Thursday, March 30, 2006

Me at 33

I really don't like photos taken of me, but today is a special occasion: it's my 33rd birthday. Although I'm not big into birthdays, its a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the past, present and future. So, for the sake of posterity, here's a mini-inventory of my life today:

What I love about my life: being a mom to Amazing DD; having a talented and sensitive DH; being a farmgirl at heart; having wonderful friends, family and neighbors to share my life with; meeting new farmgirl friends who share my passions.

What I don't love about my life: my silly insecurities, the fact that it's all going too fast, my impatience with people, the fact that I don't send enough cards to show people how much I'm thinking/praying/caring about them, my guilt over not scrapbooking since I spend so much time & energy blogging.

My favorite foods: I know I should say something about fruits & vegetables here, but the truth is that I'm a junk food junkie - - Doritos, Little Debbies, Mt. Dew, turtle candies, popcorn, peanut M&M's, steak dinner from That Place on the Corner. I really like a big salad with mixed greens, mushrooms, bacon/ham, hardboiled egg, and ranch dressing, too.

Music I'm into: U2, Michael Buble, Diana Krall, Fallout Boys, Green Day

Guilty pleasure: blogging; sitting in the comfy chair my dining room nook on a sunny day doing absolutely nothing; sitting in the henhouse listening to their "conversation".

I usually find myself thinking about: How to start an on-farm market; what home improvement project should be next; God's will for my life.

What I regret: No regrets - - I learned a lot from my mistakes.

My favorite childhood memory: any time with my Grampa Carbo; driving to Lake Pepin with my mom in a little Chevy Citation; being able to ride my bike all over town (pop. 500).

Most admired childhood heart-throb: Rick Springfield, Nick Rhodes (Duran Duran), Mr. Fox (seriously - he was my middle school English teacher - so hot).

Okay, so I'm LOL at all the memories flooding my little brain. This was a fun exercise. Is this what's considered a "meme"? If so, feel free to do one yourself . . .

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Rant and Rave

Neighbor Laura & I attended the Women Food & Agriculture Network's listening session on the upcoming Federal Farm Bill last night. It was a fascinating contingent of smart, savvy, and involved women (and a token male who was relegated to taking notes). The group included educators, students, owners/operators of large and small farms, organic growers and conventional growers, cash crop and livestock producers. I left the session understanding substantially more than when I arrived about the future of food and rural development policy - - and it scares me. As the saying goes, those who can’t do – teach, those who can’t teach –administrate, and those who can’t administrate –legislate.

Are those who support sustainable agriculture effectively advocating the social and economic benefits of alternative policies and buying/growing locally? It doesn't appear that way if you look at the proposed Farm Bill. Get involved, get educated, and be heard!

On a more positive note: the hens are doing very well and providing six eggs a day! I sold my first dozen to Neighbor Laura last night. DD is still enthusiastic about helping with chicken chores and its a very happy start to her day. She brought a couple to preschool to show her friends - - her teacher was very pleased with DD's "presentation and the in-depth Q&A session that followed."

We're investigating the purchase of a corn burning stove for supplemental home heating needs. Any advice? The folks at High Hopes Garden rave about theirs. DH found a few models that resemble Franklin stoves. We would like to create an original "built in" look with shelves, mantel and a desk around it. Will post drawing later...

Here's a great thought for the day:

"And then the day came, when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." -Anais Nin
[photo courtesy of Superhero Designs]

Monday, March 27, 2006

Sad Seedlings - Advice Please!

Here's the fruits of my seed starting labors. Sad, I know, but I don't know why. They are under good light (full spectrum flourescent and 60 watt for heat). They receive warm water in the tray and room temperature mist on top. What am I doing wrong? Are they supposed to look so gangly/leggy (lettuce, cabbage, herbs, broccoli, brussels sprouts, etc)? Help!

It's Official - I'm a Chicken Farmer!

DD and I went to pick up six hens on Saturday from High Hopes Garden. We got the grand tour of their lovely farm and enjoyed some tea and homemade brownies. After a few comical moments trying to catch "handpicked" chickens, we got them loaded up and headed home. DH put the finishing touches on a beautiful "hen spa" and the girls settled in on their new digs.

DD with the girls in their new home at Gracious Acres:

The girls enjoy an afternoon snack:

Like any new mother, I had to go out and check on them every few hours to make sure they were okay. I haven't been up early on a Sunday morning in ages, but I was up and out the door at 6:30 am and I was rewarded with three fresh eggs! At church, during the "joys/concerns/announcements" part of the service, I got up and told everyone that I was officially a chicken farmer. I'm sure I will be the butt of many jokes and morning coffees, but I really don't care!

Later in the afternoon, I let the girls out onto their "terrace" and was relatively comfortable that they would stay in and predators would stay out. I came outside later to discover, however, that chickens can fly over a six foot fence. The Aracauna, now affectionately known as "Bleep", flew the coop and I chased her for about 20 minutes by myself and five minutes with DH to get her back in. There is now strategically placed netting over the top of the terrace. I left the little door open today so they could go in and out. Their food and water is outside - - is that a good idea, by the way?

Update on the super secret date night: took DH to the last Blackhawks hockey game of the season and it was fantastic. Wore my MN Wild sweater and everything. It was a great game with plenty of fights and excitement. Grammy Deb took DD to "The Shaggy Dog" movie and they had a great time, too.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Happy Friday

I'm so happy that it's Friday! This week flew by with my trip to Decorah and other activities going on. The Silos & Smokestacks conference was great, the Hotel Winneshiek was gorgeous, and Decorah is really beautiful - - lots of historical buildings, a restored downtown with great retail shops, and the scenery is so picturesque.

On the way home, I made a stop at Seed Savers Exchange. It was still closed for the season, but the gal working inside saw me wandering around and was kind enough to let me inside to peek. What a fabulous place! I WILL be returning soon.

Also stopped at Barn Happy outside Cedar Falls. I just love that place, too. Picked up a dozen eggs (they were so big, you couldn't close the carton!), a loaf of honey wheat bread, some creamed honey, and some sweet rolls. Their Spring Open House is April 8th from 9 am - 3 pm. Its a great old barn featuring Iowa products, painted furniture, antiques, veggies (in season), light lunches and great coffees, and a great atmosphere.

This is Uncle George, who has been helping us with the chicken/garden shed. He's in his late 80's and could outwork DH or me any day of the week:

After another runaway incident, Leah the cat is home again and spends a lot of time in the house observing her human counterparts:

And this my Amazing DD on day 1 of construction - - she makes a great "supervisor":

This is the sheep barn at the Iowa State Fairgrounds - - it's really a beautiful, but overlooked piece of art:

[Farmgirl Fare will also enjoy this] See the little ram heads above the "Sheep Barn"?

Taking my DH on a "top secret date night" tonight . . .

DD and I are going to visit High Hopes Gardens tomorrow afternoon - - I've been looking forward to this for a long time . . .

Have a great weekend, y'all!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Under Construction

As you can see, I took a week off from work (and blogging) to help DH build the new chicken/garden shed. Wow - - it was a lot more work than I had anticipated...imagine that! In four days, we got the floor down, walls up, roof on, doors & windows set, shingles, paint and part of the siding on. Yes, siding. It is leftover from the house.

The shed is 12' x 8' with a wall in between (half for the chickens, half for garden stuff).

Next, we need to schedule the Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting!

We also took a couple days to go down to Des Moines to stay at the Adventureland Inn. DD's skin is still puckered up from all the swimming she did. We stopped at the Woodsmith Store out by Living History Farms and took in the Home & Garden Show. It was a nice little getaway.
Heading to Decorah to the Silos & Smokestacks Conference at the Hotel Winneshiek. Very excited!

Friday, March 10, 2006


My good friend J (maid of honor at both of my weddings) told me last night that she's pregnant . . . with twin boys! I'm just so excited for her! She lives in New York City, and I just hate that we're so far apart.

In college, we lived in the same apartment complex for part of the time. Our significant others were both in law school at the same time, so we would watch The Real World (New York & LA) and ER together and gripe about what law school does to these poor souls. Thankfully, her relationship was strong enough to last.

She's incredibly smart, savvy, and stylish and spent the last 10 years successfully navigating the cut-throat business of advertising and media. When we moved back to Iowa, I felt like I lived vicariously through her.

When I was 7 months pregnant, I flew to NY to visit and she showed me a great time. When I had DD, she flew in to see us.

She's a good, old soul and I know that she'll make a wonderful mother - - congrats darlin!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Another Day in Paradise

Downloading some photos from my camera and I was reminded once again that "it's a wonderful life". . .

The Farmer's Wife is more literary and prolific in her description of this photo, but here's my version of morning fog:
DD with just a few of the beads Grammy brought back from Mardi Gras: Celebrating Steve's birthday last week:

Steve and DH have been friends since they were about 11 years old. Steve's parents were DH's "second family" and he spent oodles of time with them. They were the hosts at our wedding reception and are wonderful people. DD calls them Grampa Bob and Gramma Pat. Bob is always trying some new recipe or building a musical instrument. Pat is the "go to gal" for many things: the best taco recipe, crafty things, and parenting advice.

These are just a few of the fun and fabulous folks I get to spend Wednesday nights with at Praise Team practice:

And here's that new shirt I was bragging about yesterday:

DH and I went to price out some of the materials for the chicken/garden shed yesterday. I almost feel guilty about it, but since I have no outbuildings on the place that I can retrofit, I figure we might as well get quality materials and "do it right the first time." The chickens will be so spoiled (and happy).

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Spring Fever

I found this picture from last summer and it makes me absolutely ache for spring.

Not that I'm looking forward to mowing the "front 40" every week, but just the feel of the sun on my shoulders, finding any excuse to be outside with DD, getting my hands dirty, communing with nature - - it's intoxicating!

Trying to convince DH that the trees you see in the background (flowering plums) need to be replaced with fruit trees (apple, cherry, pear, plum) and berries. He's not the kind of guy to yank a tree out of the ground on purpose, so this task will require my best lobbying skills.

DH put up the grow lights for me this weekend; he's a bit miffed because I made a pretty big deal about needing them as soon as possible but I haven't planted one single seed yet. High Hopes Gardens says it's too early. Not So Virtual Homestead already has several planted. What's a wannabe farmgirl to do?

I wandered into Thiessens (a farm supply store) yesterday and made a bee-line to the poultry supply section to see if they had their chick display. It's all ready to go, but the chicks won't be delivered until today. I asked the gal at the counter a lot of questions and she was so helpful, patient and nice. I did pick up the Hobby Farms magazine (a waste of $5) and a long sleeve t-shirt that has a cool "farmgirl" logo in red (will post photo tomorrow).

Carpooling with DH lately to save a few bucks on gas. It's only a day or two a week, but its a nice excuse to spend an extra hour together.

Friday, March 03, 2006

"100% Natural"

My DH and I went to Arby's for lunch the other day. The sign that greeted us as we walked in the door said something to the effect of: "Now offering 100% All Natural chicken".

Cool, I thought - - the mainstream is finally getting it. Then I read a little more from the propaganda at each table: "no water, salt, or phospates injected." Oh . . . so that's it.

Granted, I'll give Arby's credit for going this far. But, I want happy chickens, too. Not chickens that have spent their entire lives in cramped, dirty, dark confinement. I want chickens who have free run of the yard, who aren't de-beaked, who aren't chock full of antibiotics and growth hormones.

I had the french dip you think those sandwiches are made from happy cows?

"The Appraisal" - Grant Wood

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Country Girl's Creed

by Jessie Field Shambaugh

I am glad I live in the country. I love its beauty and its spirit. I rejoice in the things I can do as a country girl for my home and my neighborhood.

I believe I can share in the beauty around me – in the fragrance of the orchards in the spring, in the bending wheat at harvest time, in the morning song of the birds, and in the glow of the sunset on the far horizon. I want to express this beauty in my own life as naturally and happily as the wild rose blooms by the road side.

I believe I can have a part in the courageous spirit of the country. This spirit has entered into the brook in our pasture. The stones placed in its way call forth its strength and add to its strength a song. It dwells in the tender plants as they burst the seedcases that imprison them and push past the dark earth to the light. It sounds in the nesting notes of the meadow lark. With this courageous spirit I too can face the hard things of life with gladness.

I believe there is much I can do in my country home. Through studying the best way to do my everyday work I can find joy in the common tasks done well. Through loving comradeship I can help bring into my home the happiness and peace that are always so near us in God’s out-of-door world. Through such a home I can help make real to all who pass that way their highest ideal of country life.

I believe my love and loyalty for my country home should reach out in service to that larger home that we call our neighborhood. I would join with the people who live there in true friendliness. I would whole-heartedly give my best to further all that is being done for a better community. I would have all that I think and say and do help to unite country people near and far in that great Kingdom of Love for Neighbors which the master came to establish – the Master who knew and cared for country ways and country folk.

Still life gourds under the dogwood bush:
Winter storage:

Beautiful boy (Tiger):