Thursday, January 16, 2020

TIMBER! The Farm Report 01-17-2020

The Farm Report

Once upon a time, as they say, long long ago.... Trees like this Red Elm were quite common here. Then Dutch Elm Disease appeared on the scene in the 1960's and pretty much wiped out all the Elms. Mother Nature don't give up though, and now we do have a few that are growing again. This tree doesn't look like much, but for here on my farm, it was a big one. One of the delightful things about Red Elm is that when they die standing, the bark will fall off and the wood will dry. This wood is 'pre-dried' and ready to burn. Another other nice thing about Red Elm is that it is a premiere quality firewood. It will burn hot as coal, and clean. Thanks to my good neighbor, Ron, who cut this tree down for me, I'm ready to put up wood.

So speaking of good neighbors, I swiped this pic from an article that appeared in a December issue of the Washington Examiner. A reporter spent some time out in our neck of the woods with the local population trying to get a feel for what we're like out here in Iowa. I'm sure politics is involved somehow. I have more things in my life to worry about than who's the best liar, so I'm not too up on political caucus things. Somehow, his assignment landed him in Imogene, Iowa! Imogene is about 12 miles away from me, and is famous for two things: St. Patrick's church and the Emerald Isle. He was impressed enough to write that neighbors do neighborly things for each other where I live. (I guess they don't do that everywhere. Who Knew?) Ron proved that for me when he showed up one morning and offered to cut down my Red Elm tree for me. To say that work is dangerous would be sorta like saying that in July, we sometimes have uncomfortably warm and humid days. The truth is that in July sometimes it seems like I'm in a steam bath standing in front of a blow torch, and Dangerous as Hell is what that tree cutting job was! Ron knew what he was doing, and all went without a hitch or a hick up.

Here's a snipet and a link for you if you want to read the whole article:

Oh, and by the way, Imogene has a population of 30, and it is declining. Imogene is an Irish Catholic town that reminds me of Ballykissangel from the BBC shows. They like to have all the fun they can there, and I live right next door! The Emerald Isle is the local (one and only) pub/bar/restaurant.

"A block from Emerald Isle is a screened-in shed of sorts that in May served as the stage for “Floodstock.” Local performers put on musical acts for free, while the organizers collected $25,000 in donations for the victims of the horrendous floods of March 2019. The Knights of Columbus delivered tons of meals to flood victims, according to residents."

"...there’s no explicit barter here. His neighbor gives what Terry needs, and Terry gives what his neighbor needs. “You don’t even think about it. You just do it,” as Terry’s wife Deborah put it."

Red Elm doesn't give up easily. You have to cut 'em off. They won't lean over and drop. Just that little bit of splinter wood standing up there is all that held the tree just before it gave up.

I love heating my house and shop with wood. And for those of us who do, just drool and look at those nearly perfect sized limbs ready to link up and split. Having dried standing, all the brushy top junk just popped off onto the ground when it hit. We have often enjoyed the "Annual" Ground Hog Day Weenie Roast here at Oakdale Farm. Maybe we can rake up the sticks and have a bonfire this year!

"Hey, Tim! I'm bored!  Isn't there anything we could go outdoors and do? There's gotta be something. Herding dogs aren't supposed to just lay around on pillows all day in some guy's office shredding fluffy toys." Annie is, to use the colloquial vernacular of the human experience, a High Maintenance Babe. She wants all the attention, all the time. And she will get it one way or another.

So we went out. In the lower left of the picture, you see my pride and joy, my 1952 Ford 8N tractor's hood. WAYYYYY down there in the field you'll see two little dots at the end of the terrace, if you look hard.

OK, so I'll make it easier for you. O.J. was sitting at the end of the grass terrace hunting mice. He had been there all morning. He does that. After 'breakfast' he will go outside and find a spot. Then he'll just hunker down and wait, and wait, and wait some more. Usually, he's repaid for his patience with dessert. This time though, Annie spotted him and wanted to get in on the act. It didn't go well for Miss Annie Oakley.... O.J. hunts alone, and he ain't kiddin'. Annie already knew this, but her short term memory ain't what you'd wish for. Will she ever learn?

Ah well, I'll admit it, too. I'm a little bored and ready for the new garden season. What to do? Sort seeds.

I do this every year about now. During the gardening season, I grab a packet of seeds or two and head for the garden in the afternoons. Fortunately, I keep my seeds pretty well organized; unfortunately, during the heat of the game, I'm not too good about putting them back where I found them. They get all muddled up - and then I sort them again.

I'm building tables to hold 5-gallon 'Dutch Buckets' in the greenhouse. This is a hydroponic technique that I've stumbled onto. It really works. Essentially, the plants live and produce in a 5-gallon bucket that is pump fed water and fertilizer through a recirculating system. It goes with the hydroponic strawberry patch. I'll show you more as I get it put together. This bench will hold about 16 buckets. I's a long way to go for a head of lettuce, but it is good lettuce and it keeps me off the streets and outa the bars.

Other than that, all is as well as can be expected here at Oakdale Farm. My son Jon sent me a pic of himself the other day. He said he had been experimenting with filters and ended up making himself look grizzly, old and grey. Well, without any assistance from technology, I popped a selfie and sent it right back to him - no filters required! Yes, I did pose and made it look as bad as I could; but it wasn't hard, and it didn't take long! No wardrobe or makeup crew was involved either. Darn it. Is this proof that when you live alone on a farm in the middle of a giant cornfield in Iowa, you tend to revert to nature? As Garrison Keillor said on his 'Prairie Home Companion' show, "Who needs dignity when you can be in the show business?" Cheers until next time!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Annie's Christmas TuTu: The Farm Report 01-02-2020

Annie's Christmas TuTu
The Farm Report

Everybody likes to get a present at Christmas time, even if you're not particularly religious. Annie isn't really into religion, but she likes getting presents, too. She's a 'girly girl' and just loves her new hot pink Ranger Ready Tutu. Not sure? Well just look at those ears! She knows that when we put on her new Tutu, we're going out in the Ranger - her personal fav.

Actually, the tutu is a safety harness. At the back of the last strap there is a steel hook I can connect to the 'Jerk Strap' that you can see just in front of her tail. If I have to stop fast, the harness catches her weight underneath her chest where it is better. Or if she sees a squirrel and tries making a giant leap out to get it.... It happens.

January 2020. If you blow this pic up you will see a lot of fresh black dirt down there by Walnut Creek. We just had to have another round of expensive dozer/excavating work done due to the floods last spring and summer.

Or, January 2020. You never know around here.

The trees were covered with a hoar frost that is just beautiful. It is the stuff that makes Christmas cards sparkle.

If you join these two pictures together, you'll see what I see when I look north towards my timber from the greenhouse.

4:30 in the afternoon. Nevertheless, the sun will come around and we will soon be having longer days. Time to plan and order seeds.

The Christmas cactus have been spectacular this year. 

This one is almost flourescent

How can you not look? Mama Nature is a real show stopper when she wants to be.

This one is an oldie but goodie. We got it free as a Walmart store opener giveaway a long time ago.

Here's a tip you might want to know about. I'm working along restoring the old Singer 66 'Red Eye' sewing machine. I'm a great big guy, and maybe you're bigger than your ancestors, too. The white wood is a little trick I've done for dozens of customers over the years. It is a simple spacer I put between the cabinet and the cast iron frame. Only an inch and a half, but it raises the work table surface just enough to make it comfortable for us big ol' brutes.

Just a simple slice of a 2 X 4 will do the trick.

I caught Annie and O.J. outside the other day in what looked like a fight. When I stuck my head out the door to see, they both looked up like little kids on the playground as if to say, "We're just playing. We're alright - really," and they went back at their game.

So I showed you pictures of 'Fuzzie' last time. That was Annie's new furry buddy the ex-raccoon. Now in addition to Fuzzy, she has added another fuzz ball. I'm calling this one Wuzzy. It is an opossum pelt. Get it? Remember the old rhyme: "Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair...." 

She's just as proud and possessive of Wuzzy as she is of Fuzzy. Yuk!

The hydroponic strawberry project is in hiatus for the winter, but signs are good! The strawberry plants look alive and healthy. 

They look at least as good as their brothers/sisters outside.

This one even has little blossom buds on it! I can't wait to see how this works come spring.

Aha! Maybe we will have fresh salad for the Superbowl Game after all. The spinach is doing great.

Amazingly, the lettuce hasn't cashed in either. Patience, Inman, Patience!

So what's a guy to do with his winter time? Make sausage! These are lightly smoked kielbasa and boy are they good. 

And corn bread! This is mostly for my reader, Kev, who is in England and says he's never tried the real thing. This is what it should look like, cooked in a hot cast iron skillet. Joyce's secret method: Oil and put the skillet in the oven when you light it to get the skillet really hot! Then make the batter and put it in the hot skillet to cook in the oven. When done, the corn bread will not stick. It won't. It is like magic. Eat the corn bread fresh and hot right from the oven with some ham and bean soup. Or put honey or fruit jam on it for breakfast - but hot! You'll love it.

And other than that, all is well at Oakdale Farm. Happy New Year to all, and let's go forward for another great ride around Old Sol in 2020.