Monthly Archives: September 2012

Fall Projects

The first frost has come. Luckily we got a good supply of apples and green tomatoes in. Potatoes, onions, carrots and beets are all harvested and ready to go. The winter squash is in and the butchering of our meat chickens is underway little by little (far from my favorite job). For the most part harvesting has slowed way down. With the exception of kale and collards that don’t mind a frost pretty much everything going into our CSA has already been harvested and ready to go. In just 2.5 weeks we will be done with that portion of our year.

Soon we will have to put the fields to rest, clean and put away the harvesting tools and settle the animals in for the winter. But for now there is a little breather. For me it is an excellent opportunity to get caught up on some projects I have been wanting to work on for about 9 months now.

Pillows!!! normally I would say that there is an excess of pillows in normal decorating, but as we turn our house into a home I am discovering the beauty of homemade pillows. And this weekend I made 4! I finished the quilted one from the previous post and finally put together some of the panels I had purchased awhile ago for the children. So these pillows don’t all go in our room but you get the point. The children love having their own decorative pillows.

I love giving and getting homemade gifts. So I have started Christmas preparataions early. The problem is with children  especially young children if they don’t actually see you working on a project for them they don’t know you made it. So no surprises at Christmas. Each of these pillows was supposed to be a Christmas present but since I don’t have much time to sew when they are asleep or doing something else they were present for construction. But they loved seeing it come together.

Another project I have been wanting to do was mittens for everyone. With the current issue of Taproot Magazine there is a pattern for family mittens. Here is the first off my needles for Mavis. I plan on crocheting a string to attach them and hopefully cut down on missing mittens. This was supposed to be a Christmas present but you know. Mavis took so much joy in watching the mittens come together and trying them on that I thought, oh well I’ll figure something else out for Christmas.

Quilt Lessons

I made my first and only quilt up till now at age 11. It was pretty simple, pastel squares tied with black thread and trimmed with a black border. I am honestly not sure whatever happened to it. While I had only made one I loved the beauty of my handmade bedspread.

Now as we are setting up house keeping on our farm it seems so natural to include as many handmade items as possible. We luckily have a quilt shop in town. One day I stopped by to ask for recommendations on an easy quilting pattern. I bought one, went home and got started. Now I am hooked.

Since we had 2 sets of bunk beds in the house I have 2 sets of matching quilts I am working on. I am so excited my first top is completed.

My mom and grandma have agreed to come up and help me set up the quilting frame soon for a quilting party.

Avril is really digging the sewing too. She helped me quite alot on the first quilt but since I was using a pattern with set seam allowances (that were pretty small) I decided it best to design a simpler quilt for the other bedroom. More on that later. This one is Avril’s quilt and she has done virtually all the sewing on it. She is even learning how to thread the needle and wind the bobbin. This is strictly hush hush but I think another sewing machine may be joining the family this Christmas.

Not only has quilting been going on at our home but some fabric dying as well. Not able to find the color I wanted for the backing fabric for the quilt above I bought some plain white muslin and dyed it. I love it, the girls thought it was pretty cool to.

I even have time to work on a few projects. I have been waiting for weeks to get this book from the library. I had gotten it years ago and remembered that it had a pillow pattern that I loved in it. So since I am only going to have it for 3 weeks I thought it best to jump right in on my “basketweave pillow.” I am using fabric left over from the curtains I wrote about here and the pillow will dress up our masterbedroom.

I have about 3-4 years worth of projects I want to do but I just keep plugging away. Luckily I have lots of interested helpers.


Entitlement. It’s amazing how much this term is bandied around. Often it is used by those who have to describe the way those who have think those who have not think. It is meant as an insult and often said in a scoffing manner. But on this beautiful fall day 9 months after we moved into our dream home and life and with the season closing and a much needed rest coming I am contemplating–I am not entitled to any of it. A whole crazy scenario had to fall into place for me to be here.

Back when I was a Junior in college I was taking a class in a building I rarely went to. On the way I stopped at a bathroom I hardly ever used and saw an advertisment seeking a rape crisis counselor. The training was provided for free and through my county. I applied, was accepted and went through an intensive 40 hour training. Months later one of my fellow rape crisis counselors called me out of the blue to offer me a job. She knew I was a writer and the paper she worked for was hiring. Was I interested? Now 10 years later I am still writing for that publication and many months my income from here has meant our family survival.

Around the same time I was looking for a summer internship. I applied with Metro Transit and got an interview. But after attending decided it was too far to drive. They called to offer me the paid internship and I turned them down. Then they called me back to see if we could work something out. We made a part time arrangement that just happened to have me working the same hours as Proeun. 

Proeun for his part never wanted to be a bus driver. But when he was looking for work it seemed like the opportunity kept popping up. If he hadn’t taken the job, or if I hadn’t or if we worked different hours we never would have met. Now 12 years later he has a good income, good insurance, and His work allows me to be home with our children. 

Then there is the whole story about how we got into farming by running across information about the Minnesota Food Association while we were at the Living Green Expo, the only time we went. Then all the things that had to come together for us to find this perfect place and get financing and set up the farm. 

 Whether you chose to believe it was divine blessings (as I do) or fate that orders our path in actuallity none of us our entitled to anything. Right now I am feeling really blessed. I am incredibly aware of the fact that I have so so much to be thankful for and we are in a very good place. I wish more people, especially those in power would be aware of the fact that if they have much they have been given much and should therefore forgive much. Cut people a little slack.

I just read a series of books that take place in Ireland around the time of the potato famine. I discovered that there really was no wide spread famine in the land. Only the potatoes were affected. But that is what the poor people ate. Those in power, the wealthy, often English and Absentee landlords, could have chosen to ease the people’s suffering by allowing them to eat some of the grain they grew rather then exporting it for top dollar to England. Instead they chose to look at it as an act of God passing judgement on the Irish. When the poor couldn’t pay the rent whole towns would be sacked by gangs of “destructives” which forced already starving families to the street. Over 1 million people died of starvation and 1.3 million emigrated to America before the crisis was over. Ireland has never recovered its pre “famine” population.

The belief that “those people are just different from me or us” is what allowed this to happen and really any other humanitarian crisis around the world results from a similar line of thinking. But really none of us deserve anything and all of us in the end are the same. The haves often deserve less then the have nots. I chose instead to focus on my blessings and know that I deserve none of it, which makes the blessings all the more sweet.

Seasons Best Eating

This year I finally feel like am able to partake in the seasonal eating I have always wanted. I am not ashamed to say that the main reason I love farming is because I love eating. Yes there are the added benefits of being stewards of the land, connecting with place and family and teaching my children about a valuable, hard working lifestyle where all are important. But really if it didn’t taste so good I don’t know if I would still be doing it.

Now that we are finally finally in the season of plenty it is such a joy to go to our harvesting fridge and see what we have left over from our CSA deliveries or heading out to the field to see what’s available for lunch. Whether it be a quick stir-fry or roasting up some delicious veggies or a salad. Oh so yummy. I don’t know if I would say I am becoming a food snob but the flavors of food direct from the field are so unsurpassed it is hard for me to eat them out of season anymore.

Here are a couple of the dishes I have been living on lately

Tomato Basil Salad

1 or 2 large tomatoes (heirlooms are wonderful especially Striped Germans) chopped
2 garlic cloves
1-2 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP Balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp salt

Mix together and let sit for about 15 minutes for flavors to meld. This especially important if the tomatoes are cold.

My mother first made this for me from a recipe from somewhere, but I am not sure where that original went so I have just been playing with the portions myself. Now this is almost a nightly meal for me during tomato season.

Amy’s Favorite Salad Nicoise


2-3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
3/4 cup loosely packed chopped fresh basil
juice of 1 lemon
2 TBSP red wine vinegar
2-4 TBSP olive oil
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp of salt

Put cloves and walnuts in blender and pulse to grind. Add the basil, lemon juice and red wine vinegar. Then with blender running drizzle in enough olive oil to make a nice dressing consistency. Stir in dry mustard and salt.

For the salad for 4 good sized salads

One head romaine lettuce chopped
4 hard boiled eggs chopped
1/2 pound fresh green beans blanched
3-4 red potatoes boiled until tender in bite sized pieces
albacore tuna
2-3 sliced heirloom tomatoes

Put down a bed of lettuce followed by potatoes and green beans (note they should be room temperature by running under cool water). Sprinkle chopped eggs and crumbled tuna on the top with slices of tomato on the side. Top with dressing and enjoy.

Fall Slow Down

I have always loved the fall, but this seasonal living shows me why I love it. I love the cooling weather, the warm clothes, the evening walks through the leaves. And now I am discovering the pleasure of slow meanders through the fields. I haven’t actually farmed much this year, most of the heavy labor has gone to Proeun while I prepare for the coming baby, but now as the season slows I have really enjoyed quiet mornings with him. The rush to get out to the field is lessened a hit, the weeding and planting are done, now is the fun time of harvesting and eating.

Effie and Jack join us on the morning’s walk to the fields. Here one of the last things we planted, the fall greens continue to go strong.

Proeun’s pride and joy. The water spinach field has served us well this year and often graces our table. This plant is actually considered a “noxious weed” by the USDA and requires a special permit to purchase the seeds and grow the plant. We are one of the few farms in Minnesota with that permit.

One of the last tasks of the year, fertilizing. Here Proeun sprays fish emulsion on the summer squash trying to encourage them towards the last hurrah.

Just some of the amazing produce from our field. This year’s watermelon is particularly nice. The lack of rain in the 2nd half of the summer really concentrated the flavor. Yum. More about the yummy food on our table lately on Friday.

State Fair Work–Minnesota Grown

This morning we woke-up to a nice cool morning after a wonderful rain and knew the weather was definitely shifting. Last Monday Proeun and I went to the Minnesota State Fair–the last day and for many Minnesotans the unofficial last day of summer.

We hadn’t gone to the fair for several years. This year was a little different, rather then going for pure entertainment, we were working. As members of Minnesota Grown we were asked to volunteer our time at the organization’s booth. Our task was to pass out the free directories listing farms and farmers markets across the state and make sure people knew about the wonderful on-line resource that allowed you to search your area by product you were looking for. In exchange we had the opportunity to share a little bit about our farm, our story and our products.

The booth was in the agricultural building. I don’t remember ever going there growing up honestly. But now as an adult committed to nourishing my mind and body (and my family’s and customers and the earth) I see what an important role agriculture plays in that and learning about other farms and farmers. I loved seeing all the fruits and veggies grown here, the bee products and the flowers. I have recently discovered a love for cut flowers, maybe a next year addition to the farm? Anyway here is just one of the amazing flowers on display.

Since we were working and the fair often looks like this

I wasn’t relishing the idea of trying to keep track of four children, so thanks to grandma and grandpa only Effie came. She promptly stole the show.

Always finding new places to play and new people to talk to. She is Minnesota Grown after all. It was a great day at the farm and really helped me remember what I love about farming and why we are doing what we are doing.