Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sandford and Wife!

IF we are going to make the most out of what we have and the space granted to us, Honey and I needed to do some cleaning up!

Yep!  Honey is a good farm boy.  He knows that you just might need that piece of tin ........ someday.  Or that old piece of pipe from a clothesline can be used to repair something in the garden.

Yes ........ we have junk.

I could get all huffy - puffy about it.  But as a knitter, seamstress, embroiderer....... I have stash!  No -- I can not throw out that 10" piece of hand-spun alpaca!  And you know, I might just need that 3"x4" scrap of wool plaid. 

Monday, we parted with .....junk.

And more junk.

We actually looked a little less Ma and Pa Kettle than we have in the past!  I was totally impressed!

Off to the metal recyclers we went!

As Honey unloaded the truck .......... (I forgot my gloves and besides, I was working on getting rid of some of my stash!  Knitting, knitting, knitting!)........ I looked around at mountains of metal.

Old fridges, storm doors and piles of steel siding........... everywhere!

And suddenly ..... a truck pulls in with farm equipment!  An old hog feeder first caught my eye!  Wait!  I could use that for my chickens!  I could fill it with 2.5 years of feed!  

No .... that wouldn't be smart.  And who would have to clean out the moldy mess after 2 months??  Honey has enough to do.  ;)

But then .... I spied a 125 gallon galvanized horse trough.  Ohhhh!!!!  Herb garden!! Worm farm!! Chick enclosure!!   

The list could go on!!!!

Wait!!!!!  Don't!!!!

Oh No!! Mr. Bill!!!!!!!! 


No herb garden.  

No worm farm.  

No chick enclosure.

On the bright side, we made $57.62!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A little touchy ..........

I'm a little irritated today.  A little touchy.  And a whole bunch insulted.

Kind of a long story .... so I will begin in April 2012.  I was asked to give a speech at a Women for Obama event in Davenport.  I had fun ... gave a fun speech entitled "How Michelle Obama made me hip and cool".  It went well ......... and was tweeted to the First Lady.

Former Lt. Governor (IA) Patty Judge asked how she could follow that?

After the event, I received this note.

Thank you so much for speaking at our Women for Obama event last month.  You were fantastic and were able to tie in the issues of healthcare, jobs, small business and agriculture with our discussion on women.  We truly appreciate you taking the time to do this event, and I'm sure we'll be asking you to share your wonderful story again in the future!

Last September, I spoke at the Mid-America Homesteading Conference.  This is the article from Mother Earth News.

And finally, last October I was honored to be asked to stand on a box and speak at President Obama's rally at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport.

Congressman Dave Loebsack commented that he was glad that I wasn't running against him.

Yea .... I talk a lot.  And I like it.  I like teaching .... I like telling our story .... I like the work, the prep and even the anxiety.

So today .... I get this email.

Your name was brought up as maybe knowing of some people that we could tap as
keynote speakers for that night.  Do you have any thoughts?

Really?????  I suddenly felt like I was the manager of Pizza Hut and you walked in and asked me where Papa John's was located!!!  I don't care if you eat at Papa Johns .... but do you have to flaunt it??

We know you do this ... but do you know anyone else??

What am I ....... chopped liver????

So do I know of any keynote speakers?

Uhhh ...... 


Friday, July 19, 2013

Catching up ................

It's been smokin' hot on the east coast of Iowa.

With the heat index hovering around 100 degrees, I have been hanging out in the shade .... trying to catch a breeze.  No weeding.  Lots of watering .... both on the flowers and the flower farmer!

But the weather should break later today ......... and a delightful weekend will be on the agenda.

The flowers are beginning to go into overdrive!  My favorites .... lisianthus .... have started their summer reign.

How can you not love them???

OK --- maybe when they are buried knee deep in weeds!!  That's tomorrow's project!!  There are beds of lizzies that are weed free!!!

In the heat .... I have been embroidering again.  And I have a couple of my favorite tea towels stocked back in the Summer Kitchen.

"I am a child of God" ..... makes me happy with its bright colors!

I like this retro fruit look.  I also have cherries and watermelon.

And finally .... the most popular towel I have made.  It makes everyone smile.  Including me!  This time ... I did it on a navy edged towel ... with navy, hot pink and lime green.

My friend Tracy has been at the sewing machine with some new tote bags from recycled feed bags.

And dear Julie has been painting away some new patriotic signs.

I am delighted to have a sock monkey hanging around.  Cuz every child needs a sock monkey .... don't you think???

And finally, there is a new article out about the farm that really captures the magic.  We have been fortunate to have lots of articles written about us but I have to say ..... this is my favorite EVER!!!  And I love the pic of me and my darling Honey!

Thank you, dear Leslie.

So ---- now you are caught up on all the news.

Well .... sort of.  If I told you everything ..... what would I write next week???

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Big ... really big!

Today was 10 years in the making.

Today is big.

Today ... we dance in the kitchen.

Today ... we toast with icy glasses of water.  (It's really really hot in Iowa!!)

Today ... we praise the Lord.

Today ... we fall on our knees and thank Jesus for his love.

Today ... my husband is cancer-free for 10 years.

Ten years ago ..... our world went crashing down around us with the words .... Cliff, you have lung cancer.

The next two weeks were whirlwinds as we rushed to surgeons, pulmonlogists, oncologists, radiologists.  And, on July 31st, the doctors removed one third of his lung.

We had scares.  We had miracles.  We were told he would be carrying an oxygen tank.  We were told he would be a pulmonary invalid.

But they didn't know my husband and his bull-headed German determination.

And this weekend .... he mowed an acre of yard with a 22" self-propelled push behind lawn mower. 

With 5 stents, 2 plastic eye lenses, and a 1/3 of a lung missing. 

But without an oxygen tank.

Yea ............. now that's big!

Monday, July 15, 2013


Do you remember this post back in January???

Since January ...... we have replaced/ repaired the following.............

1996 Ford ranger finally bit the dust ....... replaced with a 2002 Ford Ranger
Iron ..... replaced .... and replaced again!
Snow blower .... repaired with a $15 part that every repair place said was unavailable.
Printer ... replaced.
Tires ... two.  Could not be repaired .. fortunately, road hazard kicked in for some of it!
Washer .... well, you know that saga!!!

So we were just going along ........

All is good!

Then Memorial Day Weekend comes around.  We had a low of 41 degrees and our furnace kicked in.

And the following death cry was heard .......

Clunk! Rattle! Rattle! Crash! Beep! Beep!

Yep ..... the 22-year-old furnace yelled out for help.

Now it can be repaired but the average life of a high-efficiency furnace is 15 years.  So it seems prudent to purchase a new furnace.

I have researching, getting bids and saving my money.

I have time.  I don't need heat.  And you know we don't have air conditioning so all is good at the Lafrenz household.

Until last week.

Honey was humming along with our 30 year old John Deere mower that we bought used 12 years ago.

This spring, he had put a new blade on, replaced the belts and installed new points and condenser.  It was good to go!!!

And then .............. the humming stop.

Yes .... our 30 year old mower bit the dust!  Well --- it could be repaired with the replacement of a new engine .........which costs more than we paid for the mower 12 years ago!!!!!  And that's with Honey doing all the work!


I may get those goats I wanted after all!!!!!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Reality check!!!

Back when I started Miss Eff's  ... I would get up every morning and bake cookies to serve my guests.

I made lemonade and served it in Mason jars from doily strewn trays.

I wore dresses and pretty straw hats on Sunday and I would never weed during open hours.

It was quaint ... sweet ....vintage .... and so very Miss Eff!



I know!  Have ya seen me lately???  OMG!!  You are lucky if I am not dripping in dirt!  And the dresses??

Ha!!!!  That's a joke.

I quit baking cookies when I realized that far too many of the all-butter, real vanilla, chocolate chunk cookies were ending up on my butt!

I quit serving lemonade in Mason jars when the sink was piled mile high in jars.

I went to glass jugs with paper cups.  Then when the glass jugs broke ... I went to galvanized coolers.  And when those rusted on the inside ... I went to hard plastic dispensers.

I hauled water and ice and picked up cups as the wind tossed them around the farm.  Every day .... often, two or three times a day.

And then ..... I gave up!

I totally gave up!  No cookies ... no lemonade .... no water.

Lately ... more and more people have asked if I sell bottled water.  And I cringe.  Cuz I don't!

Selling bottled water in those awful plastic bottles is totally against everything I believe in!!

But guess what???

Bottled water is available at Miss Eff's ..... $1.00.  We will recycle the bottles.  It's the best I can do.

Wait ... I will serve it while wearing a pretty straw hat!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pruning to bear fruit!

Fruit orchards will regularly prune their trees in the late winter.  Pruning will make the tree bear larger and often, more fruit.

My brother-in-law used to say ..... You will prune an apple tree until  you throw your coat through it .... it won't catch on a branch.

Over the last few years .... every time I threw my coat, it would catch on a branch of my life.

It would catch on an upcoming event, a class, bookwork, a customer request, a flat of flowers to get planted, a box of peaches to be canned, a row to weed, an email to answer ............. another meeting.

I was over-worked, under-funded and extremely stressed.

And when I finished my taxes and discovered that I made $169 in profit and no salary last year, I cried. 

And I cried.

And I cried.

And I wondered if the IRS would possibly consider me a charitable cause.

So ........ I pruned.

I pruned hours.

I pruned events.

I even pruned help.

And although it is early in the season ....... I feel as I can breath.

So let me catch you up on a few things ..........

Miss Effie's will not be holding her ice cream social this year. I LOVED doing the ice cream social.  But it is a week worth's of cooking ice cream custard, baking cakes, setting up tables, finding dishware, taking care of garbage, finding vendors ........... and by Sunday evening, I realized I hadn't had a slice of cake or a scoop of ice cream.  And I was ready for bed!!!!!!

I will not be participating in the North Scott Farm Crawl.  September is a very busy month and although this is a great event ........ I am open to the public 4 days a week, 4-5 months out of the year.  Stop by and see me ... pick some flowers.....use the pink Barbie Dream House porta-potty.  We will be here as we are every Sunday .... from 12-3.

We are doing some uber-cool stuff that I am very excited and proud to be participating.

I am teaching again at the Mid-America Homesteading Conference in Joliet on August 31st.  And I not only talking about canning ... but I am demonstrating canning.  So trust me ... I am super excited about hanging with Deborah and Donna again.

In the middle of September, the University of Illinois Master Gardener's annual conference will be held in Moline at the I-Wireless Center.  I was thrilled when they asked if they could tour our gardens.  And since I feel like like only orange-and-blue bleeding Illini in Iowa ........... I immediately said Oske-wa-wa!!! 

You should have seen me when they asked if I would speak at their conference!!!  I thought about attempting the jump that Chief Illini would do at the end of his performance at football games.  Then I realized there isn't enough chiropractic care in the QCA to fix my back!!  So I just cheered!!!

I am teaching TWO Salsa Camps at Scott Community College!  Twenty people in each class will be chopping, slicing, dicing and canning their way to great salsa come winter!

Yea .... I am still super busy.  There is weeding to do ..... buckets to prepare .... jam to make.  We still host parties and there are 4 this week alone.

But pruning has taken some of the pressure off ...............

And my coat doesn't get caught every time I throw it!!!!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Update ............

Back in April, I wrote this post about depression.  I have been on medication for 90 days now and I wanted to share how I feel and how I felt.

First of all ......... I FEEL FANTASTIC!!!!

I respond extremely well to medication ... and I know that.  But what I had tried to do in the last 10 years was to live without it. .  So I prayed more, surrounded myself with people that loved me and thought I would be ok.    There is a stigma that if you take medication ... you are weak.  No one would ever say that if I had high blood pressure or diabetes.

But with depression .... it is another story.

Bottom line .... I can not go without Prozac.

I think that is the best word to describe my days............ I feel lighter!!!!

First all, depression rears its ugly head a couple of different ways in me.

I sleep too much ......... I can not get enough sleep.  It could be noon .... and I will be ready for a nap.  It could be 7:30 and I will be horizontal on the couch.  Some people ........ don't sleep at all.

I eat too much .... food comforts me.  Helpings are larger.  More carbs .... more breads .... lots more sweets.  For other people,  they don't eat.

And I hyper-focus.  I focus on things that I do well.  It make be the job I had .... it may be a craft project.  But all my energy and work goes toward that.  And nothing else.

Some people have a difficult time focusing.  And when I started my meds, I was having trouble with staying on a task.  I would bribe myself to finish the dishes, make the bed, plant this row.  I consciously had to work through the project.

Now .... I start my list and can easily cross off projects.

I still have a lot of recovering to do.  My house is a disaster .... from the hyper-focus thing. And the business of this time of year does not help! But slowly I am climbing out of problem.

I am happy ......... but more importantly........ I am joyful.

Life will never be perfect.  I will never be perfect.  I will always disappoint someone or won't be liked by somebody else. It is their loss.

Cuz I'm pretty cool ......... even with meds. 

Just as you are!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Getting Lit!

No!  Not like that!!!

Though I have to admit I have been known to drink one too many pale ales.  And if truth be known, the Beer Angel knows exactly what I want when I walk on the patio.

But this is not about my devotion to brewed barley, wheat and malt ....... with touch of hops.

This is about outdoor lighting.

Outdoor lighting has been my nemesis for several years now.  We can not find anything out there that we like.   Most outdoor lighting fixtures look like they belong at a Tiki Bar.  Which isn't a bad thing ......... but Miss Eff's isn't a Tiki bar.

Beer is much easier.

I don't want plastic fixtures .... I don't want to spend hundreds of dollars for generic fixtures.

So we continue to search and hope that some where, some place, some one will create something that fits!

And tonight ... was another failed exploration at Menard's.

Until I came across these ...................

Note to new readers ........ this is the part that the sarcasm font should be installed.  Unfortunately, it is not available on Blogger.  If by some strange and unusual chance that you love these lights and I have offended you ........ please accept my apology.  I am certain it won't be the last time that I need to apologize!  That's just who I am.

Plastic solar lily lights in purple and white.  Calla lilies available in coral.  They are life-like.  They said so on the tag.

Real lily.


Life-like lily.



Yea.  They didn't and won't ever ever be coming home with me.

I think I need a drink.

A Tiki bar may not be a bad idea!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Getting the stink blown off................

Every morning, I take a stroll around the gardens. 

I walk.

I think. 

I look.

And I smile.

My Dad would always say, "Get outside and get the stink blown off you!"

I'm sure there were lots of old-timey reasons for the saying but for Dad (and for me) ....... it was all about attitude.  Cuz how can you be in a bad mood after being outside!!

Today ..... this is what I saw as the stink was being blown off me!

 I love the accidental color combination here.

 The bright yellow lilies always makes me happy!

We found an old hog waterer made out of a water heater.  Now its a planter --- pretty in pink!

At the moment .... I think this is my happy place on the farm!

The deep rusty edges of these lilies were a surprise to me.


This shady corner of the lath house is coming along nicely.

The Honeycrisp apple tree is loaded with fruit and a few apples are showing a blush of red.

And the first yellow pear tomato is ripening.  It might be ready by the 4th of July. 

People ask if I have bouquet after bouquet of flowers in the house.  And I don't.  Not that I don't love them or want them.

But every bloom and blossom is etched in my mind ............ and in my heart.

And the stink is blown off my soul.