Sunday, August 31, 2008


These days, Bidens or Spanish Needle is gloriously at peak bloom. This happy little daisy-like yellow Flower is impossible not to notice as the Summer wains into Fall. The Sun seems not so strong nor long now. Maybe that is why Nature turns up the Yellows in the Meadows.

Richard tells me the Plant goes by several names: Bidens, Beggar Ticks, Tickseed Sunflower, Spanish Needle. We like the names Bidens and Spanish Needle. Somehow Beggar is none too kind. The scientific name is Bidens aristosa. The plant produces 2 needlelike awns that attach themselves to any mammal traveling by. Hence, its names have some more meaning.

We find Bidens growing seemingly in 2 ways. We either find it in areas where it is alone with a single plant here and another there. Or we find it blooming in large prolific communities of many Bidens. The former produces Plants which are shorter. The latter produces Plants which seem taller, each trying to outgrow the other.

These 2 growth habits are found in 2 contrasting areas: in the Prairie areas which were likely undisturbed and in the Meadow which was formerly hayed and tilled. The single Plants dispursed across a larger area are found in the Prairie areas. The large communities of Bidens are found in areas which were disturbed.

We built a new garage almost 2 years ago. Although the Contractor was careful in his work, that project meant extensive excavation of the surrounding Soil. Bidens seems among the 1st of Prairie plants to return. I wonder if it is somehow protecting the Soil. I wonder if in some way it is preparing the Land for the return of the Native Plants.

I look into Missouri Wildflowers by Edgar Denison (2001, 5th Edition). This book, which is becoming a new found friend, tells us that Bidens likes wet places of prairies, waste places, ditches, roadsides, railroads (page 159).

There seems a reason to all the things that grow here. I hope we can still our loud and often self-centered Human Voices and listen quietly for the Voices of the Land.

Friday, August 29, 2008

All In One Day

Melanie is making Relish, Sauce and Chutney-All in One Day today from Barbara Kingsolver's bookAnimal Vegetable Miracle. The aromas from the Kitchen are quite remarkable as I blog along. I am on stand-by to taste test. Life is good.

Almost There

The Sorghum Cane is ripening and is almost ready for Molasses Making. Hollis, Deleta, and Granddaughter Whitley have been coming more frequently to check the Cane. We 3 C's watch the Stalks in the Big Field from the Deck and we make frequent trips to check it out.

These days, we can see the Sorghum Cane change almost on a daily basis. The Pollen Stage has passed. Green Seeds are darkening. Those characteristic "Burnt Sienna" brush strokes are beginning to show up on the Stalks. (Burnt Sienna is a color I grew to love when I was oil painting in my Teens.) The Cane is noticeably sweeter. The Seeds are losing their Milky Juice. Even the Chickens are thrilled about the developing Seeds for Snacks. Until yesterday most of the Stalks were high above our heads at 10 feet plus, waving down on their smaller adoring (and I hope adorable) Human Friends.

Last evening, we had Severe Thunderstorms, with 60 mph winds. The Rain came sideways and mostly from the North. Apples were bouncing down from the Tree. Lightning produced an Unequalled Light Show.

Rachel had joined us for Dinner but we 3 Cs were pretty distracted. "What about the Cane?" With reduced visibility due to heavy Rain and Darkened Skies, we strained through Binocs to watch the waving Cane from our protected space of the House.

As the Rain stopped, we 4 Humans made a Bee-line for the Cane Field. Sure enough, our Beautiful Cane had taken a hit. The middle of the shorter Stalks which were thinner were laying down in the direction of the Wind. The larger Stalks also were played about with the Wind. But seemingly very few were broken.

In case you know little of the raising of Sorghum Cane for Molasses, wind damage can at the very least make the tedious Hand Harvest more difficult. I remember playing Pick Up Sticks as a child. Just think about picking up 10 foot plus stalks of Cane which begin to grow and twist together. Not pretty. Worst case: Damage at this time can end the process altogether. We are reminded by these remarkable things that we Humans with our inordinant sense of the power of Self are not really in charge here.

As expected, Hollis, Deleta and Whitley came over this morning. Hollis said his Field seemed to take more damage than ours. Some of the Cane will begin to right itself. Indeed, the harvest will be more difficult. But still possible. The Cane will be changing ever more quickly now.

The date for the start of Molasses Making is set for September 6 but could be September 13. It will go as long as we have Cane to process and end before frost. That brings a quickening of activity. Stay tuned.

10 til 5

The Digital Clock showed 10 until 5 this morning. The Sky was dark as the Days are noticably shorter. As per usual, Freddie, the Rooster, was crowing. Richard and I chuckle about this often as we lay in bed.

Dear Mr. Freddie is announcing the arrival of another day inside the Hen House. He doesn't just do it once. He does it again and again.

Mr. Freddie has a habit of finding places which resound and amplifiy his Magnificent Crow. Inside the Little Metal Shed and right against the Wheel Well of the Car are Favored Places. But I think his most Favorite Place must surely be inside the Hen House as the Day begins.

Richard and I have thought about the reaction of the 36 Hennies. On 1st thought, I can imagine they are rolling their eyeballs. "Not again, Freddie." They surely must be trying to do what we used to do to the annoying Alarm beside the bed: Roll over, hit the snooze, stop that irritating noise.

But rather on this Day, I think those Hennies, just as Mr. Freddie, are saying: "It is a Beautiful Beginning to yet another Beautiful Day."

Thursday, August 28, 2008


On Tuesday, Richard made homemade Catsup, from our Tomatoes which are announcing an end to a bountiful season. Just in case you haven't made Catsup or even thought about making it, let me pass on some information about what he did.

Making Catsup is a long slow process. It surely must be a meditation on patience. The whole process took Richard 6 hours of slow cooking to turn 8 gallons of Tomatoes into 6 pints of beautiful tasty Catsup.

He used the following ingredients: Tomatoes (mostly Big Beef and Goliath, and whatever he had that was ripe), Onions, Garlic, Vinegar, Sugar, 1 Green Pepper, Spice Bag (Cumin, Mustard Seed, Celery Seed, Allspice, Cinnamon Stick), and a very small bit of Jalapeno Pepper to liven it up but not to render it hot. (Richard used the Ball Blue Book Recipe for a starting point, but used less Sugar and Vinegar.)

For a glimpse at the process, he 1st put the Tomatoes in hot boiling water and then immersed them in cold water. This is a quick and easy process for peeling them. He peeled and cored them, then separated out as much juice as he could. He cooked the Tomatoes, Onions, Garlic, Green Pepper and Jalapeno Pepper until tender (about an hour). He ran this mixture through the Food Processor and then hand rubbed it through a sieve. He then put the Tomato mixture back on the stove, adding the Vinegar, Sugar, and Spice bag. He boiled it down to about half. Throughout the process, he stirred the good stuff frequently. After adding the Vinegar and Sugar, the mixture has a tendency to burn. So he stirred more frequently and was ever vigilant. When the Catsup reached the desired consistency, he placed it in Pint jars, sealing them in a boiling water bath for about 20 minutes.

On Wednesday, we were mulling over thoughts for Dinner. Catsup came to mind. So we centered our whole meal on Catsup. Have you ever even considered featuring a meal around Catsup? I suppose if we all made our own delicious Catsup we would do it a little more often.

1st, we decided to have Grilled Hamburgers to go under the Catsup. Add to that an assortment of Chopped Fresh Herbs, Mayonnaise, Tomato Slices, Onion Rings, Bread and Butter Pickles (which we made last year), sandwiched in between Homemade Whole Wheat Bread from an Amish Lady at the Farmer's Market.

What would go with Catsup and Hamburgers? We added fresh Corn on the Cob, also of this season. Melanie also cut up an assortment of Fresh Veggies: Tomatoes, Dikon Radish, Armenian and Lemon Cucumbers.

And what would go with Catsup, Hamburgers, Corn on the Cob, Tomatoes, Cucumbers of the Season? Apple Pie. I made our 1st Homemade Apple Pie from the Golden Delicious Apples on our Tree. I apologize that it was too dark to take a good photo of the Pie and I was way too intent on eating my slice to take time for a photo op. I thought whoever would be reading this could use their imagination in considering warm Apple Pie. So how did you do?

As the meal closed, we broke out into our own special rendition of the song "Catsup" from the commercial on "News from Lake Woebegone", a regular feature on the Prairie Home Companion radio program of Garrison Keeler. We tried not to miss this wonderful program (especially during the winter months) when we lived up North. We smiled. Yum.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What If?

What if we lived our lives in ways our Hearts would Sing?
What if we lived our lives according to our Purpose here?
Things would be different,
1st and foremost in that Inner World,
and we'd see it in All That Is Around.
Peace and
Magic would return.
Why would we even consider
settling for anything less?
Glinda Crawford

Locally Grown Foods

When we eat Locally Grown Foods, we Humans seem more observant of the Cycles of the Earth. We are more protective of what it takes to produce Food, in particular, Her Water, Climate, and Soils. We seem more bound to the Rhythms of the Lives Who Produce our Food.

Life slows a bit. It takes on more of a luster, sparkle and shine. We focus our lives more on the place beneath our feet rather than some distant far off and supposedly more enchanting place.

We express our gratitude for these Simple, yet Mysterious Things. Eating in such a simple way weaves us back into Community, something for which we all deeply yearn.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Little Rest

Some days are just made for A Little Rest. We just can't go go go all the time. We 3 C's know that. This is not news to the Little Hennies either.

As I finish this Blog entry and contemplate its Title, the Little Hennies have tucked themselves under the shade of the Golden Delicious Apple Tree. While Rest seems high on the agenda for them, they are alert for happenings surrounding them. That includes a tasty Bug or 2.

Recipes: Sun Dried Tomatoes and Antipasto Tomatoes

Some recipes are definitely Keepers. Here are links to 2 that Melanie found:

O.K. True Confession. We really haven't "Sun Dried" Tomatoes. Melanie has dried our Tomatoes in the Dehydrator. Sun Drying is definitely on the To Do list, but not this year. This time, she used varieties known as Principe Borghese (photo above), Isis Candy, Black Pearl, Beam's Yellow Pear, Sun Cherry, and Sweet Baby Girl.

The recipe for Antipasto Tomatoes is also a keeper. We had them with Joni's Bread last night at Melanie's Birthday Harvest Dinner. Melanie used the instructions for drying Tomatoes and the recipe for Antipasto Tomatoes on Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle web site.

Yum. Double Yum.


This morning we had a wonderful Breakfast: French Toast (Homemade Breads from Joni and an Amish lady at the Kirksville Farmer's Market),

  • Maple Syrup (known as "Ishigahmizigaywin" by the Anishenaabe, hand harvested by Tribal Members on the White Earth Indian Reservation in what we know now as Northern Minnesota via Dorreen; this is not far from where we used to live),
  • Molasses (from last year's Molasses Making by the Crawford Clan of Millard),
  • Blackberry Syrup (from the Blackberry Patch on the Crawford Family Farm and made by Richard), Pecans (from West of Moberly),
  • Fried Apples (from our very own heavily laden Golden Delicious Apple Tree, fried in the tradition of Great Aunt Lula Myers Hart),
  • Homemade Butter (from Cream from a local Dairy made by Melanie in a Butter Churn acquired for us by her Uncle Gerald and Aunt Connie).

Yum. I can hardly believe we eat this way. Doesn't everyone eat this way?

Saturday, August 23, 2008


In the mid 1990s, Mary Kuhlberg, the Butterfly Lady in Grand Forks, gave us some Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars to tend while she and her husband were out of town. The Caterpillars were in a glass jar and our jobs were to find Milkweed for the hungry little critters, give protected space for the Chrysalis stage, and then to release the Butterflies upon emergence. We took our jobs very seriously and tuned into the Butterfly Channel every chance we could.

Late in the 1990s, Kathleen Brokke rode her bicycle over to our house and in her basket, she had tucked a gift of Swamp Milkweed. This amazing Tallgrass Prairie plant is a host plant for Monarchs.

We planted Swamp Milkweed outside the back and front picture windows of the house. We had easy chairs inside for the Humans to view the Monarch activity while we sipped cups of tea during our own quiet time. While the Caterpillars had been in the glass jar before, we Humans were in our own "jar" instead.

When we moved to this little Farm in May 2007, I knew I wanted Swamp Milkweed. Northeast Missouri is also within the Tallgrass Prairie region, so I knew I could raise it here. Sarah Saltmarsh graciously shared a plant with us for our new home last summer. That Swamp Milkweed is prolific. The Monarchs and the 3 C's are delighted.

I am happy to report that while the Monarchs seemed scarce earlier in the Summer, the Butterflies are now abundant and highly energized with their upcoming adventures. We see the Monarchs nectaring on the flowers. Other times, we see the Mama Monarchs laying eggs on the Swamp Milkweed. After a while, we watch Caterpillars munching away while grow, grow, growing. These youngsters can really eat. (They can really poop too.)
When the Caterpillar stage is complete, they move away to a secret place of transformation. When that special place is found, they go into the "J" shape. Shortly thereafter, the Caterpillar goes into Chrysalis (Cocoon). While we have not seen this happen, we have come upon them shortly thereafter. Those Caterpillars in J shape seem to unpeel their striped outer skin almost like taking off a pair of tights. That layer drops away to reveal a clear soft green form with trails of regal gold dots.
Time passes. We wonder what is going on inside. Within 10 days to 2 weeks, the color of the Chrysalis begins to change. We can see the pattern of wings developing inside (which you can see above).

Then the Butterfly emerges. The Butterfly hangs suspended from the now empty and clear Cocoon. In the beginning, the newly emerged Butterfly seems somewhat crumpled up and the wings are smaller. During this early stage, the wings are being "pumped up" to become full size.
After about 4 hours, the Monarch is ready to begin exploring the world around with those new wings. We see them 1st in the immediate space surrounding the Cocoon. Then, S/He is gone, following their own adventures along the skyward path.

From my reading, my notes (with source unknown) suggest that the Egg stage is usually about 4-6 days, the Caterpillar stage is about 2-3 weeks, the Chrysalis is 5-15 days. This is consistent with out experience. We do know that the hotter the weather, the more the process seems to speed up. Stokes Butterfly Book: The Complete Guide to Butterfly Gardening, Identification and Behavior is a great resource.

When I think about the Butterfly on her/his path to becoming, I am in awe. The transformation of this lovely creature is a metaphor for us to celebrate our own stages of growing, shedding, discovering. We too are on paths of becoming all that we are meant to be. How cool is that.

Note: If you look carefully, you will see the antenna of a Caterpillar tucked into the flowers of the Swamp Milkweed in the 1st photo. Munching away...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dahlias and Coleus

We planted flowers reminiscent of special times and people in the Grandmother's Flower Garden. Here you see 2 favorites of mine.

This Dahlia is a variety with deep red petals and white tips. Things got a little busy this spring so its name is floating out there somewhere. August surely must be the season for Dahlias, because they are sharing bloom after bloom.

Mother says she remembers Dahlias. Her Dad, my Grandpa Fred Albert Brenz, especially loved them. He died in 1944, 4 years before I was born.

My husband Richard planted Dahlias when we lived in North Dakota. I wonder if his Mother planted Dahlias or how he came to know them. Planting them and enjoying them here on our little Farm just seems right. They are a tender bulb, so we will need to dig them and store them before the frost.

You also see Coleus which is on the left. I love Coleus, which is known for its colorful and patterned foliage. The flowers are pretty but nondescript compared with the drama of the leaves. I always thought that Coleus was shade loving but I found out this year that some varieties love the Sun and heat. That was perfect for the places I wanted to put them.

When I think of Coleus, I think of my Great Aunt Lula Myers Hart. She would have Coleus cuttings rooting in water. Then she would move them to pots. This year, I plan to do the same.

I love hearing stories of the older ones, especially the ones who passed before I was born. Planting flowers from an older time with connections to our family history helps to deepen the connection with those who have gone before and to know my own story too.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Soil beneath our Feet

We have lived here on this little Farm for just over a year. One of the continuous concerns in our discussion has been the Soil. The Soil here in northeastern Missouri has been farmed 160 years. Plus or minus. Imagine that.

We have commented frequently on how the Soil looks worn and tired. That Soil is what Sustains us. Our vitality and that of all Living Things is dependent upon that Precious Substance which lies quietly beneath our feet.

I am not sure what we 3 C's will do here. We already have some preliminary thoughts and actions in the works. Replenishing the Soil is a long term and lifelong process. When we Humans take from the Soil, we must also give back. That includes all that has been taken by Humans for far too long.

I just noted a photo gallery ("The Future Rests on the Soil Beneath our Feet") from the National Geographic. Replenishing the Soil is not just something we face here in northeast Missouri, but rather something we Humans face worldwide. Our practices are catching up with us. People at last are noticing. We are stepping up to the plate. Change is happening. It's a tall order. A lot is at stake. We won't know what we can truly do until we begin to reach.

Sorghum Cane Check

We checked the Sorghum Cane today in the Big Garden. It has gotten Big. Some stalks reach 10 feet tall. Richard laughed and said at Harvest, it was going to be too tall for him to head. (To harvest, the heads are cut by hand while the Cane is standing.) According to him, we would need to depend on the likes of the tall family members with long reaches to do such things. That would be David and Jake.

The Sorghum Cane is heading out. Wisdom in these parts tells us that Harvest is then about a month away. Richard found pollen grains on the heads of some stalks and seeds forming on others. With any luck, the Crawford family will be making Molasses soon. It's too early to tell exactly. I shall leave it up to the Guru of such things (Hollis is lead here). Typically that will be in September.

We 3 C's are excited for a number of reason. Making Sorghum in the traditional way has been considered a dying craft. Beginning fall 2004, the Crawford family has reclaimed this using all the old ways. This is the 1st time we 3 C's have raised Sorghum and on our very own farm to boot. Hollis planted it. We tended and weeded it watching it grow from single sprouting blades in single file on a long row to these proud tall plants which smile down on their Human Friends.

With the challenges of the year, we are pleased to have what we do. Some who typically raise Sorghum Cane in the area either didn't or found the season a wash. This was particularly true of those with fields in the river bottoms or low lying areas. Richard checked out the sweetness of the Cane. It is beginning to sweeten up. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the Weather will be good to the Cane. Winds would not be good now as it would lay the Field down like Pick-Up Sticks. Harvest would be a mess.

The year has taught us that there are no givens. What we get is a Precious Gift for which we are deeply Grateful.

2 Paths through the Meadow

Richard was down in the North Woods today. When he came up into the Meadow, he noted 2 Paths through the Meadow. Those Paths were side by side and they made a straight line to the Sweet Corn in the Big Garden.

Sure enough, the 'Coons found the Corn. They made a mess of it. But they did leave some behind, which we quickly gathered.

We like to think we really want to share. But losing Sweet Corn to the 'Coons is a test of our practice. We are grateful we have had several meals of Sweet Corn before this day when the 2 Paths made their way to the Meadow.

When you look at this picture, check out the Soil. This year, the Soil has been hard and densely packed. We think it has come from the pounding of the abnormally huge amounts of Rain we have had. Plus, for the days following those heavy Rains, the Soil was waterlogged. As the Water drained, you could almost hear a sucking sound. That action seemed to compress the Soil.

I can imagine that Roots suffered from this. They were water-logged over long periods. Plus, to grow and be healthy, their Roots need to extend into the Soil. Dense Soils would make that difficult.

You will note that the ears of Corn are on the small side. Those Corn Plants have had quite the Summer. The 1st Heavy Rain came with high Winds which laid the Plants down. We Humans thought we had lost the Corn. But within a few days, the Corn was back on its feet again, looking up to the Sun. We were amazed.

I can just imagine those Corn Plants are pretty proud of what they produced this year. We 3 Humans are too. I can also imagine those 'Coons coming up out of those 2 Paths are pretty proud too. We can see them smiling.

Somber and Reflective

Richard finished processing the Little Roosters today. At least for now, he does it in the dark and quiet time early in the morning, for the least disruption on the Farm.

After the exuberance of 50 Roosters, the Rooster Pen is now quiet. On August 8, Richard did 12 Roosters; August 10, he did 20; August 17, he did 10; August 20, he did 8. The Little Guys would have been a range of 14-16 weeks.

Today, Richard has tidied up, closing this part of the work of the Farm for the year. He cleaned their house. The doors of their House are open to air out.

Meanwhile, the Freezer in the Humans' House is full. The Humans are a bit somber and reflective today taking in the meaning of all these things that support our lives. This is our 2nd year of raising and processing Chickens for meat.

A thought flashes: "It was easier to buy such things at the store." I remember those years. We didn't pay the least attention to the raising of the Chickens, their treatment, nor the treatment of those who cared for them. We were busy. We needed to eat. We only thought of Chicken as Meat. We just bought Chicken Meat, cooked it, ate it. That was that.

Our thinking on these issues has grown and changed over time. If during that time when we had moved away from a rural community and anyone anywhere would have said that we would be growing, raising and processing our own Chickens, we would have shook our heads and laughed. "You're too funny."

Our change happened slowly. I suppose the underpinnings of it all are that we started acting on the things that were important to us. Over the years, we began to note that store-bought Chicken didn't taste right. The fat was an odd color. The meat had a funny color too. Most of the meat was white, which wasn't the way Chickens came. The meat spoiled quickly. We began to be increasingly concerned about chemicals in food production and in the food itself. So we had to do something different.

About 8 years ago, our 1st choice was to go Organic, which meant no chemicals. We bought our Chickens and Turkeys at Amazing Grains, a natural foods store in Grand Forks. We noticed the difference right away. We were very happy about the screens their Amazing Staff provided us along the issues important to us. We simply wanted the Healthiest of Food for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet.

As time passed, our "screens" for purchase became a little finer. We wanted to cut down on transportation miles and to support local growers. We wanted to know who grew our food and we wanted to eat local. Amazing Grains began offering Organic Chickens from a Local Farm Family we knew and trusted. When Lars and Lesley no longer sold through Grains, another option presented itself. Organic Farmers Mary Pat and Mike Klawitter began selling Chickens and Turkeys direct to consumers on a by-order basis. We jumped at the chance.

Another factor was raising its head for us. We were increasingly concerned about the inhumane treatment to Animals and to People in mass production and on factory farms. These large scale operations also put Small Family Farmers at disadvantage. While an important part of our heritage (and our future), Small Family Farmers could not compete. As a result, they were leaving the landscape almost with little trace. In no way, did we 3 C's want to leave a wake of violence in our simple act of acquiring food.

Fast forward to 2008. Now we have our own little Farm. The question of raising Chickens for our own Meat was just a natural. Richard, fortunately, had experience when he grew up on the Family Farm not so far from here.

We did just what Melanie promised when the 1 day old Roosters arrived: "Their lives will be short. And they will be loved." We didn't get as close to them as we did last year. We did name a few, but perhaps they named themselves. Over those few short weeks, we enjoyed them. We played with them. We made sure they were well cared for. We knew they were giving us an amazing Gift. We tried to care for them with all the Respect and Love that Gift required. They were lively. They were playful. They were fun. We noted distinct personalities. I think they knew they were giving a Gift. And that was O.K.

So: "Is it easier to buy things at the store?" Such quick motions without care for the Big Picture just are not consistent with our values. When we purchased Chickens as Meat from the Big Box Store, that simple choice distanced us from a process which sustains our lives. We are not willing to do that anymore.

It may be harder this way. But it feels right.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Nature Notes

Richard says the Warblers are headed through on Fall Migration. He is recognizing their sounds. They are in fall plumage so they are difficult to identify.

Fall Migration? Wow! The Seasonal Cycles of the Earth are so amazing. I don't want to miss anything.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Chicken News

We are pleased to report that the Little Hennies are settling into their New Big Hen House and their new Big Yard. When they 1st moved over from their Wee Small House, they hid in the tall grasses and flowers near their New Big House. They would come out of the tall Magical Plants on occasion and run quickly back in. In this very earliest of stages in the Big World, they mainly hung out with the other Little Hennies, so we mostly saw them as a pack.

Most of their Big Sisters were and are quite accepting. At first, a few were a little cranky, as if they didn't want to share with their new Little Sisters who were now a constant presence in the yard. I think they wondered why they were not asked about this new addition to the Chicken family on Butterfly Hill Farm.

The most energized time for the Hennies has been Settling into Bed-Time. We are very pleased to report that the Little Hennies know their New Big Hen House as their home and their sleeping space. Just before Bed-Time, Melanie and I usually go into the Hen House to sit with the Little Hennies. We used to do this in their previous houses, so it just seemed right to do here.

I sit on my 5 Gallon Plastic Green Pickle Bucket and Melanie is close beside. Pretty soon, the Little Hennies perch on us. Their quiet sounds seemed to be a sharing of the news of the day and settling in for the evening. They preen, as is their ritual in tidying up before bed. I guess we do that too.

They seem to love to gather beside me. I must look a bit like a Mama Henny myself. They gather around my feet. Up to 4 or 5 will jump up on me nestling on my legs and sometimes perched on my shoulders. Usually, I have 2 in my lap who are poking their heads under my arms, as if my arms were wings without feathers.

The Little Hennies were and are often the 1st to settle in on various perches (mostly the 2 wooden ladders) about the House. However, that has presented a wee small problem because their settling places already had been claimed by the Big Hennies. "Mine!" Those 1st few nights in the Hen House featured a variety of vocal displays and new dance steps as the Big and Little Hennies were finding their places in a world now new to all.

As the days pass now into a week in their New Big Hen House and out into the Big World, the Little Hennies are more and more confident. At first, they stayed very close to their coop. Now they move out into the yard more and more.

A recent development has been that the Big Hennies, who seem to want a break from their Little Sisters, are now ranging down the drive toward the Road. We are not happy about this. So 5-6 times a day, you will see Melanie or Richard running down the Drive with a white tea towel in hand to usher them back. We call it "Chicken Wrangling". We even invited Rachel out to help and were grateful she came to share in our musings on this recent development.

Dear Rooster Freddie's entourage of Hennies has grown from 20 to 36. He looks a bit stressed. We have been trying to imagine what he must be thinking these days. He takes his role as Rooster very seriously. Keeping the Hennies protected, responding to their calls of distress on any part of the Farm, and feeding them are all part of his responsibilities. It's a big job.

Of the Meat Birds, 8 of the 50 Little White Plymouth Rock Roosters remain. Richard processed 10 this morning. Their little House and Flock looks quieter these days. Our freezer is filling up. We haven't yet had Chicken to eat, but will soon.

I should apologize to the Chickens for this writing. What you see before you is a very pitiful rendition of "Chicken News" written by a Human with the biases we Humans are known to have. I wonder what stories those lively Chickens would tell of themselves. They probably would have some intriguing stories to tell of us Humans too.

Aromas of the Season

This little entry was inspired by the doin's in the Kitchen as I tap-tap-tap on these keys. Richard and Melanie are making Salsa.

Technology has its limits. Big limits. While telling our story on this Blog, we can share pictures and words. But we cannot share the aromas of the Season. I guess we just have to rely on your memory or your inquisitiveness of such things.

So what aromas would I tuck into this little Blog? All of the following are the real thing, fresh out of the Garden and fresh off the Farm.
  • The making of Salsa
  • Chopped Cilantro
  • Fresh picked Peaches, dripping down one's arm
  • Fresh Tomatoes
  • Fresh chopped Garlic
  • Blackberries cooking into Syrup or Jam
  • The making of Pickles
  • Mint drying on the dehydrator
  • Fresh Sweet Corn with Butter dripping
  • Crushed Basil
  • Apple Pie in the oven
  • Fresh mown Hay

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mrs., or Ms.?

Melanie says that the Big Bug is not Mr. Mantis, but rather Mrs. Mantis. Or is she Ms.?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I cannot believe how big things get here. Mr. Mantis, the Praying Mantis, is almost 5 inches long. He's a beneficial kind of insect, so we are told. I think I know what that means. Looking closely at this guy in the above photo, you will note that Mr. Mantis even has wings so he can fly. Looking even more closely, you will note that Mr. Mantis is smiling for the camera. His right side must be his good side. I wonder what he sees when he looks at me (and you).

The Butterflies are also big (and tiny) and come in a range of colors. I sometimes think we are living in a parade of Butterflies. They seem to be dancing about every blooming thing, plus, when inside we see them dancing about just beyond the windows.

Both Mr. Mantis and this Butterfly are sitting on the Swamp Milkweed that Sarah Saltmarsh gave me last summer. Last year, it was but a stalk taking its place in the ground. This year, it is a shrub and it is huge. The plant must be 4 feet tall. And she is covered with hungry Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars.I also planted 2 gourds: Dinosaur Gourd and Birds Nest Gourd. I started them indoors at the end of the winter season. I don't think I will be doing that next year. After I planted the seeds, it was only a little while until they were making their presence known above all the other seedlings. I planted 5 out front. (Make a note: I do not need so many next year.) In looking at the seed pack, I note that each plant can grow 15-35 feet long. Hmmm...I must have skipped over that part. "Gordy", which is our fond name for these plants, has staked a claim on the west porch and is moving out toward the neighbors. He gets a haircut about once a week.

I had intended to plant a Giant's Garden this summer, but it did not work out. Apparently, many of the plants were already on their way to becoming "big". Melanie said this morning: "We didn't know that we would be the ones who would be small."


In our 1st year on this little Farm, I have never been so aware of the movement of the Seasons. I see, feel, smell, taste, hear their subtle and dramatic shifts.

How could I have missed this before? Why would I have even considered giving this up for a myopic focus on only the Human?


May we walk in beauty,
as the Navajos say.

Misty Morning


As I blog away, one of the Hennies announces exuberantly that she has just laid an egg. Richard is hammering in those nails to secure the shingles on the addition to the Big Hen House. Melanie's no name homemade bread is almost done as the waft of its aroma tickles my nose. She's headed to the mailbox and will be back just ahead of the timer's buzz. And, from his favorite place on the the West Porch, Max, the Cat, reminds us: "Naps are good."

Ann's Cosmos

August 11:

Long time friend Ann Hiner tucked inside their 2007 Holiday Letter Cosmos Seeds from her Garden to ours. And now, they are blooming. I smile.

I don't know what it is about Gardeners, but we just have to share. You find that perfect little Plant Companion who is prolific and you just have to give it away.

Thank you, Ann!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Thank You, Little Roosters...

Richard began processing the 50 Beautiful Little White Plymouth Rock Roosters. That little statement is more delicate language and less to the point than some alternatives. In some ways, it evades the issue. I suppose it would be better to say "taking the lives of the Little Roosters" because that is indeed what we did. As Melanie had said, their lives would be short and they would be loved. They have.

In our Culture, people stay pretty detached from such things, while a good percentage are meat eaters and often quite proud of it. Thinking about the actions which give us meat does produce a mix of feelings. Such thinking is messy and we detach. In the process of our detachment, we forget that something died that we may live. The Gifts of the Roosters provide nourishment for our bodies. In the rush of our days, we forget a simple and humble chain of words: "Thank you, Little Roosters."

We are trying to be very mindful of the abundance that supports our very existence on this Little Farm. It is not easy. But, we also find it far easier than any artificial detachment we experienced before.

The Rooster Yard is quieter now. Richard processed 12 Birds on Friday and 20 on Sunday. The remaining 18 are a little small yet so completion will probably be a few more days.

Little Hennies Make the Move

All of the Little Hennies have now moved to the Big Hen House. We moved 4 of them each of the last 4 nights. Our plan was to keep all the Chickens in the yard of that House for a couple of weeks. This would permit them to settle in, getting to know their new house and yard, getting to know their Big Sisters (and Brother), and getting them to develop their new social order (including who sleeps on which rung of which ladder).

All has gone well for the 36 Hens and 1 Rooster, generally. But this morning, we had a bit of a change in plans. Richard went about his daily routine early this morning and forgot to close the gate. So the Big Hennies (and their Rooster) were delighted to be outside. The Little Hennies stayed in their yard, darting in and out of the tall plants so as not to disturb 2 or 3 of the crotchety Hens.

In the tranquility of the morning, Melanie just said: "The Little Hennies are all out in the yard, as a flock!" There they were, chasing bugs in the area of their previous home, the Wee Small House.

We decided today would be a slow day. Maybe we will just follow the Little Hennies about. We are pretty worn out from the events of the past few days. A rest day on the agenda is good.

Butterflies Abound

Earlier in the Summer when we were in and out of storms, the Butterflies seemed few and far between. Now we have an abundance of Butterflies. They seem to be flying everywhere. Big Ones. Little Ones.

This morning, Melanie counted 19 Monarch Caterpillars on the Swamp Milkweed that Sarah Saltmarsh gave us last Summer. While small last Summer, this year the plant is huge. The Caterpillars sited there are all sizes and are chomping away. The Missouri Department of Conservation calendar says that about September 7, Monarchs will begin migrating in large numbers sometimes traveling 2000 miles.

We are feeling the intensity of the season with the abundance the Garden yields us and our preparations for the Winter store. Can you even imagine what the Monarchs are feeling with their own voyage ahead?


August 9:

Richard gathers Garden goodies on his way to making 19 pints of Salsa.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tomato Sampler

Today we had a wonderful breakfast with Scrambled Eggs (with Salsa canned yesterday) and Tomatoes (with Parsley from our dwindling stock in the Gardens). You could call it a wonderful adaptation of the Breakfast Aunt Louise would serve when I visited their farm in those cherished summer months of my childhood some 5 decades past.

For our breakfast this morning, Richard and Melanie picked Tomatoes from the 80 or so plants we have in the 3 Gardens. Finding each and every Tomato in the Patch under the conditions of this year is something to be celebrated. Perhaps it is something to be celebrated every year. How could we have overlooked this simple miracle?

Just in case you wanted to know their names: At 12 noon on the plate (and going clockwise), we have Early Girl, Sweet Pea Currant (tiny gems), Green Zebra, Speckled Roman, Green Sausage, Yellow Pear, Moskovich, Tomatillo, Black Pearl Cherry Tomatoes. In the middle, we have Isis Candy. Yum!

All except Early Girl are heirlooms. All plants (except Sweet Pea Currant) were grown from seeds. Most of the seeds were originally from Seed Savers Exchange out of Decorah, Iowa. Several varieties were ones we had saved ourselves.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Photo Ops Abound

The yellow season of Late Summer and Harvest has arrived. I took these 2 pics in the Garden: the Skyscraper Sunflower (which, you might guess, is way tall) and a Buckeye Butterfly (we think) on a Black-eyed Susan (we know). Photo ops abound.


Why did we ever quit
growing the food we eat?
---Rachel Long

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Moving In

Tonight, we begin moving the Little Hennies (who are now mostly big Hennies) into the Big Hen House. Melanie has been reading a lot about this. Our intention is to create the least disruption for either the Hennies who are moving in or the Hennies (and their Rooster) who already live there. We want the new flock to get along and there are some things we can do to optimize that result.

Apparently, the best time for the move is at night. You only move over a few at a time. That way, the Hennies (and their Rooster) who are already at home in the Big Hen House will be on their perches. We have 16 Hennies to move over and will move 4 of them each of the next 4 nights. Tonight, we will move over 4 of the Buff Orpingtons. It is almost dark now, so the time for the move is coming soon.

In fact, Melanie and Richard just came in. "It's done!"

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Little Construction Project

The little Hennies are growing. In fact, they are looking like Big Hennies, without their Combs. It's amazing how fast they have grown and right before our eyes.

Not only are they bigger, but they are outgrowing their Little House. That means they are just about ready to move to the Big (Hennies+1 Rooster) House. Before they can move in, we need an Addition to the Big House to accomodate them all.

Richard has been working on and off again on the Addition to the Big House. The Rains with other distractions have slowed his work. While he was waiting for that perfect moment to do the outside work, he built most of the pieces for the Addition. The moment to put it together arrived yesterday. He was up and at it as soon as there was enough light. Hollis and Melanie joined him as team. For the most part, the (Big) Hen House was complete by Noon, with just a few details waiting for attention. It has been wonderful to hear the sounds of the saw and the hammering of nails, and smell that new cut wood on the Farm.

The Big Hennies didn't seem to be bothered by all the commotion. They moved in and out of the House doing their usual routine: eating, laying Eggs. I think they are pretty thrilled with their new Digs.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Preservation Summary-August 4

We have preserved the following through August 4, 2008. That does not count all we have eaten along the way nor the Gifts from other Dear Ones.

  • Strawberries (Frozen)-23 Quarts
  • Strawberry Jam-30 1/2 Pints
  • Black Raspberries (Frozen)-16 Quarts, 3 Pints
  • Black Raspberry Syrup (Canned)-4 Small Containers
  • Black Raspberry Jelly-2~1 and 1/2 Cup Containers
  • Beef Stew Meat (Canned)-10 Pints
  • Lamb's Quarters (Frozen)-9 Small Containers (Our Spinach didn't germinate; this wonderful wild Green filled in.)
  • Sugar Snap Peas (Frozen)-7 Pints
  • Green Arrow Shell Peas (Frozen)-7 Pints
  • Pesto (Frozen)-10 Small Containers
  • Cilantro (Frozen)-5 Small Containers
  • Dewberries (Frozen)-7~2 cup Portions
  • Peach Jam-13~1/2 Pint Containners
  • Peaches (Frozen)-11 Quarts
  • Peaches (Dried)-5 Cups
  • Peaches (Canned)-20 Pints
  • Spiced Peaches-6 Pints
  • Green Beans-14 Quarts
  • Fermented Dill Pickles-Started and in the crock
  • Blackberries (Frozen)-8 Quarts, 7 Pints
  • Cherries (Frozen)-10 Quarts
  • Tomatoes (Canned)-10 Quarts

Such noting becomes Gratitude, Thanksgiving and Prayer.


Our Human-Centered Culture tends to live outside of or oblivious to the Cycles of the Earth. Such living on this Earth is artificial, disrespectful of our Host, and probably short-lived.

As we 3 C's try to live lifestyles more harmonious with the Earth, we note 8 distinct times during the year when Earth's cycles make a marked shift. August 2, which is celebrated or noted by many Traditional Peoples in the Northern Hemisphere, marks Harvest. The Earth pushes considerable bounty which will be evident over the coming weeks.

As I reflect on my experience of a lifetime, I would agree. The season beginning August 2 differs with other times during the year. Several notes can be made within the broad frame of the Masterpiece of which we Humans are a small part.

The Sun no longer rises and sets as far to the North on the Horizon. Daylight is shorter. The weather is hotter, which produces conditions under which many Warm Season Plants seem to thrive. Check out the Tomatoes, Watermelons, Squash, Corn.

I like to think of this Season on the Meadow as the "Yellow Season". Sunny Yellow seems to be a dominant color of the Late Summer Flowers. Many Plants there take on a soft brown look. Some of this color comes from the ripening seeds. Many Birds, who have completed their nesting cycles, now have Little Ones on the wing. Some are gathering on the telephone and power lines, perhaps beginning to plan those Big Adventures ahead. Purple Martins will soon begin their annual migration back to their Winter Homes.

In the middle of these things, I am amazed and inspired watching the Earth's Big Push. Fireworks come to mind. The Beginning and Middle of the Show are usually quite moving. But the Grand Finale keeps one expectantly watching the Sky. When that Finale begins, I think of that sound "Ker-THUNK" with its resonant boom. One can almost see a Giant drop kicking those last big splashes of Colors into the Sky.

Human Shows of Fireworks pale beside the Earth's Magnificent Show at Harvest. While we 3 C's have certainly harvested considerable abundance since the Gardening Season began in April, we will witness the Earth's Big Push through the months of August, September, and October. Not only is that inspiring but it is also a glimpse of the Abundance which underpins our survival as we continue our Humble Walks on this Great Planet Earth.

Traditional Peoples mark this time with awe, celebration, wonder, and gratitude. In our own small ways, we try to do the same.

Meditations on Blackberries and Peaches

Blackberries and Peaches are the Produce of the Day. This morning, Richard joined his brother Hollis in picking the Biggest Wild Blackberries either of them have ever seen.

We froze 7-two cup portions, and 4-four cup portions of Blackberries. The latter are perfect for Pies. We worked up most of the last of the Peaches. We canned 20 pints (without sugar). After supper, we will make Spiced Peaches, a favorite recipe we've reclaimed which has at least 80 known years of history in my family.

As I write this, Richard is tidying up Mrs. Peach Tree. She pushed an abundance of Peaches, holding fast to her charge through all of those Storms. Her branches were heavily laden with fruit, so heavy that some became broken. She needed some pruning for "air" so that She and her future fruit crops will be as healthy as can be. Taking care of Her as She has taken care of us seems like a fitting thing to do.

How did the Earth create these things? Why did She create these things which would mean our sustenance (along with many other creatures)? In all of our marked achievements in the Human World, all pale in comparison with these wondrous things.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


So how much rain have we gotten?

We do not have specific data for the Farm, which would be nice. WeatherUnderground shows a total of 43.47 inches of Rain for Kirksville this year. The average is 22.36 inches. This so far has not been an average year.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


We walked the Gardens this evening. That is our usual ritual as the Daylight, the Chickens, and we 3 C's prepare for bed. It's one of my favorite times. Our chores are pretty much done. We just walk about the Plants, checking in with them as if they are Good Friends of the more stationery variety.

After the often intense activity of the day, the teachings of the Plants and the Land are more clear during this time. It is almost as if when we still our own frenetic energy and our own agendas for the Land, the quiet voices of the Plants and the Land can at last be heard. These are our musings on these things on this beautiful Late Summer Day.

These days, we are watching carefully the triumphs and challenges of our Plant Friends. Melanie said "It's like a race. Which will be 1st: the Tomatoes or the Wilt?" After all the intense challenges of the season so far, do the Plants have enough vital energy to complete their cycle?

We held them as little Seeds, with all the promise and wonder that Seeds can hold. We made a commitment to raise them with all the growing skills we have. They made a tender promise to feed us. Some have. Some will. Some won't. Some have made it. Many have not.

In tending these Plants, the Gardens and this Land, they tend us. We see deeply the connection between Survival of the People and the Planet's cycles. We are filled with a mix of honor, gratitude, awe, sadness, humility and joy.


Richard picked that 1st Ear of Corn from the patch out by the Sorghum Cane. He has a variety of tall plants in that Garden with the Sweet Corn tucked inside.

He looked at me and I looked at him: "Shhh... Don't anyone tell the 'Coons."