Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Hurray for Snow!
Finally, it's snowing here.  I know most people were looking forward to a long set of weeks before we received snow, but I'm not one of them.  My gardens and farm are my baby.  I've always felt the farm in winter is like a sleeping child and best left to rest quietly and comfortably under its blankets and not awakened from its nap until it was ready in the spring.  This late fall early winter without snow was like seeing my child sleep restlessly with no blankets.  The trees were dormant but had no covering or protection from the bitter nights.  I'm glad for the snow.  Snow is always so quiet.  It's one of the things that makes living in North Dakota great, the peacefulness of a snowy day.

I'm very excited now.  I had been feeling almost lost, like I needed a purpose or a project.  This Sunday while Barry took his shift at the local bar I tried to make mittens.  It didn't go well and I ended up with a mess and no mittens to show for it.  If anyone has a very simple mitten pattern to share with me, I'd appreciate it.  So with this attempt at creativity failed, I just felt like there was something else I could or should be doing.  Last night that chance came.  We received a call asking if we would host Dr. Colin Skinner who is walking from New York to North Dakota to raise money for Hospice programs all over the country.  Since my father passed away from cancer in 2002 and the hospice workers were such a help to him and my mother - of course I said yes. 

This morning I went online to check out Dr. Skinner and his quest.  You should do the same.  You can visit these two web sites for more information: http://www.freewebs.com/drskinnersite/ or http://www.nationalhospicefoundation.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=258.  This is an amazing journey for such a good cause.  I really want to be a part of it and help Dr. Skinner.  I'm hoping to have time to decorate the classroom and bunkhouse for his arrival in a really festive way and my friend Bernie Solwey at Tenderfoot Socks has already agreed to donate a pair of socks for him.  In reading his journals he made metnion of a trip to a store to buy socks and hoping that they wouldn't give him blisters.  Tenderfoot socks would be the perfect give for anyone who is on their feet a lot and if they bring some comfort to his journey I'll be so happy.  You can check out Tenderfoot Socks - a real live company right here in our region - by looking at their web site: http://www.tenderfootsocks.com/.

Watch the channel 8 news tonight or in the next couple days, I'm sure they will have Colin on the news.  He's traveling from Grand Forks to Larimoure to Lakota to Devils Lake to Churchs Ferry then on to Leeds, Knox, Rugby, Granville and Minot. 

Stay warm and safe in the snow - and feel blessed that now our sleeping gardens are getting the rest they deserve while we work to give some rest to a dedicated traveller.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Blessings and Friends

We're coming up on Thanksgiving and I think it is important to take count of our blessings during this season. Harvest time has typically been a time of reaping and counting - and counting our blessings is a way to do just that.

This past week I was blessed by a new friend. Anne Hursh of Cando came into my life in July or so. She called out of the blue one day and asked if I would be interested in some lilie's. Of course I'm interested in FREE plants! Are you kidding??? I went to visit Anne and saw her beautiful gardens that have been tended with love for many years by Anne and her husband Lloyd. Surrounded by mature evergreens, their farm is an oasis with vegetable and flower gardens scattered throughout the beautifully landscaped farm yard. Anne is amazing, with some old age wear and tear creeping up on her health, she still is able to maintain a fabulous looking garden with the help of her family. She now needs to use a walker but Anne stays determined to garden.

Anne, who is originally fro Oregon where her family used to raise lilies commercially, loves her lilies and was willing to share them with me. So, a few weeks ago, she gave me a call and told me it was time to dig. On a sunny afternoon I picked up my shovel and a box and headed for her place. I came home with a big box full of lily bulbs, which I put in the ground immediately so the weather wouldn't sour on me and keep me from getting them planted. I also came home having made a new friend in the gardening world. I found Anne and Lloyd to be delightful and their gardens were candy for the eyes. What a blessing! Thanks Anne and Lloyd for the new additions to gardendwellers FARM. I hope I can keep them living and growing for many years and make you proud!

Friday, October 23, 2009

As American as Apple Pie!

Fall is truly in full swing and Barry and I are hard at work making the pies that we give as gifts to family and friends (and land friendly farmers who allow hunters). So far we've made 26 pies with plans for 6 more in the works. We ran out of sugar last night or we would have had them all done. Thank heaven for friendly neighbors (Lorrie Sandberg) who donated the cup and half of sugar we needed to complete just those we had already started last night.

Our assembly line style of pie making uses a recipe from an Occident Family Flour cookbook so old that the cover and any copyright information, including the year it was published, are now long gone. My guess the cookbook was my grandmothers but I've had it so long even I don't remember. All I know if that this is the recipe that I have used for apple pies all my life and one that I know is a 'no-fail'.

Barry's a great help in this process. He's the master with the apple peeler-corer-slicer and he helps with the rest of the assembly to - preferring to be the cinnamon and butter guy. Together we can pump out 16 pies in about an hour and a half.

Real ingredients are important to us but you can see that we use store-bought pie crusts. I never was very good at crust and with most of the pies being given away, it saves on having to buy pie tins. We do use Pride Dairy butter fresh from the creamery/dairy in Bottineau and of course the apples from the tree here at the farm. We make sure to use ND's own Crystal Sugar and ND Mill and Elevator four when we can.

The pies are assembled and then wrapped in freezer paper and frozen for delivery. We put baking instructions on the top and always include the phrase, "please place a baking sheet under the pie when baking, they're so full of goodness it might just ooze out into your oven."

Home-made and hand-made always tell a story, we hope that our pies tell our friends and family that we care about them - enough to take the time and effort to give something that we grew, created and then gave with love.

Happy Fall!
PS - we wish all the hunters out there a safe and successful season!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Each year at the farm we have an abundance of something. Some times its just plain weeds. One year it was an abundance of frogs and toads, one year it was gardener snakes and this year seems to be the year for feathered friends.

The FARM is alive with birds and feathers of all kinds. There are ducks nesting in the rhubarb and in the labyrinth, doves nesting in the lilacs, brown thrashers nesting under the Adirondak chairs in the front yard, yellow warblers nesting in the maple tree, barn swallows on the back of the shed and catbirds in the bushes on the north of the main block. We are blessed with their song and thier color every day and happy to have them. I can't say they feel the same way about us. Mrs. Duck has had to renest after we inadvertantly mowed down the tall grass around her first home and the brown thrashers get extremely excited every time we let our large Bernese Mountain Dog out of the house. Little do they know that Mae just wants to peak at the babies and would be the first to defend them should a predator come close. The catbird landed on Barry's hat the other day just to let him know he was a little too close and Ida the cocker spaniel has had her behind pecked on more than one occassion. But for the most part, we're all good neighbors and it's really fun.

For those of you planning a trip to the FARM, let me tell you how things look right now - awfully weedy and pretty small. The spring has been a wet and cold one keeping us from weeding as we would like and keeping the seedlings small. Now that we are having some heat we're hoping everything will catch up - including the hoes - and things will look much better in about two weeks. We're still hoping for our first harvest around July 14th so by then we should be looking good and have lots of herbs and flowers to show visitors. Your best bet if you're planning a trip is to come mid-July or after but of course, we have LOTS of interesting things to do even if you come before then.

Our geocache has already been found by 6 people this year. That's great! It's fun to watch these high tech scavenger hunters scour the property as they GPS thier way to the treasure. Welcome to all who look foward to our cache and thanks to everyone who has found it thus far.

We hope to see you all this summer - come on out and say hello - pull a weed or two! And of course have a safe and happy summer!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Water Water Everywhere!
It seems the state of ND is trying to wash away the snow from winter and covering itself in a blanket of water. Up until now, we have been relatively unaffected by the flooding that seems to be inundating the whole state but the last few days have brought it into the forefront of my reality.

The inserted chart from the USGS shows the increase in water into Lake Irvine. For the most part, our land is high and dry and is likely to remain that way, however we do have one planting area that borders some lower parts of town that could be at risk should the water levels continue to rise. our home and classroom, however well protected by higher elevation, could be difficult to reach should the water cover the roads into town. Many of the rural and township roads in the area along the Coulee are already closed. The elevation at the back of our east lot is 1452-53 and the field that borders Lake Irvine, which is already under water, is at 1449. So you can see we didn't pick the best year to erect a high tunnel on that property.

The road to the old bridge east of town is not completely covered and the rural water main flush-out is either covered today (I haven't been down to check it) or will be soon.

It seems surreal to be worrying about flooding when for the last 6 years we've been worrying about how to get enough water onto our crops. Two days ago I told Barry it was like a big toilet and as long as the water continued to flow south like a big toilet flushing the water down stream, I wouldn't worry. I said I would only worry when the flow started coming north again like an overflow in that great white porcelain bowl. Today, my theory is a little different. Water is so unpredictable, it's very nature, fluidity, makes it almost impossible to predict where it will go and when.

I grew up in Minot and lived through two large floods and I know that of all natural disasters flooding is the worst. Most other disasters are over in a matter of minutes. Fires, tornado's, hurricanes, earthquakes; they all come and go in a matter and hours and the rebuilding can begin and you know where you stand. Flooding is different, the time it takes, the mental anguish, all are prolonged as the water slowly rises, sticks around a while, and then hopefully recedes.

Here's hoping the water in Devils Lake and Lake Irvine decides to recede to at least an acceptable level in the not too distant future - I've got tourists to cater to and plants to plant!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Well there are truly some amazing things that happen in the spring. Yesterday, the weather was so beautiful here we just had to play outside. Since the tops of the cold frames were starting to peak through the three feet of snow surrounding them, I grabbed a shovel and started digging. In light of the nice weather, a little of me was hoping I could start planting them soon if I could just find them. To my surprise, once uncovered, there was still life in them! After being buried in four feet of snow since December and enduring sub-zero temps, the mache', freckles lettuce, and leeks and a few oinons were still green. We'll see how they recover now that they are subjected to sunlight and warm temps once again but its a good sign. The long sleep is over and new life is ready to begin anew.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Well, spring must be near. Our new high tunnel (a less expensive version of a greenhouse) was delivered today. It seemed really odd to put the pieces all in a pile of snow knowing that it will be months before we can erect this large pile of tinker toys but the sun was shining and it gas us hope that spring truly isn't as far away as it seems sometimes. This pile of pipe, screws, tape, connectors, and plastic will turn into a 26 X 48 growing structure that will hopefully allow us to grow more herbs for a longer season, keeping our customers happy longer. what a deal!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Busy winter Planning
Most people think that we spend the winter sleeping like bears or taking it easy and having fun. Just the contrary! In the last week we have finished the seed order, and already have had some of the seeds delivered, designed a few drafts of new labels for our grocery store herbs, researched UPC symbols for our products, researched and ordered a new high tunnel - much like a greenhouse that will lengthen our season and increase our yeild - researched and are now ready to order the components for a cooler that will extend the shelf life and safety of our products when delivered to grocery stores and restaurants, updated the web site, cleaned the classroom, spoke to a group of 4-H'ers in Edinburg about growing herbs and gardening projects and the list goes on! We have yet to plan for the 2009 classes and events so any input you have would be welcome. If there is a class you'd like repeated or didn't get to attend in the past, now is the time to let us know. We'll be cutting back the class schedule in 2009 as we have a lot of construction and a few new customers to deal with on the wholesale end and there just isn't enough time in a day. Don't worry though, we'll still have classes and events - just not one each week.

This summer we will finish the therapy gardens. The completion of this area will make us fully accessible to wheel chairs, walkers, and those with special abilities or limitations. We'll also have to erect that high tunnel - good thing the community members have offered to help!

Tonight I will go to Rugby to help them kick off their American Heart Association Wellness challenge. I will be teaching a series of classes on eating local, fresh, and organic. There will be 6 classes held every Monday from the end of January to April. We'll look at ways to shop in your own home town for fresh, local and organic foods and ways to keep on living a healthy lifestyle without dramatically changing the way you cook or eat. It's going to be a lot of fun and I'm really looking forward to it.

This month is a hectic one for us with something booked on the calendar almost every day. I have lots of vacation time from my job at MSU-Bottineau to use - I just can't seem to find time to use it. I'm hoping that later this spring I can sneak away for a day or two to show our little dog Ida in the Rally Obedience ring in the twin cities or Fargo but we'll just have to see what comes. For right now - we're just bobbing around trying to keep one step ahead of this growing business!

Please be sure to drop us a note or keep in touch. If there is anything we can do to help you plan for summer excursions, classes, events, cooking, etc. - contact us! We always love to hear from you. In the mean time I'm sure our winter is going to go by way too fast - soon we'll be planting rosemary and lavendar and putting up temporary greenhouses in the classroom for the herb babies. Stay Warm!