Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Busy like a bee...........

OMG!  This life that I have gotten myself (and Honey) into is just really busy.  Most of the time, I don't know whether I am coming or going!

But ........ I have a cure for that!

We are bringing in the gal that knows all about bees!!!  Yep ... back again by popular demand is ... the One ... the Only ... the Fabulous Zan Asha of  The Renegade Farmer!!!

Yep .... Zan is coming back to Iowa and she is making a stop at Miss Eff's!!!

So here is what's up................

Zan is coming to teach 4 classes!!  Four!!

First ... on Thursday 9/22, Zan is teaching a class for Slow Food Quad Cities.  For information and cost, catch up with the wonderful people at Slow Food.

Then on Saturday 9/24 .... we buzz right over to Geneseo for, not one but TWO beekeeping classes!

Zan is teaching Beekeeping 101 and Beekeeping 102.  All the vital information is here.  You must register and pay through that link!!!!  It will make it so much easier for Zan and her host family!!!

Then on Tuesday 9/27 ....... Zan is treating Honey and I to a fabulous dinner in our home.  And you, too.  You want to be there, right???  Yes .. it is a cooking class and dinner rolled into one.  It is a Middle Eastern cooking class ............ it is going to be soooo much fun!!  Just register at the link above.

Seating is limited.  My house is only so big .... but we have crammed a lot of people in the past so let's just say The more, the merrier!  Well --- until we get to 8 registrations ............. and then we have to talk!!!

So ... I will remain busy as a bee.... more info will be coming later.  As will be Zan!!  I better get her room cleaned!!!!

As they say in small town newspapers ......... A good time will be had by all!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Impacted ...........

On my way home from Stringtown today, I was listening to NPR.

NPR was asking the question, How were you affected by the events of September 11, 2001?

Now -- I am not going to send in an answer.  I had no relatives lost on a plane.  I sort-of-kind-of knew one young man that escaped the second tower.  I wasn't a friend of a New York firefighter.  I've never visited New York City so I don't even have special memories.

So really...... nothing in my daily routine changed.

Except it did.

Around 4-4:30 on Monday, September 11th ........ Honey and I were sitting on the lawn, crying over the day's events .......... when a large plane, escorted by two fighter jets, flew over us.  It was Air Force One.

And at that very moment ... I said to Honey ... I just want to hunker down in Donahue with my chickens and sell flowers.

But I wasn't selling flowers.  And I didn't own a single chicken.

9/11 changed my life.

By the end of the month ... the final business plan had been written and Miss Eff was on her way!  (And I do use the term business plan loosely!  There were goals.  There was a budget .... an expenditure plan .... an attempt at a marketing plan!  But it was in writing!)

And suddenly, all the fear I had about starting a business ... about being out on my own ... about failing ....was gone!!!

It was replaced by the fear of not having the life I really wanted!!

Life is short.  Life is precious.  Those were lessons every American learned on 9/11.

Miss Eff's has grown and changed.  We have thrived in good years and struggled in bad.  We have had bumper crops of weeds... and Japanese beetles, swarming like locusts. (And not once have I ever blamed God for the weather/crop conditions.  Personally, I think all the bad weather was caused by Michele Bachmann!  Yes!!  I am kidding!!)

And I know this is going to sound as corny as the 7' stalks that surround our home ......... once you let go of your fears, your soul soars.

On 9/11, 3000 people lost their lives.  Countless military families lost loved ones in the 10 year since then -- protecting us and keeping us safe from future threats.

But in a corn field ... in Iowa ... one old gal found her life.  And for that ... I am eternally grateful.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Yea .... I live here.

OK -- I'll admit it.  It is the time of year that I am getting crabby and cranky.

I've planted and weeded and weeded and planted.  Somethings are successes.  And other things .... well, not so much. 

It is exceedingly dry and the rain storms skirt around my neighborhood .... leaving us hoping and praying the next clouds will have rain.

I've tried to keep the house neat and clean with dismal results.

I wanted storm windows ... ain't happenin'.  I wanted to strip the paint off doors..... not getting done.

Yea ... I might be a tad bit crabby.

But for all of that, what bugs me the most............ is having my house put-down by guests to my farm.

This is my house ... on Friday August 19th.  Windows need storms.  Siding needs repairs and painting.  But the roof is new ... the gutters are good.  And it is ours.

On our second date .... Honey invited me here to supper.  And as I tell people, I knew when I walked in the door ........ this was where I belonged.  I was home at last.

(Now it took Honey longer to realize that he wanted to share this with me!  But on to my story!)

On Friday .... I was working in the attic, trying to get some stuff organized.  I have an alarm on the driveway which 1) did not go off or 2) I did not hear.

The phone rang and it was a customer that was in my driveway.  She called and chastised me because I had not come outside.  

I apologized for not hearing the alarm and asked if she had knocked on the door.

Why would I knock on the door?  No one would live there!  Yep ... that's a quote!!!

(As you might guess, my perky customer service attitude was not at it's sparkling best at this point!!!)

Yea .... I live here.  

And though I know ... its not fancy ........ it has an air of dignity, a history of hard-work and a lifetime of sheltering the families that lived under its roof.

Our house is a Classic L farmhouse.  It is a variation of a popular housing style ... the Queen Anne Victorian.

A short lived style ... it was the  predominant house style of the farms of the upper Midwest...... Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.  It was the replacement for the log cabin or the sod house that first provided shelter.  By the Panic (Depression) of 1893 .... the Classic L was replaced by the American Foursquare style.

Our house in 1927.  Yea .. the outhouse is no longer needed.
Our house was built in 1892 and  faces east  ... the sun greets you in the morning.  All Classic L farmhouses faced east or south to protect the front door (which opens into the kitchen) from the cold winter winds and snow.  

Ours is fairly original ... we just removed the two chimneys.  There were always chimneys for the cook stove in the kitchen and the wood stove in the parlor.  The kitchen has its original wainscoting.  All the doors remain the same.  The trim is original and the ceilings are at their original height.

I know its not a McMansion.  I know its not in the latest, greatest neighborhood. This is a farm house!  It has the dust, the dirt, the age that 120 years of sitting in the middle of  a cornfield gives it!

I'm sorry that I snapped at the customer comments.  

But most of all, I am sorry that she is so shallow that she doesn't realize the pride that was built into this home.  She doesn't understand the heart of the people that hand-hewed  the rafters and ceiling joists.  They birthed their children here ....... and lost their crops.  They hung on by the skin of their teeth during the 30's and wondered, if the bank would extend another loan during the 80's.

In the book,  Death of a Dream, there was this little poem that was found in a child's composition book among the rubble of a Classic L farmhouse.

Then give me but my homestead
I'll ask no palace dome.
For I can live a happy life
With those I love at home.

I pity someone that doesn't get it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


We have started a new tradition at Miss Eff's.

Well,  we are trying to.  Kind of need your help.  Well, we really need your help.

We need you to eat pie!

Yep!  We think Thursday should be Pie-a-poolza Day!  So to celebrate Thursdays  (cuz its almost Friday!) my fabulous summer intern, Sonya is baking pies!

And this Thursday ... its peach streusel pie.

Yea.  Butter crust.  Organic flour.  Fresh, juicy peaches.  None of this open-a-can filling!!!!  This is the good stuff!!!  With brown sugar crumb topping!!!  Oh ........... yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(I'll have what she's having!!!!)

A 9" pie is $12.00.  A six-inch personal pie is $5.

Send me an order and I will make sure your pie has your name on it!

See you on Thursday!

Saturday, August 13, 2011


One of Honey's first records was an instrumental recording of a song called Wheels. 

(Records ... small round things with holes in the center.  You put it on a record player and you heard one song. 45 RPMs.  I am sooooo showing my age!!!!!!)

He played it a lot.  A LOT!  Like over and over and over again a lot! 

Until his brother came into the room and broke the record. 

Never to be heard from again. 

But because of the trauma of the destruction of this record, Honey has been fascinated with wheels. Cars ... tractors ... trucks ... wheels.

And 2011 has been named at the Lafrenz household, the Year of the Wheel.  Maybe that should be the Year of the Wheelbarrow!

Truth in blogging ......... I know we have a bumper sticker on the back of the truck that says "We brake for Steel Wheels".  It has got to be there!  Under the gravel dust!  Cuz  that's how we roll!  A lot!

We were driving to our favorite lumber yard and suddenly, we see a garage sale with garden stuff!  And for a whoppin' $5, we pick up a steel wheelbarrow with a steel wheel.

The problem is ......... these babies are heavy when they are full of mulch or even weeds!!!! 

So what to do??? What to do???

The PERFECT fire pit for Miss Eff's!  Ahhh........ the beauty of it!

But the next project was a solution to a problem. 

We need lots of seating at Miss Eff's!  And we need it in lots of places!  Sometimes, that means getting a bench from here to there!  And occasionally,  that means doing it by myself.

(Now, Honey has another explanation for the creation of this bench .......... mowing!  But I digress!)

This is the prototype of the Wheelbarrow bench.  We still have some tweaking to do!

Well, not we ......... Honey has tweaking to do!  But it is very very close.  And this is perfectly usable for what we want.  Honey needs to tweak stylin' a bit! 


This is NOT how tweaking is done!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I am sorry for the lack of posts lately.  Words have been hard to come by. 

Yea ... I still talk a lot.  But it has been an extremely busy summer with so many things going right and so many things going awry. 

The heat has been harder on me and the garden this year but both of us are tough. OK.  The weeds are tough.  And I can muddle through the heat with 3 ceiling fans, 5 window fans and an ice cold beer.

Or two.

But everyone is loving this cool refreshing air!   And we even got rain.  (Can I hear a collective sigh of relief from the zinnia crowd???)

Yea ... I'm happy.

The vegetable garden has been slow.  Canning and preserving has been slower. We did start working on Missouri peaches.  Ya know Honey needs his peaches!!!  But the tomatoes are slowly ripening.  A BLT here ... a salad there.  But not the quantity for canning.

The chickens are still laying nicely.  The 25 pullets I got early in the spring are laying well.  And the 25 chicks that arrived early in April are beautiful and growing.  They should start laying in the next 6 to 8 weeks.

We have baby ducks arriving in September.  Beautiful Blue Swedish ducklings!  We will have wonderful entertainment this fall with the antics of the ducklings!!

Honey and I decided to take more of our food options into our own hands.  We have decided to raise some broilers this winter for butchering. I hesitate to do it.  (Ya know I won't be butchering them myself!)  But I know its time to take this step. 

I have booked more and more classes through Scott Community College this year.  Although I won't be starting until October and only slightly then .... the winter schedule is coming along and should be announced in a month or two.

There are two classes that I am really excited about .... one is Without a box ... cakes you can make in minutes.  Definitely a beginners bakers class.  If you have never baked a cake without a mix -- this is for you. We will compare prices and really show how simple it is.

The next class that I am thrilled to be teaching is All about Angel Food.  We will be baking Angel Food cakes and show the simplicity and elegance of a homemade angel food cake. Included will be variations and frosting options.

Yea .... I like teaching. :)

We will be keeping the Summer Kitchen open all winter for your shopping convenience!  It looks like more baked goods will be arriving for Thursday pick-ups. Pies, breads and cookies will be regularly available by sign-up through our Facebook page.  I'm still working out the hours but I will let you know as soon I as decide.

OK --- I know it was a boring dull post.  But ya got one! 

And some days are just like that!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Let there be light.................

Yea ......... I'm in love.  But I have always been a sucker for old light fixtures.

Total cost at ReStore ............around $10.

So.  Totally.  Worth.  It. 

Now you can see treasures like this wonderful sign in the Summer Kitchen!

I knew you would like it.  :)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

August. Already.


It is August???

Can I get a do-over for the summer?

There was soooo much that I wanted to get done this summer.  Yes, the list was a tad over-ambitious but it was do-able.

Ok -- it was do-able if it rained only 1/2" at a time... only overnight ... and no temperatures over .... say 85-87.  With 30 percent humidity.

And if I only slept 8 hours every 3 days!

So here is a bit ... a tiny bit of the list that will never get done this summer.

I wanted to order storm windows for the bay window.  Needs them ... badly.  Not happening.

We wanted the deck on the back of the Summer Kitchen.  Not this summer!

I wanted to spin and spin and spin.  Unfortunately, my wheel has sat still for so long, it might have rusted in place.  I'm hearing the Tin Man say "Oil can!"

Likewise, I wanted to knit.  And now .. my hands are such that they may not ruin the yarn as I toss it over the needles.  But 90 degree plus temps with no air conditioning .... I'm not inspired to work with wool!!!

(I do have vivid memories of sewing wool suits and knitting wool sweaters in July and then standing for 4-H competition for 2 hours solid, totally attired in Pendleton wool and hand-knit wool sweaters! In an un-air conditioned Aledo high school entry hall. The 1970 Dress Revue competition still brings nightmares to all that were there! They were dropping like flies that day!)

My canning list is woefully incomplete.

The new roof on the barn is a pipe dream.

And there are two gardens that have yet to be touched.  Not looked at ... not weeded .... not mulched.

I wanted to paint the chicken coop and stain the lath house.  I wanted a new barn quilt on the Summer Kitchen and a new hour sign in the lane.

And the two antique porch posts that are going in the Summer Kitchen ... have not been stripped, sanded and painted.

I wanted ... I wanted .... I wanted.

But I lived.

I hugged my customers and laughed with my friends.  I learned that a little bouquet of flowers will make me as happy as a big bouquet. 

I ate in the corn-zebo and dreamed by the fire pit.

Summer goes much too quickly for those that farm.  I have heard people complain about the heat.  Yea ... even me.

But come January .... when the snow is blowing (un-blocked!) through my old windows... I will wish I spent more time basking in the heat and the humidity of an Iowa August.

Like loyal Cub fans say .......... Just wait till next year.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Discovering myself.........

On a regular basis, someone will come out to the farm and say "You are so lucky.  You are living my dream."

That may or may not be true.

But what I do know ... I am living my dream.

Wasn't always so.  I lived in somewhat secure world of retail for many years.  I say somewhat secure because for 15 plus years.... I worked straight commission.  No salary.  Just a draw I paid back at the end of the month.

But I earned exactly what I was worth that month.  Not a penny more.  Not a penny less.

I was a good salesperson.

But I was miserable.  I was born to be an entrepreneur but I was raised by children of The Depression.  They craved security and wanted that for me.  Security was important. But  I craved independence and creativity.  And for a long time, the fear of failure, the unknown, insecurity........ held me back from taking the first steps.

I was lucky.  I discovered my bliss.

And maybe you can too. 

On Saturday, August 6th, Christine Vivian of Ecouturiere, will teach a class on discovering your passion, your bliss and yourself.  Christine has found her own passion in re-creating fabulous clothing and accessories from vintage materials, recycled clothing and eco-friendly products.

Here is the description.  I so hope you can join us.... please RSVP below or drop me a note on  Facebook.

Recover Your Spark
(Through Mixed-Media Journaling)

Date: August 6, 2011
Time: 10:00AM - 1PM
For: Us grown-up girls only
Skills needed: Only the ability to use a glue stick
Supplies needed: A brown bag lunch for yourself and an old magazine to cut up. Other supplies will be provided in a take-home goodie bag.
Cost: $25 (includes cost of goodie bag supplies)

Maybe you feel out of touch with the spirited young girl you once were, or maybe you yearn for something different in life without knowing what it is you seek. As women (sorry guys, but this is girl time only), we tend to give so much of ourselves that often there's nothing left to give our own self. Then our inner spark dims and seems lost. If we look in the right places, though, we'll discover that the spark is still there. In this class, you will learn to use mixed-media journaling as a tool to help you find that hidden spark and to help you nurture your spark so it can shine brightly once again. Don't worry, no art skills are necessary, just a willingness to play and to laugh. Please come join us in Miss Effie's 

corn-zebo, and we'll help each other shine.

Miss Eff's will furnish lemonade and cold water.  It will be a fabulous day to get in touch with yourself. 

If you are a young mom ... struggling with the balance of home and children ... come join us.

If you are a 30's- something and finding that part of you has disappeared ..... come join us.

Or if you are looking at the retirement .... and trying to find that "second act"... come join us.

Don't let me live your dream.  

Live your own.