Saturday, December 29, 2007

Gone to see a man about a harness

Cutter sleigh

Snowy Farm (note new French doors)

I have been looking for a work harness for Gideon now for quite some time. My goal was to find a used one, so I spent a bunch of time online and perusing the classified ads in our local paper, The Country Today (if you're ever wondering about milk prices or want to get a helpin' of old-timey rural lore, look no further). Unfortunately, this method wasn't working out, as I felt a little insecure about buying something sight unseen and nothing was coming up that was in Gideon's size, which is basically Size Dinosaur. As we recently acquired a SWEET ride from our friend Jim Sundholm in the form of a cutter sleigh and have over a foot of the white stuff out here, our search for a harness has become more urgent indeed.

When I've asked our neighbors out here about how to go about finding a harness, many have suggested wandering around for a while until I find an Amish person and asking him where his harness maker lives. I don't know about you, but I found this method to be a little vague and somewhat intimidating. Luckily, as per usual, our hero Bill Beyrer got me the goods: the actual general location of a harness maker. So Jay and I trekked out to Medford, WI, which is little over an hour away. All we knew was that the place was called Shrock's Harness Supply, and was located somewhere on Wren Drive. And this was good enough for us! As we drove, we started to notice the lack of propane tanks and surplus of driving horses in the pastures, thus knew we were in the right territory. Sure enough, there it was: a little wood-burned sign under a mailbox that you'd surely miss if you weren't looking with intent. Jay hopped out and double-checked with a man driving his thick-built team of bays across the road, and he pointed to a gray building.

The harness shop was something to behold: a warm, dark barn crammed with harness parts, jingle bells, brushes, tack, bits and every kind of equestrian-style minutae you can possibly think of. And within minutes, Urias Shrock was there to help us. I have to say I found Urias to be completely charming in every way. I'm guessing he was in his 70s, and built like good farm stock, with the standard round-topped black hat and long wispy-white beard, sans mustache. I think we puzzled him with our desire to go back to the old ways. At one point I mentioned that with oil prices the way they're going I had the feeling horse farming may come back in to fashion again, and the look he gave me - the twinkly-eyed twist of a smile - could only mean one thing: "Well, duh." So today I took Gideon's ample measurements and mailed them into Urias Shrock, because I'm getting a harness custom made for my plus-sized Belgian. And then Urias Shrock will drop me a line via U.S. mail when my harness is ready for pick up in January.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

French Doors, Kitchen Queen, Hot Date

Well, we talked about it and thought about it long enough. The french doors and the wood cookstove - they are IN! Last Friday, our dear, construction-gifted friend Kevin spent 24 hours at the farm armed with tools to ensure that we complete this daunting task in time for our neighborhood party the very next day. A window was removed. (before shot at right) A giant hole was made. An 800 pound stove was hauled from the deck into the kitchen through the hole. And doors were installed and even insulated, thank god, before nightfall. Because it was 5 degrees that day. FIVE DEGREES.

Kevin, Chris and Jay are saints for completing this project so beautifully and quickly. Charis and I took the boys to Menomonie (and kept them away from the scary, dusty, cold, dangerous mess) for the entire day. We did manage to pop into a photo of the project, making it appear that we might actually have lifted a hammer or even a finger. However, handling post-project clean up and entertaining two nap-deprived toddlers puts us into our own category of sainthood if I do say so myself.

The next morning brought drywalling, taping, mudding, and molding to be installed. Owain even helped out by poking nails into the drill. (Okay, so we weren't quite as diligent about keeping the toddlers away from the danger as I claimed.) The wood cook stove sits beautifully in the kitchen where the table and pew used to be. While I certainly miss those elements of our kitchen, it is hard to walk by our dear Kitchen Queen without stopping for a few seconds to gaze at her grandeur. It has yet to be fully installed with a chimney, etc. to make it functional. That is why we can keep a plant and a bowl of fruit on top of the warming shelf without watching them wilt within seconds. The kitchen will probably need to be rearranged a bit more to make it work as best as we'd like, though the stove will never be moved again. Here are "after" photos of the stove and the french doors. It's really incredible to sit at the dining room table and see the full scope of the hill behind our barn and watch the sun set or see the warm lights through the big new windows, walking back up to the house from the barn.

The Christmas party was a blast. Neighbors came in full force and stayed past midnight, full of holiday cheer. We were blessed to have my mom and dad come out for the day and stay for the party. Chris's Nana also came for a few days and to join us for a second year at the party, which was a good thing since the neighbors were asking if she'd be there again! Nana also brought the best gift of all for the boys...her old moving, flashing, singing Christmas carousel. It has been a HUGE hit with Ellis and Owain, both of whom quickly learned how to turn it on and turn the volume up. But despite its initial obnoxiousness, something about it makes me really happy - the joy it brings to the boys, the joy it has brought Nana for so many years, its warm light and corny carols. I have a feeling it will be an annual Christmas treat for these kids.

Ellis and I are at the farm alone together this weekend. Chris is at work and C, J, O are in Madison. It's been a lot of fun to have this quiet time with Ellis all alone. We've had some unfortunately warm days, which has made for sloppy, sleety weather. So, I decided we needed to get out of the house for a little date. We visited the children's museum in Eau Claire, where Ellis spent most of our time there running around the insides of a larger than life digestive tract. I really wish I had a photo of him climbing up the "tongue" and sliding down out of the large intestines into a giant pad in the shape of a toilet seat. I'm not kidding. He also spent a fair amount of time in this car at the fake bank drive-thru, passing fake money through a fake air tube to a kid he kept calling Benjamin, whose name was actually Cameron.

Once exhausted from intestinal climbing, we walked down Barstow street for some lunch at the Acoustic Cafe. Ellis loved it and kept telling me he was having a "good date with mama."
We're off tomorrow to begin a week of family-holiday-festing in Minnesota. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, loyal blog readers!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Owain @ 16 months

Owain is a child who knows what he wants. While I'm sure this will serve him well later in life when he's out pursuing his wildest dreams, right now it often means afternoons of high-decibel nap resistance or an expressionistic floor mural of rejected foodstuff, which admittedly can make for a long day for an old Mama. Owain has more words now. Some of his favorites include "moon," "snow," "hair," "eyes," "nose" and "knee." He still loves the cats and the horses. Another development has been Owain's interest in music. He will sit for a long spell listening to Jay play his sax or Chris on the guitar, is rather insistent about hearing music in the car (NOT news or talk) and gets down with his bad self dancing when we put on something he can shake his booty to. Other pastimes include reading books, looking through his baby book, poking Auntie's belly button, playing and fighting over toys with Ellis, going for walks outside (once the glove trauma is over), vehicles of all kinds, and keeping his Mama and Papa awake as much as possible (he woke up during our neighborhood Christmas party last Saturday and was up for 2 hours flirting with the guests. He also likes to greet the butt crack of dawn with a cheer every morning). All in all, life with Owain is never boring, that's for sure!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmastime is Here!

The past few weeks have brought some good old fashioned holiday spirit around here. We've got snow, a Christmas tree, sledding, cookie-baking, and party planning. Our neighborhood holiday party is at our place tomorrow night - it's quickly becoming an annual gathering, which we hear the locals are very excited for - fun times sipping cider and downing sweet treats with our good neighbors. And today, a giant hole is going in our west wall to bring in the wood cookstove and install our french doors - lots to do before people come over tomorrow! Keep an eye out for some before and after photos soon! Ellis woke up with this awesome hair nest after a good night's sleep.

And here's some video from this morning - a little serenade for you all.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

It's complicated...

I remember being about 9 or 10 years old and wishing I was grown up. I wanted a purse and a check book and bills to pay. I wanted to drive a car and go to work and carry a briefcase. (A briefcase?!?) While I do get happy about writing checks and paying bills because that means I get to cross something off my to do list (isn't a to do list all about the gratification of crossing things off?), I shudder to think of nearly all of those other "grown up" things that I once coveted. Because a bill is so much more than a little statement with numbers on it. It's more than the thrill of solving a math problem. It's a sign of more responsibility and inflation and debt and dependence.

I am grown up now, even though it often feels like I'm still playing at adulthood. I have stress. I have a house, farm, cars, a job, family of my own. How did I happen upon so many giant leaps in life? When did I even learn how to balance a checkbook or change a flat tire or make dinner? Yes, this is a "where has the time gone?" entry. But really, what amazes me is how much I know simply by osmosis and the passing of time. Marriage and motherhood being the most profound examples.

How does Ellis, my 2 year old son, often have better grammar than I do (was that sentence even grammatically correct?)? Did I teach him to talk? Did I teach him to sing and make playdough pizza? When I stop and think about it, the idea that I am a mom makes me feel like I am 9 years old again. I laugh to myself in disbelief and think there's no way I'll know what to do next. But then Ellis has a massive meltdown and I rise to the occasion and somehow we end up more deeply bonded because of whatever it was he and I did together at that moment, without thinking, simply acting.

I'd like to apply this deep, powerful skill to the rest of my life. When I forge ahead with honest gut-instinct motivation, good things happen. Deliberation and thought are important, yes. But sometimes thought is best saved until afterwards, when I can reflect on my day and my decisions and actions and find peace in the successes and failures of my a mom, wife, sister, daughter, house mate, friend.

The bills and the job and the briefcase--my 10 year old symbols of grown up life. Only now that I'm in it, can I revel in its complicated and difficult and beautiful reality. I know it gets more complicated yet. So now I dream of being REALLY grown up and simplifying - discarding the debt, job, car, and checkbook altogether. Then, what will my new briefcase be? Balance, wholeness, relationships, truth.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Votes are In

It appeared to come down to the wire with Becca and I up until the unchristian hour of 11:00 last Friday night (well, Becca went to bed at 10:30) watching the votes pour in. With every vote we'd get, the other guy would always manage to pull ahead. Today I got an email saying that we won the peoples choice award and that after all the votes had been audited we won it by a whopping 50 votes! Thanks so much to everyone who voted for us. We promise to put the prize money to good use. I'm thinking either a pair of these shoes or perhaps one of these snowboarding kites.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Your Morning Quiz

Hey ho, everyone! My morning here at Lostview has been a great reminder of why I would be far too bored with city-type problems. So for your entertainment, I've created an enjoyable little quiz to see how you would grapple with today's unique challenges, farm-style. See if you've got what it takes.

a) Your Belgian has voluminous diarrhea-cicles stuck to his butt and tail - most likely from being wormed yesterday. When I say diarrhea-cicles, I mean a full-on runny pile of green poo is stuck in a giant icy wad to his tail and nether-regions. I was going to take a picture as words just don't do it justice, but I remembered that some of you are reading this over your morning Cheerios. To complicate matters, your 15 month old has just gone down for his nap, which means you have 45 minutes to take care of this problem, as well as get a full body cleanse in afterward. Did I mention it's 10 degrees below zero? Go.

b) Your woefully inadequate snow car, aka "Chevy Prism," is stuck at the bottom of the hill in your driveway. Its tires are bald. Your husband needs a ride home later. You must negotiate said "car" to the top while keeping your whining 15 month old off of the gear shift in the front seat. Still 10 below. Did I mention there were 6 inches of snow on the ground? Go.

c) You go out to start a fire in the hot tub wood stove, scoop out the ash and realize it's soaking wet. Water is leaking in to the stove from the tub. Do you start a fire anyway? Is there something else you can do to prevent further catastrophe? Miraculously the 15 month old is still asleep but you don't have much time. And your hair is wet from the shower, and forming icicles. Go.

d) You've made a pan of caramels for the holidays, and the recipe said to pour the soft, warm caramel goo into a sheet of buttered foil in the pan, which you questioned but did anyway because you're too anal-retentive about following recipes. The caramel has been sitting in a giant chunk chilling out in the porch and now must have the foil forcibly and meticulously extracted in tiny pieces and be cut into bite-sized chunks. The 15 month old is obsessed with the caramel, and can't have too much because otherwise he will be bouncing off the walls in short order. Go.

Have fun, kiddies!


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Kitchen Queen

We have long talked of getting an old fashioned wood cookstove to cook our food and heat our house. Earlier this summer we decided to go for it and we ordered an Amish-built stove called the Kitchen Queen. It arrived the other day and our friendly neighbor Dave got a 6pm call from Jay that went something like this: "We have an unusual favor to ask. We've got an 800lb wood cookstove sitting at the top of our driveway and need it moved onto our deck." "I'll be over in 10 minutes," Dave answered. He was, and he carried it down the driveway with his loader and placed it gently on our deck where it now sits waiting to me moved into the kitchen. The only problem is that it probably won't fit through either of our doors, so we'll have to make a new one.
A quick note about the stove: It should heat the entire house and cook our food (at least in the Winter) but it also has a large water storage tank on the back and a coil running through the stove. We'll be able to hook this up to our hot water heater in the basement and get virtually free hot water during the winter months. For summer heating, I'd love to get a solar heater installed eventually. So in a word, with this stove we will no longer be dependent on propane. With energy prices sky-high and going higher yet, this is a good thing.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Miscellaneous goodies

And another fun pic of the boys, along with some of Owain in our recent snow and Thanksgiving shots from Grandma and Grandpa Collins' place...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Boys

There is rarely a quiet moment around our house when the boys are together. They ask about each other when they're apart and can't get enough of each other when they're together. Though I'm looking at the season's first snowstorm blowing around outside the window right now, we've had a beautiful fall with many sunny days and lots of rambunctious fun.

Ellis walking on the "balance beam"
Ellis on his first carousel ride with Uncle Michael
Ellis and Owain in a very rare, still, quiet moment in the crib together, listening to Chris play guitar. Here's a (grainy) video clip of Ellis "singing" the ABC song while Owain quietly listens...

Friday, November 30, 2007

Too close for comfort!

We are about seven hours away from the end of the remodeling contest and are only about 15 votes ahead of second place! The drummond home restovation blog somehow got 40 or so votes in the last 24 hours . . .hmmmm. Anyway, if you haven't voted yet, please do it now. And thanks so much to all of you that have already voted.

UPDATE: December 1
As far as we can tell, we just barely squeaked by with the most votes as of midnight last night! BUT, they don't officially announce the winners until December 7, so we'll still be biting our fingernails for another week yet.
THANK YOU ALL for your votes, up until the very last minute!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

5 o'clock

Most nights at about 5 o'clock, I pour myself a glass of wine. While 5 is typically a crazy time around the house (boys running rampant, screeching, playing, wrestling, dinner-making, fire-stoking, cleaning up), this hour is a signal to begin to slow down. I love this time of year when darkness comes early - it's a subtle encouragement to shut down and revel in the warmth of the wood stove, the sounds of our family, the smells from the kitchen. Many nights I'm practically pulling my hair out, trying to keep Ellis in his chair at the dinner table, wondering why he hates peas tonight when he couldn't get enough of them yesterday.

This November evening, it's quiet and warm in the living room. My good husband and little boy are with me. And I'm savoring a glass of Portland wine.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veteran's Day

We love Veteran's Day around here, and I'm sorry to say it has nothing to do with veterans. It's Corrie and Amy's third annual Veteran's Day weekend visit to the farm and we are loving it. Corrie is sitting in our living room right now, entertaining everyone, from Flannery to Ellis and Owain in true Corrie Poppins form. Amy is out feeding the fat horses carrots...and more carrots. And they are both feeding us with chocolate, cheese, nuts, licorice, wine, and other Oregon goodies. We're also basking in lazy conversation and simple love and bonding with two of our favorite Portland friends. Here are some photos of this weekend's good times...

A little more info...

As we talk about this addition and what purpose it might serve, what it might look like, when and how it might be built, I realized it would help to add some photos of the house for reference. (See Chris's original post for layout ideas.) This is the house looking at the east side - where we'd like to build. The double window on the east side toward the front of the house is the living room. The two windows behind it are the guest room and bathroom, respectively. The windows above are Ellis's room and Chris's and my bedroom. There is lawn and a small retaining wall off the east side of the house, but that's about it - seems like the most practical spot to build and take advantage of the most southern exposure for passive solar heating and easy access to the rest of the house, including plumbing, electric, etc. We have also talked about wanting to put a sunroom and/or screened porch off the front of the house where there is ideal sunlight and ample space that is currently just lawn that needs to be mowed.

Here is the living room from the inside of the house - with our friends Corrie and Amy showing how well used this space is. It's really a thoroughfare - a gathering spot, a playroom, a workspace. The living room, dining room and kitchen are our ultimate communal spaces - used the hardest by the most people. The windows behind the couch in this photo would most likely become interior french doors...or some other kind of entry into to the addition. We've talked about there being a "living space" (study/library/sitting room) immediately off the living room. We all agree that we need bookshelves lining the walls, as 90% of our books are still in storage (and hopefully not mildew ridden!). I love being surrounded by books, I love lending out books, adding to the library, and watching Ellis and Owain fill their days with books...even if much of their time is spent simply emptying the bookcase onto the floor. So, lots of bookshelves are on the docket. As well as two or three bedrooms, a place for me to call an office at least for the time I work from home, and a bathroom. What else? What about storage? If we don't want to take up precious square footage with closets, how do we best make interior storage space? Ideas? Also, Chris and I have thought about maybe making one of the bedrooms a part of a loft area - what about stairs then? Does anyone have ideas on how to do stairs that take up minimal space but are more substantial than a fold down ladder?

If you have books or specific houses or people we ought to know more about, please send us your suggestions. Thanks!

Monday, November 05, 2007


Build; Create; Transform; Remodel; Retrofit; Refurbish; Gut; Restore; Sustain; Make one's own.

These words have slid off our tongues countless times in the past few years as we have taken on this farm, land, and life living in community. As Chris mentioned, making a house that was built for one nuclear family work for two growing families living an unconventional lifestyle has been a thrilling challenge.

September 2004 - Week 1 @ Lostview Farm - Dumpster Joy

First (really, on the very day we took ownership of the farm), we gleefully tore down and removed all things unsightly (or moldy or otherwise unlivable), and filled giant dumpsters with carpeting, linoleum, wood paneling, WALLS, and so on. We did it with the energy of superheroes, watching our home become a clean slate on which to write our own style and history. We are gradually becoming less reliant on conventional sources of energy and a relatively tiny bit less reliant on the grocery store. All this to say, we are moving toward something bigger than we are - something we all believe in - an alternative way of life.

And while our families and gardens and woodpiles grow, so will our home. Additional bedrooms, a study, a library, sun room, screened porch are all on the list. And of course there's the chicken coop/greenhouse, a treehouse for the boys... I think we will always be expanding - for ourselves, and for you all, people who we want to be an intimate part of our community.

Our place is becoming what it is precisely BECAUSE of you. You know who you are, whether you have painted, pulled nails from the floor, chopped wood, put up fences, weeded the garden, shared meals around our table, cared for our children, called or emailed with words of support, lent hours of advice and encouragement... Looking back through our history on the blog, I came across this post that actually lists projects completed in one fell swoop of a weekend by friends and family. It reminds me that we are fueled by so much more than dreams or desires or needs. It is incredible, the energy a group of people can emanate. It is contagious and inspiring and vital.

All along, from the farm being a twinkle in our eyes, we have always thought of it being a place for you, too. A place for rest or some quiet from the city, or somewhere to express your handy-person skills, or just have a really good meal with friends. I'm not being corny here, folks. I hope you feel like our home is yours...we have 36.5 acres - that's plenty space for a few (hundred) visitors.

I have been happily checking our voting stats for the remodeling contest we entered. THANK YOU all for the speedy votes of support! We're in 3rd place, I think - pretty amazing, for just a couple of days' work!! There is a $5,000 grand prize and a $1,000 people's choice prize for the blog with the most votes. At this rate, we're well on our way to winning a little seed money for our latest and costliest farm building project - the addition that Chris laid out in the previous post. Yes, we are still in planning stages, but this is the most important phase. Your support, ideas, and suggestions are like gold. And if you still want to submit your vote (by Nov 30!), we could surely use it.

The champagne is chilling...let's get ready to toast a win and bid farewell to the lawn on the east side of the house!


Monday, October 29, 2007

Requiem for my old friend

I said goodbye to my old girl on Saturday. She wasn't the most beautiful horse in the world, or the strongest or the fastest, but she was my dream come true, and I loved her. Because I loved her, I agonized for a long time as to whether I would choose to lay her to rest forever. But then I realized that my choice was to either do it and wonder whether it was the right thing, or to avoid doing it because it was going to be hard and then regret it. So because she was in failing health, I like to think I chose to do a hard thing for her sake, and to wonder instead of regret. I have always wanted to do right by her as she was a steady, faithful presence my life for over 22 years, and that means something.

I believe I saved Mistie twice: once from her first home, and then from a leasing family who had started to neglect her before I moved to the Midwest. But Mistie saved me far more times, from adolescent angst, from boredom, from crashing while jumping her over picnic tables in the park or riding her down Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway in nothing but a halter and rope. She kept me safe while also keeping my sense of youthful power and immortality in tact. She was a truly gifted jumper. She was sensible and stoic. She wasn't a complainer. She constantly forgave my numerous rookie mistakes. In her final years she was a fine barn mascot and the epitome of gentle kindness to Owain and my nieces Hope and Ellie, who took a special shine to her. She gave me focus, responsibility, and years and years of fun. She loved me back in her no-nonsense way.

She died peacefully on a beautiful, uncharacteristically warm October day, and spent her last morning in the corner of the pasture, where I found and photographed her sunning herself happily. I'm glad I was able to bury her here on the farm, where we will hold her in our memories.

I thank my stalwart husband, who I'm sure had no idea what he was getting into when he married a horse girl twelve years ago. He saw to some of the hardest parts on Saturday when I couldn't. I also thank all of my kind friends and family for their support and dear messages to me, none of which I've been able to respond to properly. So many of you have been there from the beginning of my journey with Mistie, and it is evident to me that you truly understand. Your love has filled me with gratitude and eased the way along this path.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


So over the last few days, I've been writing a blog in my head about my struggles - one about how we can feel a little lost here sometimes in our mission, about how Jay is burnt out on his job - on the futility of the institution in its current form - but is chained to it for the health insurance; how we want to be working for ourselves in every sense of the word, but how getting a good night's sleep trumps all right now, even pursuing our dreams; how having a rambunctious one-year-old makes projects stretch lazily over months and months; how my geldings look like a couple of hefty Jenny Craig weight loss program rejects who are cottoning a little too kindly to the job title of Pasture Ornament.

I was going to write about learning hard things while living communally, and how sharing my life so intimately with more people has made me aware of some of the ways in which I need to grow (and grow up); how I'm having a hard time connecting with other moms around here and despite the stars and the trees and the soothing quiet I feel isolated sometimes; how life or death can be determined by nothing more than the thin reed of a choice, and how heavy it is to have to make that kind of choice for another warm, breathing being, especially one I hold dear.

But sitting in the hot tub alone tonight, bathed in the glow of a silver-eyed moon, all I could feel was overwhelming humility and above all gratitude, for this place, for my people here, for a beautiful opportunity.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Owain at 14 months

Frequent words: "car"; "cow" (with subsequent "moo"); "cracker"; "cheese"; "hot" and sometimes "dog", "pear" and "shoes."

Eyes: hazel, Hair (what there is of it): reddish-blond

Favorites and joys: animals; exploring the woods fearlessly; being outside; taking walks; playing in the barn; speed-reading his books (especially pop-ups and books with little doors to open and tabs to pull); people and parties and any sort of social activity; being in the hot tub; playing chase; messing around on the piano; nursing; wrestling with Ellis on the bed; being loud with Ellis; pretty much anything with Ellis; climbing on chairs; anything that switches on and off; the phone; the stereo; bellybuttons; flirting with Auntie Becca and Uncle Chris; guacamole; eating apples and pears whole; butt-shakin' music; roaming and running around the farm with wild abandon (so far the only thing he's expressed even the slightest apprehension about has been the noisy, odd-smelling milk room at Bill's farm).

Understands: "Go get your shoes"; "Say bye-bye"; "Go find mama a book to read"; "What does the cow say?"; "Let's go down to the barn." He'll also put his finger up to his mouth and say "Shhh, Shhh" when we've had enough of the screaming.

Challenges: Anything relating to sleep still (getting to and staying there); ferocious will; ceaseless energy; endless teething; the general lack of an "inside" voice; insanely random eating patterns; some recent hair-pulling incidents; loads of head bonks from constant Three Stooges-esque falls.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Autumn 2007 Garden/Preservation Inventory

~ A whopping 54 quarts of applesauce and...
~ 16 jars of apple butter and...
~ 40 gallons of apple cider!
~ 6 gallon bags of diced rhubarb
~ 4 quarts of strawberry freezer jam
~ 4 gallon freezer bags of strawberries
~ 11 quart jars and 4 gallon freezer bags of tomatoes
~ 4 quart jars of pickled beets
~ 6 pint jars of dill pickles
~ 3 pint jars of dilly beans
~ 3 quart freezer bags of cut corn
~ 6 pint freezer bags of pesto
~ 3 gallon freezer bags of cut carrots
~ 20 some-odd pumpkins and gourds (see above photo)
~ 17 assorted buttercup and acorn squashes
~14 butternut squashes, 4 cut up, blanched and frozen for soup!
~ big boxes of onions, carrots, potatoes and beets
~ small box of garlic (all re-planted)

Bumper crops: apples, beets, potatoes, onions, squash, carrots
Bad year for: broccoli (deer ate starts), tomatoes (rained too much in August) and cucumbers (blasted beetles and slugs!)

Monday, October 15, 2007


With the season change, we go straight from the garden to trees. In many ways the forest is its own kind of garden where we harvest, plant, thin, cultivate, weed, store and walk through with inspecting eyes. The forest as garden is a gigantic leap in learning for me, and I am proud of what I have learned. I can identify different trees by their leaves. Three years ago I would not have been able to separate the oak from the maple. I am about 75% accurate on identifying trees by their bark and limb structure, and I now know the type of tree by the smell after I split it.

How do we best care for our forest in terms of habitat (animals, water and soil)?
How do we best care for our forest in regard to our resource needs (wood, nuts, animals, syrup)?

A giant elm tree died. Elm wood is wonderful for burning but extremely difficult to split. The little red machine is a hydrolic wood spliter. Pump the white arms and the wood slowly cracks apart. The tear inching through the wood sounds like a castle door slowly opening on 100 year old rusty hinges. After the spliter, the maul will finish the wood apart.

The pile up by the house with mostly dead elm.

The remains of the giant elm tree that have not been cut up yet. Any suggestions?

Piles out in full sun to dry quicker.

Chris found a great and Andy Goldsworthy way to help dry popple wood. Can you tell which one Chris built and which one I built?

Popple wood is a weed. Three years ago these trees did not block the pines. Yes, there are pines back there. We are cutting the popples down. There are a lot of baby oaks on the hill and the pines need room. I learned that popple grow from their roots. Therefore, they will just grow right back. Any suggestions on organic ways to keep the popple from reappearing?

Part of our woods looks like it was clear cut 10 to 15 years ago. It is filled with maples about the size of my shins. Ten years from now this could be syrup heaven. How do we manage this forest to be its healthiest? It already appears overcrowded and needs help.

It is my plan to try maple syrup this February. With the help of Matt and Owain, we painted red the maple trees on the hill by our house. I went back and put a green string around about 10 more trees right on the top of our hill. They are all an easy walk from the forest road. I also built an outdoor firepit to boil down the syrup. A neighbor friend says he has connections for me to buy a stainless steel pan for outdoor boiling. Another neighbor has an abundance of buckets. I just need bucket lids, taps and tubing. Plus, I need a large growth in understanding how to do all this. Does anybody else syrup and have pointers?

For the past two weeks when I take Owain for a walk, he heads straight off the path and bushwhacks it through the woods. We could be there for hours. He longer than I. This is the top of the hill looking towards our farm.