Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I want a garden....now what?

Herrick Kimball asked me to write a little about my planting calendar and I am happy to do so. When we moved to the farm I knew nothing about gardening. I mean nothing! I didn't know that there were cool season crops and warm season crops. I thought you went out one day, put all the seeds in the ground and waited for the bounty to begin! I bought some books and did a lot of reading. My first attempt was a little 12 x 12 foot garden. It provided enough flavor to whet all of our appetites for a real garden! I went looking for something to help me plan a garden. I wanted a book that would say to me....in March you plant this, and this and this....and then I could turn to April and find out that I needed to plant this and this.....but I found NO SUCH BOOK! I found plenty of books where I could look up each individual crop, in each particular zone and figure out what to plant. But, I wanted something simple and easy to use. I also got lots of advice from farmers who have been planting all their lives....the advice went something like this..."Well, little gal, (in a very condescending tone with a smirk!) you jest figure out when you want to eat it, count back the days listed on your seed packet and plant it then". I am sure there was a great deal of laughing behind my back! Think about it....who wouldn't like to eat sweet corn on May 1st? But, I can tell you from experience that if you plant it in February you will NOT be eating sweet corn on May 1st! I offered to pay people for advice but what I often heard was...."I had to learn the hard way and you will too". I must say that my initial opinion of gardeners wasn't very nice. So, over the years, as I have added new crops and done the research for each one, I have grumbled...I mean....promised to write a book to help newcomers to gardening. I wanted to write what I always needed - something to tell me what to do when, without having to look everything up in a variety of books. Something simple...something so easy to use that someone who had NEVER gardened could pick it up and be successful their first time. Well, I didn't end up writing a book - I wrote a calendar. The information in my calendar is based on 5 years of records kept here on our farm, along with some advice from local "old-timers" who were willing to share a bit about the signs to watch for in nature. I have begun to see the signs, cycles and patterns provided by God in nature and to plant accordingly. If we begin to recognize these signs on our own lands and in our own gardens, we can then plan our activities to work in harmony with them. I find that I am then rewarded with abundant harvests and less problems throughout the gardening season. I also plant by the signs of the moon - but that is another post entirely. I will say that there are scientific reasons to do so....having to do with the gravitational pull of the moon and how that affects plants. Now, my planting calendar is a strange calendar...it has no dates. It is a perpetual calendar.... you use it year after year. When you turn to April, for example, there is a list of seeds to start, a list of what you should direct seed into the garden, a list of what to transplant (from seeds you started in a previous month) and what should be ready to harvest from earlier plantings. You will also find out how to make an herbal infusion! There is also an area under each month to keep some of your own notes. January gives you seed ordering advice with a list of recommended herbs, help in finding Praying Mantis cases to place in your garden for spring, a crop rotation plan and what to be doing inside and outside to prepare for the gardening season! June will help you fight pests, stake tomato plants and make terrific salsa along with the list of what to seed, transplant and harvest that is included in each month. Every month has garden tips and advice from fighting pests to saving seed. There are many of our most popular family recipes throughout this calendar too. I have included lots of recipes using herbs, the Creamy Basil Dressing is one of my favorite recipes of all times! At the end of the calendar is a list of my favorite seed and garden suppliers along with their phone numbers and websites. Almost everything I grow is open pollinated and you will find that my resource list reflects this. I have also listed my favorite varieties of veggies and flowers. These are plants that I have grown and tasted and loved! There is also a copy of the page that I use in the greenhouse to record my garden notes. You should be keeping notes on your gardening efforts - almost like a journal. Be sure to record what you plant and when, make a note on germination times, record where you put it in the garden and finally any pest/disease problems, how it produced and how it tasted. I have eliminated a lot of varieties over the years because we didn't like the taste or it didn't produce well. Also keep notes on the weather, temperature, rain, snow, sunshine, you will be surprised what you can learn by looking back. I also make a note when I first see the pests emerge - this gives me an idea of when to be looking for them. I will know to be prepared to fight the "bad guys" before they can multiply to enormous proportions in the garden! Be sure to make a "map" of your garden each year. This is for your crop rotation plan. If you rotate your crop families, then you will eliminate a lot of pest and disease problems. I now use my calendar each month. I can take it to the greenhouse and know exactly what I should be doing. I also keep notes of everything I plant and the date I plant it, when it germinates, when it goes into the garden and how it does. I refer back to other years when something seems to be taking a long time to germinate - I can quickly tell if it is on time or if my seed is bad and I need to replant. I also look for pest information, weather patterns, favorite varieties (should I plant more or less of this?). You will find that notes are good. I learned to do this from watching my Grandpa. He kept calendars for years...just short notes on each day of weather, pests, and planting times. I believe that my calendar is filling a need. The sales are brisk when I speak - I have even had people from other parts of the country purchase it while explaining that they can just up the dates to match their planting zone...or move them back for those deeper in the south. The next time I have them printed I will add a conversion table for other planting zones. I am working on a website for our farm where I will offer our soaps, teas, salves, my calendar and some "classes". I hope to have it functional some time in March, if you are interested in purchasing a calendar and don't want to wait...just email me! I guess there are many other frustrated gardeners out there looking for a simpler way to garden. Perhaps more and more people are finding out that simple is good....

Monday, February 27, 2006

Another of your rights is about to bite the dust!!

Congress is at it again! You are about to loose the right to know what is in your food supply! The importance of buying your food from a local farmer is growing day by day! Please visit this link to send a message to your representative. This is being pushed by the bio-tech industry, Monsanto, the Grocery Manufacturers, and I am sure Big Ag is in there somewhere! They realize that people are starting to care about what is in their food - they also realize that people are becoming reluctant to buy what they are selling......so their remedy is not to give you what you want.... but to prevent you from knowing what you are buying! I also recommend signing up for alerts from this organization - I don't always agree with all that they present but they do a good job of letting you know what is going on with your food supply BUY LOCAL!! "Action Alert from the Organic Consumers Association:" Congress Poised to Pass Bill Taking Away Right to Know What's in Your Food Tell your Congressman or Congresswoman to vote "No" on House of Representatives Bill H.R. 4167, the "National Uniformity for Food Act" The House of Representatives will vote this week on a controversial "national food uniformity" labeling law that will take away local government and states' power to require food safety food labels such as those required in California and other states on foods or beverages that are likely to cause cancer, birth defects, allergic reactions, or mercury poisoning. This bill would also prevent citizens in local municipalities and states from passing laws requiring that genetically engineered foods and ingredients such as Monsanto's recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) be labeled. The House will vote March 2, 2006 on a bill that would gut state food safety and labeling laws. H.R. 4167, the "National Uniformity for Food Act," lowers the bar on food safety by overturning state food safety laws that are not "identical" to federal law. Hundreds of state laws and regulations are at risk, including those governing the safety of milk, fish, and shellfish. The bill is being pushed by large supermarket chains and food manufacturers, spearheaded by the powerful Grocery Manufacturers of America. Big food corporations and the biotech industry understand that consumers are more and more concerned about food safety, genetic engineering, and chemical-intensive agriculture, and are reading labels more closely. They understand that pesticide and mercury residues and hazardous technologies such as genetic engineering and food irradiation will be rejected if there are truthful labels required on food products. Industry-sponsored H.R. 4167 is gaining momentum and must be stopped! Act now! Preserve local and regional democracy and protect yourself and your family from unsafe food by sending an email or calling your Representative and urging them to vote "No" on H.R. 4167. Please Take Action Now--Send a Message to Your Congress Member in the House of Representatives to Vote "No" on H.R. 4167 http://www.organicconsumers.org/rd/labeling.cfm And please call your Congress Member at 202-224-3121 Regards & Solidarity, Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association ORGANIC CONSUMERS ASSOCIATION 6771 South Silver Hill Drive Finland, MN 55603 Phone: (218)- 226-4164 Fax: (218) 353-7652 __________________________________

Monday, February 20, 2006

Sharing a little Plain Talk...

Just a couple of weeks ago we had a visitor to the farm. Rick Saenz and his son Chris came and spent the afternoon with us. It was such an enjoyable time...like a visit from old friends. Chris impressed me so much with his gentle and quiet spirit. As I watched him interact with my youngest boy in such a caring and gentle fashion, he won my heart completely - Debbie and Rick have done a wonderful job raising this young man! We shared a meal together (Rick, Chris, my Mom, 3 of my boys and myself!) and then took a quick farm tour. Of course, at this time of year there isn't much to see! Farms are so much more fun during the growing season! Rick met Nora the Perfect Cow, toured our little dairy area, met the goats and their Pyrs and got a view of our garden areas before we headed back into the house. Then commenced the interview for Rick's Plain Talk series. To tell you the truth, I don't really remember much of what we talked about...it didn't seem like an interview at all! It was just a good conversation between friends...sharing....laughing... and enjoying the afternoon...all that was missing was the pickle barrel! My kids (and I) enjoyed seeing Rick's traveling studio and since I am a scrapbooking Mom, one of my boys took lots of pictures! All in all it was a great learning experience and a lot of fun. Plus, Rick brought some great goodies to leave with us! As a new listener to Bluegrass music, I was much blessed to receive his own Ridgeway Boys cd and one by the Kruger Brothers along with a wonderful book! What a treat! My youngest was so impressed with Chris and his banjo playing that he created his own banjo - from a 4 ft. Cuissenare Rod Train track and some paper plates! (A quiet banjo :) It was all over way to quickly and they were off to another farm for another interview. I am looking forward to hearing the final version...the one where Rick edits the phone ringing, dog barking, kids talking etc.!I have also been listening to the first set of the Plain Talk Series and have greatly enjoyed hearing those people whose blogs I have read for some time now. It has also become a homeschooling assignment to listen during breakfast each morning after chores...we will do this until we have gone through the entire series. There is so much to learn on so many subjects and I haven't even finished them yet. Oh, how I wish I had them 7 years ago when we started this journey - there are so many mistakes we could have avoided and so many things we wouldn't have had to learn the hard way! I highly recommend them to anyone thinking about the agrarian lifestyle....and if you have been sitting on the fence trying to decide...I think this series will help you over the fence in one direction or the other! You can get them from Cumberland Books...I know I am glad I did! We are still on puppy duty here and the boys and I are having a ball! We have to lure Freckles outside for bathroom breaks and to tidy the whelping box. She is very possessive so give her a few days and then I will try to furtively grab and post some puppy pictures. Night all!

Sunday, February 19, 2006


She made it! Last night Freckles was very restless and having an occasional pain. She was also nesting a great deal. Her water broke at about 6:30 this am and she was in labor by 7:00. It took a long time to deliver the first pup - a good sized male - because he had a foot caught behind him. He arrived about 8:45 am. He was very week and breathing was labored. We suctioned, did mouth to mouth and worked on him for several hours - he really fought to live - but he died about 1:00 pm. However, during that time Freckles delivered 6 more beautiful puppies - all healthy! She cleaned each one up, responded to their cries and even piled them all in a corner each time she felt the pangs of another birth beginning. It is amazing how God has placed these instincts into His creatures. This was her first (and last!) litter but she knew how to clean them, nurse them, and care for them. The last one gave us a scare, born breech (3 of them were), not breathing and mouth and nose full of fluids. Jeremy and I suctioned, and suctioned, did chest compressions, and slung it upside down several times till we heard that glorious cry!! Freckles did great, and all are happily nursing away! They needed a little help from the boys to get headed in the right direction but once they latched on - they knew exactly what to do! All have the black mask that their daddy wears and most have cute spots scattered about - although those will be covered with white hair at some point. They weighed about a pound each. They make cute little mewing sounds when searching for Mama or when Mama gets to rough with her cleaning! Now, this Mom is whipped and going to corral my kids into bed early tonight (if I can tear them away from the whelping box!). ..it has been a long and rewarding day but with lots of work (and laundry!). After over a week of checking her every two hours at night, I am looking forward to at least 6 or 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep! We are so thankful to God for his faithfulness in answered prayers. We have been blessed with 4 girls and 2 boys - the CUTEST puppies you have ever seen! Thank you to all who left me notes and offered prayers - we are grateful! Have a blessed night!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Still waiting for puppies...

We are still on puppy watch here. We are being very cautious with this birth and so is the vet. He has assured us that she will deliver before Monday...but then he felt sure she would whelp before now...LOL! Another x-ray was taken yesterday and we thought we saw 7 spines this time...the anticipation is high here on the farm! We are pretty much housebound...someone is always with her - the boys are sleeping with her at night and I am up several times at night checking on her. She is a very sound sleeper and has given us a few tense moments when we haven't been able to wake her up easily. Here are some pictures of Josiah (12 years old) and Freckles. Since Snowball's death on Saturday he has stayed very close to Jeremy's dog Freckles. As you can see, she appears to be FULL of puppies! He is looking forward to picking a puppy for his very own. I am so pleased with his brother's generosity...Jeremy has a very tender heart towards his brothers (and towards Mom for that matter!) I am so thankful to God for my boys...I love them all so dearly. If you think of us over the next couple of days, please keep us and Freckles in your prayers. We are asking for a safe delivery for Mom and puppies! Thank you all! Blessings!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

And life goes on....

I want to thank those who read this humble blog for the kind e-mails and comments in reference to Snowball's death. It is amazing to me that so many people, scattered so far apart are willing to stop and pray for my family and especially my son. Josiah is a trooper...he understands Romans 8:28 and although he is sad...he is at peace. Thank you all for your encouragement! As many of the Christian agrarian bloggers have stated...life on the farm doesn't stop for tragedy, sadness, illness...or anything else. The cows still need to be milked, goats fed, hay pitched, eggs gathered and so on. And so, we are keeping busy here. We never did get much snow but we got a lot of sleet, hail and generally nasty weather. It was good to see the sun yesterday, even if it never got above 27...and with the wind chill it sure felt much colder than that. We took our other Great Pyr to the vet yesterday...just to make sure that all looked normal. They x-rayed her and saw at least 5 pups! She looks normal and all seems to be progressing as it should...the vet seemed to think she had about 2 days before whelping....but also said it could be as much as a week. What a prediction...made me think of the weathermen....a very safe answer! Freckles has joined our family in the house - her whelping box pretty much covers the floor of my laundry room. I had to empty our extra frig...won't be able to open that door for at least a month. Thankfully I can still get to the washer, dryer, freezer and pantry. Freckles, however, is worried about her goats and truly wishes she were in the barn, even though she is enjoying the attention and the table scraps. So, we are on puppy watch again. Josiah slept with her in the laundry room last night and Jeremy manned the couch in the next room. I was also informed that there could be up to 2 hours between puppies so we are looking at what could be a very long event. I will be sure to take pictures to share with all of you. Thank you all again!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Hard Stuff

As many of the bloggers linked from here have stated, farm life isn't always easy. There are good days and there are hard days. The temptation is to paint a rosy picture but I also feel that people need to hear the hard stuff. Yesterday was a very hard day. My 12 year old walked his very pregnant Pyr at about 7 am. As he brought her back in the house, she vomited and collapsed, comatose.... There was a mad scramble to reach the vet, dress and get her into the car, she was breathing but unconscious.... Within 5 minutes she was dead. We also lost all the puppies. The vet believes there was a uterine tear and she bled to death internally. There was nothing we could have done. My son, Josiah, has the heart of a farmer...he wants to run this farm one day. He is never happier than when we are out working together, working with animals and all the other things that farming entails. He also loves the Lord with all of his heart. I believe that the enemy wants to destroy his vision, his joy and his love of farming. It seems that it is always his favorite chicken, goat, cat, dog that either disappears or dies, and not from lack of care on Josiah's part. He is a diligent child and a good steward. I believe that the enemy has targeted this child. Yesterday was spent in many hours of snuggling and praying through this. We talked about the enemy and how he steals and we have asked God to demand compensation. Josiah understands that the enemy wants to discourage his love for farming and for the animals and he is determined that Satan will not have victory in this area. We buried Snowball outside of his window under a small Maple tree. His thoughts are that it will shade her someday. We have planned to plant a small flower bed around it this spring and fill it with white flowers....he plans to call it Snowball's Garden. He wants to put a stone bench in it eventually where he can go and pray when the tree grows tall. It will be his reminder of the battle to be waged against the enemy and of the victory available through Jesus Christ our Saviour. I believe that Josiah sees it as a symbol of his stand against the enemy....a battle arena...I am confident that he will win in Christ. His older brother, whose Pyr is also pregnant, has offered him the pick of the litter. We are praying for a safe delivery that results in a healthy Mom and pups. Today is a better day...peace reigns in our home. Hope is never lost when you have Christ. There are valleys but you are never alone in them. Many important lessons were learned yesterday, our faith increased and we have hope for the future. We praise God that He is ever faithful, gracious and merciful to us.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Puppies Coming Soon!!!

First of all, I want to thank one of my readers named Kelly. After I posted about the trouble I was having moving files from my old computer to my new computer, Kelly wrote to me offering help. Kelly made several suggestions, which I followed, and from that time on the job was effortless! What would have taken me weeks was done in a matter of days. Thank you again Kelly!! Now more exciting news...we are waiting for puppies to arrive...we are thinking sometime in the next 24 hours. One of our beautiful Great Pyrennes is due at any time. We have seen kittens, cows and goats birthed here on the farm...puppies will be a new adventure. Our other Pyrennes also appears to be pregnant but not nearly as far along as Snowball. I checked on Snowball last week - she looked mildly pregnant...not to worry I thought! Today they are predicting a heavy snowfall here...well at least for this area... about a foot (quit laughing Tom!). So, I checked on Snowball - wow! what a change! She appeared to be nesting and her tummy was "tighter than a tick"! I called the vet and they suggested I take her temperature..."when it falls below 100 she has about 24 hours" they told me. That would have been good to know last week! So, we took her temp....less than a 100! But WHEN did it fall below 100? Are we due in 2 ours, 12 hours or 24 hours? How accurate is the 24 hour thingy? So...late this afternoon found me clipping her belly so the puppies could eat (Pyrennes have very thick fur), clipping the long hair from her legs and vet-wrapping her tail to keep it from getting completely messy during birth (a trick I read about some time ago...I'll let you know if it works). She is now in a huge cage in our living room. We have a strange old home - 4 great roomy bedrooms but the living room, dining room and kitchen are one room - and not very big at that. Snowball's cage takes up a great amount of space...but it is not the first time we have had an animal inside....dogs, cats, baby goats, wild bunnies, chickens, chicks, wild birds...and so on (I am drawing the line at one of our milk cows!). But, this cage makes it difficult to get around...I am glad it will be of short duration. So, tonight we wait...for the lovely snowfall we hope will come and for puppies....it could be a LONG night :)

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Taking it to a deeper level....

I am in the process of transitioning from an old computer to a new computer. The old computer was easy, comfortable...like a favorite movie...I always knew how it would turn out! I could crack the case, add hardware, make the software do whatever I wanted.....I KNEW this computer. The new one is powerful, sleek, and has a LOT more features BUT comes with a STEEP learning curve! Let's just say that Apple Computer has made a lot of changes in the last 8 years. Although I know that I will be better off in the long run...I am chafing a bit now. Isn't this just like our walk with God. Just as we settle in and get really comfy, He sends us to a newer, harder, deeper and less comfortable walk. I know that it is for my benefit...I have 3 decades of experience with Him to base this on....but I still tend to chaf a bit at the beginning of a deeper walk with Him. Right now in my life, I am going through a trial that I have every confidence will bear fruit in a deeper relationship with Him. I look forward to this deeper walk but the valley right now is difficult. As I have been working with this new computer this week, I kept telling myself that I will be SO glad I purchased this...in about 6 months! The learning curve will be difficult but I will benefit so much from the journey...as I will from walking through this trial. Too often we are anxious to get to the other side of the valley....and often have to take the trip again. Although I look forward to a "mountain-top" experience in the not too distance future (I hope!)...I want to savor the lessons on the journey that He has for me to learn. He is a gentle teacher, a loving Father and a faithful companion...I am not alone on this journey for He accompanies me always. Isn't He a merciful, gracious and loving God?! As for the computer....please bear with me a week or so...the purpose behind this purchase was to be able to launch and maintain a website for the farm....right now I am just figuring out how to move my files from the old IMac to the IMac...I am behind on email (reading and writing) but I will get back to you as soon as I can find it :) Be back soon... Blessings to all, Cheri
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