Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Did We Really Get That Much Planted?

It was a nice, long weekend at the farm. It rained Friday night & early Saturday. We did a few minor things inside before heading out to do some tree maintenance. Last weekend we were going to put cardboard around the hazelnut & chestnut trees but we ran out of time. We did get it done on Saturday along with tree protectors. The hazelnuts are all leafed out and growing. The chestnuts are just starting to leaf out. We also seeded clover in the swales to keep the weeds under control.

Apple leaf with Asian Beetle
We started working in the garden after we finished up by the trees. I still can't believe how much we got done. Here is a list of what was planted Saturday and Sunday...

Rhubarb roots (3)

Tomatoes-Brandywine, Amish Paste, Wisconsin 55, Lg. Red Cherry, Cherry Roma and Beam's Yellow Pear

Sunflowers-Mongolian Giant, Manmouth & Titan

Popcorn-2" Strawberry, Baby Fingers & Smoke Signals

Carrots -Scarlett Nantes & Scarlett Keeper

Zucchini-Cozelle & Black Beauty

Cucumber -Bushy and can't remember other kind

Melon-Early Silverline

Cantaloupe-Healy's Pride & Pride of Wisconsin

Beans-Calypso, Charlevoix, Ireland Creek Annie, Henderson, Hidatsa Red, Lina Cisco's

Squash-Summer, Verte Et Blanc, Jaunet Et Blanc, Table Queen, Waltham Butternut, Potimarron, Amish Pie, Long Island Cheese, Sweet Potato

Gourds-Dipper, Bird's Nest, Chinese Miniature, Warted

Pumpkin-Small Sugar, Young's Beauty, Dickenson's

Potatoes-Rose Finn Fingerlings, Yukon Gold, Yellow Finn

Borage-for pollination

We also planted 10 tree seedlings from the Arbor Day Foundation. Not sure what kinds they are.

Even though it seems like we should be done...we have more to plant this coming weekend.

Peppers, leeks, parsley, basil, peas, pole beans, cabbage, brussels sprout, cauliflower & broccoli. Then we should be done!

So along with the greens we planted the week before, we should have plenty of food to eat, freeze, can & dry.

I also did another soil test & sent it today. I did one last fall too. I want to compare the pH levels on the tests and the first test didn't show the nitrogen level.

It has been raining the last couple days up there so things should be popping up by the time we get there.

This is our "Little House on the Prairie" view

West view of barn with solar hot water panels Sunday night we went over the the neighbors behind us for dinner. Fresh asparagus, potatoes, salad...yumm. Had a really great time. Mike is a chiropractor & runs a holistic healing center in town and his wife Brenda is a stay at home mom who is active in the community. There were two other couples there too. Both couples are farmers and small business people. One couple runs a CSA and an artisan bakery in town & the other is starting a fermented drinks business. Great conversation with like-minded people, beautiful sunset, who could ask for more! We have made so many new friends in Wisconsin and always look forward to the trip up.

Chives are blooming. This is what a battery looks like after it explodes. I hope you never have to see one. The golf cart quit working Monday so Steve was trying to fix it. It has a seat that flips up and the six batteries sit under it. He had just put the seat down, sat on it, turned the key and "bam!" it exploded. I was on the other side of the barn and it was like a gun shot. I ran to the barn to see what was wrong & he was standing looking at the batteries, shaking his head. He is okay, but had a headache for the rest of the day from the fumes. The battery acid leaked all over the garage floor so we put baking soda on it (luckily I had a big box of it) and neutralized it.

Enough excitement for the day. I went to visit Lizzie & the baby before we left for home. They are doing great. The baby has gained back her birth weight & Lizzie is in good spirits. She will be able to get around more in a couple weeks.
Traffic was heavy around Madison but wasn't as bad as we thought it would be on the drive home.
We will be leaving Friday again for the farm. Glad it is a short week :-)

Monday, May 18, 2009

We Ran Out of Hours in the Day

It was a busy & productive weekend. Saturday I wrote about the things we wanted to accomplish on Sunday. Here's how we did...

1. 25 Strawberry plants in the ground. That makes 100 total in the garden.

2. Two rows of red and yellow onion sets planted.

Here is Steve tilling the soil in preparation.

2. 12 Raspberry bushes planted (6 Boyne & 6 Autumn Bliss) and 6 blackberry bushes planted.
3. Four rows done in the garden. Lettuce, spinach, beets, radishes, carrots, cilantro.

Before we left for home, Steve and I mowed some more and he trimmed. Then he got out his new toy. It's a flame thrower to get rid of weeds. We refuse to use any kind of Round-Up type products and he hates weeds on the driveway so he can play with fire now. :-)

This will also be great for getting rid of weeds around the trees. Here is a link to the one we have. The Red Dragon.

No new news about the factory farm except that the fields are being tilled at the one site near the Amish school. We drove past the site closest to us when we left to see if that one is being tilled too, but it's not. This could mean nothing or that they have taken the site by the school off their list. Or maybe they wouldn't be ready this year to start & they will plant them all. Who knows. I do know that when I'm outside working, it rarely invades my thoughts. Which is great. I need that escape from it.

We didn't have time to work on the hazelnuts & chestnuts or plant the chard & kale. So that is on the top of next week's list along with the tomato plants, potatoes, borage, peppers, etc.

We left at five & got home at nine. We really do need more hours in the day :-)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Quick Post...Busy Day

Just a quick post tonight.
We got to the farm last night & went right up to see our Amish neighbors. They are doing great. Lizzie looks good & the baby is so cute! She has a touch of jaundice & is tiny (around 5 lbs.). Her name is Fanny. I held her for about a half an hour while she slept. Wrapped in blankets with a tiny white bonnet. Perfect. Their next youngest David was so cute with Fanny. He would touch her face and smile at Mom. We sat around and talked for a couple hours & headed home.
Today we visited with our other neighbor who is leaving for work for six months tomorrow. He is a retired Navy guy & supervises dives now. So we didn't get started doing anything until after noon. Mowing was the top priority today. It was too windy to plant any seeds in the garden & quite chilly. We took turns on the mower. Also, new stakes were put by some of the trees we recently planted and a huge pile of firewood was stacked. When we took a break for supper, Eli came over with some baskets that one of the "followers" of this blog ordered from them (I will be emailing you soon Joyce) and inside one of the baskets was a homemade rhubarb pie for us. Well, it's almost gone now :-). It was really good. After dinner we mowed a little more, put in a few more stakes, unloaded some drywall & plywood and now are having a beer. Ahhhh..... we can get a good nights sleep and get up early to start over again. It will be garden planting time....25 strawberry plants, 6 raspberry, 6 blackberry bushes, chard, kale, lettuces, spinach, radishes onion sets, beets, peas. Then when we finish that we'll start working on the hazelnut & chestnut trees. We cut up cardboard squares, put a hole in the middle with a slit going to it & will place them around each tree. That's 110 of them. We will also sow clover in the swales. Then if we have any strength left, we'll drive home.
So I'm thinking of going to bed now....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

On the Home Front

I have been lax at posting lately. Not positive, but I think the therapy is "kicking my butt". I am dreaming non-stop at night and am falling asleep early. I am sound asleep when Steve comes in to kiss me "bye" in the morning. Hope I'm not this way all during the therapy.

Yesterday my sister & I took Mom out to lunch for her 80th birthday. She is in an assisting living home now and doesn't get out as much as she used to. The family also had a Mother's Day/birthday party for her on Sunday at my brother's house. After we dropped her off, we went to TAILS, an animal shelter in DeKalb. I have been thinking about getting Mia a companion to keep her company. It must be so hard to work there. I would want to take them all home! I was just looking and didn't see one that fit the criteria... 1. not to big because Mia is a small cat 2.under a year old because I think Mia would take to that better, maybe be a mother to it. I haven't convinced Steve yet either. That might take a while :-)

It's almost time to get my garden planted in Wisconsin. Last year we planted late due to the cool weather.
This is my "growing" area. The windows are large and face south. The door faces west. Lots of bright sun shines here. It doesn't look like much from this picture but there is more on the floor (at least 12 tomatoes) and three containers of potatoes growing "eyes" and waiting to be planted. In the corner there is a card table with about 25 plants on it. The tomatoes have really shot up in the last week. I'm hoping for good weather this weekend at the farm so I can plant some seeds and the rest of the strawberries that came last week. I am still waiting on three rhubarb plants and then my orders should all be here. I have been debating whether to plant anything this year at our townhouse. Last year it was a few tomatoes and some chard along with mint & basil. I did pick up a basil and a lemon balm plant a couple days ago. My basil seeds are slow going. The hot pepper seedlings are pretty small too so I might have to buy some of those.

I will post again about Lizzie and the baby this weekend when we get to see them. It's hard not being able to just call them and find out how they are doing. Just a few days away...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Great News!

Lizzie and the baby are home! I received an email this morning from our neighbor in Wisconsin that Lizzie had a baby girl and they are home and doing fine. When we were at the hospital last weekend, they said the baby weighed over 5 pounds but wanted her to go to June 10th to make sure the baby's lungs were mature enough. That is all I know so far, but am planning on calling the neighbor later today to find out how they are doing. I am amazed that the baby is home with them. This makes my day, week, month... :-)
Stay tuned for an update....

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

We stayed home from the farm this weekend to celebrate Mother's Day with our families.
I hope everyone has a nice, relaxing Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Lightening Rod

I'm standing on the weathered, splinter-filled dock. Listening to the sounds of hurried motors traveling across the unsettled water. Thunder in the distance. A warning to all. Get off the lake. The waves, rolling into shore, cleansing the tawny, sandy beach. They have frothy, bubbling tips, sliding in like a surfer catching the big wave. The metallic smell of ozone fills the air as the loons cry for their mates across the lake. Taking flight from a pine tree hanging low over the water, the Great Blue Heron. Long legs trailing behind, making sounds like an old saw cutting through thick wood. His displeasure obvious to all around him. Another roll of deep, undulating thunder. Closer this time. A fishing boat rocks up to the dock, fighting against the steel blue waves. The sky churning up dark gray clouds, filled with anticipation.

The first soft raindrops fall, giving the lake a much needed sip of fresh water. Like teardrops from an angry sky. The lake reacts by forming small circles, opening it's mouth for a refreshing drink.

Fishing poles, tackle box, depth finder and trolling motor. Out of the boat, avoiding the left over remains of a duck's last dinner. The fisherman, still in his boat. Talking of the approaching storm. More boats racing by to get to the safety of shore. Everyone knows that in a storm, a boat in the water is like a potato in a deep fryer. Thunder means lightening.

The look of fear crosses the fisherman's face. "Run!" he says. I look confused, but at the same instant feel a tingling sensation. "Your hair is standing on end!" he cries. He is out of the boat and running with me through the wet grass to the cabin in the woods up the hill. Fishing equipment forgotten as the adrenaline rush of fear moves our bodies, while the crashes of thunder vibrate our eardrums.

In the cabin, safely looking out the window towards the lake. Sheets of rain moving across the lake. Lightening striking the forest beyond.

The storm moves on quickly. Fresh dirt, grass smell, birds beginning to chirp.

I'm standing on the weathered, splinter-filled dock.

My New Best Friend

Well, I may be exaggerating about that :-)

But it is such a great thing to have. My thoughts are very fleeting these days. One second it's there, the next it's gone. So I just pull out the digital voice recorder & wa-la !

The thought is saved until I can write it down. My therapist suggested I get one a few months ago, but I kept forgetting about it :-( .

It is only 1 1/2" x 4" so I can stick it in my pocket. I used it in the garden this weekend to record what kind of strawberry plants were in which rows so I could write it down on my garden plan later. Anyone with a lot on their minds (isn't that all of us) would benefit from one of these. It was about $40 in a Radio Shack store in Wisconsin but maybe you could find one on sale. I bought it the week I stayed at the farm so I could remember all the details of the county & township meetings.

Organized I'm not, but at least now I have two brains as Eli said the other day, so that should help.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Email from Southern Alabama-Factory Farm

This is an email I received after requesting people write to me about their experience with factory farms. I hope I receive more. The more information we get out about people living next to one of these the better. Educate the public then maybe policy will change. I have removed the name to protect him from any backlash. Here is the letter...

I'm in south Alabama. My wife and I moved here in the Fall of 2000 when we bought 40 acres and an old house. I've been working on this house since then with a complete re-build. In 2003 we adopted a baby boy and had a baby girl 16 months later. So now, we have kids! There were poultry barns (CAFO's) north about three miles and a couple of small ones to the south, closest being 1.5 miles away. We could not smell chicken sewer unless we used some on our fields. Three years ago, a neighbor to the north and west of us put in 6-40 x 500 poultry barns. They hold around 27,000 chickens each. When a batch of chickens are ending, the stench from this outfit is nauseating. Then there is the incinerators burning. That is also gagging...This same neighbor bought 20 acres on my north side. Now he wants to put up 2 of the newer/larger barns that hold 44,000 birds each. These building and I suppose a "litter barn" are about 1000 ft. from my house. I've only been able to keep them from building because I own the land that the road to this property run on, or a portion of it. I'm guessing I'll not be able to prevent them from going in, but I'm doing what I can. If these get built, I must move to protect the health of my children. There is much evidence that there is no good to come from the emissions from these and other CAFO's. Not only are they nasty, unhealthy and just plain disgusting, but they also degrade property values and quality of life. Now, I feel that a person should be able to do what they want on their property. But, when what they are doing crosses property lines and starts to impinge and deny me the use of my own property, that is just plain wrong. There are times when you can't stand to be outside from the smell. Worse is, it is worse in the early morning or early evening. The best time to get out and work. Anyhow, until we in this country get a handle on this corporatism we will never have the liberty guaranteed us in the Constitution. If you write a story, you are welcome to use my situation, but please no names until this "problem" of mine is settled.

And a second email from him...

I believe I was mistaken on the size of the poultry houses going in next to me. I'm not sure of the size, but they are big. From what I understand, each building will hold 44,000 birds. I don't believe that the poultry CAFO's smell as bad as hogs and confinement feeding operations, they still are very upsetting.

Please write to your representatives to get these lax laws changed. Most media is owned by only a few corporations. The word will not get out through them.

"You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing, there will be no result." Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Thank You Vernon Broadcaster!

Here is an article by Matt Johnson that is in the Vernon Broadcaster newspaper.

Misinformation about EIS is no help to the county board

When hearing the Vernon County Board discuss a resolution allowing county departments to request an Environmental Impact Statement, Tuesday, April 21, the more the board talked the more confused the issue became.

The board was presented with a resolution that would have allowed the board of health or the land and water conservation committee to make a request to the Department of Natural Resources for an environmental impact statement (EIS) should the county receive an application for a permit by an entity to operate a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) in the county.

The board eventually tabled this resolution, which was better than simply voting it down. The discussion that took place as soon as the resolution was presented bordered on surreal.

When the resolution was presented, supervisor Francis Hynek said he spoke to an official in Madison who said the resolution would cost every agricultural producer looking to add 350 cows or cattle to spend $300,000 on an EIS.

This isn’t close to being true.

All the resolution would have done is allow the board of health or land and water conservation committee to have the authority to make a request that an EIS be done. That is only if a WPDES permit is applied for. An applicant (almost always) has more than 1,000 animal units, that’s more than 720 cows. Also, an EIS, if determined necessary, is the responsibility of the DNR, according to Jim Pardee, Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act coordinator. To date, the DNR has required only one CAFO to do an EIS, Pardee said. That was the Rosendale Dairy in Fond du Lac County.

Hynek’s comments were followed by comments by supervisors Sherman Erlandson and Ray Moser. They said that Vernon County has no environmental protections and already has a problem with well contamination. They begged the question, why should the county do anything when faced with a request by a CAFO?

An EIS request would be in the interest of protecting the health and safety of county residents. The board of health or LWCC could ask the DNR to have an EIS done. Does that mean it will happen -- no -- but it will in the very least be an effort.

State statistics show that as of August 2007, there were 165 WPDES permits in the state allowing CAFOs. Of these, approximately 110 were for dairies. Two dairy CAFOs already operate in Vernon County.

In 1995, there were less than 20 dairy CAFOs in the entire state. In the 15 years there’s been more than a 500 percent increase in the number of dairy CAFOs in the state. An October 2008, story by the Capitol Times of Madison said as many as 40 permit applications to either start CAFOs or expand existing CAFOs were pending.

Petry Trust is currently looking at sites to operate a CAFO or CAFOs in Vernon County. They may be looking at just one facility, or more than one, considering the fact they’ve investigated multiple sites.

The CAFO issue is not one of rural versus city and it’s not an issue of conventional versus organic. It is a separate issue entirely. Seeking an EIS for a CAFO looking to build a facility for 3,200 cows in a county that’s known to have karst geology just makes sense. It’s not punitive, anti-ag or against the family farm. In fact, it looks to protect the health and safety of those living on family farms near where a CAFO operates. That would make it a pro-family farm initiative.

Also, as has been said at the committee level, perhaps an EIS is not needed for every CAFO. The concern is with a 3,200-cow operation is that it is more than two times larger than anything that currently exists in our county. Don’t forget, this is a county that has experienced back-to-back years with 500-year floods. It’s also a county that can’t stop repetitive manure runoff in the Jersey Valley Lake area.

No matter what the county board decides regarding its tabled resolution, one can only hope that the next time the board discusses it the conversation isn’t immediately usurped by false claims and statements of apathy.

The CAFO issue is delicate because the forces driving big agriculture are more than happy when they divide communities such as our own. It’s as simple as divide and conquer. They know that if they simply make this rural versus city issue, they’ve won — regardless of the health and safety of anyone.

The recent vote in the town of Franklin to seek an EIS if a CAFO applies for a permit to operate there should show the county board the way.

If Petry Trust, or any other CAFO developer, wants to put a 3,200-head operation in Vernon County, why not at least “request” an EIS? That tells the citizenry, “Hey, we’re doing the best we can to ensure your health and safety.”

If the DNR requires an EIS and the applicant passes, let them operate under their permit. Considering our geography, geology and existing water quality issues, to suggest, fueled by false statements and apathy, that the county should not request an EIS is pure folly.
—Matt Johnson

E-mail Matt Johnson at matt.johnson

Thank you Matt!

More Questions About Swales?

For those of you that have additional questions on swales, here is an excellent link to a video by Geoff Lawton, a permaculture guru.

Monday, May 4, 2009

"Permaculture Swale" Video Slide Show From This Weekend

This weekend we picked up hazelnut & chestnut trees from our friend Mark Shepard in Viola. The eldest Amish boy who lives next door and his sister helped us create permaculture swales in the hayfield where we planted the trees. Sunday, Joshua & Ashley came over & planted the 110 seedlings. The slide show explains the process. Enjoy the show and the music!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Just a Quick Note

I'll post more later (probably tomorrow) but I wanted to let you know Lizzie is doing fine. We visited her & Eli tonight at the hospital. They are in good spirits. They have received your cards & are very grateful and happy to get them. We stayed about two hours for a nice visit.
Hope everyone is having a good weekend!

Family Farms NOT Factory

Yesterday when we got to the farm, our neighbors dropped off a sign for us to post by the road. So proud to do so. If I had a huge banner, I would drape it across the whole front of the barn.

Here is a picture they emailed me yesterday morning. This is the same site that I posted pics of last week where they were digging test holes. Now there are stakes on the property. This is the first property they have placed stakes. Seems like a bad sign to me.No permit has been applied for, yet. So my eyes just teared up when I saw the picture. Not as bad as if a permit had been applied for (that will be a long, long cry, and utter sadness, believe me) but I guess I have to prepare for the worst if it happens.

I haven't given up yet though. It is an uphill battle but I am willing to do what I can to stop Petry from destroying our county.

That brings me to this. I have always liked to write. I'm working on an idea for a story. Does anyone know someone who has or is living by a factory farm? Someone who would be willing to talk or write to me? I want first-hand stories of their experience. I am also doing research on the internet but would like to talk directly if possible to the unfortunate people who have dealt with this before. So, I am asking you to think about it and let me know.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Hank's Resort

Thanks so much to everyone for cheering me up yesterday! It really meant a lot to me.

Here is an assignment (story) I wrote for the creative writing class as part of my cognitive therapy. It's about staying at a lakeside resort as a child.

My sister Cathy at Hank's Resort in the 50's

Hank with Cathy in front of the "Liar's Cage" (fish cleaning house)


“Dad, can I have a nickel for a bottle of pop?” He must have heard that in his sleep like a skip in a record after two weeks vacation with four “sugar-craving” kids. Ah, vacation. The only time of year we got unlimited pop and candy. We looked forward to it from the time we got home the previous year to the time we left again. Hank’s Resort in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. The smell of pine trees and sometimes, dead fish. A kid’s paradise not only for us but for other friends and family. We took over the resort. There were four rustic white cabins up the sandy hill from the lake. Yellowed pine siding on all the walls with dark brown knots that were shaped like whatever your imagination could muster. Bedroom walls, shorter than the pitched roof, provided for an aerial circus act of stuffed animals and Barbies, sans the safety net. Speckled green linoleum lined the sand covered floor. Springs stretching across the windows, kept the green and white checked curtains in place as the lake breezes caressed the cabin.
This was the 50's. Before indoor plumbing was installed. We would hurry out to a small outbuilding between the dirt driveway and the swamp behind the cabins. “Don’t go near the swamp” dad warned, that crease appearing between his eyebrows. “That’s quicksand. It’ll pull you in and we’ll never find you.” And so that’s the way it was, most of my childhood, filled with well-meaning but scary warnings. Something I didn’t pass on to the next generation and they are more adventurous than I.
Green wooden boats with “Hank’s” on the bow rocked at the docks, anchors swaying. Our three and a half horse Sears powered it across the lake. Each of us had our own reasons to enjoy the get-a-way. For the dad's, fishing, morning and night was what they enjoyed most.. For the mom's it was relaxing in the chaise lounges looking out over the lake. Our favorite activity of all was swimming, followed by eating candy. If we'd had our way, we would have suffered from the dreaded “lake water pruning” , a wrinkled mass of puckered skin from too much exposure to lake water. As soon as that bright orb in the sky peeked over the tall pine trees, we were begging to go in the water. Swimsuits barely dry from the day before, goosebumps the size of bubble wrap, Coppertone slathered on our skinny bodies and we were ready to swim with the minnows. Red, blue, yellow & green plastic buckets, with shovels and toy boats, all carried down to the water. Mom bringing the over sized beach towels and her Reader's Digest Condensed book. The screaming would start the minute we stepped in the cold lake water but the energy we created warmed us. Playing with boats, throwing wet sand and floating on tire inner tubes took up much of our time. Up and down the red and silver slide, burning our delicate legs, we knew it was getting close to lunchtime. Time to get out of the water and head to the cabin. The smell of crumbs burning in the toaster woke our stomachs to the hunger we'd been ignoring. Smooth, creamy peanut butter spread on toast, a glass of milk and a cookie for dessert.
A bit of knowledge, what every mom knows, “It takes an hour to digest your food.” Another bit of information “you'll get cramps and drown if you don't wait an hour after you eat”. So we have to kill an hour. The longest hour of the day. It's nap time for the youngest and “stay out of Mom's hair” time for us. Dad didn't fish during the hottest part of the day, so we could hit him up for a nickel as he sat by the beach drinking a Hamm's with the other men.
Nickel in hand, we would run to the resort office which was attached to Hank's home. The little bell rang as we entered and Gusta, his wife, would come out to see what we needed. She was a sweet lady, gray hair with braids pinned on top of her head and a voice like a whisper in the wind. She felt like a grandma to me. Affection didn't run in our family so I was drawn like a dryer sheet to rayon when someone showed they cared.
There it was. “Drink Coca-Cola, In Bottles”, the pop machine said. “Ice cold” it enticed. Red with a glass door on the front so you could see the caps. Coca-Cola, Bubble-Up, Hire's Root Beer, Nehi Grape and my favorite, Orange Crush. Gusta stood to one side, always patient as we made our selections.
Decisions made, off we would go, sipping our pop and making train whistle noises when the bottle was empty. Back to the warm,sunlit beach to build sandcastles and wait for the hour to end.
I have relived these moments many times throughout the years as a child myself and again as a parent, taking my children to the same lake. I expect that someday my grandchildren will be swimming in that lake too. “Can I have a dollar for some pop?” they'll ask and the tradition will continue.

Cousin Carol, me, Cathy & friend Nancy

Cousin Ken & friend David

Brother's Bill & Bob in the later years.