, of course), crescent rolls, and ice cream sandwiches.

Some busy weeks ahead with holiday parties and work activities. Thank God for this time of year to reflect on our many blessings and be grateful for His Son's birth and saving grace!

Monday, November 28, 2005

With much thanks

Thanksgiving was a wonderful holiday this year - - so much to give thanks for, so much to hope for. We had dinner (more commonly known as "the great feast") at Robin & Andy's. In attendance were Mark & DJ (Marcus & Heather), Tom & Deb, Robin & Andy (Matt & Justin), and us. Ken & Kay weren't there, and it was a great disappointment to us all.

Went to my mom's for supper (another "great feast"). Gramma Geneen, Wade & Laura, Blake, Kimber & Bryce. Took a lot of pictures.

Quick (unsuccessful) shopping trip on Friday.

Mom came over Saturday night and we watched The Polar Express.

The Simpsons took Grace home with them after church, so Brett and I had a wonderful, quiet afternoon together.

Terrible winds last night with lots of rain. The house was actually shaking! Thankfully, we didn't lose any shingles. But, we did lose the back storm door - - needed to be replaced anyway.

Constant Christmas music on the radio today - - life is good!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Farmgirl by Mary Jane Butters

A farmgirl is anyone
who sews or knits or weaves
(or wants to learn how).

A farmgirl remembers
her mother or grandmother paring apples for pie.

A farmgirl believes in the strong arms of friendship,
community and the just plain fun of being together.

A farmgirl believes in connection.
a farmgirl ...
isn’t afraid to go it alone.

A farmgirl takes joy in the quiet satisfaction
of making things with her own hands.

A farmgirl wants a world that is sane, and just,
and clean, and is willing to do her part to make it so.

A farmgirl doesn’t have to live on a farm.
There’s a farmgirl in all of us.

Farmgirl is a condition of the heart.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Painful Truth [WARNING this entry contains content contrary to widely accepted farming practices]

Why is it that in Iowa, a state most often self-identified with personal responsibility, morality, and a firm desire to have the heavy hand of government leave them alone is almost always the one caught red-handed as hypocrites, not only accepting, but seeking government handouts?

Some argue that without these government subsidies, our ability to negotiate in world trade would be hindered. What happened to free trade and capitalism?

Some say that farmers can’t afford the inputs, land payments, and the cost of purchasing and maintaining the large equipment necessary to farm the acreage needed to break even. The buildings full of large, expensive equipment wouldn’t be necessary if farmers would learn to “get by” with 350 or less acres. There are also issues of "keeping up with the Joneses."

Others argue that the subsidies are utilized to assist the local economy. How? Ask the local car dealer (farmers around here buy new vehicles nearly every year). Ask the local lumberyard and contractor (farmers receiving some of the largest subsidies in this county are known to build the fanciest homes in town). And, of course, ask the local bar owner (you’ll find many of those shiny new pick up trucks parked in front of the bar every afternoon). This abject behavior gives all of us involved in agriculture a bad name. There’s also a common reaction among farmers to not want to discuss their farming operations; is it due to the fact that they might reveal just how much you and I are paying to subsidize their chosen vocation?

Dick Thompson of Practical Farmers of Iowa asserts that by having a small farm (350 acres or less), owner/operators “are able to manage each acre with exceptional care, minimizing reliance on the sure-fire chemistry of Monsanto and Dupont – thus minimizing cost and environmental damage as well.” Thompson’s farm is not organic (he uses a variation on the five-year crop rotation), but they have used pesticides only once in the past twenty years. They use no antibiotics or hormones in their pigs and cattle. They do not plant genetically modified crops, yet they have some of the highest crop yields and lowest soil erosion rates in their county. They also have a solid, although not lavish, farm income – without government subsidies, having long ago sworn to refuse them, an act of defiance that many find particularly confounding. Thompson continues, “The problem is we’re raising commodities out here, not crops. But commodities don’t make communities. It takes people to make communities.”

Friday, November 18, 2005

October 2005 at Gracious Acres

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Let the Christmas Music Season Begin

Today, I brought three holiday cd's to work: Carpenter's Christmas Portrait, Santa's Top 10 Favorites, and Midnight Clear. The Carpenters album has been a favorite since my mom bought it when I was a wee girl. Karen Carpenter singing "Ave Maria" is the essence of an angel.

Was thrilled to get a response email today from Lisa Kivirist of Inn Serendipity (Wisconsin). I'm awaiting her book "The Rural Renaissance" (co-authored by her husband John Ivanko). I anticipate spending many cold winter days cuddled up and poring over the contents.