Sunday, September 30, 2012


The last 2 days, Richard and I have commented that things are pretty quiet around here.  Many of the songbirds have begun their migration.  The ones who remain will either be residents or migrants.  The residents are probably getting ready for the winter months and the migrants surely must be thinking about packing their bags.  Even the grasshoppers seem fewer in number and not quite as energetic. 

The days have been calm with little wind, warm days and cool nights.  On our walk today, we noted the woods are coloring up.  The master painter's brush has touched the poison ivy, sumac, and virginia creeper with brushes loaded with brilliant reds.  Meanwhile yellows are appearing.  Leaves are slowly trickling down. 

While a multiplicity of tasks for harvest await us, the calm is nourishing and welcome.  We are richly blessed.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Here on this little Farm, we have many adventures.  They are always lurking behind the corner, teasing us, tempting us, inviting us.

OK: A little background:  We have been having a bit of trouble with fruit flies in the house.  Up to now, it has been warm.  Plus, we have had boxes of pears and apples waiting for processing.  Add that us and you have "Fruit fly Heaven".  It just has been really really busy.  (Pears, AKA Food Source, are now processed.)

We have put up some containers to collect the fruit flies, but decided to resort to a "fly strip" too.  Well, fluffy gray cats can get stuck in fly strips.  Need I say more?

Fall Equinox

Today is the Fall Equinox for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere.  Daylight and dark are approximately equal in length.  Sun rises due East and sets due West or so it appears.  I greeted Grandfather Sun as He arose this morning and I intend to send Him on his way this evening when He sets.  Sun continues on His southward journey as we move into the colder seasons here.  At exactly 9:49am, the sun crosses the celestial equator.

On this day, I think of balance.  I say goodbye to the warm summer season and the new growing that I have seen this past season.  I think of how all that is life must get ready for the upcoming winter.  Winter is a time of rest, replenishment, renewal, and an inward journey. I look with awe at the balance essential to support life itself.  Here we sit amid a vast Creation. 

Maybe this is a prayer or voices from the Ancients:  "Take note.  Give thanks.  Do nothing to minimize life itself and to alter Creation with which we were entrusted for all those who follow."

Once again, "the Wheel turns".  Blessed be.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Signs of Fall

September 20:

Signs of Fall are apparent:
Geese flying in strings,
Songbirds gathering on wires,
Hawks soaring in kettles,
Mums and Asters blooming,
Monarchs flying in migration,
Humans reaching for warmer clothes,
Soups and stews cooking on the stove,
Max taking daytime naps under the covers.


The two most important days 
in your life 
are the day you are born
and the day you find out why.
Mark Twain


Former student and dear friend Donna leaves from North Dakota early Saturday to spend a few days on the farm.  She will drive 800 miles tomorrow and plans to catch the end of the Molasses Making.  That means she's gonna be up and on the road way early tomorrow. 

Donna is no stranger to farm doin's and has let us know that she wants to help out wherever she can.  That means so much to us:  1st:  she's coming.  Wow, I can hardly wrap my mind around it.  It's for real.  It's amazing how a simple move can mean that people with whom you have known, loved and worked with closely are just not in the day to day routine.  Thoughts of them are forever in our hearts, while their presence is surely missed.  2nd: we have so much to do here with the harvest and preparation for winter.  I think this particular Angel surely is continuing to grow her beautiful wings. 

She had one request and that was to have chicken when she arrives.  We won't have chicken tomorrow evening but likely will for Sunday dinner.  I chuckle about this one.  My Grandfather Fred Albert Brenz assisted with the early electrification in the region.  I have a postcard he wrote his sister and his mother from Quincy.  He said he would be home later in the weekend and fried chicken would sure be nice.  It is wonderful that some things just don't change.

Thanks so much, dear Donna.  Travel safely.  Enjoy that beautiful excursion through the Great Plains.  And see you very soon. 

Cider Press

Richard ordered a cider press earlier in the week.  It is to be delivered to the Crawford family farm in Millard today.  Meanwhile, the Apple Trees in their orchard are heavy with fruit.  Get the picture?  We are all in stages of expectancy.  I can almost taste that Apple Cider.


The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the Universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the Universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.
Black Elk 

Thursday, September 20, 2012


September 8:

A Monarch lands on the wild Sunflower strain which is blooming in profusion by the deck, in the garden, and in the chicken coop. We have seen few Monarchs this summer. When we see one, we are extra grateful. It goes way deep.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

1 Batch This Weekend

The decision has been made to make 1 more batch of sorghum molasses this weekend. The big day will be Saturday.  Earlier discussion actually considered 2 batches.  Of course, anything is possible, but as plans are now, we will be making 1 batch Saturday. 

Each batch requires considerable work behind the scenes, both before and after.  I think some of the molasses makers are a bit pooped out.  This is coming at the peak of harvest and after a summer whic required considerable energy in the face of drought.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2 More Batches?

Yep, we pulled off 2 batches of Sorghum Molasses this weekend.  In total that was 35 gallons which is a record for us, I believe.  I don't know what the usual range is, but if my memory serves me correctly, that is anywhere from 10-14 gallons and 14 is on the high side. 

We are not sure what is going on with such a high amount.  I shall wait for the assessment of the "big boys who chew bubblegum".  They are the ones with the experience.  I did hear that vineyard growers in Missouri were pretty thrilled with the results of the drought.  It seems that the lack of moisture "concentrated" the grape juice.  I wonder if that is what happened with the Sorghum Cane.

At the end of the 2 days, many of us were pretty pooped out.  (We were pooped out  before, or as my Dad would say: we were "like a car running on vapors."  As tools were being put away and the syrup was being jarred up, you could hear some pretty strong murmurings and relief: "We are done for the year."

That was before Hollis went up to the field and came back with reports:  "This looks like the best cane we have ever had."  Hollis Dale headed up to the field and concurred.  So it looks like we will be making 1, maybe 2 batches, this weekend.

I have a former student and dear friend, Donna B., who planned to make a special trip from North Dakota to join us on the Farm and to experience Sorghum Molasses making.  She scheduled her vacation around what looked like an optimal time which is this next weekend.  That was before we knew about the drought and the speeded up effect it might have on the crop.  It looks like she will arrive late on Saturday.  If we make Molasses on Sunday, she will get to see the whole works. 

Hey Donna, are you reading this up there?  It is a surprise to all of us. And like you said, you have lived on a farm and you know how schedules are. We surely are only minimally in charge.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


There are those moments when time and space stand still, when one feels connected to a far older past, when one sees the beauty of human community working calmly and systematically toward a common goal, when one feels connected to all that is. Making molasses does that for me. All the tensions of that outer world drop away. Peace is restored in the human heart. I just smile and yearn for more...

Friday, September 14, 2012


August 31:

Hurricane Isaac is bringing us much needed rain. When we got up this morning, we looked at the southern skies and sure enough, a front was moving in. Words cannot tell the depth of feeling to know that at long last, we will be getting rain.

Praises be.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wild Here Today

It's pretty wild out here today. We are stripping and harvesting cane for molasses making this weekend. Maybe 2 batches. This tradition goes back in Richard's family to at least the early part of the 1900s. Probably before. 
The craft has almost been lost in modern time. The Crawford family reclaimed it in 2004; this year will make our 9th season.  And every year we learn more.
Due to its extensiveness, the craft must be done in community. And so the community arrives to help with different phases. If you were here, we'd could use the help. Great time to reconnect. 
We had a work crew here this morning (Dan, Mike, Julia, Meaghann, Leah, Melanie) to strip and head the cane, which they did by noon.  Melanie headed them up.  Meanwhile, Richard headed to Hollis' where the family gathered to harvest and prepare the site.  We had a great lunch here which Richard fixed.  Yummy chili (2 pots, one with meat and one vegetarian).  Calls went back and forth between the 2 crews.  Dan, Melanie and Julia headed to the field here on the Farm to head the cane, cut it and lay in bunches.  While I clatter away at these keys, pick-ups have arrived to pick it up in the field (with Hollis Dale, MaLinda, Lurah, Richard, and I think that last pick-up must have been Gerald and Hollis). 
Gotta go. Among other things, I am the Mama-razzi. 

Shake Rattle and Roll

When I was growing up in the 1950s, I would often hear a phrase from my Dad:  "Shake Rattle and Roll".  It was usually reserved for those days when an unusually very full slate awaited us, like driving to California or something like that.  Most likely I was in dream land and he was all fired up for the day.  You could almost see the sparks moving under his feet.  "Time was wastin'."

If my Dad was around today, he probably would say that on this morning.  We are likely going to have 2 cane stripping crews working today:  one at Hollis' and one here on Butterfly Hill  Farm.  We'll know how many as the crews begin arriving about 9 just as the dew is off.

I wonder if the Cane knows such doin's are fixin' for the day ahead.  They may be shakin', rattlin', and rollin' too just thinking about it. 

Richard has made 6 cane stripping knives.  One is from oak (which seems heavy) and the remainder are from cedar.  Please note the handles are covered in tape. 

The plan goes that we will be making our first batch of molasses this weekend.  Considering it has been a drought year and even it it hasn't:

Praises be. 

Here we go.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Today is a big day right here at the farm. Melanie is getting her 1st house: a tiny house of 90 sq ft. If you were around these parts, you could watch the little parade coming 3 miles up the gravel lane to our drive and onto the land for the very special place she has selected for her new digs.  Thanks everyone for your help...

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Since we had that 5 inch rain a week ago, things are really greening up.  Grass is growing.  Many of the dead looking sticks in the ground are sporting tender new leaves.  I was pleased to see that the Rhubarb is poking up from the ground again.  It almost looks more like spring.  I wonder what this doing for the cycles of the plants.  They seem to be jumping for joy.  I can sure say that the Humans are too.

Plus, we are seeing more flowers.  Some plants either did not flower this summer or they flowered earlier and for shorter duration.  Now we are beginning to see more flowers too.

It's magic what a little rain will do.  Every one of those raindrops is a blessing.  Praises be.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Keeping It Simple

It looks like we will be doing 2 batches of Sorghum Molasses the weekend of September 15.  That means one batch on Saturday and one on Sunday, weather and etc. pending.  Etc. is always pending.

This has been a tough summer.  With the drought, it's a miracle that we have a crop.  The weather has taken a chunk of energy from the humans.  Plus we all lead full and very lives.  You can add some transitions there also.  This time, I hear some murmurings on the importance of "keeping it simple".  I am not sure what that means.  But I could not agree more.

Hmmmm... I wonder what it will taste like.  Once again, we will have a batch to remember, assuming all goes well.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Sorghum Molasses Making: Soon...

It looks like we will be making the first batch of Sorghum Molasses, Saturday, September 15. Rain is expected this weekend, so we won't be making it then. (What are the odds that a crop that made it through the drought will then experience rain to delay harvest and processing?) More info on specifics later.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Praises Be

We got rain.  Maybe I should say that again.  We got rain.  It feels so wonderful to type those simple but powerful words.

Richard checked some of our "official rain gauges" here at the Farm.  For those of you who are new to this blog, they are empty buckets today.  The mug which we had used now has a crack in it and water leaks out.  So it doesn't pass our official requirements for a rain gauge.

Richard concluded we got about 5 inches.  That's so far.  More is on the way.  The rains have been peaceful, gentle and persistent.  We have had a few gusts of wind last night, but mostly this has been just a gentle as could be.

I did a walk about on the farm this morning.  Things look so green.  It's almost like we are all coming alive. 

The cracks in the soil are closing.  Or should I say healing?  One can almost feel the sighs of relief. 

We have 2 sticks that mark where the edge of the pond was last spring and early in the summer.  I regret we did not date them.  When Richard and I checked them before the rain, those 2 sticks had migrated up the bank.  Of course not.  The water had migrated back on the dry side of the 2 sticks.  The lowest stick was about 18 inches from the water.  When I did my walk this morning, the lowest stick was in the water and about 2 feet from water's edge.  Yippee skippee.

I walked down into the woods.  I especially wanted to see the ephemeral creek which shows up during rains and during months and years when the water table is high.  There wasn't a drop of water in it.  That rain must have soaked right into the thirsty ground.

These are the "notings".  I do have to say that the humans are experiencing considerable relief.  It is as if we can at last relax.  I hadn't realized we were so tense. 

The gratitude and humility in our hearts are right up there. 

Praises be.