A Winter Blast

Our progress towards spring suffered a setback last night, as we awoke to around 8-9 inches of fresh snow.  School was canceled and we once again face the task of clearing and piling snow. Ugh! snow1 As discouraging as it is to see, with temperatures forecasted to reach into the 50’s and 60’s next week, we know this scene is only temporary.snow2 I decided to step out on to the porch this afternoon to capture a few pictures of the white stuff.  One of the things I enjoy about blogging, and one of the primary reasons I do it, is that it allows me to document events like this from year to year.  I always find it interesting to look back at pictures from earlier years to see evidence of late snowfalls and later proof that spring and summer eventually do arrive.  Last year, we received a big snow fall on April 18th.  A week later I posted and shared pictures of the dramatic changes that can occur in Minnesota during the spring time over a short period.  (See the post here).

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Below is a shot from our porch towards the river.  Grudgingly, I must admit that it is a pretty sight today.

snow3Nonetheless, I am hoping that it looks very different by next week.  I am SO ready for winter to move along so that I can get outside and into my gardens.  Spring cannot come soon enough!

I hope spring has arrived in your neck of the woods!

Lynell

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Miscellaneous, Outbuildings

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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Filed under Daily life

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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Seeing RED

The thing that I like least about blogging is the writing part.  Sometimes I just do not have anything particularly interesting to say.

The thing that I love about blogging is the pictures.  I love to take pictures. I love to see other people’s pictures.  And I love to share my pictures.

So, that’s exactly what I am going to do in this post – just share a few of my pictures.  As I looked at the latest collection of my shots, I noticed a lot featuring various shades of red. Below are just a few.

Our prairie-fire crabapple tree outside the kitchen window is full of red fruit and reddish leaves.

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A closer-up view of the fruit.  And notice the red granary is in the background.DSC_0036

My Autumn Joy Sedum plants have turned a very dark pinkish-red.  Even after several hard frosts, they are still looking good. DSC_0050

Some leaves from one of our many Autumn Blaze Maple trees around here.  While many other trees have shed their leaves, these are hanging on to theirs for now.

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While walking through the woods behind the house to mark small maple trees for transplanting next spring, I came across this red fence post.  It is a remnant from the previous owners who once had cattle in the woods around the house.
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Our singular Amur Maple tree is showing off some nice shades of red.
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And one of my favorite sites around here…our red barn.  red2

A view of two of the brilliant-colored Autumn Blaze Maples.
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And last, but not least, here come the guys across the field on our Razor – Jesse on the left and our youngest behind the wheel.  Ok, this picture does not really fit into my “red” theme, but I like it anyhow.  And there are some red trees in the background. 🙂
red4We have spent today starting our preparations for winter.  Jesse started his first round of the leaf battle and I stayed inside to remove screens and wash the windows.  I want to make sure I have clear and unobstructed views when the snow starts to fall.  😦

Lynell

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Filed under Barn, Daily life, Granary, Outbuildings, Photography

Hot Smoking in the Barrel Smoker: Beef Brisket

We have posted a lot about cold-smoking in the past because that is what we use our smokehouse for and the process we use most often.  Every single day the blog receives many visits from people searching for information on building a smokehouse, cold-smoking, or some variation of those searches.  But in addition to cold-smoking, we also have a simple barrel smoker for hot-smoking that Jesse’s uncle brought up from Texas.  Although we do not fire it up real often, we did make some time this past weekend to smoke a beef brisket. Yum!!

The firebox is heavy gauge steel box construction with an inlet vent control in the door. The smoke box is a 30 gallon drum that is split in half and hinged on one side.
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We have the hot smoker located just outside the access door on the garage because this type of smoker requires a lot of attention for feeding fuel and adjusting the vents. The biggest mistake in smoking brisket is to let the fire flare up and get too hot. A good temperature range is 200-225 deg F.

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Jesse likes to pat the brisket dry the night before, apply the dry rub, and then let it further dry in the refrigerator overnight. Notice that this brisket is wide and flat, which is not good. We are having a hard time finding a full brisket that has the fat cap still in place. Without the fat cap the brisket tends to dry out much easier.

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Jesse placed the brisket on the top wire rack where it is a little farther from the heat source, giving some buffer to prevent over-heating. He also places a pan under the brisket to force the heat to roll around the sides and circulate the smoke.
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After getting started, a nice smoke is coming out of the top vent and out of the seams in the barrel. We have heard that some people worry about getting their smoker tight to reduce air leaks, but that is a mistake because you want the smoke to pass over the meat.   Making a tight smoker will cut air flow and cause moisture to build up in the smoker, which can promote an acrid flavor.

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After attending a class on smoking at a retail store last year, we purchased  this handy digital probe thermometer. Although there are 2 dial temp gauges in the barrel itself, one in the bottom and another in the top, the dual read digital probe gives the most accurate readings of what is happening right at the brisket. The dual probe gives the temp inside the meat, and another reading just outside the meat (oven temp).   DSC_0107

In this photo the temp had spiked up to 243 deg F, so Jesse had to turn the vent down to try to cool it back down to the desired range of 200-225 deg F.

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When the brisket reaches 170 deg F, Jesse removes the brisket from the smoker, wraps it tightly in tinfoil with a little barbecue sauce, and then places it in the oven at 220 deg F for another 2 hours for finishing. It took about 7 hours of hot-smoking on this day in the barrel smoker to reach the 170 deg F.  Adding on the extra 2 hours for finishing in the oven, you can see that cooking a brisket in our barrel hot smoker is a whole day affair.  After tasting the finished product however, I think everyone would agree that it was well worth the wait.

Lynell

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Filed under Food, Smoking