Thursday, July 2, 2015

making beds

Every year we take on at least one large project in the garden. Our first summer we began a vegetable bed that is about 10 feet by 70 feet. Removing the sod and putting up a rabbit fence, we set about conditioning the native soil and putting seeds and plants into the ground.

As the first season progressed we added our chicken house.

It was a good year for our first. I learned a great deal about what to grow and what not to bother with. How much work it takes to keep out unwanted flora and fauna. How much less resilient my knees, back and hands have become.
Eventually we were forced to come to terms with how poorly our soil drains, how each spring
we've missed early season growing opportunities waiting for the ground to dry out enough to plant.  Raised beds would solve this and other problems and they got moved to the top of our list for this season. While working on improving the health of our soils our efforts unintentionally resulted in improving the health of invasive grasses and weeds as well. With a long range goal of garden maintenance within our physical abilities andwanting to construct beds that would last at least as long as we do, and within our pocketbook, we agreed that our best option would be to build them of some sort of solid wood beams. The beds would have to be reachable from either side and no longer than the present garden plot. What could we find that was about the size and shape of railroad ties but aren't railroad ties?? Since I had already planted a good portion of the old bed, this season we would limit ourselves to just 5 beds. We would need 3 beams for each bed.
We found a mill that was willing to sell us 15 newly though somewhat  roughly cut white oak beams each a bit over 9 feet long. Jerome and Phil made several trips to and from the mill bringing them home in the Explorer in small groups due to their considerable weight.

Now all we needed to do was cut them to size and move them into position. Ha! Did I mention that each beam weighed close to 200 pounds?? That they were solid white oak, undried?
A challenge to cut, a challenge to move into place, a challenge to secure together.

Here is Jerome using the cute little cart that we bought at our local agri-center during their famous spring sale event. We use our trusty riding mower to pull it. That little cart was just strong enough to move the short pieces. How we moved the longer ones would have made an hysterical video. We'll bring out those memories when we need a good laugh at ourselves. Needless to say, the beds came together primarily due to Jerome's generosity and determination.

Planting the first bed!

So this year's garden is half raised beds, half ground level. Weeding, planting and harvesting the raised beds is a dream come true. I love intensive gardening. I don't even mind often watering the beds now since they drain faster than ground level. I've always found watering to be meditative. Oh, and since I began this post a day or so ago, the moles have begun to tunnel under these beds as well. Any ideas on getting rid of the critters??????

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Most of the time I'm fine with not having a smart phone. Having a simple tracfone works fine for low cost long distance and calls on the road. I would enjoy having a slim easy carry camera in my pocket that smart phones contain so I could more readily capture the magic that is this place called home. I would enjoy being on Instagram and having windows into your worlds, too. I'd love to snap a photo and instantly share it with you.
Picking up my digital camera every time I step out the door just isn't practical, as I'd probably set it down somewhere out of doors and forget it. Have I always been this easily distracted? But I do make a point of using it from time to time though it isn't very fancy, and I am NOT very good at focusing. My hands aren't as still as they used to be and my camera doesn't have a view finder so I'm looking at the screen on the back which is not very helpful in sunlight or when I'm not wearing glasses, which is most of the time. However, I have "good enough" photos that allow me to record and reminisce. Remind me of those things which I can easily forget...
My littlest hosta is blooming just now and it got me to thinking about how amazingly diverse even similar things are. Much like people, actually.

The larger hosta plant lives in the pond garden and covers a circle of ground that must be at least 6 feet across. There are many varieties here, some I inherited, some I brought along from the city house. Each blooms on its own schedule and provides a nonstop buffet for the visiting humming birds.

Speaking of humming birds, here are a few other examples of alike but different:

This past week the surrounding soybean fields were sprayed with an herbicide to kill the volunteer weeds and grasses that the mega-acreage renter doesn't have time or fuel to stewart without the one-two punch of GMO seed and poisons. With the potential for drift considering the winds off the fields, I worried over the row of baby pines we planted on our border this spring. I spent a couple of hours hosing them down and giving them a complete drink to encourage the uptake of water and expiration to help clean their pores.
I often worry that America may already find it too late to reverse the damages done, but refuse to give in. Look closely at the perfection of that tiny amphibian and ask yourself, would you purposefully do anything to jeapordize its future? Or your own?

Friday, June 26, 2015

a road trip for walnut balls

Last week Jerome and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. Though we often took road trips while living in Illinois, since settling in at the farm we've only been out a couple of times. It seemed a good plan to celebrate our special day.
Jerome had an urge to have lunch at the famous Trempealeau Hotel in the town of the same name.

Following the Mississippi north on a perfect June day, we found the tiny town tucked along the banks of the big muddy. Never take anything at face value. Especially in a small town. It didn't look especially promising but when we walked inside the front door and peeked at the menu we were certain lunch here would be a treat. The screened porch looking out at the river on a breezy warm June day was the perfect setting.

The famous Trempealeau burger is on the menu in town here at our Driftless Cafe and sold frozen at our local Food Coop. But nothing quite lives up to eating the famous walnut concoction as doing so in house, shaped as balls and served with mustard sauce as an appetizer. I would have been happy to chow down on those all afternoon. Our waitress would tell us most of the ingredients but was pretty tight lipped about the specific seasonings. I can understand why. I was amazed at how many recipes I've found online. This is NOT a vegetarian dish. There's plenty of Wisconsin cheese and eggs included but as a burger you definitely do NOT miss the meat.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


There are days when I feel impatient. When forward progress seems set on slow. When it feels as if I'm fighting a losing battle with Mother Nature.
 The reality is,  life is full of blessings.

Live in the moment. Absorb the bounty. There is no time to do otherwise.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

newbie news

Just over 4 years ago the first baby chicks arrived at the farm. There was no way that early May morning for me to comprehend just how my life would change, what a large place those tiny birds would fill in my daily life, in my heart.
Of the original 28 birds 4 hens and one mighty silver polish rooster still call our ridge meadow farm home.

Big Guy

Rosie and Minerva




They enjoy a fenced yard 60 feet by 60 feet and a snug little house that keeps them just fine year round.

People out here in farm country advise against naming your animals. Not possible with this group of personalities. I love each one of them and in total gratitude for what they've given they will be allowed to meet their ends on Mother Nature's agenda, not mine. Their senior housing has been ordered, their summer quarters staked out. They will be on holiday just a fence away from their well known territory and through this fence they will be able to see, hear and smell the newbies.

Today those newbies have arrived. Fifteen chicks and a surprise "exotic" temporarily tucked into their "bassinet" in the pole barn. Imagine all the experiences those little ones have had in the first hours of their lives.
Just breaking out of the egg would be trauma enough.
Being sexed, inoculated, shipped, unboxed, 
taught to drink,


coaxed to eat,


and finding their sea legs.


Oh, and did I mention getting lots of lovings from everyone?? Within minutes of Jerome's posting on Facebook our neighbors arrived. And now they are shining stars in their own videos.
If you're in the neighborhood, please stop by.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

because nice matters...

Even I was surprised to see how long it's been since I last put up a post. When I opened my blog this morning and saw the banner photo I thought I had clicked on my son's blog by mistake. Has it really been 4 weeks since my last post???
In the early days of the new year many of you chose a word as a focus for the year ahead. Nearly halfway through the year I look back and think PROCRASTINATOR must be branded into my forehead or at the very least I should take to wearing a large capital P on my chest as my personal scarlet letter.
Much of the time my procrastination impacts only me and my goals. Toxic. But all too often putting off what my heart wants of me because of my weak spirit results in lost opportunities to send my love maybe lifting someone else's spirits.
Late yesterday I found an email from someone I consider a dear friend though I have never met her asking if I had received her little package and should she send another!
My face is red with embarrassment, my heart is heavy with disappointment in myself, and a sweet blogging friend has been cheated out of knowing just what pleasure her "happy mail" brought with it, just how precious her friendship is to me.
I can site a list of roadblocks I allowed to keep me from acting on my intentions. None of them alone or together should have kept me from at least hopping right onto my email.

I was taking a breathing and mediation moment after lunch early last week trying to shake off pain, depression, inertia. Jerome had brought in the mail and read to me from the stack… "and something that says UK." In any other state of mind I would have leapt off the sofa.

When I finally got around to looking at the mail I was surprised, delighted,    and     anointed??
Never, never underestimate the good reaching out to those you care about can do. I really, really needed a lift and sweet Simone, half a continent and an ocean away, had sent me one.

Intentions without action, all too sad in a world when nice matters more than ever before.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

a mother's day baby

Happy birthday to the other man in my life.

Phil, you never cease to amaze me with your thoughtfulness, enjoyment of life, and generosity.
No mother could ask for a better son. Thank you.