Category Archives: Outdoors

Sledding fun

Sometime every winter Proeun and I have the discussion that I am sure most Minnesotans are familiar with–should we stay in the frigid north or head somewhere sunnier. Since moving to Crazy Boy Farm we have definitely had that discussion less. While we are not proficient at the winter sports yet we are slowly building our repertoire.

This winter there hasn’t been much snow. And the one thing we are lacking here on the farm is a hill. The first winter first snow we realized “uh oh, no place to go sledding!” Last year Proeun tried using the tractor to pile up snow. That worked pretty good but this year there hasn’t been enough snow to even do that. Luckily we have a big pile of wood chips left over from this falls clearing project. And voila, sledding hill. The children have been out almost every day and for them a day is not complete until they have sledded. Now we need a little more snow.

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Hoophouse, etc. etc. etc.

For the past couple of years as soon as the CSA season ended we crashed. We had just completed a marathon of work and it was time to rest. But also for the past couple years the springs have been horrible for planting–snow on the ground till May, followed by lots and lots of rain and more cold. So this year we knew that if we have projects that we wanted to complete before the next growing season we were going to have to complete them in the fall. So this year as soon as the CSA season ended we began projects and have been working every since.

The first and biggest project was our hoophouse. This will allow us to plant earlier in the spring regardless of what the weather is like. We knew with the weather patterns of the past couple of years a strong growing season depended on it.

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We ordered from Zimmerman High Tunnels and have been very happy with both the customer service, quality and price. Thanks to my wonderful husband assisted by our oldest son and my father-in-law the hoophouse went up in just 2 weeks! We did have neighbors and family come out to help with the plastic where more people is definitely best, thanks mom and dad, Sambath and the Leathermans!

The kids favorite part was digging a hole. Not sure what we do with it now.


Originally I had planned on spending the month of October doing 31 Days to Clean. Another side effect of a really busy growing season is that it seems like the house begins to fall apart. So I wanted to go on a guided cleaning spree but with so much work to be done outside that had to take a back burner. But I find that I do know what areas really need attention and try to work on it a little everyday.


So after the hoophouse there was the field to get prepared for next spring. Another wonderful neighbor of ours, Marv, loaned us a plow to help break up our perpetually hard soil.

Last weekend it was planting garlic, again thanks to my father-in-law as bending over is getting more and more difficult for me.


So great that the nice weather is holding. More projects this weekend. How are you spending your fall?

Sure sign of spring–bird nests

It is always interesting how nature intersects with our human constructions. I remember seeing pigeon nests as a child tucked away in I beams in the skyway in downtown St. Paul. More recently hawk’s nests on electrical poles along the highway. But this year we have our own story.


The children have been anxiously waiting for the snow to melt, then there were the cars and tractors in the way, finally this weekend the hoop was clear but we noticed something interesting.


We had noticed a bird flying back and forth. I knew what it was but honestly had never seen a nest before. We are trying very hard to hold back our curiosity and not disturb them too much but we had to take just a quick peek. The children we completely amazed and I was too. I have never seen a bird nest up close and personal and in use. So we have all agreed that there will be no basketball until those little babies move all and we are anxiously watching (from a distance most of the time) the progress they make. So many lessons,

How do birds make nests? We recognize much of the building material.

How long for baby birds to hatch and Mature? Still working on that

Also learning how to observe but not disturb and how to be considerate of even the smallest creatures. On a side note with all this rain we are learning a lot about worm saving. Yes bird saving and worm saving don’t really go together but that can be a lesson for another day.

A Tractor named Bessie

Anyone who knows me would have to agree I am a bit weird; or as Proeun would say, “crazy in a good way.” But when I found out that this little beauty was going to arrive on our farm today the thought came to me, “her name is Bessie.” I informed the family and while they already know I am a bit crazy they also know the name fits. But let me back up a bit.

This winter I took a Farm Financial Analysis class. I learned all sorts of great things, one thing the course talked about was, “new paint syndrome.” This is a syndrome Proeun and I do not have. We in the past have been all about doing things low-tech, often by hand and we also wanted to be able to pay cash for items used on the farm so we wouldn’t fall into a trap of debt.

However running 40 acres without a reliable tractor is a bit difficult to say the least. You must either hire out some of the labor like tilling or seeding for cover crops, (which is expensive and you are working with someone else’s schedule which is often not the best) or use time consuming hand tools that just don’t hold up that well under all the pressure.

As we prepare for organic certification we discovered other issues, like tractors that have been used in conventional fields must be thoroughly washed before they are used in organic fields. This may be difficult for anyone we would hire to work our fields.

So we talked about it and discussed ALOT and really did a lot of soul searching whether a big purchase like this would be good for the overall farm and we decided that it would. It would allow us to mechanize more of our farm, and therefore free up time for things like crop and soil improvement as well as just quality of life stuff. We are totally an outdoor family, but during the summer have little time to enjoy it. We live just miles from Proeun’s all time favorite fishing spot and we have been there 3 times since moving in. So we are really excited about Bessie. She means a lot to us, she is more then just a tractor.

We have a special thanks to Agstar for believing in us and making it possible for us to get Bessie. Our loan officer normally works with much bigger loans, like in the $12M range (talk about new paint) but told us he much prefers to do loans like ours, “because they make a huge difference to family’s and really change their life.” Thank-you for changing our life. And thank-you to all our CSA members past present and future who support our farm. We still have some shares available this year.

Battle Creek Regional Park

Even in the midst of waiting for baby number 4 to make its arrival I am finding outdoor time for us a huge blessing. Of course when we were farming we were out of doors a lot but that is not the same thing as the relaxed atmosphere of a walk in a local park. We really have not used Battle Creek Park enough. Honestly the broken glass in the parking lot can be a deterent but if you go during busy hours you should be fine. Recently we took another family hike out to enjoy the great outdoors. Here are some pictures from our adventure.

Proeun and the children practicing some deer calls in “the valley.”

Hanging in there.

MY favorite picture!

More Projects in the Northwoods

It has been nearly 6 weeks since we have last escaped the city for a little R and R in the country and believe me it is so rejuvenating. Though this trip had lots of projects getting ready for Proeun and my in-laws favorite time of the year–hunting. Now when I met Proeun I was not enthused to find myself in love with a hunter to be quite honest. But since then I have come to see the great ecological and family benefits or such traditions especially when combined with gathering activities.

We are still working on identifying plants and learning to gather. I brought my Peterson’s Guide to Herbs and Medicinal Plants plants with me to start working on being aware of the plants around me. I guess I should have bought the mushroom guide as well. 

Honestly I would have walked right over this if my mom hadn’t pointed it out. I need to work on awareness that’s for sure.

This is my favorite picture of the weekend, our little caravan of women and children, “guarded” by the dogs as we hike out to see the progress the men were making on THE big project–a new tree stand for Proeun.

Here Proeun and 2 of his brothers are attaching the legs to the foundation–buckets filled with cement. Junior, the oldest of the next generation is securing them with bolts in the lower right hand corner.

Next the ladder, floors and frame go up.

And the roof. The walls had to wait for another trip. It’s not easy building a tree stand in the middle of the woods with no access to electricity.

Proeun designed the tree stand himself. Today he only half jokingly said, “I can build anything,” I said, “yes you can” not joking at all.

Spring has Sprung

The day after we all had to “spring forward” spring decided to appear in a much more pleasant way–with 60 degree weather. Living in a climate with more extreme seasons allows for a phenomena of good feeling not so easily experienced elsewhere. After a long cold, snowy winter all it takes is a day of unseasonably warm weather to put literally everyone in a good mood.

Two who has been cooped up all winter can’t get enough of the great outdoors. Even Avril was game for a walk around the block with her bike removed from the basement just minutes before.

It felt wonderful to be able to take out the stroller again also. Last year walks still consisted of Mavis on my back, so it is a welcome relief for both of us to have a little more freedom. She got boots from her uncle for Christmas so she is all set to stomp through the puddles with her siblings.

Two apparently decided it was warm enough to dip in the pool. Even if it was just melted snow.

Proeun asked me if I though winter would come back. I said yes, but is was great today.

It’s A Bear!

I suppose it is human nature to get complacent, even comfortable. Those of us who live in the city and rarely see any wild life other then the occasional rabbit or bird don’t know how to look for wild animals or know when they are there when out in the woods. This weekend like many other people camping was our getaway of choice. We have a campground we love in northern Minnesota. 99% of the time this is our destination for camping. People had told us there were bears around and we should be careful. We noticed supposed “bear proof” boxes at surrounding campsites to put food in. But still we hadn’t seen any signs of them. Oh there was the scat, (poop) that looked like it could be bear. There were the occasional, very occasional sounds of large animals fleeing from us as we walked through the woods, but we were sure those were deer, maybe if we were lucky a moose. And we got careless with our food. We had started dumping cooking oil on the ground and throwing watermelon rinds off into the woods–for the animals.

Well the animals came. Most of my life animals have been only for companions, no real jobs that they were supposed to do. Then we got the chickens They obviously had a real job of giving us eggs. Next came the cats. Though they were gifts for the children and companion animals their job was ridding our home of mice. But Hiro, our Brittany seemed only good for a companion. He was intended for a hunting dog, but he needs training and that takes time and a location where he can be off leash and not distracted all of  which are at a premium.

But on Sunday morning he did his job. All of a sudden at 6:30 in the morning he starts barking. Hiro does not bark so this was an unusual event. We started getting worried real fast. My mom was the first one up to look about the window of the trailer, she had the forsight to put on her glasses and there sitting by the fire pit was a black bear. it was about 250 lbs. It ran when it knew it was discovered, but not too far. We didn’t really feel like getting up after that so we stayed in bed. About 7:30 my dad was up and looked at the picnic table. The bear was back and standing at the table digging in our tupper tote. It had a jar of peanuts in its mouth when I saw it. It again ran off when it was discovered. But not far, only about 15 feet off in the woods where it not so quietly ate its peanuts. At that point Proeun and dad decided they should go outside to keep it from coming back. Luckily it didn’t .

Looking back we realized that Hiro had been acting strange a lot the day before. I guess we will have to learn to pay attention to our animals. And they all have a job.


It may be hard to believe that I have made it to my 28th birthday largely afraid of bugs. Up until recently if there was a spider in the bathroom it would drive me to distraction until I could get someone in there to kill it for me. My dad was the first person I would call (my mom if he wasn’t available). Later my husband fit the bill. But there were times when he wasn’t around, then what was I to do, ask my son? No I knew I had to face the music.

When we first started our farming classes last fall and I heard about “beneficial insects” I was sceptical. There are some bees by our field that really bothered me though I knew logically we actually needed them much more then they needed us. It wasn’t until this weekend though that I really had any sort of sizeable break through in my bug phobia.

Ticks have always been one of the worst offenders in my mind’s eye. Growing up in the city I didn’t come in contact with them much. I was so disturbed by them I would even avoid activities specifically because I might get one on me. On the occasion when I felt that creeping sensation and my hand actually touched a tick that was on me there was reason for screaming, again not logical or intended. Often it would end in a flicking of the tick anywhere away from me. I was then convinced it was dead and would not resurface.

However there is a dark side to avoidance. Our dog got lyme’s disease I am sure partly due to negligence, (and partly due to not understanding possible medication, with a dash of chance thrown in). Since then I have been more vigilant, but still in the avoiding category.

I have heard our farm has ticks on it, but it wasn’t until our first camping trip of the year this weekend I really had to face the music. I know the dangers of ticks first hand and now was the time to protect my children. If they had a tick on them, I needed to get it off and make sure it didn’t have an opportunity to get on them again (ie make sure it was dead, by fire, water or squashing). I did get a couple on me as well but the majority were on the kids that love playing in the woods and grass. Oddly Avril wasn’t as freaked out by them as I thought. If the country is really to be our home I know ticks and other such inconveniences are unavoidable and a natural part of life. I hope to be able to pass this mindset on to the children.

So now an element of fear is gone, though I still worry about disease, I know that I can at least do my part to protect the children.