Monthly Archives: February 2012

Family Favorite: St. Croix Birdwatching

We are developing quite the list of family favorites up here as we settle in to our new life. This weekend we went “cruising” to try and find the easiest way to the St. Croix River from our house. The St. Croix is a federally protected river which means much of its shore stays wild and it is perfect for canoeing, hiking and we discovered this weekend birdwatching.

We were the only ones there and luckily we had the camera with us. Two wanted a picture of this bird but honestly I haven’t looked it up yet. We were on our way to spot bigger birds–

Trumpeter Swans. Here we are trying to sneak up on them. We had seen them from downstream a little way and followed the path as quietly as a 7, 5, and 3 year old can. We did get some pictures of them before

This happened. Two and Proeun had actually been in our back field at dusk a week ago when a bunch of white birds tried to come in for a landing before Jack scared them off. Now we realize that they were probably trumpeters as well.

On the way home we were driving by a corn field when we saw this

Trumpeter swans and bald eagles all in one day and less then 10 minutes from our house. In fact now we know that both these birds have been seen on our property. I am still amazed.

Family Favorites: Firefly Bistro

The move has been much much smoother then I expected honestly. Everyone seems to have settled into life on our farm in Rush City like we have always been there, or perhaps like we were always meant to be. Some things I do miss though, like the restaurants. But luckily on an early trip to the post office we decided to pop into the little coffee shop next door “Firefly Bistro,” and now have become regulars.

It’s not just the wonderfully eclectic menu that features both a Thai Burger and the “Uber German” burger (did I mention the patties are actually homemade) or the comfy atmosphere with free wi-fi but this little bit of “Minneapolis in Rush City,” also has a huge dose of Rush City.

Owners Channa and Troy are kindred spirits of a sort. They moved up here to give their children a good life. They run their own business but keep it manageable so just the 2 of them can run it and they keep their children close. Firefly closes at 4:00 everyday leaving ample time for family. It’s not open at all on Sunday. The youngest stays with Channa except for a few hours during lunch rush and the school bus drops the older children off at the restaurant.

Yes Firefly is the type of business we love to see and love to support.

One day this week Channa (who also happens to be Cambodian) made Pho for the special. This Southeast Asian comfort food is a favorite of our family. That morning Avril was saying, “let’s get pho” but I thought, there’s no where in town to get it. Then I checked my facebook account and found a message from Channa, “Pho today.” Yum. (And just so you know it was a huge hit in Rush City, sold out).

That’s when I could pull them away from the internet.

Channa and youngest son, behind the counter. They also serve, pizza, panini sandwiches, wraps, salads, pastries and Tuesday is “Asian day.” If you happen to be up our way stop by and support a great local business.

Farm Girl Style

Luckily we are all feeling better and had a great weekend. Here’s some snap shots from it.

Don’t you just love the farm girl style, complete with mud boots and crown?

Meanwhile their dad works to secure the old granary in preparations for it’s new use as a winter chicken coop.

The chicks are growing by leaps and bounds and starting to get their adult feathers. They are even testing their wings and fluttering around a bit. We have begun lowering the temperature in the brooder (baby chick house) so that by the time their feathers are all in hopefully they will be ready for outdoor temps.

The children to are growing by leaps and bounds and thriving. They spend much of the day outside. Here they came up with the idea to cut the lower branches off the big evergreen in our yard and make a clubhouse out of it.

Hope you had a great weekend to.

The Flu Strikes again

Yesterday I was at the dentist. I was talking with the hygienist telling her all the things we have going on and I realized I am a responsibility junkie. Yes I love it, I thrive in it. But the down side is sometimes I take on so many I forget the really important ones, then I start feeling frazzled, unexpected trials come up and I start thinking I need to reprioritize. But I am going along at such a fast pace I can’t take the time to reprioritze.

Then bam an illness comes out of no where and knocks us off our feet. Effie and I are down with the flu. Although already today things are going better, but yesterday, my yesterday was a day. At first I was thinking, “man with all the things I have going on I don’t have time to get sick. Now I will be behind.”

But as I was sitting on the sofa yesterday afternoon in the silence holding my sick baby who only wanted to be held by me, I realized this is probably what I needed to slow down. And it was a beautiful moment. The older children were playing safely outside with Hiro and Jack (the canines in the family). We don’t have cable so whereas before on a day like yesterday I would veg out on the sofa with movies or TV the TV was silent. I wasn’t feeling well either so sitting up at the computer didn’t sound good and I was able to just be for a moment.

In the end I was able to get most of my tasks done anyway, but at a slower pace with more interruptions and it was good. Then off to bed early and both Effie and Jack slept almost all the way through the night. Today I have decided to continue taking it easy as who knows where this illness will go from here. So if you don’t hear from me for awhile assume we are just being and getting over whatever illness comes our way.

A boy and His Dog, Jack

Welcome home Jack. I think it was 3 years ago that Two first saw our neighbors black lab puppy. He got a chance to watch that dog grow and has been dreaming of a lab of his own for years. As plans were underway for the farm Proeun and I told him he could get a lab once we got a farm. So almost as soon as we moved in Proeun and I have been on the lookout for pups. Of course, things have been crazy as moves usually are, but when we saw an ad in the local paper for pups that were exactly what we wanted we wanted to make it happen, with a little help from above if you know what I mean.

We kept it all hush, hush. Yesterday evening we loaded the kids in the car for a “surprise.” They thought we were taking them to a restaurant. Along the way we passed the “Happy Hound Hotel” and Two was whistfully asking when he could get a dog.

We pull up to the house and Two said “why are we here?” Then he heard dogs barking, and he looked at us.

Here he realized that he really was getting his own dog. Of course every farm can use a good farm dog and as any mom of more then one child knows this a shared dog, but it is also a dog for a boy. Two loves it and takes him out for walks and wants me to wake him up at night when I let Jack out (Two picked out the name).

I feel like there is something really special about living with animals and being responsible for them. I am so happy that Jack has joined our farm family. He is missing his mom and littermates right now, I feel so sorry for him, but I guess all we can do is love him up real good. He loves the outdoors and Shack, the outdoor cat that is most attached to us. Oddly Shack doesn’t seem to mind Jack. I’ll try to post pictures soon.

7th Annual Immigrant and Minority Farmer Conference

For 4 years now we have attended the Immigrant and Minority Farmer Conference. Our alma mater (so to speak) Minnesota Food Association is one of the host organizations of this conference that in a very real way changed our lives. I remember 4 years ago being so nervous and really clueless about most things agricuutural. Now we are living the dream on our own farm and the conference is still a very important part of our lives.

This year I was on the planning committee and one of the presenters. It felt amazing being able to give back and share my experience with the farmers starting out just like I did. Well honestly most of them probably have more experience then I did but you know what I mean.

Here is the audience from one of my workshops. I spoke on 2 panels. One about Long Term Financing where I shared tips and things we had learned along the way. And then this workshop where I talked about “Sharing Your Story: using your history and experience to market your farm.”

According to Glen Hill, Executive Director of the Minnesota Food Association, this is a unique conference and the only one like it in the country. Other conferences I have attended are geared more towards the land owner while this conference is geared towards the beginning farm who will be renting land and often facing many hurdles on their way to ownership.
I have spoken before with translation but this time everything I said was translated into at least 5 languages, “Spanish, Somali, Hmong, Karen and Nepali.” Hill added that they want to make a conference where everyone feels comfortable asking questions. At one point a Spanish speaking gentleman asked me where we bought out chicks. I was blown away, I guess we really have come a long way. (FYI we bought the chicks from here and they are all still thriving.) As Aaron Blyth (Also of MFA) said, “This is why our work is so important.

Between the chicks arriving earlier then expected, a traffic jam and a mandatory training at Proeun’s work the children had no choice but to come with me for the 2nd day. Luckily Proeun was able to come back and help before my workshop and the people at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture were willing to share their table with the children for a quick breakfast treat of bagels and fruit.

Here the children learn playdough tricks from a new friend. Of course bringing them with us was difficult and not ideal and by the afternoon they were starting to melt down but Two is already at an age where he wants to know what we are learning and is making suggestions for the business. So I am reminded we are a package deal, stuff happens. Four years ago there were only 2 of them, but now they are active members of our farm and business. Next year we will let them play with their cousins though, hopefully.

Chicks Arrive

I had planned on writing about the amazing Immigrant and Minority Farmers Conference I attended for the 4th year in a row and this year presented at. But that will have to wait till Friday because I am brimming with news about the chicks.

For those of you that have never ordered chicks before this is how they come–in a box to the post office. It took just a day to get our chicks from the hatchery in Iowa. Meaning they arrived earlier then expected. Luckily we had everything set up and we have learned a lesson.

We ordered Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpintons, Sumatras, a couple Polish and a mixed package. It will be so fun to see how these chicks develop and what they will look like.

Two’s favorite is this little Polish guy. You can see to poufy feathers that will be quite striking the older he gets. (We ordered a couple Polish roosters as these are Proeun’s favorite).

They are so cute and run around under the heat lamps. It is surpising how strong they are on day 2 of life. You have to be very careful when in the brooder though because they will sneak up on you. While I was working with they lights this little sheila climbed on my foot for a bit. Be very careful where you step. Luckily we haven’t lost any yet.

Last night we did discover a potential problem though–“pasting up.” This condition is when the chicks poo pastes up on their rear ends blocking their “vent” and keeping them from pooing (really technical) anymore. It can be deadly. So we discovered some chicks with pasting up right before bed last night. Treatment includes dipping the chicks rear end in a bowl full of warm water to soften it and then using a q-tip or paper towel to remove the hopefully now soft poo. Then you blow dry the chicks butt and keep an eye on them. Yes this is what Proeun and I were doing until 10:30 last night. Animal husbandry at its best.

This morning when the kids asked to check the chicks I explained the problem to them and they really enjoyed looking for the chicks with the condition. They are really getting to be a big help. I am convinced that they prefer to have a job to do and be of value and service to the family then living and idle life. And honestly I prefer it too.

Making Home–Studio

I always thought of studios as something for “serious” artists, but after reading Soule Mama for going on 2 years now I see a studio as a place to create beauty in all forms, and a place to include children. That’s why in our wonderful new home the studio and homeschooling room are one in the same. I will give more details on the room soon.

After a little break in the unpacking to work on Hmong Times stories, plan a couple presentations I have coming up and prep for the chicks today I was in the mood to beautify the home a bit. Yes the major unpacking is done and now the organizing and beautifying is taking place.

My studio is one area where it is mostly set up but definitely not organized. In our previous home my sewing area was in the basement and occasionally the dining room table. So the storage of all my supplies was a bit haphazard to say the least. Now it is in an area of the house where I want it to look beautiful.

A few years ago I was given all sorts of beautiful linens and a wooden trunk. They seemed to go together ala hope chest type stuff and then went into the basement at my previous home. Here I have closet space and so can take out those pieces ready for use.

That frees up so much space in my trunk that it has now become my stash. The previous owners of this house gave me some beautiful tins

so now I have one for buttons and one for bits of lace and ribbon and beauty to add to pieces.

And just like that another little spot is ready. Of course there are still things to be put away and organize all around it but a little bit of functional beauty that also looks out on our bird feeder is quite a nice little break. I am looking forward to putting together more or this little spots.