Category Archives: Daily life

Staying Busy

It is a familiar theme on my blog the last few years – I show up and post some updates and then disappear again.  I really do not have any good excuses, except that life is busy and blogging falls to the bottom of my “to do” list.  I always imagined that life would slow down and get less busy as my parenting duties decreased, but that certainly has not been the case. Our motivation for buying and moving to this little hobby farm 15 years ago was to create an interesting life for our small children and to give them a taste of the country life we experienced growing up.  Well, those children are not small any more and in fact, two of them have been out of the house for a few years already. We only have one remaining at home and in only a year, we will be empty nesters.  Maybe then I will have more time?

In defense of my latest absence in the blogosphere, my spring and summer has been an especially crazy, chaotic and wonderful one.  Our oldest son graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in May and we spent a week out in New York for all the graduation week activities.  Family and friends joined us to celebrate our son’s accomplishment and we could not have been more proud to see him achieve his goal!

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Immediately after the graduation ceremony, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army.  Another proud moment for our family.commissioning

After returning home from our amazing week out east, we immediately refocused our attention on preparing for that same son’s wedding at the end of June.

See?  I was not exaggerating when I said it has been a busy spring and summer for our family.  Like graduation, the wedding was wonderful and the day was filled with friends, family and so much love.wedding

Despite all the preparations and celebrations in our life, we did manage to get our vegetable garden planted this spring and it is coming along quite nicely.  We have already enjoyed an abundance of asparagus, lettuce, arugula, and spinach this spring.  Soon we will be harvesting more delicious and fresh produce to eat.

Here is a view of our onions, string beans, carrots and beets.  My sunflowers are shooting up along the fence.beans The climbing plants, cucumbers and squash, are starting to make their way up the supports that Jesse built for them a few years back.  I go out there every few days to try to direct the newest growth up the wire.climbingveggies According to the old saying, if all is going well, corn plants should be “knee-high by the Fourth of July.”  Our corn plants are clearly doing well, because they were armpit high by the Fourth of July this year!  Now if we can protect the crop from the raccoons we might just get to enjoy some sweet corn in a month or so.corn2We planted tomato plants before leaving in the middle of May to drive out to West Point for graduation week. We knew it was risky because the rule of thumb around our area of Minnesota is to hold off planting until after Memorial Day.  Not surprisingly, we did have a hard frost while we were gone and almost all of our newly planted tomatoes froze out.  Upon returning home, after Memorial Day, we replanted.  The new tomato plants are happy and thriving in the heat and we should start getting some cherry tomatoes soon.

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After a disastrous infestation of potato bugs a few years back, we opted out of planting potatoes for two years afterwards.  We planted one row last year to see what would happen and all went well.  This year we increased to two rows and so far, we are all in the clear.  No sign of potato bugs and the plants are going crazy.potatoes A similar experience with squash bugs made us take last year off from all members of the squash family. We did not plant any squash, zucchini or pumpkins.  Taking a year or two off from planting crops that experienced bug infestations has worked well for us in the past, and like the potatoes, the pumpkins are doing well so far and showing no signs of those disgusting insects.  We will keep our fingers crossed that they do not make an appearance later in summer.pumpkinsBesides our vegetable garden, I have been busy in my flower gardens and there have been some other new projects around here that I hope to share some time soon in another post.

In the meantime, I hope your summer is going well and that wherever you are, that you are enjoying the warm summer days and nights!

Staying busy, but happy, in Minnesota…

Lynell

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Filed under Daily life, Gardens, Kids, Vegetable

A New Planting

Where has the summer gone?! Here it is, late October, and I have failed to give any updates on what has gone on around the farm this summer.  Taking the time to document our projects through blog posts is important to me because in addition to keeping my blog current, we often turn to these posts at some later time to help refresh our memory on the timing of a project, the outcome, the method or tools we used, etc.  As much as we think we will remember things, we simply do not.  At least not the details.  This post is my first effort at “catching up” for 2014.

After about a decade planted in alfalfa, the field around our house had become mostly grass and weeds, so last year we had our neighbor work it up for a new crop. Due to the irregular shape of the field, he decided it would be easiest to plant and harvest a soybean crop.  The wet spring delayed his planting and the ensuing lack of any significant precipitation in the remaining summer months made for a pathetic yield.  Besides the poor harvest, the field looked like thunder most of the summer with spindly looking soybean plants and abundant weeds.  We decided it was best to return the field to hay this year for both aesthetics and utility.

Like last year, this past spring was soggy and we were unable to get into the field early in the season.  After consulting various sources, we determined it was best to plant the hay later in the summer anyhow.  In August, Jesse finally borrowed the neighbor’s tractor and disk harrow and spent an afternoon working the field to knock down the weeds and break up the sod that had developed in the low spots.  I can assure you that although this may look like “work” to many, getting out from behind the desk at his day job and behind the tractor wheel was pure pleasure for this farm boy.

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The weeds and grass browned up after a few days and then it was time to try and smooth out the field.  Jesse used our small tractor and an old abandoned disk the neighbor had sitting in his woods.  It was small, but it fit on the tractor perfectly and got the job done.

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We decided to use a hay and pasture mix that contained alfalfa, clover and timothy grass.

IMG_2611Jesse used a brillion seeder to plant the crop.

DSC_0207We lucked out with the weather and enjoyed some nice shots of rain after the field was seeded, which helped it sprout quite nicely.

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The overlapping seeded rows are visible in this picture.IMG_2715

This photo from yesterday shows how robust the plants are looking now.

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We are keeping our fingers crossed that the new planting fares well through winter and comes back strong in the spring.  If all goes well, our bees will be have a great summer surrounded by a lovely crop of flowering alfalfa and clover.

Lynell

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Filed under Daily life, Miscellaneous

One Week to the Next

This weekend was not exactly balmy, but it was warm enough to continue melting the snow.  What a difference a week makes during spring in Minnesota!  It was only 9 days ago when we were dumped on and school was canceled because of all the snow. (See my last post).  Besides a few random piles here and there, all the snow is now gone.  Hooray!  (It is Minnesota though and more snow over the next month is a definite possibility).

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Last weekend our vegetable garden had a foot of snow covering it.  Today?  No snow in sight and the rhubarb is even peeking out of the soggy soil.

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The chickens were finally able to escape the coop and do some free-ranging after a long winter.  They headed for a dirt pile that we have and got busy scratching and doing whatever it is that chickens do.DSC_0115

The warmer temps allowed us to get outside and start working on all those spring chores.  I spent a lot of time walking around with my garden shears and cutting back various plants, like the Annabelle Hydrangea along the pole shed…

DSC_0110…And the ornamental grass, Sedum, coneflower, and miniature Joe Pye weed along the granary.

DSC_0120Jesse helped me clean up our raised beds with strawberries and blueberries.  We raked out the dead leaves, pulled some random weeds, and raked up some pine needles to freshen up the mulch.  This will be our third season with the blueberry plants and we are hoping that some of the big bushes finally produce a good amount of fruit.

DSC_0118We also found time to prepare for our baby chicks that are due to arrive some time at the end of next week.  They will be inside the house in this box for the first five days so that we can keep an eye on them and make sure to keep them warm and drinking water.

DSC_0122Jesse also cleaned out the brood boxes for his beehives and they are all ready for the new bees. We are not exactly sure when to expect them, but likely at the end of April.

Spring is definitely rolling along here in Minnesota and we could not be happier.  🙂

Lynell

 

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Filed under Animals, Chickens, Daily life, Flower, Gardens, Vegetable

Signs of Life? Or Not.

We were blessed with a beautiful spring day here in Minnesota with temperatures reaching into the 50’s.  Finally!

It was a gorgeous day to get outside and start checking for signs of life around the farm.

Since the snow finally started melting, Jesse decided to make his way out to the beehives to check on them.  After 50 plus days this winter of high temperatures not even reaching zero degrees Fahrenheit, our expectations were very low about the likelihood that our bees survived.  When our bee supplier called in January, we decided to play it safe and order two more nucs of bees to install this spring to make sure we were not left without any bees.  As it turns out, we made the right decision!

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We knew it was a bad sign this afternoon when Jesse pulled the covers off the hives and we saw the carnage of dead bees on the inside hive cover.  There was also an eerie silence that was a tell-tale sign that the bees had not survived.  It was the same scene when he opened the second hive.

No survivors. No signs of life.

We will start fresh with new bees this spring.  Again.

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Our snow cover was melting quickly today with the warm temperatures.  The turned soil is starting to reveal itself in the plowed field next to our house.  The neighbor planted a bean crop last summer and plans to re-seed an alfalfa crop this spring.  This will delight our new bees.

3Wherever we wander on the farm, including out to the bees,we can always count on Sofie being somewhere close by.  She is a constant sign of life on the farm, even in the bleakest of times.  Dogs are such comforting companions.

4After visiting the bees, I trudged through the heaps of piled snow to get to the edge of my vegetable garden to take a picture.  With a solid foot of snow remaining within the perimeter, there is sadly no sign of life here.  It is hard to imagine that in a few short months this will be green and brimming with new growth and possibilities.
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The warm temperatures today did manage to stir awake the juices of the maple trees.  We ventured in to the woods and discovered the first signs of the sap running.  Although it was not a very productive day (only about 1 gallon), it is a start.

6And after this long winter, I will celebrate any sign of life that reveals itself around here!
-Lynell

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Filed under Animals, Bees, Daily life, Maple Syrup

Snowy Sunrise

We received another 10 inches or so of snow yesterday through this morning.  The wind is howling and the snow is drifting quickly.  School was canceled, yet again.  I was unsuccessful in making it out of our driveway this morning for work and got stuck in a three-foot snow drift.  There really is no point in complaining about the long winter any more though.  It is old news.

So, since I cannot think of anything very positive to say about Minnesota, our winters, the weather, etc., I thought I would just post this picture I took this morning.  I took it with my iPhone 5s and did a quick edit in Instagram.

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Hope you are staying warm and out of the howling winds.  Spring will come eventually, right?

Lynell

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Filed under Barn, Daily life, Outbuildings

A Blustery Day

I think we can all agree that it has been quite a winter, no matter where you live.  The days with snow and subzero temperatures have been too many to count for us here in Minnesota.

Today is just another one of those days.  The wind is absolutely howling out there at around 30 mph. With temps around 5-7°F, those high winds are creating wind chills of around -16°F on this bright and sunny day.
DSC_0001Jesse has spent a lot of hours clearing snow around the farm this winter.  He is outside now trying to clear the snow and break through the drifts, knowing he will need to do it again later this evening again because of the blowing.

DSC_0002Like so many days so far this winter, we are in a wind chill warning through Tuesday. Temperatures are expected to plunge further below zero and we can look forward to wind chills of -35° F to -45° F tomorrow.  Brrrrr!!!!

We just received the robo-call from the school district that all classes and activities are canceled for tomorrow…again!! We have had 3 days of school canceled because of frigid temperatures so far this month.  Our youngest (and the only chick left in the nest) celebrates every time we get word of another cancellation, but I doubt he will think it is so great in April when he is making up the days over the scheduled spring break. 🙂

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Since I am not outside doing this…

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I have managed to entertain myself indoors by starting to dream of spring.  We are going to refresh our flock of laying hens this spring and have also decided to order some chicks to raise for eating again. So, I have been paging through this catalog… (Murray McMurray Hatchery).

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After much deliberation, I ordered 12 baby chicks of 7 different varieties for our new laying hens and 25 chicks for meat birds.

Thinking about and planning for spring makes the long cold winters a bit more tolerable, don’t you think?

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Another way of coping with blustery winter days is to find a sunny spot inside and curl up on a cozy blanket, bathing yourself in sunshine.

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Wherever you are, I hope you are staying warm and finding your own ways to cope with this crazy winter!

Lynell

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O Christmas Tree!

Time has slipped away from me again and I have not posted for some time, but here I am today!

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend here on the farm with our family all under one roof.  There is nothing better for a mother’s heart.  Our older kids flew home from West Point for the long weekend and to join us for our annual sausage-making event with extended family.  I will post more on this later, but you can click here now to see a post from 2010 about this event.

After putting the kids back on the plane Sunday morning (time flies too fast), the rest of us headed out to find the perfect Christmas tree.  We are quite picky about our tree and we search until we can all agree on one.  We have been buying Balsam firs for quite a few years.  They have to be at least 10 feet tall and with a slim shape so they do not fill the entryway too much.  It took about 15 minutes of wandering through the tree farm and considering several options, but we finally agreed on this beauty!

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We finally finished decorating the tree last night.  I am feeling more ready for Christmas all the time.
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O Christmas tree,
O Christmas tree
Your leaves are so unchanging
O Christmas tree,
O Christmas tree
Your leaves are so unchanging
Not only green when
Summer’s here
But also when it’s cold and drear
O Christmas tree, 
O Christmas tree
Your leaves are so unchanging

I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving and that your Christmas preparations are coming along, as well.

Lynell

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Filed under Daily life