Friday, April 30, 2010

Telling the story .................

As many of you know, I have applied for partnership status with Silos and Smokestacks. Silos and Smokestacks is the National Heritage Area for Agriculture. National Heritage areas are under the guidance of the National Park Service and often, are joint ventures between not-for-profit organizations, public parks and land and private individuals.

We are one of those private individuals.

My goal/mission/purpose is to tell the story of agriculture through the eyes of a woman. My focus is about a thirty year period from 1920's through 1950's.

Some things are easy to see ......... raising chickens,

hanging clothes on the line, ruffled aprons and canning pickled beets. A perfect example is when I give directions to the bathroom...... Walk to the peaches and turn right!

Instantly you see a pantry filled with tomatoes, peaches, cherries and green beans. Ahhh..... this is a woman that doesn't like going to the grocery store.

Somethings you might only catch a glimpse of ............ like me sitting in the lath house spinning yarn. Or sitting on a bench knitting a pair of socks.

Many items have been re-purposed. Pretty ruffly glass light shades are now bird feeders and bird bathes.

A rusty old corn crib from 1946 has a new life as the infamous corn-zebo..... the perfect place to relax and sip some apple mint iced tea.

Rinse tubs hold ice and cold beverages. And galvanized tubs are planted with herbs.

Tea cups dance from the tree .........

and old china plates border flower gardens. Its a reminder of the pretty things that meant so much to our grandmothers. An afternoon tea with friends was an occasion to bring out the special china. The tea cup tree and pretty vintage tablecloths celebrate those rare but special moments.

And somethings hint at the past. Quilt blocks on the barn, coops and fences reflect our grandmother's need to conserve and recycle with beauty and grace.

And now .... the newest idea is coming to the garden.

I can't wait!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Its Farming. Not Magic.

How do I get over my frustration at trying to explain what it is that I do? It seems so very simple to me ....... I am a flower farmer.

OK -- maybe a little more explanation is needed. I plant flowers in rows like a farmer plants corn. And it is a U-pick flower farm.

That is where I get into trouble. (Yea ... what's new about that? I have always been in trouble!)

It seems that people think that flowers that are grown on a farm should bloom instantly. Plant them and they will pop!!! Weather shouldn't matter. Frost ... cool temps... even snow ..... if it is sunny, there should be flowers.

Unfortunately .... its not happening.

You want this............

I can give you this ...............

You are drooling over this ....................

And the best I can do is this ......................

I know ..... you want to relax here, in the warmth of the sun.

But to get flowers like these ............

It takes time. It takes rain. And it takes the sun beating down on the ground to warm it. The seeds for these lisianthus were started in November. If I am lucky, they will be blooming the end of June.

Farming is not magic. It is good soil, lots of weeding and some carefully delivered rains. Its warm evenings and days full of sunshine.

I wish I could wave my magic wand and .......... POOF! ...... all the flowers you want would be here.

But if I waved my magic wand, would bouquets like this one be quite as magical???

I think not!!!

PS. That bucket of flowers ......... will be only $15 this year. Yea ...... its a bargain worth waiting for!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ova Overload...................

I have too many embryos. OK -- so they are chicken eggs. Lots of chicken eggs. Way too many chicken eggs. Chicken eggs everywhere.

Here an egg. There an egg. Everywhere an egg, egg!

Want some??? Call me. Email me. Use smoke signals. Mega-egg discounts!

You do have to pick them up on the farm. Its a busy time of year for Miss Eff. Only thing she does is pick up more plants that immediately need to get in the ground. Needless to say ... she is on her hands and knees....... and can't get up!

The never-ending search for recipes that use massive amounts of eggs, continue.

Tonight --it is one of the classics. Quiche. But quiche with a twist.

My friends made this quiche.

On Saturday, I was blessed by the bountiful gifts of so many friends. So tonight, those gifts became supper.

John and Maggie gave me some green onion sausage. Oh yum!!! So that is the base of the quiche. I sauteed some crimini mushrooms and did a quick wilting of the kale that my friend Jill gave me. Then I added the sun-dried tomatoes she gifted me.

Then I drove 3 whole miles to buy the BEST cheddar in the USA. Milton Creamery's Prairie Breeze..... my friend Gwen and Allens Grove Greenhouse are wholesalers for Rufus and family.
Maggie also made me some sour cream so I used that with a little Picket Fence Creamery milk to thin down all those eggs. (Anything small went in....... 9 eggs!)

The crust was a savory crust with fresh thyme from the garden. And then another Picket Fence product ... fresh creamery butter.

Yea .... even Honey gave the two-thumbs up approval! And he is not a quiche fan!

Thanks for supper, dear friends. Next time ... join us!!!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Blantantly stealing!

Is theft really theft if you give someone the credit??? Well, I'm doin' it!

I am much too lazy to write today about my wonderful, awesome, incredible experience at Prairieland Herbs.... and I did promise to blog about it today.

Besides, I'm busy pretending to clean house today. In reality, I'm eating Picket Fence Chocolate Malt ice cream .... one spoon at a time. Straight from the freezer. Saves on dish washing! I'm wondering how long it will take me to eat 8 quarts of ice cream..... I'm thinking 8 days!!!!! I really need to buy more coolers!

So I'm linkin' to Abby's post at Love Made the Radish Grow.

Personally..... I am considering Abby's post a major documentation of a chicken event! We poultry obsessed individuals are hoping that the chicken hat will make many future appearances around Iowa. I still think a flash mob to the "Funky Chicken" would be perfect!

(And yes, Abby. Honey would tell you that I never stand still.)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Design Dilemma

It is cloudy and cool today on the east coast of Iowa. Some much needed rain is on its way. We may get 1-2" in the next 2 days. I'm hoping for the lower end.... just enough to soak the ground gently. Then I can be back in the garden full force on Monday.

In the meantime today, I hope to catch up on errands, household chores and bookkeeping duties. I am very very very far behind!

As Joel Salatin's wife says in the movie Fresh..... "If you have come to see me, come on in. If you came to see my house, make an appointment!"

And I will add ............ we are currently booked out for over a month on the house appointments!!!! Such is the spring life of a market farmer!

But first .... I thought I would show you some updates from the garden.

The main cutting bed is roughly 80'x80' with a jog here and a jag there. There are two permanent fixtures... the lath house and an arbor that greets you to the garden. So the garden can be whatever it wants to be.

And I want it to be different!!!!

So I have been struggling with a re-design. We are slowly going to convert to raise beds for the convenience of my customers. (OK! OK! I'll admit it! We are doing this because my knees are getting old and it will take a while to do it all! Are ya happy now????)

This year ... the tuteurs are being moved and put in raised beds. I have eliminated the roses and am planting clematis that can be cut. Around the base of the tuteurs will be herbs. The first two will try to contain mints. (Can you ever really contain mint??) The third one may be a home for lavender.

I'm excited about that.... but then.... this gives me the opportunity for change.

I've always planted in long rows.... 150 -200 plants long. And now, do I want to do that?

There will be some some long rows but a change could make the garden more interesting. Smaller beds might invite you to linger longer and explore what else you might be missing. Did you see the lisianthus? Or what was hidden in that corner?

But do customers want to rush through the garden and get the flowers that they want???

I have always encouraged people to start at the end of the lane and cut their way through the gardens. There are hidden treasures in every garden. And there are roughly 30 of them! Some are small little corners. Others are quite large like the circle garden in the front. There are gardens in front of the fences. There are gardens around the barn. There are gardens by the house. And there are gardens around the coops.

Yet ... the cutting garden is the main event. And I want that to be spectacular. And its not. I love it ... and it does have some charm. But it doesn't have the WOW factor that I want.

Yea ... I know..... I've read too many Smith-Hawken books! I've watched too much Martha Stewart and I've memorized all the P. Allen Smith shows I possibly could! I need a larger hard-surfacing budget. (Make that ... I need a hard-surfacing budget!)

Till then ... and until inspiration really strikes.... you will find me on my hands and knees, planting flowers.

And that is still very very good!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Chicks of North Scott..................

The view from my little corner of the world has changed in the 14 years that I have lived in North Scott County. There were nicely manicured lawns with concrete lawn ornaments. Maybe fake deer or a pig. But nothing ever moved except for an occasional dog. You might hear some cattle. Or see a horse.

But most barnyards were empty. Hogs sheds were crumbling. Gardens were filled with weeds. And when I got chicks in 2002, there were empty chicken coops everywhere.

Boy ... have times changed!

Our little neighborhood has gone to the birds!

In less than a mile .......... this was what I encountered.

First of all ..... a traffic jam. Just like in the big city, traffic squealed to a halt!!!

Street walking ducks!!!! What is this world coming to???? If they are not careful, they will end up here.

These three were loitering in a cattle pasture and quickly scurried away once they saw me! They knew they could be accused of trespassing.

And then .... there was this guy. He was on the corner ... watching his girlfriend.

She only had eyes for him!

But this poor girl. Abandon. Alone. Walking the sides of the road. It was like an old Helen Reddy song! Looking for love.... she came right up to the car to tell me her woes.

Yea ..... there are a lot more bird brains in the neighborhood. Backyard poultry have been making a comeback. The yards may not be as neatly manicured. But I have to admit, I feel much more at home!!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Thinking Out Loud

Several years ago ... I went out for supper with some former classmates. And during the course of the conversation, one classmate made the statement that I was not a real farmer.

I laughed it off and said something about Real Farmers wear Ruffled Aprons.

But I didn't forget the statement. You are not a real farmer.

So who is a real farmer? Is farming judged by the number of acres you have? Is there a magic number? If you have 19 acres and the magic number is 20 ..... do you do less work?

Is farming judged by your input costs? We can't judge by profits because there would be very few farmers. But maybe we can judge by input costs. If you reach $75,000 in inputs ..... are you a farmer?

I think about it a lot this time of year. For the next 6 weeks ..... as the tractors rush by me on the gravel road ..... I will be on my hands and knees planting. They will quickly finish planting their 160 acres of corn, while I'm still struggling to get the zinnias in, mulched and watered.

They will be comfortable in their John Deere tractor cabs with the air-conditioning while I have the stinging sweat dripping into my eyes. They can pop out of their tractors --- not too worse for wear --- while I have grunchy dirty knees and the manicure from Hell!

In a few weeks ... they will be done. For the next three months, I will be weeding --- again on my hands and knees. I have yet to see that Round-up Ready larkspur or snapdragons.

I will harvest my flowers and dry them. I will collect my eggs and sell them. I will pick the tomatoes, the beans, the squash and can them. I live off these two little acres, hopefully with a respectful nod to the Lord and His glorious creation. I try to put more in ..... than I take out. One for me .... One for the birds.

I always thought that farming was not about acres or crops but a way of life. You can farm a 1/4 acre in the city with the right attitude. Or maybe you have a thousand acres .... yet buy every thing you consume, right from the grocery store. Do you really farm ..... or do you quickly plant crops to be consumed by others? I don't know the answer.

I do know this ............ Real Farmers wear Ruffled Aprons!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Today ............................

Yea ... the 2pm speech. That would be me. "The Carbon Footprint of a Cheeseburger."

I shouldn't slept through chem lecture!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Easy Come................

Well, the media is all abuzz about the economic indicators. Consumer confidence is up. Consumer spending is up. Employment is creeping up. Things are looking much better than they did in January of 2009.

When economy was going south, Honey's employer let 25% of their work staff go. Honey held on and kept his job.

When the job cuts didn't help .... the employer canceled reviews and cut wages across the board by 10%.

For the last year, we have been living on the same salary that Honey made in 1993 ... doing the same job for a different employer. Unfortunately, the utility bill, the phone bill, the insurance payment and the groceries are at 2010 levels.

But we scrimped. We juggled. We put off repairs and purchases. We made do. And we did without.

So the notice that the 10% salary cut would be restored, starting May 1st, was met with a great deal of celebration at Miss Effie's.

The plans and ideas were running through our heads! I increased our savings plan. We discussed household repairs. And we decided to get a routine maintenance project done on my car.

We called ahead .... how much will this cost?? An answer was given. An appointment was scheduled. And a bill for three times the estimate was presented!!!!


Easy go.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Can you hear me? Can you see me?

Then you have the chance to see Miss Eff on tv today!

OK -- don't be so excited. Calm down. I can see you scratching your head and wondering .......... Why would they let her go on tv?

Good question. I wonder that myself. But I said I would do it for Buy Fresh-Buy Local and so that's the plan. I will be on PSL today at 4:30, promoting the workshop that I am doing at the Earth Week Fair on Saturday. So I am preaching the gospel of Michael Pollan and talking local foods.

Today it is about local sources of protein .... meats, eggs and cheese.... and convenience.

Gotcha on that last word, didn't I? So often we think that going to the farmers' market means long hours in the kitchen cooking. Well -- our local vendors are doing a great job by creating ready-to-heat main dishes. And I am going to cover some of those, including a pre-cooked roast in gravy by Sawyer Beef. And their beef bacon ..... which I am still obsessing over! Love that stuff!

Then I have a quick cooking segment where I will be talking about whole grains and local sources. Yep .... I've got a loaf of bread rising now made from Oak Hill Acres Spring Hard White Wheat and then I will be making steel cut oatmeal from their organic Hulles Oats.

It will be fun.

OK -- in REALLY important news. We got a lot of work done this weekend. Yesterday, when I was was doing my last Sunday at Retail-Hell, Honey and BIL plowed the main cutting garden.

As usual, I am redecorating and re-arranging the main bed. We usually just till the garden but with the paths worked down --- we decided it might be a good idea to bring the big guns in and plow it.

Honey's family normally prefers green tractors..... but just for me and my love of Illini-orange,
BIL brought a nice AC for me!

And in other decorating news ................
I made another bird feeder/planter (depending on my mood this year!) out of an old light fixture from ReStore, some wire and some beads. Total cost ......... $5.13.

My garden is surrounded by some beautifully flat farmland. Makes for great growing. But the vast expanse of flatness doesn't add a lot of charm to a garden. I often long for stone walls, tall hedges and beautiful vertical elements in the garden.

So out of our stash of stuff .... we created this.

An old porch post, 2 old cast iron brackets and a copper cap from Menards. I'll show you the end result in a couple of weeks with the new hanging baskets, planted and blooming away.

That's all from Miss Eff's for today. Now its time to get some bread baked!

Friday, April 9, 2010

I think that tractor is sexy!

OK -- you may want diamonds. Or a cruise to the Caribbean. You may want a new BMW.

Me .............. I want a tractor.

Not just any tractor. But an Allis-Chalmers G. Yea .... I want that tractor.

The one in the picture is a brand new 1952 (?) Allis G that has never been sold. It is owned by a dealership in Mt. Pleasant Iowa. Yes ..... the sign does say Please stay off of the Tractor. But you know what a rebel I am!

Then today .... I find a Craigs List ad for a Allis G. And I want to know where that winning Powerball ticket is!!!!!

If there is a fairy godmother, please disregard my request of 50 years ago about the pink ballet slippers. An orange tractor would be nice.

Cuz I'd look good on that!!!!!!!!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Trying to keep up................

Bear with me, guys. Its that time of the year.

My posts get farther and farther apart, the pile of laundry gets taller, the dust in the house gets deeper and the need for Advil explodes. (Can I get that in an IV with my coffee???) Yes ...... it is spring at Miss Eff's.

And in the midst of it all ........ I don't have clue what I am doing!!!

Yep .... that's what my gardens look like this time of year. I wish I could show you beautifully manicured gardens. Not yet!!! And until our gravel road hardens up a little .... there will be no semis full of mulch coming up our lane! So I try to clean things up a bit .... pull out the dead annuals, cut back the perennials, brighten the corners up with some fresh paint, a new pillow, maybe a birdbath or two.

One of my favorite ReStore light fixture finds..... on a porch post with some dark red stain. I'm using a lot of that color this year!

Hey! I had to buy a quart..... Waste not, Want not! Don't take a nap at our place right now... you may end up with some red paint on ya! If it doesn't move ...... it could be Colonial Red!

Oh wait ...... I can do green too! Sage green (or as all my Freight House friends would call it ..... Darcy green!!!!!) I have a large collection of old garden hand tools that I have collected....... its time to put them to use. Many of them are not in great working order or uncomfortable to use. So they will be used on signs.

And the flower .... a planter plate with a croquet ball that has been cut in half. All in my junk bin/ barn! Whatever you want to call it! We can find a use for anything ..... if we only can find it!

I am using singular tense on all my signs .... in contrast to the plural that is everywhere!!!

Really .... herb??? In that garden alone ... there is dill, chives, caraway, bay, parsley, oregano, thyme, basil, fennel, tarragon, lemon balm, garlic chives, and rosemary. Not a singular herb in the bunch!

So there will be a few more signs in the next week or so.

But its not all work at Miss Eff's................

Saturday, I got to go to Bunny Palooza at the Freight House Farmer Market and host the bunnies. I saw many of my favorite customers.

Including these two gals................ Mazie and Charlie. Mazie still wants a bunny. I can understand that!! (Honey ..........please???????)

With all the hustle and bustle at the farm, teaching classes, doing speeches, planting at the Allens Grove Greenhouse,working retail, and the aches and pains of getting older ..... I have to remind myself exactly why I do this.

Its those two little girls and many like them ...... and beautiful gifts from the Lord.

Life is very very good at Miss Eff's.