Monthly Archives: May 2011

Happy Memorial Day

My father loves loves loves history. I remember him saying, “if you don’t know history you are bound to repeat it,” I am not sure who he was quoting, but that phrase has stuck with me. Our family vacations were often to places like Civil War battlefields, and historic mansions, and the occasional reenactment. My first job was as a “costumed historical interpreter” at Historic Fort Snelling, and I have done some war of 1812 reenacting myself. But by far our family’s favorite time period is World War II. i remember growing up with veterans, listening to their stories and sometimes recording them.

So last week when Dakota City hosted a World War II reenactment, we took the children. Not to glorify war by any means, but to remember what that meant to the people who lived through it.

I think this reenactor looks like he is about 15 but I am 30 now so I am noticing people are looking younger and younger to me. But seriously I can not imagine going off to war at 18 or even 30. I think about the stories I know of people like Howard Froberg, went to shore on D-day in an amphibious tank and over then next couple of weeks had something like 6 tanks shot out from under him.

Or Vera Peterson an army nurse working in Dachau, one of the more notorious concentration camps, trying to rehabilitate the victims there. People like Richard Huspek, my grandfather who never talked about his experiences until right before he died.

Then there is my father-in-law who still has night terrors but who raised his children in a foreign land as refugees and brought my husband to me.

So in our hatred of the evils of war, we must not forget that their are people involved, on bothsides. I remember going to Paris in college and studying the “Lost Generation” so named because there were literally areas in Europe where a whole generation of young men had been wiped out. Think about what that means, I don’t really know what it means honestly, I can’t imagine it, I can’t imagine living through a war. Today I see houses with blue stars in the window marking that house as a place where a member is missing, serving overseas and the yellow stars that mean they will never return and I know today is about compassion, remembering, appreciation. We are not untouchable.

Natura Farms Field Trip

I hope you don’t mind me sharing a bit more of our agricultural course work with you. The best part was always field trips anyway and as an adult I love meeting new and interesting people.

Paul Otten definitely meets that criteria. Born in Brazil to a German dad and Minnesotan mom he says he was born on the farm that introduced soybeans to the country. He now manages Natura Farms near Hugo and he is 70 “years young”. The farm is unique in the fact that it is owned by a faith based private school in St. Paul that wanted a very practical way to impact health and leave a legacy of sustainable agriculture. So they bought a farm in the early 1980s. Still to this day it is managed by all volunteer labor. Otten admits it can be difficult to arrange on that but well worth it.

We met him this week to hear more about soil fertility. I will spare you the scientific stuff but as Otten says, human health and the health of society as a whole is made of building blocks. A good foundation is needed for a strong structure and for human health that foundation is the soil.

We have bought berries there for several years and love their farm.

In addition to strawberries they grow apples.

Mixed vegetables,

Raspberries, currents, grapes, blueberries and so much more.

What a great way to spend the morning.

Yes! You May Make Mud Soup

I recently got my newsletter from Restoration International. There was an interesting article in it about the rate of NPM (no’s per minute) mothers often run at. And I admit that often my rate is very very high. Making the decision to farm (especially as beginning farmers) with 4 young children is not easy. I have even had a couple people tell me that I am completely wrong in making that decision and it’s not fair to the children.

I have also had a lot of supporters. And farming greatly allows me to reduce my NPM rate. Case in point–Mud soup.

You would have thought I was giving them the world when I told them they could make mud soup. I even “tasted” it and told them how good it was. Dandelions became meatballs, grass–spinach and oh that good rich broth. An old paintbrush became a spoon and a bucket and mud entertainment.

Even though I know I want to speak postively and say yes more, it’s still not easy. My first inclination was to think about how dirty they’ll get and what a mess they will make. but in the end the yes won out and we had a great afternoon. How do you like to say “Yes!”?

Foxtail Farm Field trip

One of the perks about being in the Minnesota Food Association’s “Growing Farmers, Growing Food” program is some really fun field trips. Last week we went to Foxtail Farm in Oseola WI (the link is to the Land Stewardship Projects CSA directory. I was unable to find their website). 

It was such a beautiful drive over there and as you can see the farm is beautiful. This house is made from bricks made right on the property around a century ago.

Some Bhutanese farmers.

A highlight was the greenhouse. It was a pretty cold day so the greenhouse was a welcome break.

Cold frame outside the greenhouse for “hardening off” plants or getting them used to the cold before planting.

Paul of Foxtail is a great do-it-yourselfer. Here is a transplanting implement he made himself.

Another essential implement, this one for weeding. Paul recommends auctions, building yourself and keeping costs low. He also recommends fixing things before throwing them away for new. He is in the process of fixing up the old barn on the property and the pack shed is a refurbished old shed, the coolers are old refrigerator trucks. Even the land itself was “dead” when he got it, with all the nutrients, microorganisms and such farmed out years ago. But even land can be renewed.  

Paul said, “there are things that make you money and things that just make your life better,” the important thing is knowing which is which and what really does make you life better. It was so inspirational to meet a family that has been living our dream for nearly 2 decades now.

Minnesota Food Association Spring Open House

The Minnesota Food Association (MFA) is one of the 2 life changing organizations that I met through my work as a writer for Hmong Times. We truly have been so blessed to be a part of their “Growing Farmers, Growing Food” Program. Some days even more then others. ThIs weekend MFA has their spring open house. We got to see all the other farmers, staff, CSA members and just supporters of local food for a really great day with really great weather.

I took lots of pictures but unfortunately I was using my old camera and they didn’t turn out well. Here is a montage of small pictures, sorry.

    Baby Goats sunning themselves

      Karen Drummers, the life
      Love the farm girl outfit

  Plant sale

       Another cute girl, Mavis

    Karen dancers

A Quick Summer knit

While at last weekend’s fiber festival I purchased some new yarn from Winter Wind Farm’s Romeldale (CVM) sheep. It was so much fun going and seeing the different sheep breeds and then finding yarn from those exact same sheep to purchase.

As you can see I couldn’t resist the urge to cast on a scarf I have been eyeballing for awhile. It’s Jane Richmond’s Mustard Scarf though obviously not in mustard. I haven’t had much time to knit on it but I am hoping it will be a quick summer knit and this weekend I have plenty of driving I have to do, I’ll tell you more about it on Monday, so maybe I will get some knitting done. I should clarify, I won’t be driving but in the car. Anyway the yarn is such a dream to work with. Like so many other things I am discovering that local products from family farms are really nothing at all like mass produced items, even yarn.

Shepherd’s Harvest Fiber Festival 2011

Even though I have been knitting for over 15 years now and love love love wool I somehow was out of the loop about the Shepherd’s Harvest Festival every Mother’s Day Weekend at the Washington County Fairgrounds. I first heard about it this February and have been eagerly anticipating ever since. Even when early forecasts for the weekend predicted a washout I was determined to go. Luckily the weather proved us wrong once again and it was a beautiful weekend. Here are some highlights.

Stock dog demonstrations. The herding skills of these dogs were amazing!.

Bunnies. I was told I would be lucky to leave the festival without a rabbit. I have been toying with the idea of rabbits for awhile as a possible “gateway” fiber animal. But we did leave without a rabbit, much to Two’s disappointment.

The German Angora rabbits were quite impressive.

As were the llamas and alpacas at the Llama Magic Festival also on the fairgrounds. This one was recently sheared. Unfortunately I missed the shearing. Well my camera missed the shearing, maybe next year.

One of the things I saw over and over again was labeled wool. Labels with actually names of sheep, names like Percy, and Sarah and Yoda.

Here’s Yoda of EKSheep. He’s a Lincoln Longwool. If I were to ever purchase sheep I think this breed is in the lead. It is a heritage breed from England with only about 1,000 sheep in this country.

Yoda’s fleece. He was last sheared in October. EKSheep shear their animals twice a year.

The weekend really sparked my interest in spinning. I bought some Blue Faced Leicester locks to card and spin and some Lincoln Longwool roving. I also bought some beautiful worsted weight wool from the CVM-Romeldale of Winterwind farm. Here the wool is weighed.

Babies are always a plus. Here are some sheep from Kindred Spirit Farm. They have a fiber CSA I am really interested in, I’ll keep you posted. So that was our weekend, much fun was had by all.

Recipes: Kale Chips

I remember when I was pregnant with my 2nd child and given a list of dietary recommendations at our Bradley class. I remember being particularly puzzled by the “green leafy vegetables” section. All I could think of was lettuce and spinach. But since I have started farming I have been introduced to a whole world of tasty green goodness. I am still learning though how to vary my greens diet. Here is a new favorite kale recipe from my aunt Patty.

Kale Chips

I bunch kale
1 Tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt

Cut the ribs off kale leaves and rip or cut into bite sized pieces.

Toss with oil and sprinkle with salt. Spread on a well-oiled cookie sheet. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put in oven for 10 minutes, then flip and cook for another 10 minutes but watch closely. I actually turned the oven off after seven minutes and just left them in for about 10 minutes.

And you have a whole bunch of tasty green goodness. My aunt says, “they kind of melt in your mouth.” Proeun says “it’s kind of like eating leaves” but I say, “really good leaves.” Anyway that is what it is, leaves.

Baby goats born!

Yesterday we were planning on going to the farm to plant our strawberries. When we woke-up it was cold and windy but knowing time is short we decided to go and see what work could be done. When we arrived at the farm we decided to go check on the goats. The farm manager and his wife have 2 dairy goats and were expecting kids any day now. But the barn was all locked up. However Aaron and Melanie and Addie were all in the born and heard us talking outside. They invited us in to see 5 new additions.

This is Lilly and her 2nd kidding. She had 3 little babies, 1 boy and 2 girls. She was being very protective and hiding with her babies so I just took one quick picture of her.

Lovey had 2 babies for her first kidding, a boy and a girl. Melanie said she had her babies just fine before anyone really knew she was in labor. She was more trusting, letting her babies that had been born just the day before wander around their pen a bit. Though she was keeping an eye on them and was available for milk any time.

This is my favorite picture. How many times do you get to see a day old goat? I don’t know if dairy animals are in our future or not, but after these cute babies the children are really begging for them.