Thursday, July 31, 2014

Country Living


My sister and brother-in-law live in Wisconsin where they raise organic chickens for family, friends, and a few customers.  I love to visit, especially when they have a new batch of peeps.

 These little ones just arrived and will spend several weeks in the Chicken Palace and fields before they go off to Freezer Camp.  Every day they feast on organic grains, kale from the garden, bugs, kitchen scraps, and grass.
The Chicken Palace
It's so peaceful there, with only the birds singing, insects buzzing, and great views of the green, hilly countryside of Wisconsin, where I grew up.

The corn, soybean fields, and gardens look just about perfect, and Wisconsin stands to have a record corn crop this year.

But, sometimes you just have to leave the farm and head to town for a little fun.  How better to travel than in my brother-in-law's restored 1952 Chevy! 

Nothing better than some ice cream on a hot summer day!

"A little Elvis, anyone?"

Monday, July 28, 2014

Amish Auction

   This weekend was the annual Amish auction to support the community school near where my sister lives in Wisconsin.  The Amish are a religious group that do not use electricity or any other modern conveniences and dress in a very distinctive way.  The auction is open to anyone and it is a very fun event.

Hundreds of handmade quilts are made by the community and auctioned off.

The auction is a benefit for the Clearview School.  The Amish pay taxes but they accept no funds from the government and support their own schools.  Amish children only go to school through the 8th grade.

This young courting couple was waiting for the auctioneer to get to this wagon in hopes of buying it.  (Amish consider photographs "graven images".  I tried to respect their beliefs and only photographed them from the back.)
The Amish make beautiful high quality wood furniture.
A highlight of the day -- homemade pie and ice cream. The horse turns the crank to make the ice cream, saving the humans a lot of work! 

The Amish still travel only by horse and buggy and there were a number of these for sale, from 2-seaters to family size.
Thousands of baked items are for sale, all made the day and night before the auction in homes and a tiny bakery on a farm. 
   I have a lot of respect for a people who can maintain their customs and beliefs in today's American culture.  The Amish make wonderful neighbors and take you back to a slower and more peaceful time when families and friends could sit on hay bales, eat a piece of pie, and visit with the neighbors. 

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Now It's Pretty

This ugly spot in the back garden, with necessary rain barrel for catching water from the roof, has been bugging me.  Can't do much about the furnace and dryer vents, and the only thing that would ever grow there is a bunch of scruffy day lilies.

So I fixed it.

Ah, much better! 
The rain barrel still needs to be up on bricks and a tap added near the bottom.  I'm on the lookout for some old bricks.

Here's a tour around the back garden, a mixture of veg, herbs, and flowers.

That said, I do hope you have time to sit and enjoy the beautiful part of your world today!

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Berry Best Berries

For maximum enjoyment . . .

1. You MUST PICK THEM YOURSELF, on the hottest summer days, preferably over 90 degrees with lots of humidity, in the sun.
2.  Cover up well in long sleeves and long pants to make it more challenging for mosquitoes to bite through to skin.  (Not impossible, just more challenging.)
3. One for the basket, two for the mouth.
4. Pray for a breeze to start up.
5. Knock basket over in the dirt at least once.  
6. Curse the mosquitoes, praise the bees.

7. Use shirt sleeve to constantly blot the sweat running into your eyes.
8. Blow out the gnat that went up your nose.
9. Re-cover the bushes (to foil the robins sitting on the fence waiting to swoop in).
10. Make haste to the house, fill big bowl with warm berries, top with a generous dollop of cold creme fraiche                 
 And give thanks
that there are such a wonderful thing
as raspberries in the world!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Summer on a Prickly Stick

   Raspberries taste and smell like summer to me.  When I'm picking, as many sun-warm berries go into my mouth as go into the basket!  I have four kinds growing in a 25 by 3 foot patch, and as much as I love them, the robins love them more.  I wouldn't get to eat one if I didn't cover them. 
   Not too pretty, but it works.  I am willing to share, so I leave some uncovered for the robins to enjoy.  (Rhubarb, milkweed for the monarch butterfiles in front, asparagus in front to the right.)

Red and yellow raspberries.  (There was a heaping full quart but I ate some for breakfast.)
The yellow ones are huge, as big as the end of my thumb, and they taste like warm honey. The robins don't bother these.  I don't think they recognize them as ripe. 
Rosie prefers to enjoy the outdoors from inside.  She talks to me while I'm working. 
Nothing much to do with raspberries, except maybe the color.  Let's call them raspberry hollyhocks.

And some soft pink ones with the black ones behind.
 "Summer afternoon...summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language."
          --Henry James

Monday, July 14, 2014

Soldiers From the Prairie

  Minnesota had only just become a state, and the battlegrounds of the War Between the States were about as far away from here as you could get.  But, that didn't stop Minnesotans from wanting to enlist. 

   In a very new little settlement on the prairie, named Wasioja for an Indian chief buried nearby, patriotic fever welled up, stirred by sermons in the Baptist seminary and church perched in the woods.  

   One day in May, 1861, seminary president Williams challenged his students and staff to search their consciences and take a stand. Twelve of them walked out of the classroom,  

down the path,


to the law office of Colonel James George, where they enlisted.

  Others followed,in fact, a good portion of the able-bodied men of the community.
In 1862 when the men and boys marched away as Company C of the 2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Wasioja had 12 stores, a hotel, a school, limestone quarries, a flour mill, and a bright future as a town. 

But, of the 80 (or was it 68?) soldiers from Wasioja, only one man returned when the war ended.   Seventeen died of disease, seven were killed in battle, and 21 were wounded. The rest made their homes elsewhere.

   With so many of the men gone, Wasioja began to disappear back into the prairie grass and farm fields. Now there is nothing left but the cemetery, seminary ruins, the school house, and Baptist church, and a few new homes scattered on the dirt roads of the township.

Wasioja today
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Friday, July 11, 2014

Happy Dance in the Garden

   We had over three inches of rain in an hour and a half this morning so I didn't get out to the garden until this afternoon to pick these little surprises.

When I checked them Wednesday, they were no longer than my little fingernail.  Now they are salad size!  (To the right, amaranth and basil.  Cabbage, fennel, dill, and green beans behind.)

Plenty more little cukes waiting in the wings.

By Sunday the first beans will be ready to pick.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Black Hollyhocks

I love hollyhocks.  They are very old-fashioned, often planted to "pretty up" the fence around the chicken coop or hide the trash cans. 

My sister and I, and later my daughters, made hollyhock dolls and played with them in fairy villages in the grass.

These are called "black" hollyhocks and they are a hybrid with lots more ruffles than the old-fashioned ones.  I'll have lots more colors as the summer wears on.

Makes me wish I had some granddaughters to play with.  I know what my grandsons would do with hollyhock buds.  Perfect ammunition for throwing at each other!